Dear Aunt Fattie,
I’m in a quandary. I’m a thirty-something woman, intelligent, fun, fat-accepting, and I have lots of good friends. However, I’ve never been on a date (I’ve only been asked a couple of times in my life, by weird strangers, and that was when I weighed less, as a result of illness). I’m pretty particular about potential loves, not in terms of looks, but rather with respect to faith, values, and certain moral considerations that are important to me (chastity, vegetarianism, etc.) — so no bar-scene for me. I’ve had my fair share of crushes on respectable gentlemen-friends, but the few times that I’ve made modest, indirect advances (e.g., dropping hints via mutual friends), guys have suddenly begun to avoid me. Now, I’m not really conventionally beautiful, even by fat-positive beauty standards, but I no longer believe (as my childhood peers often told me) that I’m actually some hideous monster. I try to be well-groomed and suitably dressed, and to carry myself with self-confidence. Despite some limitations as a result of (largely invisible) health issues, I try to take part in physical activities with my friends to the extent that I’m able. I devote a lot of effort to conscientiously managing my chronic health problems, I’ve spent a fortune on orthodontics, and I’ve learned ways of minimizing/disguising other physical flaws (facial and body hair, acne, etc.) as well as my financial means permit. I always try to be friendly and considerate, and I seem to be well-liked by most of the people whom I know.
At my age, despite my wonderful friendships, I’m beginning to acutely feel the absence of a significant other in my life. It’s also difficult when talk among causal friends turns to love and relationships, and I struggle with the social marginalization that often results if I choose to disclose my utter inexperience. I’m involved with my faith group, community activism, volunteer work, my professional community — but no real romantic opportunities have come of those connections. The men I think to be suitable suitors never regard me in that fashion, and if I ‘make a move’, no matter how small, it seems to only result in broken friendships.
I’m pretty much out of ideas here.
Agonizingly Alone, Aunt Fattie is terribly sorry to have to tell you what she’s about to tell you. It is going to be discouraging, it is going to seem glib, and it probably isn’t going to make you feel better. It may make you curse Aunt Fattie’s name.
It is this: You are doing everything right.
You are living an active, engaged life, pursuing your passions and interests, refusing to put anything on hold just because you’re single. You are realistic and positive about your strengths, your limitations, your desires, and your boundaries. You are hoping to meet kindred spirits through the activities and communities that you participate in for your personal fulfillment, rather than steeping yourself in the often frustrating and demoralizing dating scene. You are, in short, following an advice columnist’s standard how-to-meet-a-good-partner formula to the letter.
So why isn’t it working? Part of the reason is that meeting a compatible partner takes more than a fulfilling life and a rational outlook; it also takes a heaping helping of pure dumb luck. You’ve made yourself into a mature, engaged, self-sufficient prospective partner, but frustratingly, that’s all you can do besides wait. The most important part of the equation — someone happening to come along who interests you, recognizes your value, is single, shares your goals, doesn’t have too much baggage, etc. — is the part you can’t control. It must be left to luck.
And truthfully, some of us need a little more luck than others. We fatties can’t wait for just any attractive interested prospect; we need an attractive, interested prospect who’s confident enough to see beyond societal ideals and shrug off potential judgment. Those with health problems may need to wait for an attractive, interested prospect who has no hangups about medical issues, in some cases even one who’s willing to be a caregiver if necessary. Your choice of chastity may narrow your field as well. In short, you’re using a grade-A reel and lure to fish in a smallish pond. This is not to say that you should relax your standards — far from it. Aunt Fattie is delighted that you are so discerning. But it means that patience must be your watchword.
This may mean that you wait a little longer before dropping hints that you’re interested (which Aunt Fattie would recommend doing in person, rather than through friends — the latter smacks of grade school). You want to give yourself time to fully suss out the gentleman’s suitability, and give him time to fully appreciate all you have to offer. Some otherwise decent fellows may have to leap a few hurdles when it comes to fat and health concerns, and you want to give them ample opportunity to get in touch with their better selves (and to realize how much they like you in the meantime). And of course, some otherwise decent fellows may turn out to have qualities that are dealbreakers for you, qualities that only come out over time. The much-advertised “friend zone” is largely a myth; there’s no rush to turn a friendship into a relationship. Spend time together, both with friends and just the two of you, and see how things progress.
And what will you do while you wait patiently for prospective partners with whom to be patient? Well, you will have to content yourself with your wonderful friends (too wonderful, surely, to judge you for your inexperience?), your activism, your volunteer work, your faith, your intelligence, your physical activities, your strong values, and the maintenance and safeguarding of your health. Not too shabby of a consolation prize, don’t you agree?
(Readers: Please share with us your experiences of romantic patience, and of finding love when or where you didn’t expect it!)
If you’ve got your own questions on fat, fatshion, fatiquette, self-esteem, or body image, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.