I’m having one of those days when I can’t even bear to look at my Google Alerts on “obesity” and “dieting,” because I know I’ll want to cry and throw things a lot more than I’ll want to write something cogent about them.
So here’s what I woke up thinking about. When I wrote about the key steps on my journey toward fat positivity, I left out something important. And I left it out because I don’t like admitting it any more than I liked admitting that starving myself was actually a key step. But this is the other thing that helped immeasurably: getting into a good relationship.
I’ve noticed that a lot of the people I see writing confidently and persuasively about body acceptance are married or in solid long-term relationships. There aren’t nearly as many single girls doing this, as far as I can tell. And that breaks my heart a little, because I suspect it’s no mere coincidence.
Simply put, it’s about a zillion times harder to deliberately tune out the constant “Fat is hideously unattractive” and “Who could love a fat person?” messages when you don’t have someone around to give you daily reminders that you’re attractive and lovable. On top of that, you have no idea when or where you’ll meet the person you’re looking for, absolutely no control over your single status — so if you’re not thrilled about it, you can’t even do anything to change it. I mean, sure, you can put up an online personal or hang out in bars or volunteer at an animal shelter in hopes of meeting someone. You can take up new hobbies, keep yourself busy and happy, refuse to appear — or become — desperate.
But you still can’t really fucking do anything about it. You cannot predict when and where the right person (or a right person) for you will show up, so you cannot do a damned thing to hurry that process along.
That’s where the people who want to sell you shit come in. ‘Cause, see, if you have shiny hair and white teeth and minty fresh breath and clear skin and, above all, a thin body, YOU WILL HAVE YOUR PICK OF TOTALLY APPROPRIATE LOVERS! As soon as you become suitably “attractive” — because of course attractiveness is a universal, objective quality — droves of people who are just right for you, and completely attracted to you (because duh, you’re attractive now), and single and baggage-free and witty and charming and loyal and brave and kind and able to do that thing just the way you like it, will appear out of nowhere!
We all know this is utter bullshit. What’s more, we all know the best relationships come along when we’re feeling confident, together — worthy of a good relationship. And although the people selling attractiveness lotions and potions and diet aids claim they are indeed selling us reasons to become more confident, we all know they would be very, very unhappy — not to mention poor — if the majority of us actually became confident in our appearances. Their livelihoods depend on the insecurity of single people, especially single women.
So my god, it is hard to develop that confidence when you’re single and not happy about it, and the whole world is telling you the way to fix that is to make yourself prettier — and, of course, that a crucial component of becoming prettier is becoming as thin as you can possibly be, by any means necessary.
It’s a fucking brutal catch-22. It’s almost impossible to attract someone who will treat you well if you don’t believe that’s what you deserve, and it’s almost impossible to believe that’s what you deserve when you’re constantly told you’re ugly and disgusting to all right-minded people and destined for an early death, to boot.
So… yeah. I don’t even know where I’m going with this. It’s not like there are startling revelations here. I guess I just want to give a shout out to the single fatties and acknowledge that yeah, I know it’s a kabillion times easier to say, “I’m attractive and lovable just the way I am” when I’ve got someone around reinforcing that message all the time. When I was single (for approximately 9,000 years), I doubted those things a hell of a lot more than I do now, and it was a hell of a lot harder to steer clear of the “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being fat — for everyone except me” trap.
Single folks, here’s what I know: you are exactly what someone is looking for, and that someone is exactly what you’re looking for. You just don’t have a damned bit of control over when or where you’ll stumble across each other. That sucks a hundred kinds of ass. But you don’t have to be prettier. You don’t have to be better. You don’t even have to be patient, if you don’t feel like it. You just have to be.
And for what it’s worth, I’m not a big believer in the “You’ll only find love when you’re not looking for it” school of thought. I was fucking looking when I found Al. I don’t think I spent a day of my life after hitting puberty not looking, really — but especially a year ago, I’d turned online dating into practically a part-time job. I was literally spending a couple hours a day writing to guys, a couple nights a week going on dates that ranged from pretty okay to horrid. Of course, that didn’t turn out to be how I found the right guy, but you’d better believe I was looking. It is okay to look. It is okay to want it. That does not actually send some desperate, self-defeating vibe out into the universe, guaranteeing that you will not find a decent date.
At the same time, Al really wasn’t looking at all. So basically, it only happens… whenever it happens. That’s all anybody fucking knows about it.
And in the meantime, you’re fine. There is no such thing as a universally attractive person (says the woman who thinks Brad Pitt is weaselly looking) — just millions of individuals whose millions of boats are floated by different things. There is no magic gate behind which dozens of people you could have fantastic relationships with are biding their time, just waiting for you to get thin enough for them to bust through it and come find you. The problem is not your fat. (Even if you could get thin, would you want to date someone who wouldn’t have wanted you fat?)
The problem is this: you can’t control it. That’s all. It really is. And it’s a big problem to have in this society; westerners in general and Americans in particular want to believe we can always manifest our dreams through our own efforts. We want to believe there is always a direct correlation between what we do and what good comes to us. We need to believe that. We cannot accept that luck and chance have a pretty damn huge effect on how our lives turn out.
But they do. When I met Al, I was already increasing in self-confidence, I was “putting myself out there,” I was consciously trying to improve myself in a hundred ways — but I was and am a long way from where I wanted to be, where I thought I needed to be. A long, long way from “perfect.” Hell, I’m still a long way from “not broken.” I met Al when I did for one reason only: he came to Chicago that weekend, and Paula introduced us. That’s the whole magical, mystical story right there. And despite all my unfinished self-improvement campaigns, it turned out that when the right guy came along, I was perfectly fucking fine just the way I was.
And you are perfectly fucking fine just the way you are, even if you’re a fat girl wearing unflattering sweatpants and no make-up, with your hair in a ponytail and your glasses on and all your beauty products sitting lonely in the bathroom, as I am right this minute. (Um, I mean I currently have all those characteristics going on, not that I’m currently sitting lonely in the bathroom. I don’t usually blog from there.)
The problem is not you.
Man, do I ever wish I knew how to say that so it would actually sound true.