Friends, have you watched Shrill on Hulu yet? No? Go watch it right now—I’ll send you my Hulu log in, for real. I’ll wait while you catch up.
So good, right? It was like watching the last ten years of my life distilled into three hours. Aidy Bryant is fantastic as Annie. I loved watching her learn to accept herself, to ask for what she needed, to do things that made her happy. I loved that she was sometimes unlikable, selfish, and rude. She’s the realest fat woman I’ve seen on TV since Joy Nash on the sorely-missed Dietland.
The pool party scene in episode 4 is already the stuff of legend (and controversy). I gaped in surprise at first, seeing those bodies on screen, proud and celebratory, so much skin everywhere! And then I smiled until my cheeks hurt. And I cried, because representation matters and the world needs to see this, needs to see fat women being happy, and wearing what they want. I want this scene to be played on every network everywhere, so everyone sees it, so that one day this kind of body diversity is no longer extraordinary, but commonplace. Normalized. We see this kind of diversity in real life every day (although maybe not so many bathing suits), but it’s imperative we see it in the media we consume, too.
I few days after I finished Shrill, I was talking to my amazing friend Amy about a fancy-dress event we were both attending. I bought a shirt covered entirely in sequins a few months ago, but hadn’t worn it yet… because I didn’t want to walk around in such an eye-catching outfit with my big arms out for the world to see. Oh, yeah, despite how far I’ve come on this journey, there are still times where I’m uncomfortable with my body, or parts of it, where I feel like I’ll be shamed or laughed at if I show them off. My arms are probably my number one “problem” area, in that I have a problem accepting them as they are.
Amy, meanwhile, rented an amazing dress, sparkle and slink and a plunging neckline. It fit her like a glove. She was stunning, even in the mirror selfie she sent me. And you know what she told me? “If I can be brave enough to wear this, you can wear yours. THINK ABOUT THE POOL PARTY. Channel the energy. Be that party.”
And so I did. I put that shirt on and I went to that event, and I was that party. Thank you, Amy, for being my support system, my cheerleader, and my jump-in-the-deep-end pool-party friend. I’m proud to be your sequin sister!
One last thought about Shrill. The part that didn’t resonate with me is that Annie had men in her life who were interested in her, who desired her, who played a role in validating her in some way (yeah, I have opinions about Ryan, too, but stick with me). I long to see a character who has experienced the kind of transformation that Annie went through by herself, alone, without a partner, a lover, a spouse. Because let me tell you, it has been a long hard road to get to where I am by myself. I haven’t had a husband at home to hug me when I have a hard day. I haven’t had a boyfriend to tell me I’m beautiful or desirable or smart or funny. I had to learn all of that alone. I had to come to the realization that my body—the way it is now—is okay. It’s not a problem to be solved, it’s not an embarrassment to be hidden away until it’s fixed. I read and see all these stories of empowered fat women who have partners and lovers and spouses who support and encourage them, and to be honest, I get so jealous I can hardly stand it. (Of course, I know not everyone’s partner is supportive and loving; see above about Ryan.) But still, imagine Annie’s journey without the love scenes (even the awkward ones!). Imagine Annie coming into her power by herself. It’s hard. But it happens: Here I am!