Ask Aunt Fattie: My new potential beau hates his fat

Dearest Aunt Fattie,

I was recently excited to stumble across an online dating site which includes a body shape descriptor – I prefer larger guys and want both my own size and my preference in men to be stated up front. Not long after signing up, I found a cute, sweet-seeming fat dude who shared a lot of interests. I messaged him, of course, and we got to chatting.

It turns out this darling chubby boy is quite swept up in self/fat-hatred, and while he’s open minded about the size of his partner, he has lost a fair bit of weight in the past year and hopes to lose a great deal more. He even went so far as to schedule gastric bypass surgery, but ended up deciding to “wait and see if I can do it on my own.”

So as a believer in fat acceptance, I feel torn about actually going out with this fellow. It’s early yet to write something off before it starts, and I feel like this guy would actually benefit from learning about HAES, if he was interested. But I have met and crushed on several self-hating fatties in the past, and I’ve found that their own body issues have ended up projected all over me (something I don’t quite have the Sanity Watchers points for).

On the one hand, I don’t want to have to argue anti-diet, HAES, fat-loving, etc, to a guy who possibly loathes his own adipose and blames it for his problems. But as a lover of big guys, I have to admit it is also going to be no easy feat to find a big, happy, self-loving, fat-accepting dude who can love me AND himself. So what’s a good strategy here? Hoping to convert the self-deprecating? Or waiting around until a single, fat, HAES/FA dude stumbles across my path?

- More Fat Fish in the Sea

Ah, the emotionally fraught world of online dating. The internet has thrown open so many of the previous barriers to meeting people, barriers of luck and geography and time, and all we have to do in exchange for this bounty is put up with awkwardness, uncertainty, and occasional bleak rejection. In this case in particular, It’s no surprise you’re not sure which way to go. At the heart of your question is an age-old conundrum: Can people change? Should we expect them to?

The answer, as with so many things, depends. If your conundrum were whether you could date someone of a different religion or political party, Aunt Fattie would still suggest that you meet — chemistry, either romantic or social, can overcome a number of important differences, and rescript them as irrelevant or even exciting. But she would also advise that you hold out no expectations that he would change his beliefs or significant personality traits. The question, going into the date, would not be “can this man become the Democrat/Muslim/extrovert/etc. that I want him to be” — that would be disastrous. Rather, you would approach the date with curiosity about who this person is apart from the things you might consider to be dealbreakers. Assuming he’s always going to be a Republican/atheist/introvert, can he be a Republican/atheist/introvert friend? A Republican/atheist/introvert boyfriend? You are in no way required to look past differences that prove to be too great, of course, but internet dating is best entered in the spirit of experimentation.

With something like HAES and fat-positivity, though, the rules shift a bit, because your fellow has probably never been exposed to this way of thinking. While it’s a fool’s game to wait for an otherwise perfect beau to change his political affiliation, for instance, there are plenty of couples in which one member becomes more of an environmentalist or feminist, starts eating less meat, becomes more religiously observant, gets kinkier, or heck, even changes political affiliation after all because the other partner exposed him or her to a whole new perspective. Of course, while some partners snap instantly into a new way of thinking, others take much longer. Your fellow may find HAES appealing, but still take longer to warm up to it than you want to take to decide if you want a relationship.

Or he may reject it entirely, and you may in turn reject him. You get to choose how you relate to his body image, and you are not a bad guy if you decide you just can’t handle it. Wariness about past boyfriends whose “body issues have ended up projected all over me” is a perfectly good reason to tread carefully; in no way are you showing evidence of undue pickiness. But the point you’re at, after just a few emails, may simply be too soon to tell. You know a lot about where he is now with his body image, but what else do you know about him? Do you know if he’s open to new ideas? Is he confident in other areas? Do you find his vulnerability charming or offputting? Does he tend to think analytically, or will he always be accepting cultural constructs? Will arguing with him be wearisome, or will he be interested in what you have to say? Do you know where his body image issues came from, or where they might go? Naturally you are well within your rights to avoid a relationship that will have a negative effect on your mental health, and your wariness, in this sense, amounts to self-preservation. But you’re not in a relationship yet. Give the guy a fair shake by getting to know him better (and that means meeting him). At very least you may find a friend, even an ally.

Aunt Fattie does not recommend zealotry, which is perhaps inherent in “conversion.” While you get to pick how you relate to this fellow’s self-image, you do not get to dictate that self-image for him, even if your way is clearly better. But if the question is “do I make this guy aware of HAES and see how he responds, or wait for an effortlessly fat-positive dude to cross my path,” the answer is indubitably “both.” You are dating, so date joyfully and with a pioneering spirit. Meet this guy — you have nothing to lose, as you aren’t yet invested enough emotionally for his self-image to slingshot back at you. See what he’s like in person. Meet other guys; see what they’re like as well. Meet self-hating fat guys who’ve never considered that they could stop hating themselves, and non-self-hating fat guys who’ve never imagined that they should start, and self-hating fat guys who are too invested in self-hate ever to stop. Meet self-deprecating types who are otherwise perfect and HAES types who are otherwise jerks. Ask yourself how you feel about each, and what you expect from each. When you meet a guy who engenders more answers than questions,
that just might be your man.

If you’ve got your own questions on fat, fatshion, fatiquette, self-esteem, or body image, send them to auntfattie@gmail.com.

27 thoughts on “Ask Aunt Fattie: My new potential beau hates his fat

  1. I am going to have to disagree with you, Aunt Fatty.

    I think online dating is best entered with a bit of close-mindedness, actually. The ‘net is a great tool for separating the wheat from the chaff (or the Democrat/Muslim/extroverts from the Republican/atheist/introverts). Often, people who try online dating in the spirit of adventure meet tons of people who are all wrong for them and quickly get burned out. I think a little more seriousness is in order. Keep in mind exactly what you want, and only meet people with whom you’re compatible “on paper.” Eliminate variables.

    That’s how I went about it, anyway, and I was very successful (although, luck probably had something to do with it).

  2. I disagree with antonova… I think you need to go into it with an open mind, but be prepared for pervs and assholes, cuz you’ll get atleast 1 person that will send you a message saying you’re too ugly to date why do you bother… report that to whatever dating site you’re on cuz it’s wrong on a million levels.

    I also don’t think you should limit to who you actually look good with “on paper” You need to look at how accepting a person is, that only comes from talking to people. And if the guy indicates anything sexual right off the bat DO NOT MEET HIM… seriously it will make for an uncomfortable night of sexual inuendo followed by him trying to get laid. Unless of course you’re meeting them to get laid(then whatever floats your boat)

    As for the guy in this situation I really really suggest you atleast show him FA/HAES… Even just mention it in passing you don’t have to be “OH! You should try Health At Every Size” try doing something like “Oh I was reading this fabulous blog called Shapely Prose, they were talking about how BMI is such crap, you should really read it it’s like amazing” or whatever the blog post of the day is about :-)

    All the writers here at Shapely Prose are very uplifting and specifically my reason for coming around to FA.

    In short give it a shot! Who knows we maybe hearing a few years from now about wedding bells all cuz of fillyjonk and ask aunt fattie :-)

  3. Yeah, I’m gonna totally disagree with Antonova. I guess it depends on “How” you date. If you ahve a series of criteria for your perfect mate, then you should apply them. But if you, like me, prefer to base it on whether or not you like a person, then you should decide if you like a person.

    Also, there is nothing wrong with getting burned out on internet dating. It’s not like getting burned out on job searching or school. You can stop dating when it stops being fun. It is OK to not be dating.

    My thoughts on the HAES issue are that you should think about where you are, and whether you’ll be okay talking to someone who seems to be where he is without hurting your progress. As long as you are ready to cut things off if his negative body image starts affecting you, then I say no harm no foul.

    You can show him what it is like to love yourself and be fat. And maybe he will learn from your example. Or maybe he’ll be a dick. But chances are the next guy you’ll meet will be a dick for an entirely different set of reasons.

  4. Also, there is nothing wrong with getting burned out on internet dating. It’s not like getting burned out on job searching or school. You can stop dating when it stops being fun. It is OK to not be dating.

    That is such good advice!

    So’s the point about not being so open-minded that you go for a date with ANYONE who gives you an icky, alarm-bells feeling.

  5. I am a firm believer in online dating sites (well the free ones anyway!). I have to agree with Aunt Fattie on this one.
    Basically, it is a game of odds. The more people you talk to the higher your chances of finding the right person for you. And exposing yourself to different types of people as Aunt Fattie suggested can only help to solidify in your mind what exactly it is that you want in a partner.
    Plus you never know, people surprise me everyday. That guy that you never thought would be right for you, may end up to be just what you were looking for :)

  6. If nothing else, no matter what happens eventually, each meeting gives you either a good experience or a good story!

  7. I met Mr Machine through internet dating, so I know that, just like in real life, it can lead to instant chemistry and a terrific relationship. However, I also went on internet dates that were boring, silly, or fine but with no chemistry. The weird thing about internet dating is that you often know certain things about a person — the kinds of basic facts that make a profile — without really knowing anything else about him or her. For some people, as Aunt Fattie acknowledges, certain facts are an instant “no,” and that’s fine. It sounds like for MFFITS this is a warning bell rather than an instant “no,” and in that case I think seeing if there’s any chemistry in person is the way to go.

    At any rate, I think taking internet dating as seriously or non-seriously as you want is the key. I was totally just doing it for a lark and to sort of practice being more outgoing when I happened to luck out and meet Mr Machine — and here we are five years later. It wasn’t serious until I met someone it was worth being serious about.

  8. Keep in mind exactly what you want, and only meet people with whom you’re compatible “on paper.” Eliminate variables.

    That’s how I went about it, anyway, and I was very successful

    Heh. That’s exactly how my fiance dated. We also met on an online dating site, and he contacted me because I matched up with everything he wanted on paper. I, on the other hand, am more of a give it a try and see if it feels right person. That’s what I did when he contacted me, and when we met up, it did feel right. We’re getting married next year. So we could both use the story of our meeting to show that our dating strategy is the successful one, but I think the reality is that different strategies work for different people. Don’t let anybody tell you how to date.

    As far as this guy goes… it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth trying to see if he can come around to self-love and HAES. But if you do try and he he doesn’t come around, and you feel like he is raining body issues all over you, don’t settle just because he’s so great in every other way. Better to be single and looking than in a relationship with somebody who makes you feel bad about yourself.

  9. Oh, I didn’t mean Aunt Fattie with that statement. Aunt Fattie was giving the advice that was asked for. It just annoys me in general when people act like their way of doing anything is the One True Way that everyone should follow.

  10. Oh, I know you weren’t being snarky, but I’m actually serious. I mean, I don’t think I really need a disclaimer because everyone knows advice columnists give generic advice, but your point is spot on — this is one of those things where your personal preferences kinda trump everything else.

  11. I say to give him a chance, because who knows what the chemistry really is until they meet.

    However, be very wary of falling into the gendered trap of trying to “fix” a man. Your socialization tells you that you have a responsibility to invest in other people’s personal issues, but you don’t. Your socialization tells you that you have a responsibility to spend your time educating (mostly by spoon feeding and hand holding), but you don’t. Your socialization tells you that you have a responsibility to spend time and energy fixing men, but you don’t.

    Look out for yourself first, if his personal issues involve a lot of work, rest assured that his male privilege will have trained him to shift most of the work burden onto you. Think about how much time and energy you want to invest, and be very aware of how much time and energy he’s willing to invest. You can like someone, even love someone and they can still suck you dry.

  12. “Look out for yourself first, if his personal issues involve a lot of work, rest assured that his male privilege will have trained him to shift most of the work burden onto you.”

    Amen, sister. I’m engaged to a great guy whom I fell in love with before I realized all his “quirks.” Now, I’m stuck with him despite his intense love for potato guns and war games on Playstation3… He simply REFUSES to be molded!! :’)

    But I’ll be dead before I shoot a spud out of a homemade gun, I’ll tell you that!

  13. And if the guy indicates anything sexual right off the bat DO NOT MEET HIM… seriously it will make for an uncomfortable night of sexual innuendo followed by him trying to get laid.

    I agree with this statement completely. Bah. I met my husband on a dating site, and the first question he asked me was about my thoughts on the death penalty in the U.S. I told him I was intrigued because most of the messages I got were along the lines of, “ur hot u hav boobz i c em plz?”

    I would say that sometimes people just haven’t had their eyes opened yet to new ideas. My hubs was a very fairweather feminist when I first met him. He understood the basic tenets of equality, he was just ignorant about how widespread misogyny is for women everyday. Once I started pointing things out, he was like, holy shit. Now he points it out to me too, which is fun.

    Also, one of my important rules for online dating was, if he/she doesn’t find you funny in writing, he/she will most def not find you funny in person, when you haven’t had time to think about and polish your funny before you push send (and vice-versa). I have to find someone funny, and they must also find me funny, or the thing never seems to work out.

  14. Once I started pointing things out, he was like, holy shit.

    I hear these stories a lot and experienced the same thing in my relationship, which is where the bit about people who have an instant changeover when their eyes are opened came from. I didn’t start dating a feminist; I started dating a compassionate, smart, thinky person who nevertheless hadn’t really given it much thought one way or the other. That’s why I ended up with a feminist just as soon as feminism got brought up. By the same token, Fish could be dealing with a reasonable, open-minded, analytical person who nevertheless hadn’t really considered that fat hysteria might be just that. But it’s not a guarantee, nor would it necessarily be instant.

  15. Hearing about everyone’s online dating experiences/strategies is interesting. I met DH on a dating site… it was actually eHarmony. Neither of us at the time knew much about the company or who the guy in charge was affiliated with. eHarmony works more along the lines Antonova mentioned — making sure you match “on paper” before going any further. I know that wouldn’t work for everyone, but it was fairly successful for me. I had just gotten out of a really BAD relationship, and while I didn’t have a set of “must haves” in my head per se, I definitely had a list of dealbreakers I could feed into the system to weed out potential repeats of my ex.

    I think Aunt Fattie’s advice is good — you have to be open to meeting people who might be outside your own comfort zone, but you have to be ready to pull the plug on a connection if it becomes clear that it’s not good for you in some way, especially with something like fat hatred, which is sort of like smoking in terms of the secondhand effects.

  16. I wouldn’t hold not practicing HAES against him. First, it’s a relatively new movement; he might simply not have heard of it. Not that you need to convert him, but this might just be a movement outside of his consciousness.

    Second, if you haven’t met him in person yet, it’s hard to say how much of his fat hatred is true self-hatred, and how much of it is trying to lower your expectations of what he looks like. Because ‘liking bigger guys’ could mean any number of things, and he might be a little insecure that who he is is what you’re looking for.

    Case in point:

    My husband and I met online, and he kept stressing, before we met, that he was fat. Turns out by any measure, he’s just a little overweight (with a full face), but I think he wanted to reassure himself mentally that I knew that I wasn’t meeting up with a washboard-abbed chiseled Adonis, and by saying it, he could guarantee that I knew it.

    His body image issues IRL: zero.

    Now, who knows what will happen with this guy, but hell, it’s a date, not a marriage proposal. If you think he’s interesting otherwise, go on a date and see what happens!

  17. Carleigh, yeah I made the mistake once… and only one time. And the guy tried to feel me up under the dinner table -_-; I won’t say he was all right out he wanted to have sex right away, but there was lots of innuendo before we met and let me say I never EVER spoke to him again

    I’ve met lots of good male friends through online dating, We just didn’t “click” but we got along just fine, no chemistry but with the current BF well… We just clicked, we really enjoyed each other….

    But my current man has body image issues kind of, weird though he thinks he’s too thin… we look goofy though he’s all tall and thin and I’m all fat. Adding to that he’s black very professional and I’m ghost pale white with piercing and stuff like almost total polar opposites.

    But we’re both nerdy and love politics(even though our political views clash A LOT) the room reeks of nerd when we’re in it. So I’m happy :-)

    I really do think it depends on the person, it’s all chemistry anyway right? That’s why we have friends and lovers :-)

  18. Hi there. I mostly lurk, but your letter just called out to me because I’m married to someone like your potential beau.

    I did not discover HAES until we got married and I’m now loving it. But, I’m still “in the closet,” and have only been dropping hints about it (I sort of stumbled onto HAES: I discovered the goodwithcheese website, which led me to this one, while searching for some type of diet on google).

    I think, at such an early stage, you need to give it a chance because you don’t know how he will react to HAES or even whether he will project his issues onto you. My husband may never really care about HAES, but he also does not project his issues onto me. So, I just try to let him know how amazing he is and hope that, little by little, he realizes how true that is. And, I know he does the same to me with respect to other insecurities I have.

    I think that if you have the same core values (including respect for the other person), you can really overcome any differences.

  19. I think you have to meet him. It all depends on what kind of guy he is… The sort of guy who hates himself and thinks all fat people must hate themselves too, goes out with fuller-figured women because he thinks they’re the only ones who will go out with him but would dump them like a shot for the conventionally hot model if it were offered? Or the sort of guy who might have body image hang-ups and want to lose weight, but who’s looking for a relationship with a real person with all her complexities and flaws and wants a real relationship, not just doesn’t want to be alone? Basically, whether he’s one of the jerks or the good people.

    As sweetmachine said earlier, it sounds like body image issues is a warning bell, rather than a definite “no”, to you. (However, if you have a list of must-haves, such as “wants children”, there’s no point in meeting someone who doesn’t want them ever as you’ll end up splitting up down the road.)

    However, Godless Heathen is right – don’t feel like you have to fix him because that’s what we expect women to do, and certainly don’t convince yourself that he’ll change if you just work hard enough. If he does, great; however, don’t expect it to happen or think that it’s up to you to make it happen. As GH said, you will probably end up with the burden of the work if you let it happen.

    I’d also caution that if he’s trying to lose weight and does succeed in losing a lot, he might well be tempted by the prospect of a lot of flirtation and attention that he hasn’t had in the past. Suddenly being considered conventionally attractive when you’ve been hating yourself for a long time can turn a person’s head and make them behave in ways they wouldn’t normally.

    If you click when you meet and build a relationship where you have love and respect for each other, you can get through most things. However, as you say, many people with body image issues end up projecting their feelings all over you, and someone who is newly thin and invested in the fantasy of how their life will be as a think person may well end up doing that more than ever.

  20. I’m with the majority here; I think since it seems like this is a guy you could like, you should go for it and see. It’s not as if FA or HAES is so ‘mainstream’ yet (unfortunately) that he should be derided for not sharing your views yet, and a gradual eye-opening might be an amazing thing for him whether or not your relationship ends up deepening!

    My husband is a tall, skinny guy who used to think that there was something he was doing ‘right’ that made him that way. Granted, he is fit, exercises a lot and eats pretty well. But after having met me, he has become much more aware of the role genetics play in our body shapes, and about the huge negativity pressure on people to change their bodies creates. This is something he literally never had to think about before, but all he had to do was listen to me, and he grew to understand. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so proud when he told me that he had been having a conversation with his grandmother, who was commenting on his 12 year old cousin getting fat etc, and he gently made comments along the lines of “what’s wrong with that” and “eating healthy is more important than what you look like” etc. Honestly, I nearly cried when he told me! If just one person – particularly someone who has never had a weight problem themselves – can open the eyes of others by just giving them a different point of view, who knows how much emotional damage they’re helping prevent?

    Anyway, that went a bit off-topic, but I’m just echoing what others have said – it’s the type of person you meet that’s important, not whether they already share identical views to yours. If they’re open, and thoughtful, and caring, then even if they can’t quite ever manage to work HAES for themselves, they might be able to not inflict their own problems on you. And that could work just as well in a relationship, if everything else turns out to be great!

  21. Cala has a good point. I did the same thing; my husband and I met online, and I gradually revealed to him that I am fat. I made the point very thoroughly because he was deeply attracted to my personality, and I hated to think he’d spin heel upon seeing the real me. He has always loved me for me and only wants the best for me, i.e. working on our health together. We enjoy hiking, working out, and cooking good food – and I’ll always do these things as a large woman.

    I have to give antonova a little props, too. I don’t agree in the strictest terms, but no one should hesitate to be picky, because you can find you will have wasted a lot of time and your very valuable energy by being generous and open-minded, as well as racking up embittering experiences. The more confidence you have in what you want and that you deserve to be picky, the greater the quality of partners in love who will be attracted to you, too, I believe.

  22. I agree with cala and Victoria C. I wouldn’t be too surprised if all of the up-front “I hate my fat” stuff is just defensive posturing so that you don’t show up for the date and immediately walk out upon seeing him (and the fact that he would expect that of course speaks volumes about our society). Or an expression of the fact that he knows that fat people in our society are supposed to hate themselves and supposed to be trying to change at all times; to behave otherwise and accept yourself is “weird.” From his perspective he might just be following the “rules” of discourse about being fat, especially in the dating world, as they exist today.

    In any case I would definitely meet him if everything else seems cool. This is looking pretty far ahead since you don’t even know if you like him yet, but you may get a chance to plant the seed of FA/HAES, which is a good deed if nothing else. And speaking for myself, if I were dieting and suddenly offered the chance to enter a relationship where health and happiness were emphasized and nobody worried about calorie counts or my “health” as a surrogate for my appearance or character, and I could eat and move exactly as I wanted to (come to think of it, that pretty much describes my marriage), I think that diet would go out the window pretty quickly. In other words I agree with Aunt Fattie that fat hatred may be a less permanent component of this guy’s “personality” than other preferences and traits. After all, most of us here were fat haters (or at least haters of our own fat) at some point.

    Of course you have to protect yourself. If one dinner blows too many SW points for your comfort, then he’s not worth it, but you already know that.

  23. On the topic of online dating, and Fat Acceptance, I just want to share this:

    I’m just starting online dating. I use the “Plenty of Fish” website. So far the profiles have been pretty good, some less than others, but all in all OK. Then I stumbled across this gem:

    “Well my name is Tony and i’m looking for a great girl i can chill with and maybe get into a relationship with. I don’t want someone with kids tho,because i don’t believe in raising some other dudes child. I don’t do any drugs,and i would prefer the same,with who ever i meet. Please don’t message me if you do not have a pic.

    And also..Im on here fishing,not harpooning whales.
    so NO fat girls please!!”

    Is this not the most offensive thing ever? Oh M G.

    So, I wrote to him!

    “Hi Tony,

    Although it’s likely that this isn’t going to have any effect – and that you won’t write back – I just want to say that your line about “not harpooning whales” is really offensive.

    But on the other hand, it’s good that you’re letting people know that you have no tolerance for fat, so at least awesome fat chicks know not to waste their energy on you.

    Cheers,
    Leah”

    Anyway. Just wanted to share that.

  24. I would suggest closing your POF account immediately as it tends to be a place of horrible for fat women. Also, it isn’t even that great a dating site for non fat folks either. Also, it has been my observation through much legwork, that men come to dating sites to “upgrade”. So when I see something such as what Tony has written, I get a sense he has been dating all the kinds of women he’s mentioned in the ad and feels he “deserves” much better. So it’s best not to take all those types of pronouncements too seriously. Mostly likely Tony will not find his “ideal” online and will have to get a lot more realistic about his prospects and his abilities to attract and date his “ideal” partner.

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