Fat & Single

by Sarah on October 3, 2013

This post probably isn’t going to be what you’re expecting with a title like that, so let’s start at the very beginning.

Hi…

&#46&#46&#46I’m fat.

I don’t say that word in a negative, demeaning or self-effacing way.

I love my body and am finally comfortable and at home in it after nearly 30 years of wishing it were something different.

In fact, I’m rather appreciative of it at this point. And I think having the body I have has been a major contributor to the fact that I’m single. But probably not for the reasons people might assume.

So I’m going to try to explain.

The Value of a Female-Assigned Person

Let’s start with the big picture.

It is a truth not always universally acknowledge that a woman’s value in society is largely based on her physical appearance (yes, even today), also known as her ability (natural or otherwise) to conform to societally accepted standards of beauty.

And from a young age, it was made very clear to me that because of my body, I did not live up to those standards.

Therefore, I spent most of my adolescent and young adult life believing I wasn’t sexually attractive, thanks to my socially unacceptable body.

I distinctly remember that as a teenager, I hoped one day I would meet someone who would get to know me as a person well enough to want to marry me. But until that day came, I knew in my fifteen-year-old soul that “hooking up” and even dating weren’t really for me.

(At the time, of course, I was assuming that marriage was just what people did. This was long before I ever stopped to think about whether it was something I would want.)

The One?

When I started dating one of my close friends during college, I assumed that he was probably The One. He knew me well enough to overlook my body, and he even once mentioned something about us possibly having sex one day, so I figured maybe he wasn’t totally repulsed by me.

And then that ended, for various reasons I won’t go into right now, and I figured I was just done. That would be my one and only foray into dating. I was going to be celibate and rock my single life forever and ever amen.

I was 19 years old.

The Truth About Fat People And Sex

The problem, of course, is that all the things I believed about my body and it’s attractiveness were pretty much just patently untrue.

Here’s what’s true: the only thing necessary for sex is a body (and a desire to have sex.)

Size doesn’t matter.

And attractiveness? It’s actually very, very relative.

In other words, fat people get to have sex and relationships too.

(Yes, sex and relationships are different. But they were interwined in my thinking for much of my life, so for the purpose of telling this story, I’m discussing them together.)

I think there’s a pervasive myth that when one is trying to date, being thin is a prerequisite.

I certainly know a lot of women who feel they can’t date until after they lose weight or who feel pressure to maintain a certain kind of body so men find them more attractive. (And plenty of non-cis and non-hetero and non-female people who feel this way too&#46&#46&#46)

And while yes, unfortunately, mainstream media’s perpetuation of an “ideal” body might push some people’s tastes in a certain direction, it is by no means universal.

At some point in my twenties, it dawned on me that there were plenty of other fat people in relationships or shiops; they were having casual sex, they were getting married, and they were doing all the things in between. Furthermore, they were doing all these things with a wide variety of other people, many of whom were “conventionally attractive.”

In short, they were having all the range of experiences that all people with bodies get to have.

So what the hell was wrong with me?

Realizing I Was Not A Punchline

The revelation that fat women, possibly even including myself, could actually have whatever kinds of relationships they wanted to have in life would take years to fully ripple it’s way through my life. Maybe it is still rippling.

But the first thing that happened, once I took the blinders off, was that I started noticing men who were attracted to me.

One or two I could write off as a fluke, but there were more than a few.

Of course, bad patterns are hard to break, and so at first, I assumed everyone who flirted with me was joking.

I wish I was kidding when I say that, but I always imagined that there was a punchline at the end of it – a hidden camera waiting to swoop in and tell me I was going to be on America’s Funniest Home Videos for believing that someone was actually interested in me, or maybe just a handful of the guy’s friends rolling on the floor laughing, just out of sight.

I say this not because I’m seeking any kind of pity or sympathy. I’ve already worked through all of this stuff, and I’m in an entirely different place now.

But that being said, I want it to be abundantly clear just how completely fucked up my view of myself was, thanks to societal messages I had been getting my whole life about my body being wrong.

In a society so hyper-focused on sex and sexuality, I had always felt sure I was missing the one really necessary thing to be allowed access to that world – a sexually attractive body.

It took a number of years, a lot of internal work and a host of external validation to help me overturn that assumption.

But once I did, I ultimately came to realize that my single-ness wasn’t about my body at all.

The Storal Of The Mory Is…

What my single-ness is about, on the other hand, deserves a blog post of it’s own because there’s no one simple answer. The post I wrote last week was only the tip of the iceberg. But what I wanted to express with this post is that I’m grateful for the body I have because, while not the root cause of my entire journey to singler-hood, it has certainly been an important contributing factor.

Ultimately, I think being fat has taught me to look at the world through a different lens. It has made me highly sensitive to the value we, as a society, place on appearance, and the implications that has for individuals – a perspective which I find incredibly useful as a budding activist.

It has also led me to define my worth through effort and accomplishment, not looks. And, strangely enough, it has helped me develop a confidence in myself and my appearance that is deeply rooted in self-esteem and not dependent upon external validation or conformation to a societal set of standards.

In short, being fat has helped me on the path to becoming the strong, independent single woman I want to be.

But not because there isn’t anyone out there who would date me.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob October 6, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Love this! Go you! It’s so lovely to hear you’re happy with the body you have and have tonnes of self-esteem now. You’re a role model!

I’ll admit that I do find certain types of women attractive on first sight. But that can all change once I start talking to the woman. I’ve met many stereotypically physically attractive women who turn me right off as soon as the first few sentences fall out of their mouths. They actually appear to get uglier in my eyes.

And equally, I’ve dated women that at first I didn’t particularly find attractive on first sight, but their wit, charm, self-confidence, intelligence, creativity and charisma won me over… and it’s only then that the physical attraction grows.

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Sarah October 8, 2013 at 8:45 pm

I think there’s nothing wrong with preferences at all! I certainly have some of my own, but I also try to look past appearance and be mindful of when it’s affecting how I treat someone. My degree of success varies, of course. That being said, I wanted more to speak out against the larger societal problem where mainstream media is sending these messages that “attractive” looks like one particular thing. I really would love to see people stop talking about “perfect” bodies or “flawless” skin, as if bodies and skin and other parts of our appearance exist on this kind of linear value scale. Also, we could lose the whole idea of the 1-10 scale… I heard a guy the other day saying that a woman on a reality TV show “was only a six, so she can’t really afford to have a bad attitude like that.” And the show was a COOKING show… not a beauty pageant. Argh. It makes me so mad.

Anyway, I’m glad you try to have a broader perspective. It’s lovely to hear.

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