Book Review: Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?


Beach Scottoline

Bad day?  Bad week?  Bad month?  Bad summer?  Bad life?

Laughter truly is the best medicine, and I prescribe Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat? by the dynamite mother-daughter duo Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella.  It gave me so many laugh-out-loud, belly-laugh moments that I’m shocked my neighbors didn’t come knocking last night.

The book is a series of true stories and confessions collected from their “Chick Wit” columns in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  My favorite essays were about the late, great Mother Mary.

The Scottoline clan: Lisa, Francesca, Mother Mary, and Brother Frank

The Scottoline clan: Lisa, Francesca, Mother Mary, and Brother Frank

Motto ~ Who Needs It???
– Mother Mary, Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?

Ms. Serritella wrote with great humor about the sucker punches of a romantic breakup coupled with her beloved grandmother’s demise.  Mother Mary lived her life to the fullest.  When relatives came calling to bid her a tear-filled farewell, she cracked jokes and entertained:

Did you bring the Dago red? [slang for homemade Italian wine]. . .I’ll give you $100 for two quarts. . .

We were rocking hospice. . .

My grandmother didn’t waste her last days looking backwards.  There was nothing that needed processing.  Life happens, whether we approve of it or not.  Instead, she chose to live in the moment, to savor, to laugh, to enjoy those around her.

Francesca Serritella and Lisa Scottoline

Francesca Serritella and Lisa Scottoline

For me, estrogen is a thing of the past.
Like sex.
Lisa Scottoline, Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?

In her final days, Mother Mary offered her granddaughter Francesca the perspective she needed to heal her broken heart:

My grandmother had never been the most reflective person.  She couldn’t afford to be.  Growing up in very difficult circumstances taught ~ or forced ~ her to act instead of ponder, to escape instead of fix, and to move on instead of regret.  This may not be the perfect way to live, but it was the only way she could survive.

I grew up the child of several troubled marriages.  I am the watcher, the thinker, the healer.  I read people, I adapt, I fix ~ or try to.  And if it fails, I stew on all the ways it could’ve gone differently.  This is not always a bad way to be.

But it’s not always good.

Bad things happen, and dwelling about how they’re bad, why they’re bad, doesn’t make them any better.  Sometimes you need to ask yourself:  “Who needs it?”  Evaluate your present, not only your past.  See if what you’re doing to yourself is helping you.  If the answer is no, then “Who needs it?”  Let it go.

Good advice.

Lisa Scottoline

Lisa Scottoline

Why is “working out” always the answer?
Why is the answer never “chocolate cake?”
– Lisa Scottoline, Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?

One of my favorite essays came near the end of the book:  “Twisted Sister” about Ms. Scottoline’s scoliosis diagnosis.  The repartee with her doctor was hilarious.  Apparently, she writes while watching television and holding a dog in her lap.  He told her that she needed to work out and sent her to physical therapy.  She did it with grace and humor, but she wasn’t happy about it.

Lisa Scottoline

Lisa Scottoline

I don’t impose obligations on myself, or
allow others to impose them on me.
– Lisa Scottoline, Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?

Ms. Scottoline’s insightful perspective on aging mirrors how I feel about the ticking down of life’s clock:

In the beginning, I felt guilty when I say no, aware that I was disappointing people. . .

I got used to it. . .

I stopped giving away my time.  Instead I’m giving myself permission to keep it and use it the way I want. . .

I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

I’ve come into myself.

Every woman does. . .we never grow old.

Related Review:
Review: Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog by Lisa Scottoline, 12/12/09

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