You’re Not Fat, You Just Suck at Life!

[Content Notice: fat hatred, body image]

I can put on a short skirt, a deeply-plunging neckline, appealingly “natural” make-up, high heels, and a sweet smile; wander in alone to a bar filled with allegedly-prowling men; and be left alone. I’d call it my superpower were it not for the fact that, the one time I’ve stayed until closing time, a man who had previously insulted me to my face and laughed about it with his buddies that night told me that I was going home with him (I didn’t).

Since I am not a fan of the bar and club scene, especially not for meeting people, it’s not a huge deal for me. In fact, it wouldn’t bother me at all… if it weren’t for other people. More normative-type people can’t understand why I would call a night out “expensive” because “you’re a girl!” MRAs declare free drinks to be “female privilege.”  Even articles that debunk the notion of “female privilege” assume that free drinks are a universal female experience.

I constantly hear about all the free stuff women automatically get just for being women — free stuff I’ve never gotten. Pointing this fact out leads to people engaging in some rather ridiculous mental gymnastics in order to avoid acknowledging that lookism and fatphobia exist.

The conspiracy theories that denialists posit as to why someone like me might not share the assumed universal female experience of not paying at bars are typically based on one of two assumptions: either I’m too intimidating, or I’m too timid. Both of them assume that I’m doing it wrong rather than am affected by social norms.

People who perceive me as supremely self-assured tell me that I don’t generally get hit on in mainstream environments where such behavior is expected because I appear too confident and sure of myself. Men, they proclaim, are attracted to women who present in a more victim-like fashion. Vulnerability is hot, they say.

People who perceive me as socially awkward and maladjusted tell me that the reason I don’t generally get hit on in the aforementioned contexts is because I appear nervous rather than calm and at-home. Men, they proclaim, are attracted to confidence and happiness. Who wouldn’t want to be around someone who’s happy? they ask rhetorically.

I’d really love to put one of each of these conspiracy theorists in a room and have them duke it out. Both sides can defend their views to the death while I watch, content in the knowledge that I don’t suck at life. I will, as per Occam’s Razor, continue to go with my lived experiences as well as evidence in favor of proven social phenomena. That I’m not approached is not a personality failing on my part. It has to do with my lack of conformity to the “hot” norm, a norm that is oddly specific and rather rigid in my particular region of the country and mostly has to do with body type. If you aren’t shaped and sized “correctly,” you don’t fit into the “free drinks” slot.

The bar and club scene doesn’t actually matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. What does matter is what people say about it. It’s similar to claiming that all women get harassed by some particular creeper or other. Saying that “women” get free drinks erases the experiences of women who aren’t considered conventionally attractive. Do we not count as women, too?

[featured image courtesy of Surly Amy]

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You’re Not Fat, You Just Suck at Life!
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23 thoughts on “You’re Not Fat, You Just Suck at Life!

  1. 1

    You don’t suck at life and there is nothing wrong with your appearance. I fit the description of “conventionally attractive” and I can count on one hand the number of times a man has offered to buy me a drink in a bar. Like you I’ve heard the same two things – basically I’m either too intimidating or too timid. I don’t know what’s going on out there and I’ve given up trying to figure it out!!

    Yes, there is fatphobia and lookism, no doubt, and what I find most ironic about that is that most of the men who are so judgmental of women’s bodies and appearance don’t even come close to approaching the standards they hold women to.

    I’m older than you and can tell you that the sexiest and most appealing people I’ve met in my life were usually not the ones you might describe as conventionally attractive.

    You are awesome, the reason you don’t get the “free drinks” is because the whole “free drinks” thing is a myth. Most of my very attractive single friends, many of whom are fitness instructors, don’t go out very often because it is too expensive. I guess that wouldn’t be the case if they were always getting free drinks and men were always buying them things.

    It’s not you. It’s not that you’re too confident, too timid OR too fat. It’s that the free drinks thing is a MYTH. It’s just another one of those MRA or Nice Guy tropes about us bitches taking advantage of them and then not giving it up, ‘ya know? Free drinks are not a universal female experience, it’s not even a common female experience. I mostly see it only in the movies or on tv.

    1. 1.1

      I don’t know if it’s so uncommon as you think, as I am related to several people who assume that they will not paying for their drinks as a matter of course.

      I’m older than you and can tell you that the sexiest and most appealing people I’ve met in my life were usually not the ones you might describe as conventionally attractive.

      I know you mean well, I promise, but could you please explain the relevance of this? I’m fully aware that many people have personal preferences that deviate from social norms, but that doesn’t play out in the bar/club scene, which is what I’m addressing.

      1. The relevance is that unless I misunderstood, you think that only a woman who fits a certain physical type is deemed worthy enough by some men to warrant buying her a drink. Agreed, many men think this way.

        I personally don’t know anyone who goes out with the expectation of having men they don’t know pay for them. It sounds like the particular women you are referring to feel entitled to that? Anyway, based on your picture you look very (conventionally) pretty to me and you are definitely highly intelligent. I don’t deny fatphobia and lookism exist, they definitely do, but I don’t think that’s why guys aren’t buying you drinks. Just trying to say it’s not you. It’s not your attitude, demeanor or appearance. I don’t know what it is. I was pointing out that many women, even those considered highly attractive by conventional standards don’t have men buying them drinks at clubs and bars, at least not very frequently. Maybe it’s different where I live but that’s been my observation. I don’t think there is as much of the whole “free drinks” thing even happening as the MRAs or maybe even your female relatives would have you believe. So my point is don’t think it’s you. Like you say, it’s just another MRA trope to support their idea of “female privilege.”

        And as they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, or a free drink….

        1. It sounds like the particular women you are referring to feel entitled to that?

          Yes, but they aren’t the only ones. They’re the just ones from whom I hear more often. That isn’t the point, anyway. Whether or not it happens often, it’s the perception. I’m addressing the perception. I don’t have the statistics to address the reality. I don’t know if anyone does.

          Anyway, based on your picture you look very (conventionally) pretty to me and you are definitely highly intelligent. I don’t deny fatphobia and lookism exist, they definitely do, but I don’t think that’s why guys aren’t buying you drinks.

          When you bring up my looks when I discuss fatphobia and lookism, it feels very denialist to me. I linked to a piece about that in my post, but I think it applies here, as well. I don’t think your personal opinion of my looks is very relevant when I relay my experiences of being treated as contemptibly unattractive. That is the best current pic of me, it doesn’t show my body, and what you think is pretty is clearly not what the world in which I live thinks is pretty. The fatphobia and lookism I deal with goes well beyond drinks at bars.

          Just trying to say it’s not you.

          That’s…. that’s exactly what I was saying in this piece. That’s why I wrote it. So I can link people to it instead of rehashing the same points I make so often to them.

          I think you’re looking to help or advise me in some way, to boost my confidence, make me feel better, etc. That’s a noble impulse, but I can promise you that I don’t need it. I’m already there, which was kind of the point of my piece. If you have the time, could you please let me know what I could have done to communicate that point more clearly? I thought it was obvious.

    2. 1.2

      It’s that the free drinks thing is a MYTH.

      it’s not a myth; it’s simply not universal.

      you think that only a woman who fits a certain physical type is deemed worthy enough by some men to warrant buying her a drink

      that’s a bit of an odd use of “only” and “some”; it’s a social pattern: women who fit the conventionally prescribed appearance will be offered free drinks; women who don’t will not. I don’t know how common it is, but none of the places I ever lived were ever an exception to this, in my experience (the only thing I can say is that I don’t know if it works like that in Fargo, because now I’m fat and old, and wouldn’t know)

      I don’t deny fatphobia and lookism exist, they definitely do, but I don’t think that’s why guys aren’t buying you drinks. Just trying to say it’s not you.

      fatphobia being the reason already means it’s not her; it’s the fatphobia.

      1. Actually, I take that thing about Fargo back; a dude once offered to pay for my italian soda when I was hanging out at a coffee shop. So actually every place I ever lived in, this happened regularly. I’m not bragging, I’m pointing out that it’s not a myth and it doesn’t seem to vary much across places in the western world.

  2. 2

    Heina – I only referenced your appearance because I thought you were making the point that your experience was due to the fact that your personal appearance does not conform to a certain type – the” conventionally attractive” type. I am in no way trying to deny your experience. I am sorry people have treated you as being “contemptibly unattractive.” People can be crass pigs. I have also been treated this way, although common consensus is that I’m not “contemptibly unattractive” and whether or not it’s relevant I don’t think you are either (I’m entitled to my opinion, it’s your prerogative to disagree :-)). I am hard pressed to think of anyone I would put in that category. I know how cruel people can be. I’ve been fat and now I’m not. Yes, people treat you very differently. But mostly what I’ve learned, fat or thin, is that most people are self absorbed opportunists. Some men find ways to demean and belittle women whether or not they consider them attractive. It’s because we are all women.

    You define yourself in the last sentence as outside conventionally attractive norms and ask “do we not count count as women too?” There is something in that breaks my heart a little. Maybe that was it.

    I apologize if my comments came across as denial-ism. Your experience is relevant and valid.

    I was not trying to be noble but I am giving you a genuine compliment. I love your blog and think you seem like a pretty interesting person. I’m saying that because it’s how I feel and not because I thought the content of your post indicated you needed an ego boost.

    1. 2.1

      I don’t think you are either I’m entitled to my opinion, it’s your prerogative to disagree

      It’s very disheartening to have you bring up your personal feelings as if they are at all germane to the way in which society views and treats me, even though I’ve made the point several times that they are not.

      I’m glad you think I’m pretty. Thank you for calling me pretty. Now that I’ve acknowledged your personal views and my gratitude that you expressed them, I’d like to move on and talk about how society views and treats me in my actual experience. Can we do that? There are facts there that have nothing to do with your opinion — or my opinion for that matter. This isn’t about opinions. This is about facts and actual experiences.

      I linked statistics and proof of lookism and fatphobia in my post. I’ve posted before about my awful experiences directly related to my looks and body size. If you continue to insist it’s a matter of your vs. my opinion, that is hurtful denialism.

      We get treated badly because of sexism, yes, but the volume and shape of what that bad treatment looks like depends a lot on what you look like. I don’t think it’s accurate or fair to say that it’s all the same and that it’s all because we are all women. Let’s take street harassment as an example. My conventionally-attractive sister is more likely to get creeped on, I’m more likely to get mooed at, and a trans woman is more likely to face violence.

      You define yourself in the last sentence as outside conventionally attractive norms and ask “do we not count count as women too?” There is something in that breaks my heart a little. Maybe that was it.

      I am outside norms, whatever your opinion might be. I’m fine with that. I’m not fine with the ways in which I am treated because of it. Hence my writing about it. My saying that I am is not heartbreaking. What should be heartbreaking is the fact that people talk about women as if only conventionally-attractive women count, and I’m working to oppose that.

      And for the record? I think I’m pretty. I wrote a whole post about this. Here is the link, again: https://the-orbit.net/heinous/2013/05/16/fat/

      And here are the relevant passages:

      I do not think that I am ugly. Au contraire. Why would I spend so much time and effort on buying fun clothing, experimenting with make-up and hair products, and hunting down cute shoes that fit my size 10-11 wide feet — because I think I’m not worth looking at?

      Ha.

      There was certainly a time when I thought I wasn’t worth much at all. I shrouded myself in dowdy clothing and applied overly-thick black lines around my eyes, hoping to bring attention to what I thought was my only good feature. That time is well behind me, thank you very much, and I’d like to be treated as the woman I am, not the self-loathing girl I once was.

      So if I don’t think I’m ugly, why bring up fat hate? call myself fat or a fattie? mention anti-fat bigotry that has been hurled in my direction?

      As good as I feel about myself most of the time, that I don’t live in denial of fat-hate doesn’t mean that I think of myself as unattractive, it means I acknowledge my reality and my lived experiences. I direct attention to society’s hatred of fat people for the exact same reasons that I clamor for attention for unfair discrimination of any kind: in the hopes that people will recognize what they’re doing and, you know, work to change it.

      I’m talking not about any perceived ugliness in myself, I’m talking about how ugly society can be.

  3. 3

    I haven’t done the bar thing in a long time, but I do remember that when I was sixteen, I went to Spain with my best friend. We stayed in a beach town by ourselves, clubbing every night and never spending anything on drinks. Bars would give us free drinks to stay (to presumably attract dudes), and guys (mid-twenties) flocked to pay our tab. We thought it was super cool at the time, but looking back I’m a little horrified. We were clearly young, and so I wonder, if on top of the lookism and fatphobia, if there isn’t an element of looking for someone who might get drunk and then go home with someone. I know that sounds cynical. I guess the other option is that my best friend is very conventionally attractive, and I just got free drink a long the ride. As an adult, perhaps, without the ‘super hot’ best friend, I don’t merit free drinks (in their opinion).

  4. 4

    How would you react if a man did offer to buy you a drink? I have never made an unsolicited offer to buy a stranger a drink in my life because it strikes me as being creepy/ borderline harassment or, at a minimum, an invasion of privacy. The only exceptions I have made is when a woman approaches me, strikes up and conversation and then starts dropping hints. Observe the women who routinely get these free drinks some time, chances are they are not just sitting and minding their own business but instead are actively in engaging in behavior designed to encourage the drink offers.

    1. 4.1

      Actually, no. The women who talk about such things generally just stand at bars and drinks come their way. In any case, how do you know I don’t “actively in engag[e] in behavior designed to encourage the drink offers”?

  5. 5

    I usually hear the “you’re fat BECAUSE you fail at life,” so it’s not exactly mutually exclusive. Of course, I’m in the Army where having a 17% BMI doesn’t stop you from being made fun of by your superiors in front of everyone in your unit and being overweight is seen as a sign of poor values.

  6. 6

    Ahhh, but there’s the universal solution for this problem: Stop being fat!
    If I had a chocolate bar for every time somebody old me that I’d never have to buy my own again….

    yazikus
    I think there’s definitely something to your point. We know that getting women drunk is a tool used by sexual predators, so whose a better target than a young woman who probably doens’t know her limits anyway?

  7. 7

    I cruise FTB every once in a while. First time commenter.

    I’m conventionally attractive, and have been varying levels of fat, curvy, and thinnish, and I think only one man has ever bought me a drink at a bar, on the prowl. There are ladies’ nights where any female can get free drinks at a bar or no required cover charge, and when I hear MRAs talk about unfairness related to the cost of the bar scene, *that’s* usually what they’re talking about, not the expectation that male patrons will buy every woman’s drinks for her.

    Of course the fundamental bullshit of their fairness complaint is that they’re criticizing female patrons for business decisions the locale’s manager makes, when managers of a variety of businesses do this all the time: senior citizen discounts, family discounts, show-you-work-for-X-company-and-get-a-discount, etc. It’s how these places drum up business. MRAs LOVE to claim that women in general are responsible for their various misfortunes (often fantasies of victimhood), when usually the cause (where their complaints are legitimate) is patriarchy.

    But to your larger point, that fat women are dissapeared from mainstream discourse about the sexual privilege/power of women, well . . . yeah. Just like many non-white women, older women, disabled women and ugly women. If society says that all women are sexualized/objectified, and you don’t find yourself being sexualized/objectified, even something bad like that — something you know you don’t actually want — can make you feel like you DO want it just to get acknowledgement that you are in fact W.O.M.A.N. It can make you think that some attention is better than no attention, even when that attention is coming from someone or proffered in a form you don’t actually like.

    Constantly being sidelined isn’t good. The sidelining never being acknowledged isn’t good either. But the alternative . . . is that really a discussion you want to have? Do you actually want people to say, “oh, Mike hits on all the girls — but you don’t have to worry. You’re not his type.” [wink wink] Do you think acknowledgement for being different from what is conventionally attractive (even hypothesizing a much more polite example than the one I wrote above) is going to make you feel BETTER? Because I don’t think it will.

    When you write that you don’t get hit on at bars — spaces you claim to not care about too much for meeting people, so I can only assume you go to them with little frequency — because you’re fat is certainly possible. With the degree of fat-shaming and lookism floating around your corner of the US (and pretty much the entire first world) it’s certainly not unreasonable, particularly if men are saying things/acting as if that’s the case. But you can’t read their minds. You don’t actually know why you’re not getting hit on. There’s a huge amount of assumption and projection when you say that. When being fat is the cause of a lot of isolation, “othering,” and even questioning your womanhood it’s not hard to make being fat the cause of everything fucked up about your relationships.

    I’m not going to tell you you’re pretty or give you any dating advice or tell you to buck up. Fact is, attraction is superficial, and yet many fat people are in committed, healthy relationships, so clearly being fat doesn’t disqualify you from deserving love or even being able to find it (or at least hot sexy times — whatever your thing is).

    When we look at what are “ideal” bodies and identify the shape/look/skin color — and AGE! — a woman has to have to be considered conventionally attractive, what I’d like to see happen is more diversity in the images we see every day: advertising, women’s mags, men’s mags . . . you name it. I think acknowledging that real people have real differences and portraying them visually as worthy of our visual and mental time is really important to breaking down the lookism we’re all dealing with.

    1. 7.1

      Thanks for the comment. That summary of my larger point is accurate and well-said. I did wanted to address two things.

      When you write that you don’t get hit on at bars — spaces you claim to not care about too much for meeting people, so I can only assume you go to them with little frequency — because you’re fat is certainly possible. With the degree of fat-shaming and lookism floating around your corner of the US (and pretty much the entire first world) it’s certainly not unreasonable, particularly if men are saying things/acting as if that’s the case. But you can’t read their minds. You don’t actually know why you’re not getting hit on. There’s a huge amount of assumption and projection when you say that.

      I don’t know, if everyone else in my group is thin and I’m the only fat one, and I’m the only one not getting drinks or hit on, well…. you do the math (;

      When being fat is the cause of a lot of isolation, “othering,” and even questioning your womanhood it’s not hard to make being fat the cause of everything fucked up about your relationships.

      Fact is, attraction is superficial, and yet many fat people are in committed, healthy relationships, so clearly being fat doesn’t disqualify you from deserving love or even being able to find it (or at least hot sexy times — whatever your thing is).

      Don’t I know that well. I am polyamorous and poly-sexual as well, and I do fairly well sexually and romantically in the little niches in which people appreciate me both physically and mentally. That’s why I kept this post very specific.

  8. 8

    Where you’ve used your personal experience as an example of the larger point, is this post about your frustration at not getting attention from men at bars, or is this post about the type of response you get from friends when you express that the reason why you think you’re not getting attention from men at bars is because of your weight? Because I thought it was the latter.

    1. 8.1

      Not quite either, although more the latter. My point is about people who talk about “women” but only mean “conventionally attractive women” and how they should be more careful in what they say.

      While I’m not terribly frustrated by the lack of male attention, I’m incredibly frustrated by people who assume I’ve done something to deserve the lack of attention.

      I was addressing your point about men in bars because you seemed to think that I was assuming and projecting where I actually think I have fairly good evidence on my side for my conclusions. That’s all beside the larger point on which we agree.

      If you’d like to offer it, I’m open to your feedback in making that point clearer so that I don’t cause any confusion in further posts.

  9. 9

    Good point, when someone points out “women get X” it’s never really all women.

    Though I don’t doubt that it happens somewhere, I’ve almost never encountered any free drinks for women, nor have I had anyone offer to buy me a drink (even on a few occasions when I am fairly sure the guy was hitting on me) but places I drink are more like old style pubs than clubs, so the etiquette is likely a bit different. It’s commented about often enough that I know it happens somewhere.

  10. 10

    Yeah, I completely followed your point on the conventional body type monopoly in discussions of sexual power. It was more the attempt by friends to give you advice to “fix” yourself in some way in order to garner attention that I was trying to weed out. Because that can be very frustrating. All you want to do is say, “my lack of attention from these guys isn’t because I’m too confident or shy, too intimidating or not forward enough, too smart or too dumb-acting, too talkative or not talkative enough. It’s because I’m fat/older/disabled/non-white/etc.” I did say that was a reasonable assumption. But I will still assert that that is an assumption, because you can’t know that every single guy in every bar you’ve ever been in avoided approaching you because of your looks, even if guys were approaching your friends and not you. Maybe there was a man (or woman) at the bar who thought you were totally smokin but was too shy to approach or didn’t know what your orientation was, or thought you seemed too pissed off that day to talk to. Who knows? Even if you can draw general conclusions from people’s behavior you can’t claim to know the reasons for lack of attention in every single situation, or read guys’ minds. If people *could* do that your friends would have figured out by now that you were tired of hearing sexist platitudes about how to transform/contort yourself into someone more approachable (as they define it with unappealing and contradictory messages), when their attempts meant to be palliative and supportive just got you increasingly defensive and riled up.

    It sounds like you’re trying to get your friends to acknowledge the broader social narrative that fat women don’t have the sexual currency in this country that thin women do, so they need to lay off with the junk advice and just accept reality, as you see it. That’s understandable. Being told, “here are all the ways you can change yourself to try to score a dude!” is obnoxious and tiresome. But I don’t think the bar scene is as fatalistic as you present it, and I think your friends are just spouting shitty advice in an attempt to be your friends.

    1. 10.1

      Not just my friends, people in general who talk about how “all women” get treated a certain way at bars. Or at cons, for that matter.

      I will still assert that that is an assumption, because you can’t know that every single guy in every bar you’ve ever been in avoided approaching you because of your looks, even if guys were approaching your friends and not you. Maybe there was a man (or woman) at the bar who thought you were totally smokin but was too shy to approach or didn’t know what your orientation was, or thought you seemed too pissed off that day to talk to. Who knows? Even if you can draw general conclusions from people’s behavior you can’t claim to know the reasons for lack of attention in every single situation, or read guys’ minds.

      Occam’s razor, in my view, cuts out that assertion. I’m not the only person who doesn’t conform to societal norms who finds meat-market atmospheres to be apathetic at best, and inhospitable or even downright hostile at worst. Why else do they have BBW-specific clubs? You can’t honestly say that fatness has nothing to do with the fact that fat women do not often get approached at bars, or even a lot to do with it in an area like mine. The reasons you give why someone might not approach me could equally apply to thin women, yet they experience more attention.

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