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Book Review: Measure By Measure by Rebecca Fox and William Sherman

Measure by Measure is a lengthy, but engaging story that lives up to its promise of being a soap opera in prose. But instead of depicting the sordid lives and dramas of the “pretty people,” it centers on a group that promotes size acceptance and the love lives of a handful of plus-size men and women, as well as the “normal-sized” people who love them.

The novel was adapted from a series of stories written by Rebecca Fox and Blogcritics writer William Sherman published at Dimensions Online, the online edition of Dimensions Magazine , which is targeted to full-figured women and those who are attracted to a larger body type. In the more than 100 “episodes” (instead of chapters) presented, we follow the adventures of Jenny, a woman who is not at all comfortable with her size, and her newfound friends/acquaintances at the Chicago branch of the Respect and Dignity for Fat Americans (RADFam) organization.

The story is overflowing with characters, from Dex, the large RADFam president who is married to a small Asian woman; to Connie, the charismatic, yet manipulating former president who runs her own plus-size clothing shop for women; to Paul, the handsome, average-size newcomer who never was able to acknowledge his attraction to larger women openly, but has found some acceptance at RADFam.

In the end, though, like the back cover says, Measure by Measure fleshes “out the truth about soap opera: It’s not just for the rich and slender.” The characters and plot show that within any culture lies the capacity to hate, malign, ostracize, and stigmatize. There is certainly no wanting for drama (as is due the genre), it’s simply put into a new context that still espouses the essence of human nature.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with who is speaking and when because their paths are all crisscrossing from episode to episode. But in the end, you get the point. Online, I’m sure this format made great sense. However, I’m not sure that it works so well as a whole book. The series began in 1997 and there are many references to antiquated cultural symbols, such as the dial-up modem.

That said, I think this is a totally unique type of story that I found both fascinating and very personal. Dating is hard enough when you’re young and thin. But the majority of people in the U.S. simply don’t fit the archetype of the “ideal” dating partner we see on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette.

I’ve always considered myself as being overweight. It probably came from being teased as a kid because I was taller and more developed than they were. I was never the waifish size-two that many of my classmates grew to be. But still, even when I was size 10/12 in high school, I didn’t realize that I was really thin and relatively nice to look at.

Sure, I had my share of boyfriends, first kisses, PG-rated trysts behind the gym during the occasional school dance. I was even married at 19 to one of the most notorious bad-boys in town. But still, I never saw myself a thin or desirable. Well, you know how the story goes when you get married. I got divorced by the time I was 21. I ended up taking with me not only the shreds of my self-esteem that had been all but destroyed by my marriage, but also our 10-month-old daughter.

Though she was the best thing to come out of that relationship, being pregnant with her started me down a new path: the one toward being a full-fledged plus-size woman. Long story short, my pregnancy had jump started a condition that had been lying dormant in my hormonal system.

About Robin Kavanagh