If I had a dime for every time a man told me some passive aggressive variation of “you’re pretty for a fat girl,” I’d be able to buy enough wine to never care about dating again.
My body is currently in the limbo between plus and straight sizes, but dating has always been a minefield because of my weight. I’ve had the pleasure of dating incredible people who never made me question their emotional and physical attraction to me, but others act like my body gives them a license to be abusive or openly fetishizing.
When I was at my heaviest and living at home with my parents near L.A., I downloaded Tinder. One of the first three messages was simply “You’re fat.” Others that followed were unpublishable and vitriolic. Although it’s easy to dismiss online cruelty as just a part of the game, it exists in person too. A few months after that message, I was visiting friends in San Francisco and a stranger started yelling at me in front of a bar that I was “too fat” to be intimate with, albeit in less polite terms.
On the flip side were people who would be creepily fetishizing towards me - one memorable date pressed me on how much I weighed and tried to grab my stomach when I was making an exit. More commonly, I got - and still get - comments and messages asking about my bust size. I stopped giving back sassy remarks when I realized that, no matter what I said, those people would never see me as anything other than another body for their own gratification.
Everyone has physical preferences, but it was hard not to internalize both of these equally sinister attitudes towards my body. I was resentful that people felt entitled to comment on the way I look for the purpose of degrading my self-esteem, but for a while my anger didn’t stop me from turning away from the mirror in dressing rooms. I was working on losing weight before I was single, but even as I went to the gym every day I sometimes secretly wondered if others’ hatred towards my body was justified.
Being fat and dating provides you with two options - you either feel terrible about yourself or it makes you resilient with a built-in B.S. detector. I went with the latter. I stopped trying to please the people who were offended by my appearance and started treating myself like I was worth more than a pity date. I only wore clothes I felt good in, dyed my hair the color I always wanted and stopped joking that I was a 2-out-of-10 on the L.A. scale of hotness. I forced myself to change clothes while facing the mirror and stopped hiding the full-body photos on my social media accounts.
Since hitting my highest weight, I lost about 40 pounds and moved to D.C.
I no longer receive messages on dating apps calling me ugly, but I also don’t tolerate people who think it’s a novelty to go get drinks with someone above a size 8. If they’re not openly excited to be around me or proud to be my plus one, I know it’s a waste of my time. It always mattered to me if my date was polite, but now I’m especially cautious - are they rude to people who fall outside the mainstream idea of what’s attractive? Is this the type of person who would’ve sent me cruel messages if I was heavier?
I have never been thin. I’m on my feet most days lugging around camera gear, but my pants always rip at the inner thigh and I’m okay with that. Even if I couldn’t climb mountains and didn’t lose those 40 pounds, I would still deserve to feel valued in my relationships.
I’m never going to be one of those girls who runs around Dupont Circle on Sundays with their Lululemon workout gear, but now I know better than to settle for someone who would only love me for being the type of person who does.