Review

You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl: Observations on Life from the Shallow End of the Pool

by Celia Rivenbark

Humor writer Celia Rivenbark has a new collection of essays, YOU DON’T SWEAT MUCH FOR A FAT GIRL, and it’s a rip-roaring read. I’m sure I looked like a nut laughing poolside while reading this book. What makes Rivenbark’s writing so entertaining is that it’s a lot like seeing a stand-up comedy act: she does an uncanny job of keeping the flow of comedy fresh.

"Rivenbark’s edgy humor pokes fun at how our nation embraces cuteness --- right down to cartoon bears showing how soft toilet paper can be."

One of the topics Rivenbark takes on is the bad timing of a doofus who decides to tell a terrorist joke at an airport. Bad timing, mister. Her advice is simple: Leave these jokes to the professionals. Then she goes on to write about how the state of Nebraska has a law that people can drop off their babies and teenagers. Let’s just say I’m keeping that idea in my back pocket for when times get tough. She takes it a step further by suggesting that we could drop off anyone who annoys us.

Rivenbark’s edgy humor pokes fun at how our nation embraces cuteness --- right down to cartoon bears showing how soft toilet paper can be. Ironically, she points out that it’s not kids who purchase the product, but adults. She is downright sick of cuteness --- everything from videotaping your kid after oral surgery to cupcake designs --- and blames Hello Kitty for putting us on this annoying path.

Like many humorists, Rivenbark pulls from personal experience, and her family plays a role in this book. Readers get a firsthand look at the rough-and-tumble world of teens. Rivenbark goes to the movies with her daughter, Princess, an eye-opening experience as she realizes that all those episodes of “Oz” aren’t going to get her through a face-off with today’s teen. In another family story, she tells us about Elvis Presley performing her marriage ceremony. She also reveals that her worrying is a multi-generational family trait. Her grandma once called the airport to tell the pilot that he shouldn’t fly during the light rain because her granddaughter was on the flight.

Readers will view Rivenbark’s world through a Southerner’s eye. Down South, the word “snow” is equivalent to kryptonite. She once received a Snuggie as a gift --- at first she looked at it in disdain, then discovered that it was a gift from God, as it helped her through several winters. She comments about Mrs. Madoff, who comes to visit her hubby in prison. Once accustomed to extreme wealth, the tables have changed for Mrs. Madoff, a woman scorned by her favorite salon, her gym and her personal florist. I like picturing Mrs. Madoff getting to know the Piggly Wiggly florists --- especially when Rivenbark comments that Southerners like glitter spray on their flowers, too.

When friends ask me what I’m reading and I tell them “YOU DON’T SWEAT MUCH FOR A FAT GIRL,” I always get a big reaction. People laugh and comment that they really like the title. Then they want to see the cover, which gets a hearty chuckle, too. When they check out what’s inside, total hilarity ensues.

Reviewed by Kathleen M. Purcell on August 18, 2011

You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl: Observations on Life from the Shallow End of the Pool
by Celia Rivenbark

  • Publication Date: August 16, 2011
  • Genres: Essays, Humor, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 0312614209
  • ISBN-13: 9780312614201