TW: Fatphobia, Physical Abuse, and Relationship Abuse.
Growing up, I genuinely believed no one would be capable of loving me. A strong statement, but in my mind it was justified by the jeers and taunts at my weight and appearance by peers and family. Who would want to be with someone who was so big? My body took up so much space, it had rolls, stretchmarks and cellulite. Magazines and the internet told me that I was not feminine enough, I was ugly, and taught me to be ashamed of my body. In school, I tried to hide my body beneath layers of cardigans or made sure to emphasize my hourglass figure, as I wanted to be seen not as fat but as somewhat attractive. I carried this disdain for my body all the way through college and it wasn’t until recently that I realized how much I let it affect my dating life. So far, I have been on more dates with men than womxn and will continue this post from the perspective of dating cishet men while fat.
In our society, fat has such a horrible connotation tied to it that it is used as an insult rather than a descriptor. You call someone fat and you’re not just describing their physical appearance, you are telling them that they are worth less and are unattractive. I’ve been called it so many times I truly believed it. I grew up needing validation and I took any I could get, good or bad. The male gaze and catcalls reminded me that I was attractive. I would be in town and randomly get smacked or pinched on my ass by complete strangers. I would be scared, but would say nothing as I told myself that even though I was fat, I was at least attractive enough to be harassed. I forced myself to take it as a compliment. In high school and university, I noticed the way men were extremely helpful to thin womxn, but they ignored my existence. I wish I was being dramatic, but trust me. I genuinely believed it was okay for men to treat me like shit. In my head, that was my punishment for being fat. This extended into my personal life. The pressure of male entitlement upon my body molded me to cater to their desires. I wanted to be sexy. I wanted to be skinny. I wanted to be whatever they desired. I just wanted to be noticed outside of my fat.
Swiping through dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble, you can’t help but notice the numerous toned and skinny bodies. With each flip I am reminded of who I am not: a thin body. Dating while fat is hard because you are not a person, you are a whole different category: you are a fat. My experiences as a fat womxn are going to be nothing like womxn who are conventionally attractive and straight sized*. We can first begin examining by photos. A skinny- bodied person will usually upload shots such as a bikini/beach shot, photos with friends, and last but not least a photo of them eating or smoking something incredibly unhealthy. For a fat person the latter is laughable. If you posted a photo of yourself eating you can be sure that you will receive a message from someone “concerned about your weight.” Your first photo has to be full body, so that future suitors know how fat you are. Then you can put up a couple of “cute” photos of yourself. I emphasize “cute” as fat womxn/people are never described as hot or sexy, simply cute or adorable. Lastly, have a photo of yourself outside, engaged in physical activity; this way people know you are not lazy. To me it states: I know I am fat and that is bad, I am working on it. If you date me I’ll get skinnier eventually and finally be hot. I had so much hate for my fat that it seeped into online and in-person dating life.
Here are just some of my experiences dating while fat:
- The first person I ever dated treated me like shit and only called me to fuck. He would unconsenually smack me on my face during sex . He never answered my calls or texts. When he did reach back to me, days later, I was just happy he noticed me. He was skinny and attractive, so it was okay.
- On a date, I was once told that my breasts were nice but did not “count” since I had a soft round belly underneath. He said it was okay though, because he liked fat girls. I felt relieved.
- One man I dated said I looked like a sumo wrestler in my ballet attire. I had worked really hard on my splits and was excited to show him; now all I saw was a sumo wrestler.
Someone fetishized my body? I was thankful they were even looking at me. I did not defend myself against inappropriate comments because I felt as if I deserved it. My fat made me less than. All I knew was that I wanted that approval for my body in my life no matter what. Even if it was expressed in sex rather than words, I took it. In retrospect, I wish I could get up from the various beds I slept in and leave. I want to hug my younger self and tell her she has the validation she needs in herself. I was trying to find self worth in every person I came into contact with. Every person I met, no matter how long we were together, all I wanted to do was make them happy so that I could find someone who would actually love me despite my fat. Society told me that my fat body was below basic human decency. It taught others to ridicule bigger bodies and I was brainwashed to believe I deserved it. It was my punishment, after all, for being fat.
I am crying while I write this because I wish all of this was not true. I am learning to love and accept my body and have come a long way from the young womxn I described at the beginning of this post. However, I feel hurt for her and the many others who are like her right now. If you are in this position right now, I know it is hard to accept, but you are worthy of unconditional love. There will be people out there who are actually decent human beings and will treat you with the respect you deserve. You are fat, so what? It does not give others the right to look down on you. There is a beauty in you that cannot be replicated. I learned this in baby steps, more on this in a future post. I still struggle to love myself, but then I realize this body carried me through so many life events: life-changing friendships, getting into the number one public university in the nation, my assault, my brother’s death, my first love, and my first heartbreak. I am so thankful it will get to continue to carry me through many more.
I know this was a very emotional post, if you are feeling unwell and need to speak to someone as this resonates with you I am listing some numbers below. (U.S. only)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline : 1-800-273-8255
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network: 1-800-656-4673