By Shoshana Berger
I’d just completed my first semester of theater school at Carnegie Mellon when I got The Fat Letter. It hung amongst four others, nearly identical, pinned to the department bulletin board in crisp white envelopes. By fat, I don’t mean that it was stuffed with paperwork. I mean it was a letter whose sole purpose was to inform me that I was too fat. Carnegie Mellon is where Ted Danson and Holly Hunter and Ethan Hawke learned how to act. I doubt Ted Danson ever got a fat note. I looked around to see who was in the hall, then yanked it down and scurried away.
In neat courier type, it recommended I go see the school nutritionist and work on an exercise regimen. I grew up in Berkeley in the 70s. My mother wore flowing peasant Marimekko dresses and ate KFC out of the bucket. Hollywood bulimic chic was as appealing to me as any 18-year-old, but also a staggering rebuke to my free-to-be-you-and-me budding feminism. Fat notes weren’t a part of my worldview. So, I ate the fried zucchini sticks, drank the beer, and was kicked out of school at the end of freshman year. I transferred to NYU and joined a pot-bellied experimental theater troupe.
What small acts of rebellion have determined the course of your life?
Shoshana Berger has written for the New York Times, SPIN, WIRED, and a stint as the editorial director (more like “cool-hunter”) for Young & Rubicam. She is an editorial director at IDEO.