Why Am I So Fat?
A man wrote to me to ask why I gained weight. Here’s my response.
Anonymous asked: Why did you gain so much weight?
Great question. It’s a long answer, and I hope you’ll bear with me. I want to give it the attention it truly deserves. Because my answer isn’t just about me. I really love you for inquiring. And I’ve illustrated it with photographs because not everyone who reads this will be an avid fan of mine like you, and thus won’t have a reference point for how fat I am. I took these photos five days ago so you can be assured they are current. Just me goofing around in between taking my next book jacket photo, but some of the outtakes seem pretty relevant to my response.
First things first, thank you for not threatening to rape me! I get rape threats because I’m a woman on the Internet. Rape is on trend for women in comedy in 2016 and always! I respect that you bucked the trend to fall back on a comment about my weight. This is a more traditional approach and one with which I and my peers are intimately familiar. I like that you went for the classic because while I love Crystal Pepsi, there’s nothing like the original.
In 2011, after being reasonably mentally healthy for nearly a decade, I began to feel deeply depressed again. I imagine part of this was due to the stress of the fact that the man I was dating at the time, a reservist who I loved very much in my inadequate but heartfelt little way, was deployed to Afghanistan. I was worried about him and I was worried about my ability to be an Army girlfriend, something I’d never thought would happen. I wasn’t prepared for it and I certainly didn’t comport myself with the dignity and care that he deserved. On the other hand, how can you be prepared for that? You date a Jewish Democrat with an MFA and you don’t expect this sort of thing to happen, but I ended up with some guy with notions about country and duty and the idea that people who live in freedom shouldn’t be cavalier. Annoying, I know. I didn’t get it at the time. I do now.
Anyway, he left in July 2011 and I got really sad. Like really sad. It didn’t work out and it was my fault. That was not a good feeling. In my defense, most women would not be up for the challenge of maintaining a healthy sexual relationship via pure imagination.
And have you ever tried to Skype with someone as a bomb siren goes off? Imagine this happens a lot of times. It is very much not fun for the person Over There but it is also not fun for you, the person who is scared all the time and sad Back Home. Also, I had no self-esteem to speak of and was preeeeeetty sure that I didn’t deserve to be with someone so great, anyway. Dating someone who loved me AND wanted to fuck me AND had a nice career? WHAT? Did not compute. You see, Man Who Wrote To Me, sometimes we seek not what is good for us but what is familiar to us. And this kind of love was unfamiliar to me. Therefore I had to destroy it. (Yes, I’m finally in a 12-step program and therapy to explore these and other issues. I know you want it to be Overeaters Anonymous but instead I’m in AlAnon. I’m sorry.)
Now at the same time I was writing my first book, a memoir about being suicidal and finding healing through therapy and better life choices and, oddly enough, stand-up comedy. I was sorting through the kind of dark stuff you discuss when you’re a person who grew up sad and scared a lot. So I was sad sad sad and scared scared scared. I’m a regular person with regular problems.
I want to be clear, Man On The Web Who Was Moved To Write To Me to Inquire About My Weight, that I know I’m deeply flawed. Sometimes I’m rude and nasty and unethical and selfish and all those ugly things. None of what I’m about to tell you makes me a victim. Some of what I’m about to tell you makes me a survivor. All of it is human and real and imperfect. Just like me. And like you!
After the breakup that was my fault, I found a psychiatrist because I needed help. On my psychiatrist’s advice I began to take a drug called Abilify to boost the Prozac I’d been on for years. Unfortunately, that causes weight gain and a higher incidence of Type II diabetes. I know, I should’ve stayed off it and just opened a vein and sat in my bathtub when I was miserable, leaving behind a pretty corpse (not skinny but, you know, ACCEPTABLE) but I wanted to live. I had to finish the book, for one thing. So I started taking Abilify to help me not die.
I’m not much for drinking my problems away, so instead I commenced hooking up with a series of assholes, including one who told me that I took a lot of pictures of myself because I had deep-seated issues from my childhood and also was empty inside (he lived in a basement). Oh, and then I found one who hit me! In the face! Don’t worry, he was drunk and didn’t remember it. The next day he said, “Well, that doesn’t sound real. I guess I’m sorry if that happened.”
I hung around with that guy for awhile, because I knew I deserved whatever I got and I felt lucky that someone wanted to spend time with a girl like me. (Please don’t tell him I said “dating” — he never wanted me to say that. I know he was having sex with other girls so I totally respect that!) He did say once that I’d be perfect-looking if I were the same weight but about four inches taller. I thought that was funny, then. And I hadn’t even gained that much weight at that point! LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL! What a card.
I ran away across the country from the jerky boys (not The Jerky Boys, silly!) and my problems (oops! They came with me!) and a city I didn’t love anymore and also because I had projects in development in Los Angeles and a Lyft ride is way cheaper than a Virgin America flight. I gained weight, as you well know. I still looked great, thanks to my symmetrical face and extreme beauty. People still wanted to fuck me. Isn’t that weird? I didn’t date any of these folks. I knew I didn’t deserve their approval. I did know about their attraction because they conveyed it to me in various ways, including but not limited to unsolicited dick pics, wheeee! I tried to stick to people who didn’t want me but it’s hard when you are this fun, what can I say?!? LOLOL!!!!!!!LMFAO!!!!1111!!!!
Now here’s the shocker: in addition to my family and real friends still loving me, I kept getting work! Comedy, acting, and publishing 5 books from February 2012 to July 2016! It’s almost like I still had worth and value beyond the number on the scale but barf, we all know that’s not true, right?
Let me tell you about some of the things that I did between when I started gaining weight (2011) and now (2016).
I published that first book, “Agorafabulous!: Dispatches From My Bedroom.” I adapted it as a TV pilot. Diablo Cody is the executive producer. Have you heard of her? She’s very talented. She won an Oscar for writing a movie about a GIRL. Isn’t that crazy? She’s written lots of other stuff, too, but honestly? It’s usually about girls? And I don’t get why people like it. But I guess there’s a market for stuff about strong women who don’t apologize for who they are LOLOLOLOL whatever.
Anyway, she wanted to work with me and never brought up the fact that I wasn’t skinny. Can you imagine? It’s so strange. I talked to her yesterday and she still did not say anything about me being so fucking fat. Is she just being nice? She’s from the Midwest and those people are sweet. And Ben Stiller’s company, Red Hour, worked with me too. None of them told me I was fat. Ben Stiller didn’t tell me I was fat! Was he busy thinking about other things? Maybe! He’s very successful and talented and busy so maybe he just forgot. Fun fact: he likes “Jesus Christ Superstar” a lot. Jesus is very skinny in it. Ted Neely is great! And I know Ben Vereen originated the role but Carl Anderson is my favorite Judas, forever and ever.
As an aside, did you, Man On The Internet, know that in the ladies’ bathroom at Red Hour in LA there is a decoupaged toilet seat covered in Star Trek comic book pages? My fat ass sat upon it a few times! I just peed, out of respect. Shitting is for home, and for the Internet. And, as you know, you can shit in someone’s mouth! Have you dreamed of this? Something tells me you HAVE.
Anyway, during The Fattening, nobody who hired me or who wanted to hire me ever said that I was too fat. Do you think they were just being polite? I should ask. I will go through my union or one of my agents. I have several. I also have a manager. I should ask her. I could ask my lawyer, my CPA, my personal wealth manager, or the very handsome man who cleans my home in Los Angeles. He’s really nice even though he probably looks in my fridge and goes, “Oh my God, this kale is fattening!”
I should probably ask my estate planner. I will do that. He’s used to the weighty issues (ahahahhahahahah! Get it?!?!?!? No but do you get it?!?!?!? This is a pun about weight!)
Now in 2014 I wrote this book called “Great” (teen lesbo Gatsby with a twist!) and I’m pitching that as a series this week. The production company I’m working with hasn’t said anything about my weight but I will check before we go into the next network pitch just to make sure I’m not too fat to pitch. Speaking of that network, which I watch all the time — do you watch “Game of Thrones”? You’d love it! So many women get raped and die, all the time. Don’t watch “Veep.” A lady is in charge and it will confuse you.
Here’s the outfit I wore today when we pitched a network. I just want you to have a visual reference so you can imagine the horror the execs must have felt when this living nightmare rolled in their door. I took this photo to show my sister-in-law that I wore the sparkly gold shoes she picked out for me as a fat monster bridesmaid in her wedding. Everyone at the wedding thought I was a fat golem built of clay to save the Jews of Prague. “But no!” I said. “I am a human girl! Look at my sparkly shoes!” “Go save the Jews, Fat Golem,” they said. Later we all did the Twist.
In 2015 I published my third book, a novel for adults called “DC Trip”, and then I got hired to adapt it as a feature film. I’m working with Adaptive Studios and Gunpowder and Sky and with Bona Fide Productions. You should Google them! Have you seen Nebraska? How about Little Miss Sunshine? How about Little Children? I know, me neither. I don’t have time to watch movies because I’m so busy being too big in my body. But they made those movies and a bunch more. I don’t know why they let me in the door to pitch them. How did I even fit?! But I did. The doors in Culver City must be extra wide LOLOLOL! Oh, we do have fun.
Anyway, I just handed in the screenplay and it was not stained with butter, but that’s because I sent in a pdf and a Final Draft file. I’m sure if it had been a paper copy it probably would’ve been drenched in fat. I worked really hard on it. I tried to do my best, typing with my Vienna sausage fingers, which I am constantly tempted to eat.
Oh! Now during this time I began to think about weight. Not mine! I saw how women were criticized on the Internet and elsewhere for gaining weight. This intrigued me. I didn’t feel fat or unlovable. Should I? Hmm. I considered this and decided instead to make fantastic art instead, because I’m amazing at it.
In 2015 I wrote a short film about what it would be like to be judged for being so big. It is called The Focus Group. It’s really good and we got lots of critical praise for it. We were even in the New York Magazine Approval Matrix!!!! In the good quadrant!!! Would you like to see it? I’m in it! My friend Heather Fink directed it, and 50% of our kickass team from pre-production to post-production was ladies! Here’s another wild stat that I only figured out after the fact when a film festival asked me to submit demographic info: 40% of that team was comprised of people of color. What? I know, it’s upsetting, don’t think about it.
You can see me at my highest weight ever! Grab popcorn and hold onto your seat because you might throw up at my body LOL!!!! Or you might jerk off to it, which lots of people do and I know this because they email me.
The jerking off wasn’t what I was aiming for. I can only hope THEY were aiming into a cup, am I right? Cumming is messy when you hate yourself! I know you know all about that, right? I’m preaching to the choir over here! LLOLOLOLOOOOLLLLOOOLLL.
My fourth book came out in 2016 around the same time as the short film. It’s called “Real Artists Have Day Jobs” and in it, I actually told the story about the guy who hit me. I told some other stories too. You should read it! It’s really funny and good. Here are some things people said about it, which I now realize they probably only said out of pity.
“Honest, funny and completely devoid of bullshit. You might not want to hear what’s in this book, but you probably need to.” — Patton Oswalt
“Sara’s book is an incredible tour de force. If I could repeatedly hit my head so I could give myself a touch of memory loss so that I would be able to read this again for the first time, I would.” — Megan Amram
“Sara captures the chaos, horror, and joy of a life pursuit of creativity.” — Jim Gaffigan
“Sara Benincasa is a great wit, a great woman, and a great writer.” — Elizabeth Gilbert
“Inspiring self-help guidance on just about everything: sex, love, self-esteem, even flossing…It’s hard to imagine an actual self-help book could be more inspirational…Benincasa’s wisdom and humor will reverberate for days to come.” — Library Journal
“Hilarious…refreshingly frank…Benincasa provides solid tips for relationships, health, wellness, and employment…Raunchy and unabashedly unapologetic, this is useful, take-no-prisoners humor.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Sara Benincasa is brilliant on Twitter, in her comedy and on the printed page, and her latest, Real Artists Have Day Jobs, won’t fail to make you laugh. It might make you tear up a little bit too… she’s smart, heartfelt, relatable and just plain funny.” — New York Daily News
Now as for my fifth book, that’s a funny little joke book called Tim Kaine is Your Nice Dad. It became an instant Amazon bestseller in the political humor category when I published it after I spent four hours writing it.
And I’m working on a sixth book! It comes out next year.
During this whole fatty fatsy fatterino time people kept hitting on me, wanting to fuck me in my fat (but very tight!) pussy and, obviously, my asshole, which for me is a no-fly zone but I respect its power. People kept on asking to be my friend, hiring me to do stuff, inviting me places, asking me to work on stuff with them, hugging me and looking after me when I was sad and checking me on my bullshit when I did something stupid. They’d tell me they loved me no matter what. They meant it, too. And I share your astonishment at this. I really do.
Maybe they were all kidding. Maybe it was like in “She’s All That” when Rachael Leigh Cook goes, “Am I a bet? AM I A FUCKING BET?” And Freddie Prinze Jr. is all, “Noooooooo” and she’s like, “Back to glasses and a ponytail for me, buddy!” and then she blows a foghorn or something in Paul Walker’s ear. Which makes me sad because he’s gone, and also because Vin Diesel and The Rock are allegedly fighting on the set of Fast and Furious Eleventeen, have you heard about this? It keeps me up at night, my love handles undulating with sorrow. I keen. I wail. There’s a lot of ululation.
Now here is the part you’ll like. I got out of a series of deeply unhealthy relationships and I started taking care of myself, not because I wanted to fit into a tiny bikini, but because I don’t want a case of the ol’ Type Twosies which, as I mentioned before, runs in my family. Scary, right? So I cook for myself more now and I eat in moderation and I lost ten pounds last month!
I won’t tell you how much I weigh because I used to say the numbers in interviews and I found it made some girls sad because they were the same weight or a higher weight and they felt like they were comparing themselves to me. But here are other numbers: Five foot two and three quarters (my height in inches) 36G (my dick in inches and a randomly assigned letter). Did that give you a boner? I thought so! Just don’t think about how much I still weigh, or your boner will invert itself and go into your pelvis, meaning you will have gone and fucked yourself. I would hate for you to go fuck yourself, sir.
I don’t conflate weight with health. I’m just telling you that I in particular need to be cautious about carrying around extra weight because I’ve seen what happens in my own family when we aren’t careful. My grandmother lost two legs to Type II Diabetes. It was devastating. Then there are issues with heart disease and all kinds of unsavory stuff I’d like to avoid as best I can for as long as I can. But you’ve got to lose weight the right way. Liposuction is really unhealthy and can be dangerous for your body. So I’ve chosen the slower route of lifestyle change. But it’s steady and I’m doing very well. Lots of kale! (Kale isn’t fattening, BTW. That was a joke I made earlier. LOL I’m soooo silly!)
So there you go. That’s the first part of my answer to your question about why I gained all that weight. The second part is shorter. I will put it in bold for ease of reading.
I gained all that weight because I was so busy working and growing as a person, a writer, an actor, a comedian, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a lover, an activist (hi Emily’s List and Humanity for Hillary and Los Angeles LGBT Center!), a thinker, and a cook (ironic, right?!?) that I didn’t have time to pursue what I really, really want to do: spend my precious spare moments making anonymous comments on the blogs of successful, beautiful, hardworking women in a failed attempt to undermine them in order to give me some sense of power as I marinate in my own inadequacy, stuck in the knowledge that no one will ever pay me to write my poorly-crafted thoughts down on paper, to be translated into book or film or television form, and that beyond money (which of course doesn’t lend my thoughts any inherent value) or any degree of fame (which is pointless and wholly unnecessary to a happy and fulfilling existence) no one will ever really want to hear what I have to say at all, because I am essentially worthless and of no value to the world at large. That’s what I really want to do.
Got any tips?
And lest you think I took a ton of time out of my day to write this response: I took 10 minutes. I’m really fast at writing. I’m also great at it. I will forget about this after I hit “publish.” But will you forget about it? Can you? I don’t know. Now picture me whispering in your ear very, very softly: I don’t actually care.
And in summary, that’s why I gained so much weight.
Thank you for asking!
[All the kitchen photos are by Iconic Pinups. Dress: Matrushka Construction by Laura Howe. Hair color: Alejandra Gaytan of Jonathan and George in Beverly Hills, CA. Haircut: Sabina Yannone. Nails: Paradise Nails in Silverlake, Los Angeles, CA. Tiny cleaver by my buddy Jared at Artifact Metalworks of Pittsburgh, PA (very glad I randomly had it in my purse that day). Shot on location in Glassell Park, Los Angeles, CA. I had no idea when I goofed around that these outtakes would be so relevant to a piece of “fan mail,” but the Lord works in very mysterious ways.]
UPDATE: Check out “What We Talk About When We Talk About ‘Fat’.” Thanks so much for reading and sharing. This very post has been viewed over 575,000 times in just six days.
Update August 30, 2016: 12 days in and 630,000 views for this essay. Thanks so much to everybody who has read it and shared it and thanks today in particular to Shannon M. Houston of Paste Magazine: Freeing the Female Form: On Teyana Taylor, Sara Benincasa and the Burkini Ban
Update February 15, 2017: I don’t usually update stories this way, but it occurred to me today that this one went up about six months ago. 709K views and so many good and interesting and stimulating conversations later.
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