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Such a pretty fat: one narcissist's quest to discover if her life makes her ass look big

Jen Lancaster

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page



  CHAPTER ONE - Like I Haven’t Heard That Before

  CHAPTER TWO - Pack Your Knives and Go, Mom

  CHAPTER THREE - Talking (Terrible) Turkey

  CHAPTER FOUR - Two Fat People Admit Defeat

  CHAPTER FIVE - Lookin’ Good and Feelin’ Fine? Not So Much

  CHAPTER SIX - Shame con Queso

  CHAPTER SEVEN - I Wish I Could Quit You, Olive Garden

  CHAPTER EIGHT - Gentlemen, Start Your Cheesecakes

  CHAPTER NINE - It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

  CHAPTER TEN - Careful What You Wish For

  CHAPTER ELEVEN - I Like New York in June; How About You?

  CHAPTER TWELVE - Less Talk-y, More Drive-y

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN - Reaching Critical (M)ass


  CHAPTER FIFTEEN - Metamorpha-Sissy


  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN - Et Tu, Valerie Bertinelli?

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN - Enough with the Cake Already; God!

  CHAPTER NINETEEN - Swim It Out, Bitch

  CHAPTER TWENTY - The N-a-k-e-d Truth

  CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE - By the Numbers


  “Jen Lancaster is wickedly funny,

  refreshingly honest, and totally unapologetic.”*

  Raves for Bright Lights, Big Ass

  “Lessons we’ve learned from Jen Lancaster: Bitter is the new black; Target is the new Neiman’s; pit bulls and surly neighbors are the new Samanthas, Charlottes and Mirandas; and midday whiskey is always a good idea. Bright Lights, Big Ass is a bittersweet treat for anyone who’s ever survived the big city.”

  —Jennifer Weiner, author of The Guy Not Taken

  “Refreshing, hysterical, illuminating! From the title on, Bright Lights, Big Ass is an antihaute hoot. In a voice that’s charming and snarky, hilarious and human, Jen Lancaster tells the ultraglamorous truth about real big-city living. And it’s better than anything on TV. Jen Lancaster does not teeter around on Manolo Blahniks or have lobster for breakfast. She eats pork chops and Lucky Charms. She dreams of shopping sprees at Target. She works temp jobs and spends too much time Googling things online. She wears footie pajamas. In other words, she’s a lot like the rest of us. Thank God! And this wonderful, sweet, funny book proves once and for all that Carrie Bradshaw and her Sex and the City cronies are big fat liars. Of course. Of course they are.”

  —Lori Jakiela, author of Miss New York Has Everything

  “Bright Lights, Big Ass is brightly crafted and big on laughs.”

  —*Caprice Crane, author of Stupid and Contagious and Forget About It

  “Jen Lancaster may be one of the few authors around capable of writing her own sitcom; she’s smart, wry, and never afraid to point out her own shortcomings while letting us into her uniquely funny world.”

  —Melanie Lynne Hauser, author of Super Mom Saves the World

  “Jen Lancaster is the Holy Trinity of funny.”

  —Nicole Del Sesto, author of All Encompassing Trip

  “After reading Bright Lights, Big Ass, I’m convinced Jen Lancaster is the illegitimate love child of Nora Ephron and David Sedaris. She’s simply that great—a genetic hybrid of two of America’s most-loved writers. In Bright Lights, Big Ass, Jen Lancaster gives the proverbial finger to the Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle, trading Barneys, Manolo Blahnik, and Bergdorf for her very own shopping Holy Trinity: Target, Trader Joe’s, and Ikea; allowing women everywhere to rejoice in their sixty-dollar Isaac Mizrahi Target coats.”

  —Robert Rave, author of Conversations & Cosmopolitans: How to Give Your Mother a Hangover

  "Jen Lancaster is like David Sedaris with pearls and a supercute handbag. ”—Jennifer Coburn, author of The Queen Gene

  "Part Seinfeld, part antidote to Sex and the City, Bright Lights, Big Ass is the must-read for anyone who has ever suffered through a regretfully torturous workout with her trainer, a run-in with irrational, perhaps psychotic neighbors, a long-winded, insipid telemarketer, or the black hole known as Ikea. (And really, isn’t this everyone?) Nothing and no one is spared from Jen Lancaster’s acerbically sharp wit, as she gives voice to all of the things we wish we could say but don’t. I defy you not to laugh out loud on nearly every page. Someone give this girl her own show already! That would be must-see TV.”

  —Allison Winn Scotch, author of The Department of Lost and Found

  Praise for Bitter Is the New Black

  “The woman is nothing if not spunky, and she does have her funny moments, particularly when sticking it to The Man.”

  —The Washington Post

  “Carrie Bradshaw meets Barbara Ehrenreich in this memoir about white-collar unemployment after the dot-com bubble burst.”

  —Kirkus Reviews

  "She’s bitchy and sometimes plain old mean, but she’s absolutely hilarious. ”—Chicago Sun-Times

  "Jen Lancaster’s confessions should be mandatory reading for the absurdly salaried young smart-arses around town…An honest, insightful, and ultimately feel-good handbook for what to do when ruin beckons.”

  —Deborah Hope of The Australian

  “A classic story of comeuppance, written from real-life experience by the funniest new author from the blogosphere. A strong debut and a must-read for any American princess.”

  —Jessica Cutler, author of The Washingtonienne

  New American Library

  Published by New American Library,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,

  Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2,

  Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

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  Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

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  Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017, India

  Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632,

  New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue,

  Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:

  80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  First published by New American Library,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  First Printing, May 2008

  Copyright © Jennifer Lancaster, 2008


  eISBN : 978-1-436-20489-7

  1. Lancaster, Jen, 1967- 2. Authors, American—21st century—Biography. I. Title.

  PS3612.A54748Z46 2008


  [B] 2007049710

  Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publ
isher of this book.


  While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

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  For Jennifer Coburn,

  the queen (gene) of the good idea.

  For Barbie, who opened the door

  and shoved me through it.

  And for everyone who

  ever lived with a person on a diet . . .

  I am deeply sorry.


  This is the true story of a fat, mean girl on a diet. For the sole purpose of relating this story, I had to compress a few time lines and alter some names and characteristics. But in case you’re wondering, yes, I was that fat, I was that mean, and I did eat that much cheese. (And I thank you for not mentioning it.)

  Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.


  Weight Watchers can kiss the fattest part of my ass.



  TO: [email protected]

  FROM : jennifer_coburn@home

  SUBJECT: Bright Lights, Big Ass Idea

  Dear Jen,

  After having just finished writing my fifth novel, I’m fresh out of ideas, but I have one for you.

  I don’t know if you’ve ever dieted before, but I have and I’m pissed off—a lot, especially when I see the size zero Desperate Housewives inhaling ice cream or when I see Dove fat ass cream saying, hey, it’s okay to have a fat ass (but still buy the fat ass cream, please). When Paris Hilton washed that car eating a Carl’s Jr. burger, I wanted to shove the hose down that skinny bitch’s throat and turn the pressure on full blast.

  Every dieting story out there is so damned upbeat and inspiring, but the reality is that when we’re losing weight, we’re not in the mood for all the smiley-faced gurus telling us how easy it is. No, we need YOU chronicling your journey and making people laugh at your witty observations about our culture, weight, dieting, and skinny whores in magazines. That’s my pitch. Love it, hate it, or indifferent, it’s all fine with me.

  What do you think?

  Jen Coburn

  P.S. Anyone who says nothing tastes as good as being thin feels has obviously never had Korean barbecue.

  TO: jennifer_coburn@home

  FROM: [email protected]

  SUBJECT: RE: Bright Lights, Big Ass Idea

  Hey, JC,

  What’s shakin’? It’s great to hear from you! Workwise, I’m fooling around with fiction that I can’t quite call young adult because my protagonist is in college. (I’m hoping to appeal to the Veronica Mars generation.)

  I love the idea of a weight-loss memoir . . . especially the bit with Paris and the hose. However, despite my best efforts, I keep losing (and then finding) the same damn five pounds. My most recent drop came from when I got food poisoning and I’m still counting it as a win. But I’d probably have to start really losing weight for real before I could chronicle it, don’t you think?

  ’Til then, I’m probably stuck with my knockoff Veronica Mars.



  from the desk of miss jennifer ann lancaster

  Dear Dean Wormer,

  In Animal House, you told Bluto that fat, drunk, and stupid was no way to go through life.

  I beg to differ. Fat, drunk, and stupid is a perfectly fine way to go through life. . . . After all, it’s worked out nicely for me.


  Jen Lancaster


  Like I Haven’t Heard That Before

  "Today on the bus a guy called me a fat bitch.” "I’m standing in the kitchen folding a softened stick of butter, a cup of warmed sour cream, and a mound of fresh-shaved Parmesan into my world-famous mashed potatoes while I recount my day’s activities to Fletch. There’s a maple-glazed pork roast browning nicely in the oven and white-chocolate -chip macadamia cookies cooling on a rack farther down the counter. I’ve already sautéed the almonds and am waiting for the green beans to blanch so I can toss the whole lot with yet more butter1before serving the meal.

  “That sucks,” he sympathetically replies. “What happened? ”

  "Well, I waited on the corner for a cab for, like, twenty minutes, and none came, so I jumped on the Western Avenue bus to take it to the Blue Line.” I stir the potatoes before sampling them. “Hmm. Do these need more horseradish? Taste.” I attempt to walk over to Fletch, but our dogs, Maisy and Loki, attracted by all the delicious smells wafting from the kitchen, have firmly stationed their combined 165 pounds of bulk directly in my path. “Move!” I bark. They back up about an inch and plant themselves again. They know very well that in fifteen minutes I’ll be feeding them bites of pork roast off my fork and thus are going nowhere.

  I continue, “A couple of stops after I got on, this hippie girl boards with a stroller, and the first thing I think is, ‘Oh, honey, you are a baby; you can’t have a baby.’2Anyway, instead of standing in the area meant for strollers up front, she moves toward me. I get up—ostensibly so she can take my seat—walk to the very back, and sit down.” I taste the potatoes again. “You know what these need? Wine.”


  “Yes. I mean, in a glass. For me to drink. Pour me some? I can’t get around these idiots.” I gesture at the dogs, and they both leap up to snap at the butter dripping from the wooden spoon. I’d say these are the most lazy, self-indulgent creatures on the planet, but that would discount my rotten cats, who keep hopping onto the counter and trying to grab the spoon with their paws. Listen up, creatures: If anyone’s licking this butter, it’s going to be me.

  Fletch grabs some of Trader Joe’s finest five-dollar Pinot Grigio for me and a bottle of water for himself. He pauses before selecting a glass from the cabinet over the coffeemaker. Every shelf is packed with flutes, tulips, goblets, martini glasses, and rocks tumblers. We’ve got the proper vessels for ports and sherries and Rhine wines and cognac. You can have a beer in amounts varying from eight to thirty-two ounces in pilsners or pints. Some glasses have obscenely long stems, some have no stems at all, and some have delicate flowers etched in thin crystal.

  The thing is, they’re completely unnecessary. We have something like three friends who will brave our dogs’ enthusiastic expressions of affection. Sure, it’s funny to hear stories about how our pit bull, Maisy the Love Monster, can leap four feet in an attempt to kiss visitors, only to split lips and blacken eyes, but it’s less charming when it’s your head that’s bleeding. Our shepherd, Loki, stands more than five feet tall on his talon-tipped hind legs and has a penchant for salad tossing,3so his greetings are less than desirable, too. And, since only two of the three people still willing to enter our home actually drink, our stash of beverage containers is a tad overwhelming. I have no idea where they all came from and am equally dismayed that despite intentional carelessness, none ever seem to break. I can’t bring myself to get rid of perfectly good stemware, so we live with them hogging up an entire set of cabinets.4

  Daunted by the lot of them on display, Fletch finally chooses one of our fifteen multipurpose models and pours me a healthy belt of white wine. “Here you go.”

  “Thanks!” I take a quick sip to wet my throat. “So, I’m just about to get off at the Armitage stop and I see the hippie chick making her way to the front after shoving her kid’s stroller
in the area by the back exit. I keep my eye on said stroller because who the hell walks away from her baby on a crowded bus? I mean, we’re in Chicago; yeah, it’s relatively safe, but not let-a-stranger-watch-your-most-precious-cargo safe. Then this guy comes up and stands next to the stroller, and I get nervous because the mom’s not even looking back at us. I mean, who is this guy? Is he going to abduct the kid? And why the fuck is he wearing a straw fedora, especially with his stupid beard? My first thought when I saw him was, Hey! It’s Panama Jackass! ”

  After being removed from the counter 926 times, my cat Bones hops up for the 927th. I place him back on the ground and continue. “So I freak out because I’m concerned for the baby’s safety, and suddenly I’m the bus’s reluctantly appointed air marshal. Should I throw myself in front of the door if the guy tries to touch the kid? Yell for the driver? Steal his retarded hat? The thing is, if I get involved in an attempted kidnapping, I’m not going to make my one o’clock hair-color appointment with Dante, so what do I do?”

  Fletch nods sagely. “That’s quite the moral dilemma. Save a child or get your roots done. I hear Mother Teresa struggled with similar issues.”

  I wave him off. She wore that towel on her head all the time. No one even cared about her hair. “Turns out everything was fine. The mother started having a conversation with him, and I realized they were together.” I pause to take another sip of my wine. Mmm; cool, crisp, and five dollars’ worth of delicious!

  “Crisis averted?” He absently scratches Loki under the chin and is rewarded with a handful of dog drool.

  “Yes, or so I thought. When we got to Armitage, I had to get off, and the dad and his kid were in my way, so I’m all, ‘Excuse me; this is my stop.’ Dad turns to me, and I see he’s really young, too. I didn’t realize it at first because I was so focused on his extraneous facial accessories. Looking closer, I saw he was all disheveled and his eyes were sunken and hollow. Total newborn-sleep-deprivation syndrome. Then he says, ‘Why don’t you exit up front?’ ”

  Fletch gives his hands a quick predinner scrub and dries them on a dish towel. “Yeah, why didn’t you?”