On Dumb Luck

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.

39 thoughts on “On Dumb Luck”

  1. Kate – I think (and this is coming from a 55 year old white fat female who’s been in a committed married relationship for 30 years)that one of the issues involved here – and this is a foundation issue for every female out there unless you’ve been brought up by wolves without access to tv, radio, printed matter, the internet or other human contact — is that society’s message to females from birth on up is that your personal “life script”, your personal fairy tale if you will, is that you are going to be discovered by Prince Charming and THEN (and only then) you will live “happily ever after.” You don’t go out and look for PC, you have to wait to be discovered. Your good works, terrific personality, brilliance etc. must be picked up on PC’s radar and he must be drawn to you. You have no control over the situation. It is not like gardening or farming where you can cultivate another person.
    But, because the measure of success is a) Prince Charming b) discovering you..then you must cultivate in yourself (so society says to us in our little unconscious messages) the ability to be attractive in some sort of society-approved way because you have no way of knowing what PC is going to be sniffing around, nor do you know what this PC is attracted TO. So this leaves females in literally this “never-never land” of trying to attract..not by being themselves, but by trying to meet an artificial standard of “attractiveness” in the HOPES of capturing the attention of some Prince Charming out there. This is a game that women cannot win and pits women against other women in a desperate competition based on everything from size, weight, age, wrinkles (or lack thereof), hair color, clothing, career-status(Mommy Wars, anyone) and so on. Until we have the courage to teach our daughters that they are in control of their own destinies and to resist society’s and the media’s message that a) some artificial standard of physical attractiveness is the only thing that counts and b)that the only measure of success requires women to be able to attract and marry a man who is deemed “successful”, we will continue to be trapped by this.

  2. You know how, when you first start a relationship, you’ve got that self-confident satisfied glow? The glow that makes everyone under the sun notice you, maybe even ask you out? And you find yourself wondering where the hell these people were when you were still single? They were waiting for that glow, for that self-confidence.

    If you learn how to love yourself on the inside, when you like who you are and see your appearance as truly irrelevant to your self-worth, then that glow will be there whether you’re single, dating, or married for X amount of years.

    If you can be self confident wearing ratty sneakers, sweat pants and dirty from working in the garden, you’ll be more truly beautiful than someone who can’t stand herself even when she’s decked out in diamonds and pearls. And anyone who doesn’t see it that way is not someone you want to be in a relationship with anyways.

  3. Thank you so much! I really needed this today – after yet another crappy date and much frustration. It seems as if I’ve found other who are others out there that feel just like I do.

    I swear, if another friend or family member says “You just have to stop looking, then love will come!” I will first puke and then punch them. I know they mean well, but…ARGH.

    Karin from Germany

    BTW: I love your blog – keep up the great work!

  4. Toby, those are all great points, and maybe I should clarify my focus on “You have no control.” We all have control over plenty of things, and it’s a hell of a lot better to focus on those things than on waiting around for PC. But for those of us who really want a relationship — not just because of cultural brainwashing, but because they’re kinda fun — we have no control over when and where we’ll hook up with the right person. And I think that’s what drives a lot of the beauty/self-improvement madness. We want to control SOMETHING, so we focus on making ourselves a more theoretically desirable “product.”

    I also think men totally do that as much as women, even though they’re not nearly as affected by the beauty myth in particular. Inasmuch as this shit is a function of the “Must! Control! Something! Must! Manifest! Desires! Through! Hard! Work!” impulse, I actually think it’s totally equal opportunity. But yeah, absolutely, the message that women must be pretty and passive, because their whole purpose is to find PC, is hideous.

    I guess I’m just talking about a different kind of passivity — more of a zen thing than an ineffectual thing — so I hope that was clear.

  5. Excellent post. I think you really put concisely into words what I’ve always thought and felt when my friends tell me that I just need to “be confident!” and, “confidence is key!”

    Thank you for reminding me that it is beyond my control – a point I selectively forget time and time again. I need to drill this into my brain and fast!

  6. I really, REALLY needed to read exactly this today. Really.

    It’s hard to admit that a lot of my self confidence does come from the outside – nice friends telling me I’m great, my parents, my family, etc.

    It’s even harder to admit that some of that does come from men, especially when you’re a feminist and you don’t really want to think about the fact that ANY thought about yourself MIGHT be influenced by how other people see you, ESPECIALLY a potential partner.

    We’re supposed to be these glorious, singular beings who don’t give a shit about what other people think but I’m not sure how realistic that is. I know those people exist and I know that I am not one of them.

    I hate admitting it but I do feel at least a teensy bit more confident when I know there’s at least one person out there who thinks I’m hot. It’s really rather simplistic but there’s all types of political crap surrounding it. Weird.

  7. I’ve been with a wonderful man for two years. He thinks I’m beautiful. But I still feel ugly whenever he’s not right next to me. And he can’t be right next to me all the time. I hate this, hate it, hate it.

    Mostly I feel the pinch of being “ugly” when it comes to career. I feel like I missed out on a great career and real money because I wasn’t pretty enough. Not to mention strong, healthy, confident, etc. enough. But to me “pretty” always came first. When I “got pretty,” then the world would open up to me like a flower and my confidence would explode and then life would begin for real. It never happened.

    I feel so frigging cheated sometimes, at age 43, fat, with PCOS baldness and hirsutism that medical treatment cannot reverse, that someone else got to live the life I should have had. I wish I knew what to do about feeling that way. I so want that confidence you’re talking about. I really want to feel like I can do anything. But every time I start to rise to that I fall back into the shit puddle. And it’s all about the “pretty” thing. If I’m not pretty, and have no chance of ever being pretty, I feel like I might as well not exist, that I have nothing to offer.

    But I will tell you this: I didn’t feel any less ugly as a size 8 or 10 or 12. There’s always some aspect of a woman she can pick at like a frigging scab.

  8. Thanks, Kate. Stupid hug right back.

    Here’s the thing. I think a big part of why I’ve been able to keep this relationship going, and going well, for two years is that I recognize that it’s not his job to prop me up mentally all the time. Sure, we all do that for our partners now and then, but really, it’s ultimately my responsibility to understand that I’m not hideous enough to frighten small children, and that even if I was it wouldn’t be my fault or a reason to have me condemned.

    He doesn’t need to hear me whine all the frigging time, especially since the cumulative effect of doing so (and I know this because I’ve been on the other end of it with men who were emotionally super-needy) is for the partner on the other end of the whine to think, “Well, geez, don’t I make her (him) happy at all? And if not, what’s the point of my being here?”

    I think in a way he doesn’t understand it when I feel ugly, that it’s just so not how he sees me that he’s actually baffled by it. He doesn’t think other people (who have two brain cells to rub together, who are in his mind the only people even worth considering) see me as ugly either, and has strongly implied that I’m doing a number on myself and (quite understandably) wishes I’d get over it. Yeah, me too!

  9. And not to bogart this thread or anything, but at this juncture of my life I’m waaaaay more self-conscious about the hair thing than the fat thing. I remember going to a “fat swim” last summer and seeing dozens of happy beautiful fat chicks splashing around in the water, and all I could think was that I was the only freak who needed a bathing cap to cover her frigging bald spot. I really hit the pity seat when looking at other women’s hair, even though I have a nice hairpiece and wear scarves and hats very well. (I understand that feeling like this is very, very common among women with hair loss.)

    The “looking at other women and appreciating them without comparing myself to them negatively or positvely” thing is a great idea, though. I need to work on that. If I can actually admire someone’s beautiful hair and not hit the pity seat, I’ll have “graduated,” I guess.

    Also, I don’t buy the “love comes only when you’re not looking” thing either — my current boyfriend, my ex-husband, and a prior boyfriend of a year and a half all came from personal ads. I read a book about finding a partner years ago called Beyond Cinderella that put it well (paraphrasing): “You never hear about women saying they find their best clients or jobs ‘when they’re not looking for them,’ and nobody lets the success of her business ‘just happen.'” Heck, we don’t even feel like we need to let even plain old friends “just come to us,” but for some reason we get told to stay passive when it comes to making a connection with a partner, that that’s the only thing that “works.” Please do not buy this if you are single and looking, it is FUD!

    And obviously, taking me as an example, you don’t have to be perfectly confident and overflowing with great self-esteem to find a partner, either. However, I’m sure those things help tremendously when it comes to appreciating one’s partner; it’s easy to discount someone liking you and being attracted to you if you don’t feel like you deserve it.

  10. This post really resonates for me. I’d been perpetually single for a long time (like 18 years) until last year I met the man that I’m now seeing through another round of personal ads. He was looking. I was looking. We looked at each other and liked what we saw.

    I have wonderfully positive friends who told me I was beautiful, but never have been quite this secure until I got into this relationship. It’s just a bit baffling for me about why this is true.

  11. We’re supposed to be these glorious, singular beings who don’t give a shit about what other people think but I’m not sure how realistic that is. I know those people exist and I know that I am not one of them.

    Those people don’t exist. Ask someone who seems to you like one of those women, and she’ll laugh and wonder who the hell you’re talking about. ;-)

    Everyone has at least a little insecurity, a little vanity. I probably Don’t Give a Fuck at a rate of about 97%, but I still only post pictures that hide the Double Chin of Doom! And I think that’s okay–being a little insecure, a little vain.

    The idea that there are women who never experience a moment in which they lack self-confidence, who never fret about double chins or wrinkles or whatever is that one thing they just can’t get over, can itself be pernicious in its capacity to deflate us.

    Great post, Kate. mwah!

  12. I emailed this to myself at home. I’m going to print it out and hang it on the wall. I’m going to do this because I need to hear this EVERYDAY. Kate, thank you for articulating this. I’ve been single for the last six years (that would be most of my twenties) and I’m glad to be reminded that it is not something I’m screwing up on.

  13. I’m 35 fucking years old and have absolutely no idea how to even begin dealing with the opposite sex because I spent my life between the ages of 18 until 33 convinced a) I was going to magically become thin (read: pretty)and b) until then, I was a horrific beast worthy of being nothing more than the sarcastic sidekick/best buddy/advisor on girls to all the straight men in my life. My confidence and “fuck you” attitude has returned since I decided to embrace size acceptance/HAES, but the pursuit of a relationship…oh, good lord. As a woman who has been told by many that I’m brave and they admire my independence and ability to take care of business and take care of myself, I’m utterly petrified of making any kind of attempts at dating because I can’t shake the dreadful feeling that it would just be an endless parade of rejection. Which, in turn, makes me angry with myself, but no closer to stepping off the edge of that particular cliff. I keep telling myself that I’d be okay and content if I wind up flying the rest of my life solo…but wow, more and more often, it’s a depressing prospect. Anyway, to make a long story even longer, thank you for this entry, Kate.

  14. Kate, thank you.

    Jane, you aren’t alone. I’m in my early thirties and I feel/am going through the same thing.

  15. Before I met my fiancee Brandon, my eating disorder, while not as severe as it has been in the past, was still raging pretty hard. Since we’ve been together, it hasn’t gone in remission, but has faded considerably.

    In analyzing this I’ve come to realize that Brandon loving me, has made me love myself more. Unlike when I was single, I have a responsibility now to be here, to be sane and healthy, to give love and be loved.

    I only wish other women had this kind of voice – not necessarily the man literally – but the voice inside their head telling them that they’re valued, that they’re beautiful and worthy of love. For so long, I believed I wasn’t.

    When Brandon and I met online two years ago, I put off meeting him for more than a month. I thought as soon as he saw me in person, fat flaws and all, he’d run the other way. But he was a persistent little fuck, and finally I agreed to meet him just to shut him up. We moved in together less than two months later and we’re getting married next July.

    I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I had let my insecurities rule my life instead of my heart.

  16. Hi there.

    I am an average size (size 7 jeans) 20 year old girl single girl. I read over your article and I’d like to say that whether you are single or in a relationship it is up to YOU to decide if you are happy or not. As women, I feel it is important that we can remind ourselves each and every day (or once in a while!) that we are beautiful and are capable of accomplishing good in our lives and touching others. We are too hard on ourselves.
    Moreover, I feel it is of the utmost imperativeness that we are able to confidently and sincerely acknowledge that we are wonderful and worthwhile *without* having a partner, friend or family member compliment or reassure us and without having a “fuck you” attitude towards those who may disagree (unless they REALLY ask for it).
    A woman’s worth, strength, confidence, grace and beauty begins from within the woman herself; and no outer sources. We can be happy and valid without a man–if we want to be. Only when we are capable of truly believing the good within us are we capable of giving and accepting true love.

  17. Elle, I think we’re mostly on the same page. Sort of.

    What I’m saying is, we should all be able to have that confidence without a partner, but the reality is, it can be extremely difficult. And a lot of us have had the experience of seeing our ease with ourselves and our own bodies increase once we get into a good relationship — emphasis on the GOOD (check out this post by The Rotund). I don’t think that’s a sign of weakness. I think it’s just a sign that being loved for who you are is pretty damned nice. And it’s a stroke of luck that not everyone gets, or gets to have permanently.

    Honestly, I think all the “You must love yourself!” messages alongside all the “You’re too fat/you smell funny/your skin’s not clear enough” messages border on the oppressive. Too many women are stuck feeling like, “Okay, I’m supposed to love myself, but HOW?” And for those who want relationships, it can be frustrating and exhausting to be your own cheerleader all the time. I don’t think happiness is quite as simple as you make it out to be. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with thinking, “Yeah, I’m fine without a partner, but I would really like one.”

    Also, please note that there’s nothing in this post about a man being the answer. I’m heterosexual, so I talked about my own boyfriend, but plenty of women are looking for or have found loving partners who aren’t men.

  18. Having a supportive and wonderful partner can help in a lot of ways. But it isn’t magic and I don’t think that was what was being suggested. A partner can help, but the change always happens from within. Trust me, a partner who loves, supports, and encourages a woman will not change anything on their own. You still need to change yourself. Have a supportive relationship can help and that’s not a bad thing, but the partner is providing support.

  19. Wow and Wow and Wow. Kate you are both profound and articulate. I am floored by your post. I share you thoughts completely and you said it better than I have.

    I just got married last October at the age of 38 and until I met Jim I thought no one would want me until I lost weight.
    I relate to Jane’s comment about being the best buddy/ adviser to male and female friends. I went to a party not thinking that I would meet anyone but of course always looking. Jim’s ex-girlfriend had brought him because even though they had broken up she thought he was a great guy and he should really be with someone…else. Well that someone else was me!

    I love reading your blog. Keep up the great work!

  20. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am a 30 year old woman who has never been on a date, never held someone’s hand, and never kissed anyone, not even playing spin-the-bottle in the 7th grade. I have spent the past 22 years chained up in so much self-hatred over not being “pretty” that I could barely function. It’s just been in the last few months that I have started to realize what bullshit all the cultural standards on women are, and that my fat does not define me. Freedom is good.

  21. 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

    Except for the sweatpants, this is my life. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m afraid to hope because I’ve been crushed so many times. Even my own family (what’s left of it) are constantly dieting and telling me that I’m basically worthless, not only because of my weight, but for myriad other reasons.

  22. Kate, for what it’s worth, I’m with a guy who thinks all of those things are perfectly attractive except the sweatpants.

    You are absolutely not worthless.

  23. Thanks Kate. Intellectually, I know that I’m not worthless, but when one hears it from every corner (even from those who are supposed to love you unconditionally), it’s almost impossible not to internalize it.

  24. I’m like eleven years late to this conversation, but I am glad to read something about the plain and simple fact that this is so much about control in so many ways, and that it’s so damning to continually hear, “Well, when you TRULY LOVE YOURSELF then he or she will show up!” I refuse to believe that everyone else in the entire world TRULY LOVED HERSELF when she found a partner. I can think of so many miserable mean awful people who have partners, who love nothing and no one, including themselves; they they just magically Oprah themselves into self-love for fifteen minutes to get those partners? I think it really is just luck. It’s hard luck, harder for some of us than others, but it’s not necessarily because of things we’re doing (or not doing). I still find that difficult to swallow because of my need to control every single thing, but in the end I think it’s more freeing to believe.

  25. Kate,
    I have never been here before, but I’m staying. And I haven’t read the comments yet, ’cause I’m kind of running late, but I want to say thank you. I will come back and read them all.
    My self-esteem is pretty good. What it is, finally, is ‘right-sized’. In the past, I have overpumped myself (I AM A GODDESS AND EVERYONE WANTS ME) which is great when you’re wanted but terribly deflating (and takes you right back to NO ONE WILL EVER WANT ME mixed with a touch of FUCK YOU FOR NEVER WANTING ME). But that was improvement over No one will want me because I’m fat. Now I’m less fat, but still fat, and more wanted, but still frequently unwanted and… I know who I am. I’m gorgeous. And if you don’t notice, well, that’s your bad, but I agree, I absolutely don’t want someone who requires thin, and having the weight I have eliminates those guys.
    It’s so interesting, I just wrote a blog this morning that echoes some of what you opened with… I am single, and I wrote about the necessity of the positive sexual attention from the outside (men, in my case).
    AND I just had a conversation with my therapist about all of this, and the one thing I didn’t mention in blog is that we talked about that crap about ‘when you’re not looking’. It’s crap. My shrink agrees. I am always looking; these eyes are always open. What does help though, is marrying that right-sized confidence with some version of patience. Because the smell of desperation.. well, it’s smelly.
    The problem is not you.
    I believe you. Thanks again.

  26. What a wonderful article. I was a woman who was always content and even proud of the way I looked at a size 12-14. I’m tall, I’m big-boned, and I love food. I was also a woman who was with her husband from 20-34 years of age. Then suddenly I was divorcing and alone. I looked the same as I always head. I actually got thinner, if anything. But being “out there” again and not having that reinforcement made me see myself in a whole new way – a way I didn’t like at all.

    Instead of looking in the mirror and thinking I was pretty – not just my face or my hair but my body too, as I usually had, I compared myself to every smaller girl and hated what I saw. Suddenly my body wasn’t good enough for me anymore.

    I wish I could say I found the self-love to get over that on my own. But the truth is that meeting someone I liked and having him like me back, and eventually ending up in a loving and caring relationship, was a big part of me regaining my perspective on myself. I think admitting that we do sometimes need love and approval to feel beautiful and loveable is one of the most honest and confident things that we can do. There’s no better way to help ourselves, whether we’re single or with someone, than to understand that wanting this doesn’t make you weak or flawed. Otherwise, we just give ourselves one more thing to beat ourselves up over. Thanks for a wonderful write!

  27. Great post, and so, so true.

    I always bitterly loved that “people will love you if you love yourself” thing that was spouted, whilst the world around me kept pushing my face in the fact that I was essentially unloveable by being fat. To the extent that when men *were* interested in me, even though I was fat, I thought there must be something wrong with them to like me. Although I said that about men I *wasn’t* interested in – I think if someone I’d liked myself had liked me when I was fat I’d have tried my hardest to believe it and go with it.

    I’m thinner now, and I can’t deny that part of my confidence going out dating had to do with being thinner, but I do know I began to love myself more – but that wasn’t because I was thinner – it was because I stopped believing in the societal demonisation of size.

    I just want to tell the single girls out there not to give up. I was 33 when I met my now husband. Before him, I had never, but never been in a relationship. I’d only kissed two guys before him (and I had never kissed anyone until the age of 32). I had liked a few guys here and there, who usually didn’t like me back. I had put myself out there as much as I could bear to in the dating world, dealing with the endless round of failed dates. I’d begun to really think it would never happen; not even because there was anything wrong with me, but because that magic connection where you actually like a guy and he likes you seemed to never materialise for me.

    I am now a size 14ish UK, which is I think a size 12 US? So I’m more ‘regular’ sized than I used to be, and that gave me more confidence. But there were (are) still bits of my body that I hated – and I had not only stretchmarks from putting *on* weight, but loose skin from losing weight. I wondered how on earth I could find anyone who would accept me that way. I’d never been naked with anyone. I’d also had laser treatment to get rid of the hirsutism I suffer from, but it wasn’t all gone yet. In my positive moments I tried to believe someone could accept me, but I’d never had any experience of it, and the world around me certainly didn’t tell me anyone would – I had to be perfect to be acceptable.

    Well, I met my boy in February, we got engaged in May, and married in August, and we’ve now been married for 5 months, and it’s still under a year from the time we met. He is tall and skinny – actually *under*weight – and so he can’t understand from experience my struggles with weight and body image, but I talk to him about it all the time. I remain amazed at how easy it is to be open and easy with him, to talk to him about my deepest humiliations and fears, and to feel totally accepted, to not worry about putting on a few pounds, to know what it is to be loved, desired – and not only that, but not by someone I ‘comprised’ or ‘settled for’ but by someone I adore and laugh with and admire and respect and love. The safety in that is profound.

    So – I just want to give out a bit of hope from someone who was absolutely and utterly convinced she’d never find anyone – it really can happen, even for someone who’s never had it before. When the right person comes along, it will work for you. And I so agree that it’s just a matter of damn luck when that will be – not that you shouldn’t try, shouldn’t look, heck I think I was ‘looking’ from the age of about 13. My guy turned up when a friend was visiting from abroad and we all went out to dinner together. There he was. He walked me home afterwards, and we started seeing each other immediately afterwards and the rest was inevitable.

    It is impossible to imagine such acceptance and love if you’ve never had it. But even if it’s impossible to imagine, it isn’t impossible. It can happen. I wish it for all of you…

  28. Kate:

    A little while ago, I attempted to post some incredibly self-defeatist comments about how fat women get “the shorter end of the stick” when it comes to dating….I wholeheartedly apologize for attempting to do so, firstly to YOU and then, to MYSELF. OK….now that’s out of the way….I’ve gotta say that you (and your many co-“prosers”) never cease to amaze me with your insights! I recently received “the speech” about “it’ll happen for you when it’s right…” HOWEVER, it wound up being from someone whom I was intensely attracted to AND they’d had WLS….so I’m not too sure that there wasn’t a hidden message in there somewhere…

    But anyhow, thank you for such an insightful post!

  29. i know this post is ancient now, but it is awesome.

    there are a lot of things we can do for ourselves, and i am so happy to read such an eloquent post on the need for human companionship. it is as basic a human need as there is, just as there is for food, oxygen and water. it feels very unfair that such a basic need is so hard to satisfy. the dependence on other people makes it such a fragile thing. and you can have it, and lose it – for hundreds of reasons. and the search continues.

    i am not sure that people who match the media’s idea of beautiful have an easier time finding a really, really good match – only that the field to choose from seems to be a lot broader. but attraction being subjective, is that even true? i wonder. it’s sure as hell easier to feel confident when you’re not struggling with self-loathing and fat-hatred and people who judge your character by your BMI. but when you’re thin and dating, are the *quality* of those matches all that great? i am less convinced, all the time, that this can even be the case. i think the media makes us *believe* it is easier, but i doubt that it really is. i see so many truly beautiful people of all sizes, with so much confidence drained by media messages that tell us we all suck, in bad relationships – some really abusive ones (rihanna and c.brown?) – just because of the destructive nature of those messages. ‘you’re ugly and need to spend big money on yourself to be lovable’ – that notion hurts everyone, and is extremely destructive. no one should hear that shit, fat or thin or anywhere in-between. it’s just especially destructive in a climate of fat-hate that practically qualifies as war.

    between age 15 and 21, i successfully starved myself into what i thought everyone agreed was the perfect shape, and it so happened at that time that i found my sweetie. he thought i needed a few pounds, and that if he waited, i’d probably fatten up a bit. i’ve been in that solid, loving and supportive relationship for well over a decade, starting when i was a miserable harridan who was the perfect shape and continuing through this day, when i am now far from both ‘perfect’ and ‘miserable’.

    i’m so much happier now. being in a loving relationship allowed me, eventually, to stop torturing and starving myself and become a person who was enjoyable to be around – which believe me, i was not, not when i was hungry all the time and obsessing about every fucking thing i put in my mouth. i was the most irritating nutritional evangelist ever. how he put up with me when i was in that state, i do not know, but he’s a patient sort. and he loves food, so he slowly wore me down. there must have been some good material clearly under the surface then, so he was willing to wait until i calmed the fuck down and treated food like food instead of like extremely dangerous seeds of the destruction of human civilization.

    love is amazing that way. it does amazing things for us. it is a basic human need. and i think it’s why it’s doubly cruel that we hear shouting commercials every day telling us how horrible we are without this product or that one, or that when we are perfect we will finally find The One. we’re constantly living in a state of (perfect) imperfection. and we always need and deserve love, and food and water, and oxygen, and movement, and mental stimulation, and dozens of other things. we don’t earn those things when we have achieved a state of grace, we get them as we go along, always struggling for balance.

  30. It’s refreshing just to see somebody acknowledge in writing that even if we’d like our self-concepts to be so independently sturdy that they stand up on their own without support from the people around us, it probably just doesn’t work that way.

    I actually think it’s good for us to be interdependent beings. Not just women dependent on men, mind you, but people of all sorts dependent on those with whom they have – or need (as with children to their parents) – meaningful relationships.

    It would sure make life a whole lot easier if I never needed anyone else to tell me I’m okay, but we’re relational beings, and the very real benefit of strong, good relationships deserves to be celebrated and appreciated.

    For my part, I’m still looking for the right guy. But I’m still not sure I’d get by without all the little ways I’m supported, helped, and encouraged by the people I do have in my life. (Even when some of them still can’t accept that the fat me is also the real me).

  31. Kate, I know this comment is about a bajillion Internet years old, but I just want to say thank you, THANK YOU, for this post. I’ve had it favorited for a couple of months now and I give it a read any time I have a bad day. It helps…. a lot.

  32. Hey Kate, Thanks so much for writing this superb post. As a dark skinned African American female who choses to sport my natural hair and common sense, I deal with serious issues of marginalization. I really appreciate your candid openness about how it is healthy and normal for people to want to have partners and how there is in fact a direct correlation in how it can make you feel. I have been berated and patronized by friends and family for being open and honest about my interest in a relationship and although these same friends have boyfriends and back up boyfriends on speed dial, I have to constantly explain my unhappiness and why it is legitimate in a society in which relationships and heteronormative fantasy is shoved down our throats full stop. I always find it fascinating that people who are oppressed are forced to explain the source of their oppression, while being told by others that they should not feel oppressed and that there must be something wrong with them for their emotions, while the same people who know nothing about this oppression aren’t asked any questions at all. They are only, in what must be the comfortable position of, casting judgement and pity. I hope I made some sense. Thanks again. In serious solidarity :)

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