That’s a grammar police swipe at It Was Me All Along, Andie Mitchell’s memoir of coming to terms with her food addiction (clarkson potter, 2015). Mitchell is a (now) beautiful blogger (canyoustayfordinner.com) who, like so many of us, has had her more than whale-size phases.
I wanted to like this book for many reasons, including the cover photo of a pudgy little Andie at the Massachusetts beach. She is so cute, so defenseless, and I so remember being that shape in a two-piece suit without linings or structure. Wait, I’m still that shape — like a spark plug as our youngest describes herself.
Andie, however, sorted it out by the end of college and a couple of years post-grad, and it seems to have been awfully easy. Except for Chapter 8 (out of 12). Here she gets into some deep yogurt.
She’s lost 135 pounds, and people caution her that the hard part is yet to come: “Losing necessitates feeling terrible now so that you can feel better later. I thought back to the days when I cried desperately, almost giving up on losing weight altogether. I remembered the writhing, the feeling of hopelessness and withdrawal of coming down from twenty years of food addiction.”
Except for that chapter, though, her saga is Lifetime Movie ready. Once she decided to lose, she found plenty of discipline within and in her food journal. She’s just so darn nice to everybody in her life, including her alcoholic father and her mother who stayed with him, you pretty much want to scream.
Olivia Laing in “The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking” (Picador, 2013) emphasizes near the end of her study of 6 writers immobilized by alcohol (John Cheever, Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Berryman and Tennessee Williams): “At some point you have to set down the past. At some point, you have to accept that everyone was just doing their best.”
Agreed, but you can’t usually forgive until you understand what happened, and Mitchell just skims over a childhood that was obviously miserable and lonely.
She sees a therapist (finally) in Chapter 8 and tells her: “I guess it’s just…life. It feels…so hard. Unbearable and…I don’t know how to get through it. I don’t know what to do with myself from minute to minute, how to fill the hours.” Now that sounds real, as well as painfully familiar.
Laing’s six drunks want to write, which is always painful when they stir up memories. So they drink to numb the pain and write. And on and on turns the Catherine wheel. Mitchell, though, chugs right along with no devastating revelations popping through from her subconscious. Sorry, that sounds way too simplistic and jolly, dammit, for someone who once weighed close to 300 pounds.
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