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Fat Girl Finishing School

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“Fat girls of the world will find their voice through Wiley’s brilliance, and we all owe her for that.”

-Jes Baker, TheMilitantBaker.com, Blogger, Baker, Advocate

65 pages, Paperback

First published October 8, 2014

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Rachel Wiley

6 books189 followers

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5 stars
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58 (13%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 102 reviews
Profile Image for Sleepless Dreamer.
852 reviews222 followers
April 30, 2020
I was trying to find something new to read and when I saw LGBT+ and poetry, I knew I had to read this. Eventually, I realized that I've heard Wiley's poems before in their spoken version so I was happy for a chance to read more of her work. Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this in return for my unbiased review! 

This collection of poems is beautiful. These poems come across as symbolic and unique. It feels like they're telling a story, they let you into this world and it's so easy to just let them into your heart. I am doing a terrible job of describing poetry poetically so I'll just say this poetry collection is great. 

However, the marketing of this book of poems was not great. The impression that I got was that this would be a book about being a fat girl. True, Wiley's most famous poem is about that but this book of poetry is so much more and I feel it's a shame the cover or description doesn't do justice. This collection of poems is broad and special, touching across so many topics and ideas. A lot of the poems here have to do with growth, with acceptance, with boldness, with race and faith, with the complicated experience of being human. I think many people could enjoy this book, regardless of their gender or body.

My absolute favorites from here were Purple Hearts, Shutter, Brass Knuckles, Three Heart Monty, The Circus Fat Lady Eulogizes Mary the Elephant (this nearly made me cry, I seriously can't read things about animal cruelty), and Paper Babies but all of the poems were really nice. I can see myself coming back to this, especially when I feel overwhelmed with doubts.

All in all, if you're looking for a solid poetry collection, this is definitely one to check out! Wiley also does some spoken word poetry and it's amazing as well. I look forward to read more of her work!

What I'm Taking With Me
- Did I just read an entire book as a way to escape my academic failures? Yes but hey, Plato would totally support picking poetry over economics so this is fine.
- Also, we all need reminders that our bodies are fine, especially right now, when I can see the years I've spent working on long distance running fade away and seriously, I'm terrified of what it will feel like to go on a run once this ends and realize that I've lost years of progress.
- I want to name years after what I wish will happen in them, that's such a beautiful idea.
- Also the idea that you lend your body to people when you're in a physical relationship with them, that feels like it makes sense.
Profile Image for Geoff.
963 reviews92 followers
June 30, 2020
These poems were all very emotionally impactful with interesting similes and metaphors hammering themes of love (gay, straight, and self), body acceptance, race, feminism, and societal expectations. I enjoyed them, but it always felt like something was missing. Maybe it's that the author is an accomplished slam poet (see https://buttonpoetry.com/tag/rachel-w... ) and the poems on the page miss her cadence? Maybe they are overwhelming to read all at once and they lose some impact that way? Either way, I thought these were quite good, but left me hungry for something else.

**Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Madara.
272 reviews53 followers
June 6, 2020
It's really hard to review poetry. Especially if you've always had love/hate relationship with poetry.

While reading Fat Girl Finishing School I realized that I've heard some of the poems before! One Google search later I found multiple videos of Rachel Wiley reading her own poems and, oh boy, it only made reading this book better! I read her poems in my own voice and then listened to her reading them in her voice and she is so powerful and vulnerable at the same time and I love it so much! If you have a couple minutes, do listen to: 10 Honest Thoughts on Being Loved by a Skinny Boy; Paper Babies; Conversations With My Father In A Dunk Tank.

I wish there was a recording of her poem Blood Tongue because it's so, so, so relevant to the current situation in the USA.
"There is danger in being black in the wrong place
at the wrong time.
Wrong place: America.
Wrong time: All the time.

As I mentioned at the start - it's hard to review poetry. But I loved this collection so much! I can see myself rereading Fat Girl Finishing School. And that's rare.

Review copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Natalie  all_books_great_and_small .
2,108 reviews74 followers
August 20, 2020
I received an advance reader copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest review via netgalley and the publishers.

This is a beautiful and heartfelt book of poems about many different things so I felt the book title was unjust for the book of poems it entails.

My absolute favourite poem in this book was the Brass Knuckles one which I read three times and will read many more.

These poems are like a story unfolding within your heart and mind, some funny, some sad, some full of hurt and some with kiss ass vibes!

I really enjoyed this book and the only criticism I can give is that the title and the cover do not do it justice at all.
Profile Image for Queen Cronut.
183 reviews37 followers
May 10, 2020
Fat Girl Finishing School explores themes such as self-love, gender stereotypes, and fatphobia as well as making commentary on societal norms in blunt and lyrical verses that express Rachel Wiley's thoughts with no apology. An interesting contemporary poetry compilation though I feel some of these compositions would've been better hearing them spoken and not read.

*Thank you to NetGalley and Button Poetry publishers for providing a free ARC
Profile Image for lu ☾.
42 reviews129 followers
July 14, 2020
Oh, man, I loved this. Poetry is always a hit-or-miss for me, but lately I've been having a lot of trouble finding collections I really connect with, and this one was just what I needed.

In Fat Girl Finishing School, Rachel Wiley speaks about her experiences as a biracial, queer, fat woman. The collection focuses on self-love and self-acceptance, body positivity, the struggles and privileges of being a white-passing biracial person, queerness and relationships.

I love that most of it sort of read like slam. Which makes a lot of sense, considering that the author performs her poems a lot (check out the Button Poetry channel on YouTube, she's amazing. I haven't made my way through all of them yet, but these two are some of my favorites I've seen so far, if you're curious). I didn't think it made them any less powerful on page, per se, but there's something about them that screams that they'd be a joy to see performed. Her writing is lovely and biting and fresh, and the collection was very solid overall. I'll definitely be checking out Wiley's other collection and continuing to watch her perfomances online.

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.
Profile Image for Mary Katerine.
127 reviews16 followers
September 16, 2020
ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. I love slam poetry. So when I found out that a poem collection by a slam poet was available for request, I had to read it. This collection was raw. It had some pieces that gave me chills. Some of the lines I've written down in my quotes notebook because I wanted to keep them forever. As an overweight queer woman this book made me feel seen. My favourite poems were: Love Letter To My Body #3: My Excuse Love Letter To My Body #7 10 Honest Thoughs On Being Loved By A Skinny Boy The Circus Fat Lady Eulogizes Mary The Elephant Naked Atonement Love Letter To My Body#14: Borrow
Profile Image for Josalynne Balajadia.
333 reviews7 followers
March 24, 2023
Many of the poems did not connect with me in a way I typically look for, but they were still well done with lots of commentary on fatness, self love, and racism.
Profile Image for CJ.
156 reviews10 followers
January 23, 2019
I need to preface this by saying I did really like Fat Girl Finishing School. Because I think my review is going to sound like I didn't, but that's not the case.

If I had found this book first, I'd probably be in love with it. Rachel Wiley's work is intense, personal, and her poems--specifically those about being a fat woman--strike a very strong chord with me. Unfortunately, I read Nothing is Okay first, which spoiled this a bit. In comparison, FGFS seems a bit unpolished. The poems are good, but seem to still be struggling with style. I didn't find them to be as strikingly specific. Some of them feel like very very good class assignments. They're great, but not not transcendent the way NIO is.

I'd recommend reading this, just because it does contain some real gems, and because I think it shows the clear progression and development that happened in between Fat Girl Finishing School and Nothing Is Okay.
Profile Image for Kris Dersch.
2,324 reviews14 followers
May 13, 2019
What an amazing collection. I wanted to savor but found myself diving in deeper. Brutal, honest, no holds barred, but then at times truly funny (what does happen when the KFC runs out of chicken?) Do yourself a favor, big girls everywhere (and everyone else, too,) find yourself a copy.
Profile Image for Kyle.
Author 1 book29 followers
May 16, 2020
Beautifully written and powerful words.

"My excuse is my body needs no excuse to be loved,
No excuse to be seen,
No excuse to be touched, enjoyed, celebrated."

Rachael Wiley speaks volume about body positivity and feminism in this beautiful poetry collection.
I loved her way with words and her unapologetic way of being. It's a thought-provoking collection that should be read, enjoyed and reread.
Profile Image for Mariah.
1,184 reviews448 followers
May 26, 2020
ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

I first heard of Rachel Wiley when her poem "10 Honest Thoughts on Being Loved By A Skinny Boy" went viral 7 years ago.
I was in my freshman year of college and I remember being in awe of this strong and honest woman.

Fat Girl Finishing School brings back that feeling with a beautiful collection of perfectly human and genuine moments, told through Wiley's very fresh perspective.

This the book for that bad day. The hand to hold your when when you feel alone.
Self love and self acceptace is a daily battle, a constant struggle, there's a learning curve and it takes practice.
I find that learning from people like Wiley helps me an enormous amount and makes me feel less alone.
Profile Image for Moto Z.
262 reviews20 followers
May 28, 2020
“Medusa was born so beautiful, made ugly by another’s demands”
Let me take a second and say I was snapping my fingers because I can relate so well to the words written in this book. It makes you say yes! with pride and feel happiness, it’s body positivity and I’m all for the movement. This book is an anthem and inspiration for the plus size, the. It’s the anger and shame they are meant to feel be put aside. It’s to tell all plus size people (the ones people call fat) that they are valued, they matter and standards the world keeps trying to force on them don’t matter.
I really enjoyed this book, it’s a cool read
#VeryTada #BookReview
Profile Image for Raven Black.
1,957 reviews5 followers
September 9, 2019
A friend said some of the language and images Wiley presents is "vulgar." But in a matter of fact manner. And it is vulgar wrapped in beautiful words and language. She sharpens and softens the blows were needed. She speaks of her biracial privileges and struggles, her being plus sized, queer, shame, body positive, rape, love, hope, and more. Slaps you and hugs you. Raises her flag and finger. Language, sex and mature context.
Profile Image for Jeimy.
4,539 reviews33 followers
September 4, 2020
The author is:
Fellow member of the LGBTQ+ community.

The poems are in-your-face and you do not need to have heard the author perform to understand their cadence. These are poems that ask to be read aloud and shared with the world. As of today, i have done both.
Profile Image for Ally.
32 reviews3 followers
February 10, 2021
Some of these poems really spoke to me and others did not at all. I really liked The Circus Fat Lady Eulogizes Mary The Elephant.
Profile Image for Sinamile .
378 reviews7 followers
May 11, 2020
ARC Review: Received for free via Netgalley for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

CW/TW: fat shaming, racism, racial slurs, grandparent death, slut shaming slurs, mention of vaginal infection (yeast), mention of blood, catcalling,

I can't really comment about the poems because they're personal. Some of them resonated with me—the ones about being fat in a society that thinks it's a tragedy—but some of them went over my head.

I like the way Wiley puts her words together to create something magical with them. The poetry is beautiful and I want more more more of what she's giving me.

My excuse is that my body needs no excuse to be loved
Profile Image for S.
201 reviews15 followers
July 26, 2020
I don’t normally read poetry but was intrigued enough by the cover and title of this collection to want to explore and I’m really glad I did. If all poetry was like this, I’d read a lot more of it.

The depth and the imagery speaks to me. The poems are no holds barred and I appreciate that. As a reflection on gender, colour, size and many other social issues it’s not an easy read at times, but in that regard it’s reflective of a time and place and has many things that need to be said.

The collection is very accessible even if you don’t normally read poetry so I’d encourage anyone to give this a try.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Sophie.
228 reviews2 followers
January 6, 2019
It's rare for me to read something that truly captures and represents my experience. This made me cry and also highlight the shit out of it. I will always be thankful for Rachel Wiley for putting this out into the world. It is badass and truthful and honest.
Profile Image for Edmund Davis-Quinn.
1,021 reviews4 followers
May 23, 2020
Really good work. I really appreciate Rachel Wiley's powerful voice. And fat activism and acceptance are incredibly important. I do wish it had a bigger typeface though. It's absurdly small.
Profile Image for Uma Maheshwari Ramesh.
1 review9 followers
June 29, 2020
Fat Girl Finishing School, a book of poems by Rachel Wiley, uses tender and confessional language to create a space for self-love. Wiley's poetry plainly acknowledges how terrifying it can be to love yourself and tells you that you're worthy of it anyway. Her poems aren't as consistent in quality as I would like, but I can't recommend Fat Girl Finishing School enough.

One of the things I loved about Fat Girl Finishing School was just how many things I felt when I was reading it. As I read "Naked Atonement," in which Wiley lovingly addresses her own body, I wanted to give myself a hug. "Hoarder," which paints a haunting portrait of a neglected widow, allowed me to sympathize with a stranger's grief. Reading "Brass Knuckles," where Wiley pays tribute to female strength, made me feel like I could do anything. Fat Girl Finishing School takes you on a freewheeling emotional journey and asserts that every part of our humanity - however messy - is worthy of being seen. At its best, Fat Girl Finishing School left me feeling dazzled by its evocative, richly detailed verses. In "Americana," where Wiley grapples with her biracial identity, she writes: "My spine is a railroad tie on the tracks that segregate/the races in my mother's pink-cheeked southern Ohio town." In "For Nicholas Who Is So Concerned," Wiley sarcastically praises a fatphobic man for his originality: "Like I never felt laughter slinky-walk my spine,/or deep kissed pavement at the sound of an insult backfired/from a passing car,/or felt every single knuckle in a punch line." Through her use of language, Wiley depicts human vulnerability with arresting clarity. By casting a light on emotions that many of us feel embarrassed about, she made me feel safer acknowledging the softer parts of myself.

In spite of everything I loved about Fat Girl Finishing School, certain flaws did take away from my enjoyment of it. Some of Wiley's poems, like "Gorgon" and "Wife Material," were direct responses to events that took place around the time this work was published. These poems seemed more focused on expressing political points than capturing nuanced emotional realities, and the language was a little stilted. Wiley's work was weakest for me when she focused on humor and social observation, such as in "The Unbearable Likeness of Being on OkCupid" and "Sunday Morning Casino Service" respectively. Many of her comedic poems felt a little corny, and the observational poems weren't vivid or specific enough to hold my interest. This isn't a critique so much as a caveat, but I also wanted to note that certain poems aren't very accessible for those who are unused to reading poetry. Poems like "How to Become a Heretic" and "What Bette Davis Made Me Do" are packed with figurative language, and it was challenging to figure out how all of Wiley's metaphors worked together as a whole.

That said, despite these issues, what I'll remember most from Fat Girl Finishing School is Wiley's tenderness, towards her body and herself. I've already memorized multiple quotes from Fat Girl Finishing School to tell myself on difficult days. From "Naked Atonement," my favorite poem in this collection: "I need no one's green light to love you but my own,/and from here on out, it is all emerald/brilliance and go." From "Daylight," which Wiley dedicated to a bullied fan: "We are the daylight/and no one can go on if the day starts hiding." I can't endorse every part of Fat Girl Finishing School, but poems like these make the collection absolutely worth reading. If you're interested in beautiful, richly detailed, subversive poetry that crawls into bed with you and tells you that you deserve love, then Fat Girl Finishing School is for you.

Review copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This review was originally published on my personal website: journeys.dartmouth.edu/umamramesh/uma....
Profile Image for Laura.
488 reviews40 followers
July 25, 2020
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Button Poetry Books for the arc ebook of this poetry collection!

If you want to read poetry with a strong and different use of metaphors, this is your collection! Also, if you are interested in body-positivity, poems written from the perspective of a fat person, and some poems on unusual topics!

Best things about this poetry collection (and what I have learnt from it):
-Rachel Wiley has very different and unique poems on topics I usually don't read about, there's situations that inspire her poems that we usually don't see that often (like a poem for Amy Whinehouse, or a poem about the murder of an elephant, or a poem inspired by a blogger). She has inspired me to try new things in my own poetry and not be scared to go to different and unusual topics.
-Metaphors, metaphors, metaphors as adjectives, strings of metaphors, everything is metaphors.

Things that made me give this book only 3 stars:
-Too many metaphors. I get it, it's part of her unique style, but many times it made reading the poems super tedious, and sometimes I felt the metaphors didn't enhance the poem or nouns she was using/describing, but rather it was just something she felt she had to do. At first the metaphors were really powerful for me, later on in the collection I felt they weren't even real.
-Don't tell me you are an activist and then write a poem low-key trashing vegans. It's not cute. If you want respect how come you are disrespecting others? (Honestly, it would've been way more interesting to see a poem talking about the real issues of veganism, or some problematic things vegan influencers promote, not a poem about how annoying vegans are complaining about fast-food chains).

This is one of those poetry collections that make me go: certain poems are fucking awesome, the rest of the poems...not so much. So I'll probably keep an eye for her performances, but I don't think I'll actively try to read another poetry collection by her.
Profile Image for Annette Jordan.
2,230 reviews43 followers
July 2, 2020
This new edition of Rachel Wiley's Fat Girl Finishing School from Button Poetry could not have found me at a better time. It is feminist, fat positive and full of social commentary that feels just as valid today as it did in 2014 when the book was first released, if not even more so. The cutesy cover with its delicate pastel shades belies the powerful messages that almost leap from the pages. This is a book that I would encourage every young , and not so young woman to read. Among the issues touched upon are race, sexuality, body-positivity , growth and acceptance. There are moments of humour among the seriousness, including a mini rant about a KFC that ran out of chicken, but there are so many other poems that are memorable for their power and simplicity. Among my personal favourites were a Love Letter To My Body #3 " My excuse is that my body needs no excuse to be loved, no excuse to be seen, no excuse to be touched, enjoyed, celebrated." , 10 Honest Thoughts on Being Loved by a Skinny Boy , Naked Atonement " Let no man bury his shame inside us. Let no woman whisper her fear into our thighs. You are not a bank for the discontent of others. You belong to a bold heart. " , as well as the razor sharp Wife Material and the heartbreaking and powerful Blood Tongue which sadly is more true than ever before. " There is danger in being black in the wrong place , at the wrong time , Wrong Place : America. Wrong Time : all the time "
Overall this is a really strong collection and one that I am glad to have read.
I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Amanda - abundantlyamanda.
43 reviews3 followers
May 26, 2020
I first heard of Rachel Wiley in 2012 when I saw a video recording of “10 Honest Thoughts On Being Loves By a Skinny Boy”. I was in a loveless relationship with a skinny boy at the time and thought, “If she could write something like that, I could find a boy to love me like this.” So I ended my relationship to one day find a better one. I’m still waiting.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I adore Rachel Wiley. Her beautiful words connect with my inner most thoughts and help me feel less alone, because if she can do it, so can I.

Fat Girl Finishing School is truly for all the girls, no matter the color of their skin or the size of their thighs. The ones who have found love and those who haven’t. The ones who love girls, who love boys, or haven’t figured out who they love yet. The ones who own their truth or one day hope to.

If you take one thing away from this review, let it be this. Rachel Wiley is a writer. Her words will fill your souls and make you feel seen. Maybe not the entire book, but in it there is a poem or two that will make you feel like she was writing it to you. Next to that will be one that I think is for me. And next to that is one that you will think is perfect for that friend who needs to feel seen too.

And finally, Rachel Wiley if you ever see this, Thank You. You’ve made something truly wonderful for the fat girls, skinny girls, queer girls, straight girls, lost girls - really all the girls that were just waiting to be seen and for that I will always thank you.
Profile Image for Dana.
36 reviews4 followers
June 12, 2020
*Thank you Net Galley and Button Poetry for this advance copy*

As someone who loves reading and writing about body positivity and acceptance, the title of this book grabbed my attention. In this anthology, Rachel Wiley covers societal and personal issues (body images, race, feminism, relationships, family) from multiple perspectives. The poems that I enjoyed the most were written from her perspective. In Paper Babies, a poem about feminism and motherhood, Wiley recalls taking her first pregnancy test. She writes about coming to terms with a breakup in In Which the Poet Learns to Wake up Alone. Proof, another poem about relationships contained my favorite line "I wanted you to know that best I am okay, a choreographed apology." The poem that resonated most with me was 10 Honest Thoughts on Being Loved by a Skinny Boy. Having been in that position myself, even the smallest interactions had cause for me to feel fear and embarrassment. There are poems that are better suited for the stage than the written page. "On the Bus" paints a vivid picture of mass transit commuting that would resonate with those that have never rode a city bus.

Overall, this a fairly solid collection. I'd love to see the author perform some of her work and look forward to reading more poem anthologies in the future. I would recommend this to girls and women struggling with their body image and readers looking for a fresh voice.
Profile Image for Miguel Vega.
503 reviews32 followers
August 2, 2020
I was given a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.

It's very hard to correctly review a book of poetry, but if I had to give this a review it would range from 1 3.5-4.
Wiley is a popular poet in the smash scene, so it makes sense to me how some of these poems are better heard, not read. Regardless, many of these poems are written with a brutal honesty and transparency. The themes can range from love, to sex, body image, feminism, hope and the lack thereof of hope.

In her poem, "Demeter," Wiley accurately depicts America's fascination with labeling its female icons to fit its image:

I birthed you a daughter once.
You did not let me name her.

The poem accurately demonstrates the female labor that goes into building the country, with Wiley doing the work of handing America a daughter only to not be allowed a role in her destiny.

Other poems bring light-hearted humor to the collection, highlighting even the most trivial as a source of commonplace annoyance and creativity,

I will forgo the how's and whys
and simply remind you that when KFC
runs out of chicken, the terrorists win.
And by terrorists, I of course mean vegans, Tammi.

Overall this collection is very solid, but do leave you looking for more. Can't wait for the poet's next collection (this was a reissue of sorts, if I'm correct). Thank you again for the publisher, poet and NetGalley for the free copy.
83 reviews
January 23, 2022
*3.5 (my connection varies poem to poem, no fault of the poet though)

I really enjoyed this collection and was hooked after the first poem but the second was the one that really caught my attention, “What Bette Davis Made Me Do” I loved the way she used Bette Davis as a personification for the self conscious voice in her head or at least that’s how I understood it to be. My other favourite was Shutter, I probably read it over twenty times. I’d be reading through the rest and just have to flip back to it. I loved unpacking it bit by but upon each reread. Her word choice was beautiful and she always got her message across, even when I didn’t fully understand the entire poem I always felt the emotion behind it. I am so happy I pulled off the shelves while sitting in my library’s poetry section and that it got to be my introduction to purposefully reading poetry collections for inspiration and learning. Also loved the messages, she voiced them all so, so well. Oh! And I also loved “This Is Just To Say”, I showed that one to my friend who is passionate about todays harmful, disgusting beauty standards. I always looked forward to the “Love Letter to My Body” poems as well. I highly, highly enjoyed my time reading this. Real props to the poet, she is very talented.
Profile Image for Bel Riddle.
Author 1 book61 followers
August 3, 2020
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

So. I’m not much of a poetry reader, and I’m trying to change that, so when I saw this book and its themes and its author I went all “yassss my kind of read, I gotta”.

Poetry is a hella weapon for speaking up and this book DOES THAT. Racism, fatphobia, misogyny, gender roles, social expectations. Womanhood. Abuse. It touches everything, and it does it beautifully.

(It even mentions KFC chicken. And like.. maybe I need to read more poetry to understand why there’s a poem about that. Or why the vegans are terrorist (I’m vegan, so maybe that’s why if a place runs out of chicken I may only tweet about it, but go off and write a poem, I guess)).

Anyway, the poems that more resonated with me were those about LIVING IN YOUR BODY like, GOD YES, GIRL. I felt lifted up after reading this work. I kinda felt validated which is sad because I know I don’t need permission to eat a bar of chocolate but… the chocolate I ate while reading this tested sweeter than ever. Thanks for that, Rachel <3

“We are too much
We are not enough
We are inappropriate
We should really do something about it”
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