FATLASH! , a cautionary tale by Karen Kataline is an insightful look at the relationship between girls who are sexualized at a young age and obesity in later life. In a first hand account of her childhood, Karen exposes the world of child beauty pageants where little girls are dressed and taught to perform with an emphasis on sensuality. “Stage moms” often relive their youth vicariously through their daughters and succeed in blurring the line between adult and child.
The author’s journey of self-discovery is painful. Karen’s mother has no concept of where she ends and Karen begins. She is overly concerned with appearance as she pushes her daughter to succeed in the pageant world. She monitors every bite that Karen puts in her mouth and limits her seven year old to a mere 500 calories a day. Karen is always hungry and often sneaks food. Her parents’ marital problems only fuel the boundary issues within the family. Karen has a sense of something being “off” but is too young to understand why some attention feels “icky”. Sexuality and food become reoccurring sources of shame and confusion for Karen. She tries to find coping mechanisms to deal with her feelings and having control over her food intake seems key. Karen finds that a few extra pounds keep her from being viewed in a sexual way. She has found a way to hide. Karen’s story into adulthood attempts to unravel the complicated relationship between her weight and her fears.
FATLASH! is well written and Karen is witty and likeable as she describes her troubled past. Her observations and theories are thought provoking and relevant in view of the message that young girls are getting about sexuality today. The author doesn’t preach but asks questions like: What long lasting effects do reality show like “Toddlers and Tiaras” have on children? She also explores the “do good” mentality of parents and even governing agencies that try to control or legislate food choices for the masses. Are they causing more harm than good? Is there a correlation between an over sexualized society and obesity?
FATLASH! certainly provides a cautionary tale for the current crop of child beauty queens and young reality stars. Will these over exposed children one day be adults hiding from view behind obesity?
Reviewed by Maureen Fajt for IndieReader