Rosie Waterland’s second memoir starts by saying ‘I was successful. I had overcome, damn it. … My first book ended with me finding myself, with me leaving my mental-health struggles firmly in the past with my traumatic childhood. Whatever hardship I had faced, I had beaten it’. For those of you who have read The Anti-Cool Girl, you will know she bared her soul, telling of the abuse and neglect she suffered as a child and how she found fame. This book starts with her in hospital in a bad state, wondering how she got there. She then goes back in time to show us how, alternating chapters based on lies she has told others, or herself, and of her relationship with her great friend Tony. She realises ‘how ironic it was that right in the middle of writing my second book, a book about all the random lies I’ve told in my life, I’d ended up telling the most significant lie of all’.
She reflects on what she wants now – ‘to create the family that I never had. A family that feels secure and stays in one place and doesn’t end with screaming and police and foster homes and anxiety. I would really, really just like to find someone who feels like home’, and her past where ‘My dad had killed himself. My mum was an alcoholic. I kept getting shipped around to live with different people who weren’t that thrilled to have me there. I was in Year 8 and had already been to at least eleven schools. I never knew what horror show was waiting for me when I got home’.
She met Tony at drama school when ‘I was struggling with PTSD. After a childhood filled with abuse and neglect, a father who’d died and a mother who’d left my sisters and me as wards of the state, I’d ended up in a boarding school where I was bullied to breaking point, followed by a university where I’d felt confused and alone. … Tony took my hand and never let it go’.
With candour, humour and heartbreak she tells of her ‘ bit of a social media scandal’, her work in the media reporting scandals, Brazilians, dating apps, and her struggle with an eating disorder – ‘for every kilo that you gain, you actually lose something along with it. Respect. Visibility. Dignity. Stores willing to make clothes for you that don’t just include stretchy tights and T-shirts with cartoon cats on them’.
She is able to open a ‘discussion on body image from the perspective of someone who isn’t thin’. With what she learns she knows that ‘Having a clear sense of self and sticking to it is easy, in theory. But maintaining that sense of self in the face of, well, life, and reality, can often feel almost impossible’, and after struggling with her own body image she ‘had to look for other things that I valued about myself. And building a new scaffolding of self- esteem not based around looks was incredibly liberating for me. I started to place more value on my intelligence. On my talent as a writer. On my ability to be a fierce and loyal friend. On my sense of humour. On the love I have for my sisters. On the fact that I survived a pretty horrific childhood filled with trauma, abuse and neglect’.
She recommends that we ‘all embrace failure. Let’s all accept that we can only be perfect at being imperfect. That’s about as close to being ourselves as we’re ever going to get’, and that it is important to say ‘I’m not okay’, and to ‘reach out to someone on the way down’.
This is an important book for young women, but also young men in this day and age when the problems between the sexes are being exposed. Rosie calls it as it is and writes with great perception, wit and honesty. I didn’t think she could be more open than she was in her first book but I think she has been. I highly recommend both of her books.