On Being Fat and Romantically Interested in Other People: A Rambling Confessional, of Sorts
[TRIGGER WARNING: Rape]
Look, it’s really fucking hard to be a fat person who happens to be romantically interested in other people, particularly when those other people are cis het dudes.
It’s hard because when you grow up fat, you grow up believing that you’re not ever going to be attractive to anyone. You don’t even do this on purpose - the world does it for you. For me, they did it through fat jokes on Friends, fat jokes on Will & Grace, fat jokes on every single sitcom, ever, headlines on my mother's Cosmo and Self telling me (I wasn’t supposed to be looking at them, but whatever) both that my sexuality only mattered as long as it was relevant to men and that being fat automatically made my sexuality irrelevant to men, “No Fat Chicks” bumper stickers, bullying in school, and rampant self-hatred and body-shaming in my family. I don’t think I ever had any agency in deciding whether or not I thought I was attractive until college. I just sort of knew, because the world knew, that I wasn’t. I was fat. How could I be?
This was a daily fact of my existence. It was never, ever something I questioned. It means that when I did get a boyfriend, at 15, I was actually surprised that he wanted to touch me. It means there was always a part of me that wondered if it was a pity thing. It means that when he cheated on me with a much thinner girl, and ultimately broke up with me for her, I assumed it was because I was no longer sexually attractive to him and never really had been. It means that when I found the fat acceptance movement and realized all this I’d been told my entire life was total bullshit, I had to start unpacking some really toxic shit that I’d internalized.
It means that now, when I ask people out, the answer I’m terrified of is not “No” but “Wait, what?”
Here’s why: a “no” answer means that you were actually considered to be part of this person’s potential dating pool, even as a negative. You were there. You counted for something. The idea of your sexuality was not erased simply because you don’t fit conventional norms of attractiveness.
“Wait, what?” means you were never there in the first place. “Wait, what?” means that everything the world told you when you were little was 100% correct.
Look, when you grow up fat you’re basically told that no one will ever want to fuck you. Not date. Not kiss. Not hold hands with you while walking through a park and eating ice cream. These things aren’t even considered, because if no one wants to fuck you, who would ever fall in love with you? Don’t you know the only thing that matters is how attractive you are to heterosexual men? No, I don’t care if you’re queer. The opinions of heterosexual men are the only ones that matter. Duh.
And you’re told – often overtly, particularly if you’re a fat feminist on the internet – that the only way you’d ever have sex is if you got raped, but ha ha ha who would want to rape a fat girl, and fat girls can’t get raped anyway because they’re so desperate for sex because no one would ever want to fuck a fat girl!! Am I right?!
Of course, usually people grow up to the point where they can realize that none of this is true. It’s actually, you know, kind of nuts. But there’s still a part of you that believes, because there’s a part of you that has always believed. And so the scary thing, when you put yourself out there, isn’t “Oh sorry, I don’t see you that way.” It’s “Oh… I don’t even see you."
I’ve gotten a lot of "Wait, what?” in my time. I’ve also gotten a lot – a LOT – of people who have told me that I’m amazing, and funny, and so intelligent, and so fun to be around, but that they can’t date me. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons given for this; sometimes there aren’t. Either way, the surface reason is never “I can’t date you because you’re fat.” And I have no way of proving that the underlying reason is “I can’t date you because you’re fat,” probably because nobody in their decent mind would think of it in those terms. But I wasn’t the only one who internalized all that “No Fat Chicks” bullshit when I was younger, and I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of other people haven’t taken the time to take that out, give it a once over, and decide it’s trash.
And you know what? Ultimately it doesn’t matter, because what another person ACTUALLY believes is completely secondary to the little voice in the back of my mind from my childhood. That voice will always, always be there. That voice is less audible now than it was when I was 15, but it’s a seed of doubt. And I have days where it’s all I can hear. I do not think I’m alone in this.
An amazing friend of mine said to me recently, “If a person says they ‘can’t’ date you for whatever reason, they’re right. You don’t want to be with that asshole anyway.” She’s right, of course. It doesn’t matter why they can’t, and it doesn’t matter whether that little voice is right or not, because the funny thing about that voice is that it is always fucking wrong.
This is something I need to remind myself of, every so often: THAT VOICE IS ALWAYS FUCKING WRONG.
It’s wrong because no one falls in love with weight. It’s wrong because attractiveness is subjective; there is absolutely no one who is categorically, objectively “hot” to everyone, ever. And most importantly, it’s wrong because the things and people who started it talking certainly did not have my best interests at heart, so why in God’s name should I take it seriously?
No, really. Imagine if that voice was actually attached to a person who was telling you these things. You’d tell that person they were a fucking asshole, you’d fume, you’d maybe slap it or punch it directly in the kidneys, or maybe you’d run home and cry on the phone to your best friend or your mom, but the point is that you sure as HELL wouldn’t think it was the voice of reason. Why does that change just because it’s the little voice in the back of your head?
It doesn’t. So next time that little voice starts yammering away, tell it to shut the hell up. It has no idea what it’s talking about.