Content Notice for Body Image & Fat Shaming
Once upon a time, someone asked me why I hate going out to clubs and meat-market-style bars. I answered honestly: I am not a fan of draining my bank account to acquire the overpriced drinks necessary in order to make hanging out with people with whom I have little to nothing in common more tolerable. She laughed at me and asked me why I was “stupid” enough to pay for my own drinks when men would buy them for me. Again, I was frank: Men I don’t know don’t tend to buy me drinks at bars because I’m not the type of person they see as desirable in that setting. She proceeded to tell me that it was my fault for not knowing how to “work it” and for not having “confidence.”
How “confidence” and “working it” would have stopped the many men over the course of my dating experience from saying some variation of “I like you a lot but just not…. physically. Do you have any smaller friends?” (and those were the ones who were being kind), to give just one example, I don’t know.
When I hang out with much thinner (by about 50+ lb.) friends, even if I’m done up nicely and the friends are in sweats, men stare at them and hit on them but don’t do the same with me. And yes, I know you’re going to say “Oh, that’s because they look more approachable, not because you’re bigger than they are.” The fact is that the same thing happens if we’re dressed similarly or they’re dressed more fancily than I am. The body-based pattern is very consistent.
When I put the word “fat” in my OkCupid profile, the number of messages I got dropped down to a trickle (though the drop was far more significant when I added the bit about my body hair). And yes, I’m aware that this might reflect a perception of my self-perception (since the very term “fat” is so stigmatized), but if I called myself by any of the many euphemisms for fat, like “curvy,” I’d be demonized for that, too.
When I used to post Craigslist personal ads, they invariably got flagged and removed within less than an hour of my having posted them. In the forums as well as in responses to my ad in Rants & Raves, the reason that people gave for my having been flagged and removed was “You’re fat.” And yes, I am aware that Craiglist is a wretched hive of scum and villainy that no one should be using anyway, but I think fat people have as much a right to use it as a thinner folks, if we so wish.
My past is filled with men and women who turned me down and/or refused to consider me for non-platonic activities and relationships solely based on the fact that I am and have always been fat. And yes, it was because I am fat, and I know this because they literally said so. Some of them told me that was why to my face, and some said it was so behind my back. Many of them said something along the lines of “Heina is my type in terms of everything but the physical.”
People are much nicer to me and treat me much better when I’m on the lower end of my weight range than when I’m on the upper end. And yes, this is regardless of how well or poorly I dress, act, or feel.
People assume all the time that my partners are with me and attracted to me for my personality, not my body. They can’t even fathom the idea that someone else might be attracted to a fat body. This is on top of how, for my entire childhood and adolescence, I believed what I was told by people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds: That I would have to work hard to get someone to be with me by helping them to see past my body. And yes, there are people who are physically attracted to me, but the socialized disgust for fat bodies is so endemic in modern American society that their existence is vehemently denied.
Me loving myself in the past, as I now do, would have had little to no effect on my experiences as a lifelong fat person. The experiences persist despite my now-healthier relationship with myself. Self-esteem isn’t magic. I can love myself long and hard all day, and doing so certainly helps me to better deal with the hate I get for existing in the body that I do, but it doesn’t eradicate the hate in the first place.
A version of part of this post can be found in my Ask.Fm answers (and yes, I know the question-asker was deliberately trolling).