by Bridgette E. Gallagher (@bridgewritesYA)
Editor: Editor Cassandra (@OnlyCassandra)
Young Adult Contemporary
Sixteen-year-old Cecily Brewer’s pro-size Instagram, @MooseGirl, is how she found her voice as a loud, proud fat girl. But when Cecily spends a summer at fat camp, her personal identity and social media persona clash. After shedding pounds, she begins to question if demands of fat acceptance are allowed to come from a girl who’s becoming un-fat.
As she begins junior year a little bit thinner, she finds her friendships take new shape too. Whether it's social media attention for her weight loss, or not-so-subtle romance vibes from her friend Sawyer, Cecily is quick to deflect the recognition and insist she is who she has always been. As she adjusts to her smaller waistline, she’s wonders if her larger than life persona is indeed still hers to claim.
In an act to show her relevance is not limited to being fat, Cecily runs for junior class president against the second grade bully who gave her the nickname of MooseGirl, Ben Dawson. Winning seems like the ultimate revenge until she has a very public, drunken kiss with the Ben after the Homecoming Dance.
To her followers, she's a sellout. To her closest friends, a disappointment. With her credibility as @MooseGirl at risk and every relationship in limbo, Cecily realizes that it doesn't matter how many followers she has If everything feels hollow without her friends.
Told in the spirit of Dumplin’ with a healthy dose of Instagram, CALL ME @MOOSEGIRL is complete at 58,000 words.
I have been a high school English teacher in Saratoga Springs, NY for the past 17 years. I am a member of SCBWI, an intermittent blogger, and a lover of young adult literature.
First Five Pages
@MooseGirl Instagram Post
We have to go to Fat Camp
to shed the shame you’ve been
handing out to us.
@Summer Health and Independent Training - Sometimes you have to get away from your day to day to see the CRAP you’ve been dealing with nearly your whole life. #losingit #fatattitude #sheddingattheSHIT #Moosegirl #fattitude
Chapter 1: Cover Blown
Bria barrels over to me her typical not-graceful way. “Did you see? There’s GRAPES!” She heads to the snack table and makes a roly poly plate full of grapes. Sugary fruits aren’t given out liberally these days at the SHIT, or Summer Health and Independence Training, so Bria’s gotta take what she can get. Her emerald eyes sparkle as she pops a grape into her mouth. Bria doesn’t know she’s pretty and that is part of her appeal.
She brought me three cheese slices and two olives, just like she does every day. It’s strange how a person you never knew can become a comfort to you in the day in, day out of a single summer.
SHIT superbitch Kandice Clement’s group has scattered from their corner meeting and all have scowls on. Some of them are glaring. Some of them are glaring at me. Some of them are not good at glaring and are instead grimacing as if they have gas in my direction. KC’s group has scattered from their corner meeting, and all have scowls on. Some of them are glaring. Some of them are glaring at me. Some of them are not good at glaring and are instead just grimacing as if they have gas in my direction.
I figure maybe KC saw my numbers on the wall, afraid someone’s percentage lost is stealing her thunder. I figure she has her nose out of joint for any number of offenses one can make towards our Lady and Savior, Kandice Clement.
“Did you make a SHIT post on Insta yesterday, Cess?” Bria looks around the room with a smirk on her face that almost looks excited.
“Yeah, why?” I nibble on a square of Vermont’s best sharp cheddar.
“Because I think you might have some new followers.”
Ah-ha! That explains it.
Now that tension the thickness of a piece of cheesecake looms, group starts as it has started every morning since I got here.
“Who is ready for some reflection and reinvention? That’s what Summer Health Independence Training is for! We’re here to start what? WHAT FOLKS?” Dr. Sharon, our psychologist uses her best cheerleader voice to start group with the same phrase each day.
“Healthy habits and attitudes!” We all cheer, many of us unwillingly. I try not to let the heavy sigh inside me exhale out into the lounge, where we have already reflected and reinvented too many times to count.
“Hey Cess, if Kandice does anything, shut up and let me talk. I’ll put that bitch in her place,” Bria says with resolve.
Still, Kandice the Bitch Whisperer is determined to make sure is miserable for someone—and I’m pretty much betting it’s me. She’s pointing now. Pointing to me and then back to her phone. I want to tie her index fingers together and see how well she can continue to stir up whatever she’s trying to stir up.
“Let’s take out our journals for a short time,” Dr. Sharon has a voice that’s (ironically enough) like syrup: slow, consoling, thick.
I have a throat full of bubbles and acid even after my Greek yogurt and almonds at breakfast. I survey group faces. There are faces that look a little relieved, a little worried, and a little excited. Everyone tends to wear the same expression at group, even without Kandice drama about to catch fire. We’re experts at uncertainty, fat campers. We’re a motley crew of doubt.
Kandice raises her hand. Shit’s going down at the SHIT.
“Dr. Sharon, I think we need to talk about something. I found something out last night that I think everyone should know.”
Here it comes. The SHIT is literally hitting the fan.
I glance at Bria to my left in the circle. She smiles at me and raises her eyebrows. “This can’t be happening!” she mouths. Kandice is well known for her Me-Me-Me-ness. But this isn’t another speech about Kandice’s anxiety and tendency toward depression. She’s bringing out the big guns.
“Cecily is all over social media. She has this Instagram account and it basically makes fun of the fact that she’s fat. I mean, it makes it like, this big joke.”
The silence is almost encouragement for her to blather on, so she does. “The bio says,” she looks down to her phone and reads from it. “’Thoughts and images from one girl’s big fat mouth.’ Her Insta name is @MooseGirl. She calls herself a moose. There’s a hashtag that a bunch of her friends are on too. It’s like a fat cult.”
Doug, Sharon’s newly appointed and definitely poorly trained discussion mediator, tries to distract her with some canned responses he has clearly learned from Dr. Sharon, “We’re all different people outside Summer Health and Independence, Kandice. We have to remember that who someone was when they came in might not be the same person when they leave.” Doug gets a gold star for a totally useless, neutral response.
“Not her, Doug. She’s here to make fun of this experience. Take pics of us and make sure we all look like asses online. I’m not even sure she wants to lose weight. What kind of person calls themself a moose?”
“Someone that doesn’t fucking care what being called a moose means to you.” Bria says it even though I feel like I’m thinking it.
“Bria, this has nothing to do with you. Of course you probably already knew about this and don’t care because you follow Cecily around like a little puppy. But the rest of us do care. We deserve to be anonymous. This is our journey. Not hers.”
Oh fuck, not the journey word. Why does everything in life have to be referred to as a journey in order for people to consider it something individual and pure? Why does a melodramatic word like journey get applied to everything that’s actually a “big giant transformation of life”?
“Bottom line. She’s not here for the right reasons.” There are some expressions you think you will only hear on The Bachelor—but, no.
They’re all still listening to her. Everyone wants to pick up their phones, I know it, but they’re afraid to. Phone policy during any group therapy sessions is pretty strict. Since KC usually gets queen status at nearly every SHIT gathering, no one is surprised that she thinks she’s allowed to look at her phone. I decide it’s my turn to speak.
“KC? Did you see me put any names, places, or actual events from what happens here on my Instagram?”
“Well, not entirely. I mean. You said last night that we had to go to fat camp to get rid of our shame or something like that.”
I’m pissed that she’s quoting my Insta in group without my permission. “Is that wrong?”
“Is what wrong?” She’s legitimately confused.
“Is it incorrect that we’re all here shedding our shame?”
“I mean, you’re saying that being fat is shameful.” She looks around at the group as if to ask for support, but no one budges.
“Am I’m saying that or are you saying that?” I am suddenly energized, one with my own thoughts.
“You’re saying that we’re ashamed.” Her voice suddenly sounds whiney.
“I’m talking to the people, and there are a few, who choose to think that fat people are gross people who can’t control themselves.” Everyone is now looking at her like she’s the idiot.
“Okay.” She does not say it as a concession. She’s nonplussed.
“And I’m saying that the way we reset the way we think about ourselves is that we have to come here and air out all of our shit. IS that an incorrect account of what we’re doing?” My voice has not raised. But my heart is beating fast and my hands are shaking.
“But it’s like you are proud—“
“Proud of what?” She’s making my point exactly.
“Proud to be fat.”
Now I can hammer it in. “KC, being proud to be fat is a good thing. It means that I’m not ashamed of being who I actually am. Being proud of being fat is not the problem. Being ashamed of being fat is.” I’m waiting for her to respond, ready to go even more toe to toe with her.
There is silence. Some low breathy gasps turn into whispers. It’s clear on Doug’s face that this session of group can’t be brought back to order and he dismisses us.
While we’re walking out, Bria hits my elbow and whispers, “I’ll bet you a container of crunchy peanut butter you have 40 new followers by midnight.”
And she was right.