Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi


Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain - Portia de RossiWhat I appreciate most about de Rossi’s memoir is the way she shows us her eating disorder. The reader gets to experience her descent into anorexia the same way we experienced the descent into insanity back in The Bell Jar. It’s not as simple as extreme dieting, it’s a poisionous obsession that grew slowly from paranoia and insecurity and has made the most sense I’ve ever heard about how so many women end up with it. Of course, de Rossi’s story is not the only way it happens, but she humanizes how it happens and makes it understandable for those of who have never had it.

It’s also hard to remember sometimes just how bad it once was to be known as gay or a lesbian in Hollywood or anywhere. It really wasn’t that long ago that the most common media narrative was of teens getting kicked out of their homes or parents never wanting to talk to children of any age ever again. There’s still homophobia, but there are more bastions of inclusion and representation in media has increased dramatically. That’s not to say that it’s easy to be out and proud nowadays, but I remember when violence and hate and vitriol were about the only things people were shown to expect. I put it that way because I never had friends who came out in school or anything like that, but that was media. Every story I saw as a child about gay people were a part of the attempt to control and subdue them. Fortunately, light broke through and there are more stories every day of things getting better and families reacting positively. A part of de Rossi’s paranoia was that someone would find out that she was a lesbian and that it would end her career.

The memoir focuses on de Rossi’s anorexia but also spends time on the surrounding body image issues that fueled it, the utter lack of a sense of security that her sudden celebrity had brought on, fears of being outed by the media, and paranoia that she would not be seen as worthy if she were to be seen as herself. There was always a better person to be, it seems. The descent into anorexia is jarring, not just because of her horrific anorexia can be but because of the way it can happen gradually and without the recognition that it is a problem. I would share this book with everyone I know that has a child trying to diet at a young age, particularly daughters because anorexia is on the rise for girls 15-24 according to the National Eating Disorder Association.

I saved Unbearble Lightness on Scribd but it’s also available from other sources. Click on the cover image to be redirected to BookLikes for purchase options or add to Goodreads for later.

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