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Monica & Me: Fat Girls Of The ’90′s

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. on May 10, 2014

I always liked Monica Lewinsky.

Back in 1998, I was 20 years old, just a few years younger than she was at the time. Superficially, I looked a little like her — the plus-sized body (though she was probably smaller than me), the round face, the modified “Friends” haircut. People literally would yell out “Hey, Monica!” to me on my way to class at NYU. She lived just a few blocks away from my dorm at the time.

A lot of people were in love with Bill Clinton then (me included). The 1992 election had been particularly exciting. After 12 years of Republicans, two relative cute, young-ish, progressive guys had taken over and they seemed to actually care about the economy and whether people had jobs that they could actually live on.

So when Monica hooked up with Bill, I think a lot of women thought to themselves that they would probably have done the same thing.

Me in 1999 at the NYU graduation

Me in 1999 at the NYU graduation.

The ensuing “scandal” felt like a witch hunt. The idea that a president could potentially be impeached for oral sex (or, ahem, lying about oral sex) was ridiculous to most rational people. I hated the idea that tax dollars were going to paying for special prosecutor Ken Starr’s investigation.

All that aside, at the time, you could not turn on the TV without hearing a “Monica” joke, which was, at least it seemed to me, almost always about her weight. The joke was the same every time — why would the president, the leader of the free world, who could probably get almost any woman he wanted, hook up with a “fat girl” (or, perhaps even worse, a fat, Jewish girl)?

As a fellow fat, Jewish girl, I thought the media response to Monica was kind of scary. I had spent my life trying to un-fat myself because of the judgment of others, but to hear, again and again, that this slightly fat 20-something was undesirable, disgusting, and reviled was particularly revealing. It was like the unspoken judgment of millions of people suddenly became spoken, loudly, and the consensus was that being fat, even a little fat, was the grossest thing that you could be.

In the meantime, I found myself thinking about the reality of what happened versus the judgment of others. The fact was that the most powerful man in our country, a man who combined an incredible IQ with a real compassion for people (in other words, really sexy) was undoubtedly attracted to a fat woman. As a 20-year-old, I found that interesting and, truthfully, heartening, even if the public response to what happened depressed me.

I had taken a short break from dieting in 1997, but I started up again in 1998. Looking back, I think that the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal may have contributed to that choice. Nobody wanted to be Monica, nobody wanted to be the butt of the joke.

In 1999, I started law school at NYU Law, and special prosecutor Ken Starr was teaching there. I was really hoping to run into him in the hallway so that I could “accidentally” trip him. No such luck though.

(By the way, if you want some insight into how Clinton and Lewinsky’s shared concerns about their fatness and dieting actually led to their relationship, you must read this wonderful book by Paul Campos.)

Did the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal influence your thoughts on your own fat body? Let’s chat about it in the comments below!

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Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Morgaine Fey May 13, 2014 at 12:51 pm

I remember being very confused by the hate. Also, very ashamed. I was a young, fat, brunette who was already used to being called “Fat Wednesday”. Suddenly I was “Monica” and getting not only fat jokes but jizz jokes. I was a seniour in high school and actually stopped eating during the day because, Gods forbid, what if I dropped something at lunch and it stained! I could not EVEN handle it. While I was ALWAYS on a diet (up until about four years ago), the whole thing did prod me to cut off all of my hair. I did a pixie cut and upped my Dr. Frank-en-furter-esque eye makup. I could deal with being the fat goth chick. I could not stand the additional sexualized jokes of being a “Monica”.

Wow, until this, I really had not thought about that part of my school past in a long time. Nifty to look at things with the eye of experience, actually.

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Susan Koppelman May 13, 2014 at 12:44 pm

I loved what you wrote about the impact of the Monica Lewinsky on your life, your self-image, and your behavior vis a vis your deliciously fat body/self. And I like your comments on the intimations of anti-Semitism connected with the coverage of their affair. As a fat woman and a Jewish woman, a fat Jewish woman, I was disgusted by the coverage of the young woman who seemed quite beautiful to me.

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Jan Platt May 13, 2014 at 11:42 am

I remember the late night TV talk show hosts jokes about Monica Lewinsky being a cow. At that time I was several sizes larger than Monica. I’m just so sick of our culture’s warped idea of beauty. You could photo shop a woman’s face onto the picture of the body of a 11-year-old starving boy and that’s the ideal.

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Sandy May 20, 2014 at 11:57 am

I agree, the standards of beauty are just getting more and more ridiculous. There doesn’t seem to be any magazine editorial that does not use photoshop. If we could just see the original pictures, we would realize how much the images we are fed are manufactured.

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Kendra Jory May 13, 2014 at 11:31 am

It is kind of strange but our media reported her as beautiful temptress, one that “ruined” the relationship lol She wasn’t referred to as fat at all. Strange huh?

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Kendra Jory May 10, 2014 at 11:26 pm

It is kind of strange but our media reported her as beautiful temptress, one that “ruined” the relationship lol She wasn’t referred to as fat at all. Strange huh?

Reply

Janet May 10, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Funny Kendra…I live in Canada too and I only ever heard the fat jokes … never ever heard that she was a beautiful temptress…I read the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail and neither of them called her “a beautiful temptress”…

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Golda Poretsky, HHC (@bodylovewellnes) May 10, 2014 at 12:07 pm

@RachelShukert Your post in @tabletmag inspired me to write this today! http://t.co/HFMw9Lre49

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Kendra Jory May 10, 2014 at 12:29 pm

It is kind of strange but our media reported her as beautiful temptress, one that “ruined” the relationship lol She wasn’t referred to as fat at all. Strange huh?

Reply

Kendra Jory May 10, 2014 at 12:19 pm

It is kind of strange but our media reported her as beautiful temptress, one that “ruined” the relationship lol She wasn’t referred to as fat at all. Strange huh?

Reply

Kendra Jory May 10, 2014 at 12:14 pm

It is kind of strange but our media reported her as beautiful temptress, one that “ruined” the relationship lol She wasn’t referred to as fat at all. Strange huh?

Reply

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