You can find out how much better things can get

Inspired by a lively thread at Feministe on how to be a feminist boyfriend (and thinking about Dar William’s brilliant song about figuring out that you might want a feminist boyfriend in the first place), I’m tossing this question out there in the hope that this post can become a resource for us all:

What are your suggestions for people who want to be body-positive partners?

I am incredibly lucky to have found a feminist, body-positive partner who was that way when I met him, so when I asked him just now what his answer to the above question was, he said, “Don’t be a jerk.”* Which is, of course, the real answer to “How to be a good partner, period.” Unfortunately, as we all know, most people’s standards for How Not To Be A Jerk don’t yet include being body-positive — but we’re working to change that here! Meanwhile, I can tell you that, uh, Mr Machine** has seen my body lose and gain weight for various reasons without ever commenting negatively about my size or any aspect of my body. That’s obviously an important first step! Another thing that I think is an aspect of body positivity that helps us talk about fat acceptance as well is not being squeamish with each other. I’m not talking about suddenly feeling fine at the sight of blood, or about me telling him about my menstrual cramps in lyrical detail. But we’ve lived together for five years now and are not afraid to talk about what’s going on with our bodies, so if he says something about being “concerned about my health,” I know he’s actually concerned about my health instead of using that as a cover story for being dissatisfied with my body.

Mr Machine also pointed out that there are some good role models in the world to follow in being a good feminist (of whatever gender), but vanishingly few on how to be body positive (for whatever size or shape bodies). Given that, I suggest we use this thread as a brainstorming session as well as a pooling of resources. What have you experienced with a body-positive partner (or being a body-positive partner)? What would you like to experience? How can we all resolve to be more body-positive in our own current and future relationships?

*Okay, and then we got into a long, detailed conversation about the difficulty of summing up how to not be fatphobic, since fatphobia saturates our culture. He’s a good egg, that one.

**We’re not actually married, but it sounds catchy, doesn’t it?

106 thoughts on “You can find out how much better things can get

  1. my s.o. is very supportive, and has been through all of the secret diets and eating disordered behaviors i’ve been pulling away from. he’s a good role model, if you will, as a man that has had very little socialization to be concerend with his weight or how much he eats. so his freedom and relazed eating attitudes inspire me. also, as you said SM, a very open attitude with each other about pretty much anything (“icky” stuff included) helps. not making comments about *other* people’s bodies is important, too.

  2. I agree 100% with both of your criteria (controlling your reaction to a partner’s weight gain or loss, and getting over squeamishness about natural bodily functions, changes, and health issues).

    The only other thing I can think of is that body-positive goes along with food-positive for me. It can be a little bit of a sticky situation, but basically my feeling is that critiquing what is on your partner’s plate is off-limits. (Unless I do something like make a dinner that is supposed to feed both of us, then serve myself 3/4 of it and leave my husband without enough to eat–then I can see complaining about it because that would be inconsiderate–so let’s say critiquing because of what effect you think that meal might have on your partner’s body or because you think it is “unhealthy” in today’s sense of “unhealthy” being code for “emblematic of gluttony and the ‘obesity epidemic.'”) Maybe I mean that a body-positive partner should be aware that if he/she feels judgment or disapproval of what his/her partner eats, it is his/her responsibility to control that reaction and whether it gets expressed.

    Of course there are situations where, as you say, a body-positive partner might truly be concerned about my health–for example, if I weren’t eating much and he were concerned that it was due to stress; or I was avoiding certain types of foods and he thought this might be because of a flare-up of symptom x or y and maybe I should make a doctor’s appointment; or if I am binge eating and again he was concerned that I was stressed out, since I do have a history of that. But it is pretty easy to slide from these examples into “you shouldn’t eat that because you’ll get fat” so mostly I think that what is on a grown-up’s plate is her own business.

  3. God, I could write these advice columns all day. Maybe I shoulda been an advice columnist. I’m going to write my advice as if directed to men because, well, because I’m sexist. And “he or she” or “your partner” is clumsy. But all the below apply to women, too. And lesbians, gay men, queers and transpeople. Of course.

    1. Don’t date someone you don’t really, truly, find attractive. This sounds “duh!” but I’ve dated at least two men like this. They thought “hey, this chick is smart, interesting, and vaguely cute, and she’s interested in me! Wee!” Then later decided they weren’t attracted to me. I choose to believe it was because of homosocial desires to be validated by dating an appropriately thin woman, but it could have been anything, really. One even told me straight up that he wasn’t sufficiently attracted to me. Talk about ouch. Obviously relationships will end, but they shouldn’t end for this reason, because you shouldn’t have dated in the first place.

    2. Don’t tell her she shouldn’t eat something (unless, of course, she’s allergic or intolerant, or tends to feel ill every time she has a Big Mac). There’s a ton of cultural pressure about “good foods” and “bad foods” and any “advice” is likely to be interpreted as judgment. I once ended up crying and in a fight after one of those same boyfriends told me that I shouldn’t get another hot dog, at a Cubs game.

    3. Tell your partner why you find her attractive. Don’t just say “you’re beautiful,” be specific and direct. This sounds cheesy, but if you don’t just end up doing this by accident, have a session where you lie around naked and look at and talk about what you like about each other’s bodies.

    4. Be gross. I would go even a step further than sweet machine, and this is not gender-directed: I think our squeamishness and secrecy about defecation, pissing, menstruation, gas, smelly feet, etc, are all tied up with our internalized self-loathing and our alienation from our bodies. This will be very hard at first, but the more comfortable you become doing “gross” things around your partner, and/or talking about them when necessary, the more comfortable you will feel with each other’s bodies and the better you will feel about your own body.

    5. Don’t criticize your own body, or at least if you do it acknowledge that what you’re doing is problematic. If your partner hears you say “god, my gut is so fat,” (whether or not you are actually fat) she’s going to think “if he thinks his fatness is gross, why is mine just fine?” Of course, it very well might be that you hate your fatness and love hers, but you do have to be careful about this.

    6. Learn how to respond to the “I am/feel so fat” talk. Even the most HAES-oriented still feel this way occasionally, and it’s good to talk about. Don’t say “No, you’re not!” Do. Not. Ask her why she feels particularly bad today, and remind her that it’s passing, and that there are a lot of other days where she feels super hot (assuming, of course, that there are such days). Tell her again wh you are attracted to her. Explore why she might be feeling negative about her body. For me, at least, there are often very concrete reasons.

    I think 6 things is enough for now.

  4. I started seeing a new guy about 2 weeks ago and it is stealthily making it’s way into “boyfriend” territory, so I don’t have this guy totally sussed yet, but even on our first date I’ve been sneakily making comments about various food and weight issues to see if he agrees with me.

    Me: “Yeah, growing up female it is hard to shake off the idea that calories are my enemy, but since I’m a runner I really need them and my yummy carbs to be good at running.”

    Him: “Yeah, I think a lot of people forget that calories are energy.”

    Later…

    Him: “All my family gatherings revolve around eating really good food and talking about good food we ate in the past.”

    Me: “Haha, half my extended family members are on diets, so we eat good food and then talk about how we shouldn’t have.”

    Him: “Wow, that sounds really disappointing.”

    We have also navigated the landmine of making full fat (read: heavy cream!) Guinness stout ice cream together, and besides laughing with a random guy in the store about how they were selling fat-free half and half, there were no comments about the fatty fat fatness of the ice cream or how much we should or shouldn’t eat. With chocolate sauce!

    So, I have a lot of hope for this guy, which would be a super great change from my last serious boyfriend, who has some serious orthorexic tendencies since both his parents have diabetes. Although he never directly disparaged my body or eating choices, he had a constant monologue going about why this or that was horrible and more than once I snapped at him “Well, are you going to eat it or not?”

  5. I don’t know how relevant this is, but don’t pretend that your body isn’t changing with age. There’s nothing worse than having to go up a dress size while your husband stubbornly refuses to go up one pants size (when he obviously needs to). The whole air of “I’m not changing as I age, I’m special” is kind of a blow to the ego.

  6. m.leblanc, your first bit of advice hits home so hard for me. One of my first serious boyfriends seemed to feel that way for me, and while he didn’t reveal exactly how ambivalent he was about my look until we lived in different states and had effectively broken up, it still might be one of the most hurtful things anyone ever said to me. I still worry about it. Even after insisting right, left and forward that my looks didn’t matter because no one’s looks mattered to him, I still feel betrayed by those feelings.

    I guess I’d like to maybe add an additional angle to the question. Is it ever truly possible to be attracted to every other aspect of a person SO MUCH that looks don’t matter, either because you grow to love them, or because you are happy otherwise? I worry about this a lot, mainly because I worry that no one will ever find me physically attractive enough to be serious with.

  7. he had a constant monologue going about why this or that was horrible and more than once I snapped at him “Well, are you going to eat it or not?”

    Tangerina, TOTALLY. This is so hard to take.

  8. OT: NobodyInParticular, for what it’s worth, I’ve been reading that hate piece and the comments (and looking at the Dove ad incredulously to see what she’s on about) and…that one just isn’t worth it. The woman is a loon, the comments are horribly depressing, the article is nothing but poorly-written trash/hate like the “10 Reasons” list. Just…not worth giving hits or time to, IMO. Flamebait. She seems to make a career out of that.

    Topic: When angry with one another, never resort to body insults. For example, if your husband has psoriasis, don’t call him alligator-skin when you’re pissed at him. Nor should he call you a fat f*** if he’s mad at you. Or vice versa. Not because the person is self-conscious about those things (whether or not they are) but because you’re supposed to love the person regardless of those things, and coming from you, it will hurt more than just saying “You asshole.” Which works just as well when you’re really mad.

  9. This is a really good idea. I’m excited to read this thread as it grows.

    My partner is so good, and I’m like, “dang, what are the principles he’s operating by?” I can’t ask him, because he’s asleep, and even if he were awake, I think he’d have a hard time articulating them, because I think it’s just in his nature to treat people with respect.

    But since I’ve been with him, I’ve been realizing how often I have the impulse to ask for someone else’s approval when I make a decision about my body. It’s kind of startling, really, because I hear him telling me over and over “that’s your choice, sweetie.” And every time I heard that, I’m like, “oops, I just slipped into insecure and alienated-from-myself mode.”

    I’m having a difficult time thinking of examples right now, which is kind of annoying, but I think they often involve questions of when/what I should eat and when/how I should exercise. But yeah, he holds the line for me: your body, your choice.

    Also, if we’re talking about body positive partners, sex comes into it. There are subtle ways that women can yield control of their bodies – separate their actions from their desires – while having sex that most people would call “consensual.” Like, for example, at a certain point she stops enjoying something but continues anyway, as a “courtesy.” I think this is really common. My partner knows this is really common, and he finds this idea offensive.

    I think that’s key, too. Being a body positive partner means wanting your partner to enjoy the experience of being in her body – not wanting her to alienate herself from herself for any reason.

    Okay, he just woke up.

    Me: They’re talking about tips for being a body-positive partner on the Shapely Prose this morning.

    Him: Oh, should I read?

    See how good?

  10. I remember back when my husband and I were still dating, and I said to him, “Would you prefer it if I were thinner?” and he looked at me, flabbergasted, and said, “Why would I?” He’s a keeper :)

    I think the most important thing is to take it seriously. My husband is thin, so he doesn’t experience fat-phobia in his day-to-day life. When I tell him about it, or point it out to him, he really listens and tries to understand. That means a lot to me.

  11. Great topic! Thanks for broaching it. I think that most everyone has covered the bad things, which are about all I’ve experienced at this point. I like hearing how folks are healthy in relationships…it’s very hopeful.

  12. My husband constantly says things like “nice ass!” He knows he’s being a drooling lech, so it’s slightly tongue-in-cheek, but the sentiment behind it–that he really does get turned on at the sight of me bent over or whatever–gives me the warm fuzzies.

    Interestingly, he’s not a chubby chaser per se. He does prefer bigger women (and he’s also bisexual, and tends to prefer beefier guys, too) but more than anything else, he’s attracted to people for who they are, and not what container they come in. He’s generically attracted to a stouter, fluffier body, and not really attracted to smaller ones, but as he tells me, he loves my body because it’s MY body and he loves me, so therefore he loves my body.

    Interesting anecdote, however. We were in the grocery store yesterday, and I got a dirty look from an overtanned, over-botoxed, over-made-up clearly anorexic middle-aged woman. I felt sorry for her because she was clearly dealing with some very deep body hatred of her own to do all those things to herself, but yes, I was still annoyed to get the once-over/judgemental sneer that someone my size gets quite often.

    After we walked away, I explained to him what had happened (he hadn’t noticed, having been staring into the deli case) and he put an arm around my shoulders and said, “Seriously? She was probably glaring at you because she was jealous, because you have a husband following you around and loving on you in the grocery store and she didn’t.”

    While I’m sure that wasn’t really what she was thinking, the idea amused me nonetheless, because thinking back, I DO think I’ve gotten that kind of reaction from time to time. Some conventionally attractive single women look at us (especially as we tend to fairly constant mild PDA) and get angry because a short, hatchet-faced fattie like me “shouldn’t” have a loving husband while they remain single.

    Ah, if they only knew the secret: Stop pursuing image-obsessed jerks and find a guy who wants a human being, and not a two-dimensional magazine page.

  13. Last week, my boyfriend and I were looking at pictures of my trip to Costa Rica. He remarked on the beautiful scenery, and how sexy I looked in my halter top tankini. It was fun, right up until he literally POINTED and LAUGHED at a fat woman in the background of one picture. Like, she didn’t have the right to wear shorts in a tropical climate on the trip of a lifetime.

    I broke up with him two days ago.

    Moral of the story: don’t try to express how attractive you find your partner by comparing her/his body to (or putting down) someone else’s body. That comes right back to “don’t be a jerk.”

  14. Long-time reader, first time poster — that’s what they say, right?

    I feel compelled to post, because I woke up thinking about this very subject this morning. I read Shapely Prose because I’m trying to become more body-positive (both with regard to myself and others). My partner, though, seems to have been born body positive and never lost that.

    Some things I really appreciate about him:

    – He tells me that I’m beautiful frequently — and not when I’ve just got made up to go out. He most often tells me that I’m beautiful when I’m not wearing makeup, when I’m dressed scrubbily, in the morning when I haven’t brushed my hair, etc. I don’t ever feel like I have to do something to make myself beautiful to him.

    – He catches me when I’m engaging in negative thinking about my own body. In fact, being body-positive is an important value for him — he discusses how much he hopes that we can instill body-positivity in our own children. (This is part of what’s spurred me on my own search for body-positiveness; I have inherited a lot of negative ideas about fat and anxiety about eating from my parents.)

    – When he comments on my body (besides the “you’re beautiful” sort of comments), he is talking about what my body can do for me, or how healthy it is. He loves thinking about the fact that my female body can bear and nourish children. Or that I can do some physical feat that I’ve set out to do. Not that he’d criticise if I couldn’t.

    Which brings me to the last, and I think the key point for a body-positive partner:
    – He does not comment on my body’s changing shape. During our many years together, I have both gained and lost about 20% of my body weight. (Yes, much of this has to do with my own mixed relationship with my own body.) He has NEVER complimented me for getting thinner, criticised me for getting fatter, or vice-versa. I have never gotten the sense that there is one way that he’d like my body to be — he’s attracted to me every which way, and he doesn’t place more value on one form than another.

  15. I guess I’d like to maybe add an additional angle to the question. Is it ever truly possible to be attracted to every other aspect of a person SO MUCH that looks don’t matter, either because you grow to love them, or because you are happy otherwise?

    I think so, FWIW. Since I’m very sensually oriented, other senses besides sight inform my attraction response very easily. How someone smells, feels, sounds, tastes, matters to me just as much, if not more so, than what he looks like. I mean, there are probably about 10,000 other guys in PDX who superficially “resemble” C., but there’s only one C. for me.

    But…don’t be so quick to assume nobody will think you’re cute, either. I assumed that, too, and I was dead wrong and happy to be so.

    This is a great topic! I think one thing I want to see every fat person have in a partner is this: You need someone who does not auto-assume that fat is “bad” and that people who are fat have done something “bad” to get that way. You want someone who wants you to enjoy your damn food, damn it. Also you need someone who’s not so frigging hung up about how your weight “reflects” on them. We’re all well past seventh grade now, okay?

  16. My fiance ( it’s still so fun and new to say “fiance,” and we’ve been engaged for a month and a half ) has always been amazing about my body. He has Crohn’s Disease, which makes his relationship with food a complicated one. It also makes him very thin (though he’s gone from underweight to just thin since we’ve been together, which is wonderful for him, health-wise). Our weight and food issues have been pretty opposite: he couldn’t gain weight, I couldn’t lose it.
    Through my various stages of yo-yo dieting, he always said I was beautiful and didn’t notice when I gained or lose weight. Now that I’ve stopped dieting, he’s thrilled because I’m not hating myself anymore. :)

  17. Sorry, I know it was obvious, Sweetmachine, but I’ve seen a lot of people do it – only when they’re very heated up in anger. We tend to stick to generic “Fuck offs” when really pissed lol. Hey, it’s been a long hard life so far ;) (John McCain has always struck me as a hothead. But not Bill Clinton, which is why it kind of surprised me that they exchanged some similarly foul words on inauguration day. IIRC she called him a MF and he called her an effing b*** lol. But in another way you know that other people get mad at each other behind closed doors and yell too; it happens. Just remember not to hit below the belt, I suppose; which is all part of not being a jerk.)

  18. Oh, AnnieMcPhee, I was not meaning to imply that it was a bad suggestion! Clearly, what seems “obvious” to some of us is not obvious to the world at large.

  19. “I guess I’d like to maybe add an additional angle to the question. Is it ever truly possible to be attracted to every other aspect of a person SO MUCH that looks don’t matter, either because you grow to love them, or because you are happy otherwise?”

    Yes. I know this for an absolute, personal fact, in both directions, and have seen it in others too. When you spend decades building a life with someone and stick together through it, nurse each other through all kinds of illnesses and such, been in the delivery room together, and all that… that really helps – you don’t see them the way anyone else does. Sometimes my husband points out flaws to me that he’s self-conscious about and I just…haven’t seen them. There was also a wedding I heard about recently where the bride and her children had been very badly burned and were scarred (well actually, she is still being treated and it was hard to even get a dress on for her) and the man just loved them so much that all the scars and burned faces weren’t a factor in attraction or love. (I add that because they hadn’t been through a life together yet and naturally it isn’t limited to that.)

  20. I totally understood, sweet; but when I saw fillyjonk’s spider comment it made me laugh at myself for the second time today – first was when I posted it :D Thanks :)

  21. When I asked my partner, he said ‘ignore all physical reality’ – so, I suppose finding someone who would be perfectly content to be brain in a jar, with the ability to move physical objects is one approach.

    Since that’s not all that helpful, what I’ve found to be good from the receiving end is:
    – don’t talk to me about your concerns for my health, period. I know I’m on the extreme end of this, but it’s pretty reciprocal in our relationship. (I don’t think this could work if you wanted to comment on your perception of your parter’s health, but they couldn’t comment on yours.) Even when it’s honest-to-goodness concern, I’m only comfortable with the lightest of treading, because most approaches set off my responses to being controlled. While I hope not everyone has my hair-trigger, I think that it’s often safest to *only* speak up about health stuff when there’s an immediate possible danger. We’re all adults, and can take responsibility for the other ongoing aspects of our own health.

    – don’t be judgmental generally, and when you can’t help it, try to hide it. Even if someone never voices a judgment about fat folks, if they’re judging based on other criteria, it’s not going to be comfortable, since the judging mindset can help start up negative self-talk in lots of us.

    – do be specific in your compliments! Someone mentioned this above, and it’s a great way to short circuit the ‘but you’re just saying I’m beautiful because you have to’ contrariness that can sometimes come up.

    – do be aware of fatphobia generally, not just when you’re with your S.O. – it doesn’t have to become your reigning passion, but it’s great if your awareness of it doesn’t being and end with your SO.

    – accept that you may become the most supportive, loving and body-positive partner in the world, and that’s not going to make your SO’s body image issues go away. Especially for guys, I think that this can be hard, because it’s really difficult to accept that there are some situation where you’ve ‘made it better’, but it still sucks.

    That’s all I can think of for now, but I’d imagine that there is TONS of collective wisdom from the Shapelings – I know of a few people who I may direct this way so that they can get a primer on things.

  22. Aw, Juliafaye, congratulations on your engagement!

    Mr. Twistie and I are coming up on fifteen years of marriage this june, and he still makes me squee. May Mr. Faye (if I may call him that) will bring you the same kind of joy.

    As for what makes my heart sing so much for Mr. Twistie, well, he’s always solidly there for me. No matter how I’m feeling about my weight or any other aspect of me, he takes the time to tell me how beautiful and sexy he finds me. He also tells me I’m smart, I’m funny, and I’m talented.

    He encourages me to bake because he knows how happy it makes me even when he can’t eat many of the results due to diabetes and high cholesterol.

    He spends more time concerning himself with my happiness than my looks.

    He appreciates my mind as well as my body.

    He’s never once made fun of anything about my looks…not even the terrible perm I got once that made me want to cry, but really was quite hilarious looking when I got past my woe. Looking back, I know just how hard it must have been for him to keep his sense of humor in check, and I love him extra hard for doing it. In his shoes, I’m not sure I could have done the same.

    When I made some life changes that resulted in quite a bit of weight loss (I had been seriously bingeing and not exercising at all and in my case that wound up putting me at a weight well above my body’s set point), he never said he was glad that I was thinner. And he never once grudged the money I had to spend on new clothes every few months while my weight dropped steadily. He just kept telling me he thought I was beautiful and encouraging me to do what made me happy. And then he’d ooh and ahh approppriately when the next parade of new clothes came along.

    He has listened patiently as I work my way through the mental/emotional minefield that is coming to terms with accepting what my body is and how it’s going to work. When I have a breakthrough, he treats it with respect. when I have a bad day, he tries to treat me to something nice, be it a food treat, taking me someplace fun, or just helping me get my brain out of a gloomy rut by joking with me about something else.

    Oh, and he once broke up with a girl shortly after she sneered that a friend of his shopped at Lane Bryant. He also told me that story shortly after we got together. I was actually quite thin at the time, but I was pissed off on his friend’s behalf, too. Who cares what size clothes she wears? She’s got a heart as big as all outdoors.

    All in all, Mr. Twistie is a hell of a keeper.

    And if I asked him how to be a good partner for a Shapeling, I know he’d just look very confused and shrug his shoulders. Eventually, he’d probably agree that not being a jerk is all there is to it.

  23. I’m going to be watching this, as my spouse and I have been talking about how to raise body-positive boys…

    I think the reason my spouse didn’t have much of a learning curve here was that he already had an anti-racist and anti-sexist analysis in place (he introduced me to white privilege, actually) so it just fit right in.

    Also, his upbringing was very religious, and that didn’t translate into egalitarian models for gender roles on all fronts, obviously, but it did give him an early suspicion of what he would later, in light of his anti-oppression work, see to be a commodification of women’s bodies under the auspices of sexual attractiveness.

    Also we put our own body issues out there to a degree I think is healthy. He’s smaller than I am… whenever I’m around his family I tower over them and outweigh them by 40 pounds or more and I always want to stomp my feet and yell “TINY PEOPLE OF EARTH… SURRENDER…” In spite of myself I sometimes feel like that makes us an ugly-looking couple and means that I’m unfeminine in our marriage, whatever that means. He’s also talked about how being small of stature hurt him growing up. I’m glad we’re able to talk about that.

  24. So…this is really girly and nerdy, but I have a list of qualities I would like in my future husband, and one of them is loving me the way I am, especially my body.
    It makes me glad that so many Shapelings have good partners, it makes me think there’s hope for single gals like me. :)

  25. @ K:

    The short story is The Internets introduced us.

    The longer story is that I decided internet dating was bizarre, so I made up a game to weed out the boring people: I posted an ad asking for participants in an Alphabet Dating Series. All of the activities and foods on each date had to correspond to the appropriate letter of the alphabet – that is, the next one in alphabetical order from my perspective. Like, A for art and apples, B for burritos, beer, and bowling, C for chick pea curry, chocolate chip cookies, and a concert. I ended up falling in love with Mr. Q. (Quiche, quesadillas, quinoa salad, quince paste – which, um, stomach ache! But omg, he wrote me a quiz in the form of a quatrain.)

    And yeah, as a side note, there’s nothing like an alphabetical diet to make you appreciate a return to intuitive eating.

  26. Wow. How do you all find these great guys?
    I guess there are some good things about bad ones, though, if for you – like me – they are the catalyst for active self-acceptance. After years of hating my own body, it was a surprise, when my boyfriend said he didn’t like the weight gain that had pushed me slightly into the ‘overweight’ category, to hear my own voice saying that that was too bad – that he was not welcome to make negative comments about my weight. First time I’d ever stood up for myself or my body. So I guess he’s an example of what a good partner SHOULDN’T be.
    I guess that guy is an example

  27. Not only does my boyfriend adore both me and my body at all levels of disarray, he’s also a keen reader of the fatosphere AND he’s spreading the FA/HAES message wherever he goes… Hmmm. How did I deserve someone like that again?

    P.S. Mr.Bee (a.k.a. Dreamboat) is out of town so I can’t ask what his recipe for being a body-positive partner is… sorry!

  28. Totally good move, Daine.

    I remember sitting on the couch watching t.v. with this one guy I was dating right out of college. Buffy came on, and he referred to the actress as “Sarah Michelle Smellar” and laughed about the size of her nose.

    I thought, “Shit, one day I’m going to be the one he cracks a joke about.”

    You did yourself a huge favor.

  29. Sigh…I’m still “training” Mr Phledge to be body-positive. He has his own issues about his body and I think they bleed over into what he thinks he wants out of his wife, so it’s slow going. Also, a lot of what he learned about women was, unfortunately, via porn. I could strangle and eviscerate his abusive, cold-hearted parents. (“If you can’t be a good example, you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.” –Catherine Aird)

    Ultimately, he really does care about me and just has a regular dose of cognitive dissonance due to what he thinks he wants and what he ends up getting.

  30. Just one more comment in vehement support of the concept that you you feel about someone changes how they appear to you – I met and married the most beautiful man I had ever laid eyes on, and ten years later divorced a man I couldn’t stand to look at after I learned he was sleeping with a young co-worker. Fifteen years post-divorce, I can appreciate his male-model GQ looks, but am not even the slightest bit attracted.

    However, as someone who is not only well-padded but well-seasoned, I think my relationship days are past. I congratulate all you much wiser if younger women on the wonderful men many of you have found; I wish I had looked past the Adonis face and perfect body to the small and shallow soul, and made a different choice – I might now have a human partner along with two small dogs sharing the bed.

  31. My husband needed a little gentle education about feminism – not calling people over 18 “girls” for instance. And he wasn’t body positive about himself, and initially said I was “bigger than I expected from the pictures.” Certain sexual activities convinced him that I was his dream date, though. :)

    He is the fattest person in his family, and got teasing at school and disapproval at home. The first time I rubbed his wonderful fuzzy tummy he was very embarrased, and said kids at school used to say “Ed, this is your tummy talking” then say mean things. (There was a commercial with a little kid with the “Edmund, this is your tummy talking” thing). He overcame the shame and ever since we have a habit of rubbing tummies and saying “Tummy love is the best love!” Silly, I know, but loving. He is an artist and was already drawing hot fat chicks before I knew him, too.

    Mostly he’s just a naturally gentle, kind person. Feminism fit in with his habitual kindness well.

  32. I would say the big one is be open minded and listen. My fiance was not particularly fat-positive when we met (he wasn’t a jerk, but had the usual socially ingrained prejudices). I actually discovered this blog and FA a little while after we started dating. As I learned, I taught him, and because he was listening with an open mind, he soon came around. Now he stands up for fat people (and stands up for me, when I’m standing up for fat people), which I appreciate so, so much. As a few other people have mentioned, he also constantly tells me how much he loves my body (with such obvious sincerity), and that’s helped so much with my body image issues.

    “I guess I’d like to maybe add an additional angle to the question. Is it ever truly possible to be attracted to every other aspect of a person SO MUCH that looks don’t matter, either because you grow to love them, or because you are happy otherwise?”

    Well, I wouldn’t be so sure nobody will ever find you physically attractive! Everybody is attracted to different things. But the answer is yes. There have been people in the past who I didn’t find particularly physically attractive at first, but as I got to know them, I became more and more attracted to them. Like Meowser, I’m not a particularly visually oriented person. I can appreciate a good looking person, but as far as what makes me want to have sex with someone, looks aren’t really at the top of the list. The interesting thing though is for me, being attracted to someone in other ways makes them start looking more visually attractive to me as well. When I first met my fiance I thought he was cute but not really my type looks wise, but now I think he’s gorgeous. And when I picture what he looked like to me on our first meeting, he looks different to me than he does now, even though he hasn’t changed much physically. I just see him through different eyes. So yes… I think it’s quite possible that if you meet a guy who thinks you’re great, he could find you attractive even if you’re not normally his physical type. But I think it’s also possible that you will meet somebody who does have you as his physical type!

  33. Sweetmachine, I’m flattered!

    (Also, you and your sweetheart could have an alphabet date of your own…)

  34. My husband is extremely body-positive and supportive of my eating disorder recovery. I knew he was a keeper when I was anxious in meeting him because of my weight and he told me he didn’t care what I looked like. I know a lot of what it is I’m about to suggest has been repeated by others here, but it’s always good to reinforce it.

    1. He refuses to support my instances of body hate speech. When I start bemoaning how much I hate the loose skin on my stomach or how fat I am, Brandon neither affirms or refutes what it is I say. He lets me get it out of my system and then ignores it. It’s really difficult to carry on a conversation with someone who refuses to join in on the subject; eventually, you start to trail off. I know he isn’t ignoring me and that he hears me, but he refuses to join in in any way whatsoever in that kind of self loathing talk. He also doesn’t come back with “But honey you’re so beautiful,” because he knows I will think he’s full of shit and being patronizing.

    2. He does tell me I am beautiful, but not constantly, so when he says it, I know he means it and it’s not because he’s supposed to say it. Some other women may prefer to hear this compliment a lot, but I’d rather hear about how smart I am or how fabulous my hair looks than constantly be generically told I am beautiful.

    3. He makes no comments or acknowledgments about what it is or how much I eat. Ever.

    4. He not only tells me he loves me and often, he’s also very physically affectionate and lets me know that he is very much attracted to me.

    5. He doesn’t notice other women, or at least, doesn’t let on that he does. I will say to him, “Ugh, did you see what that woman was wearing?” and he’ll say “What woman?” He’s really kind of oblivious in this sense.

    6. He supports my research and my causes and even reads my blog. He came with me to the last Big Fat Blog Think Tank, even though he must have been bored silly (I’m the activist, he’s the couch potato) and even agreed to be questioned on national television for the segment on fat health I appeared on, even though he is extremely introverted and shy. He also regularly sends me news links to related articles and stories he thinks I will be interested in blogging about or adding to my arsenal of research. But he’s also not an echo chamber and will debate with me on issues.

    7. He exercises with me, even though he doesn’t like it and is the kind who can eat all he wants and never gain a pound. And I know it’s also not because he wants to me to lose weight- It’s because I hate to be alone, especially when we could be together.

    8. He went totally vegetarian for me. He was partially veggie when I met him, and went total veggie after we met. Vegetarianism aside, adopting my personal diet as his own shows me that he respects my food choices and beliefs. Following your partner’s diet may not be a requirement of a body-positive partner, but having my husband validate my diet in such a show of support shows me he not only respects my beliefs, it also encourages me to continue to eat healthy and not relapse into eating disordered behaviors.

    9. He immediately changes the channel when diet commercials come on television.

    10. He loves me unconditionally – and I know it.

  35. Thanks, everyone, for all your great suggestions so far — and I just want to add that despite the fact that this thread has been pretty hetero-centric so far, queer Shapelings and non-female-identified Shapelings are highly encouraged to share your tips and stories too! I was going to address this in my post, but I realized my relationships with women have been so fraught with my own body anxieties (because I’ve been with Mr Machine since before I discovered FA) that I didn’t have much personal experience with body positivity in a queer context.

  36. I want to add that love can make attraction, but for me it’s important that there is physical, and not just mental, attraction. And that can and does happen. My husband wasn’t, way back when, my “type” – but now he is. And now I find myself more likely to, ahem, take a second appreciative look at men who share his profile.

    In the great wide world I want to be judged on the content of my character and not of my bra, but I specifically want my partner to desire me. For me, a good partner is also someone who will be expressively lustful – in a mutual, playful, the-only-good-sex-is-fun-for-everyone manner.

    I’d been married once and said I wasn’t going to get married again, but my now-husband and I decided to commit to parenting together after we’d been together 5 years. I had our first kiddo just before Valentine’s day – and I was a deflated milky bloody sweaty mess, like you can be immediately postpartum. My husband brought me two valentine’s day cards: one that was romantic, and one that was … lusty. (Two cards, so if I wasn’t in the mood to read the lusty one, I could leave it until I was in a space to enjoy it. Thoughtful guy.)

    Anyway, that’s when I proposed to him. We’ve been together for 11 years total and I *still* get kind of silly around him if I see him out in public when I didn’t expect him there. It’s wild.

  37. When I used to complain to my husband about gaining weight or whatever (very infrequent now, since FA/SA) he would always say, “Well, do you feel healthy?” The point being, if I felt healthy I was healthy, and “fat” had nothing to do with it. Now I realize that that’s kind of a ‘healthist’ perspective, but at the time it really helped me to see that he cares about me, not the size or shape of my body. And if I said I didn’t feel healthy, he would suggest I get outside more, and invite me to go walk the dog with him. Anyway…he’s a good guy.

  38. Oh, Rachel, I TOTALLY hear you on the changing the channel on the diet commercials. My partner doesn’t change the channel, but he does make critical/cynical/mocking/ satirical commentary whenever we get hit with something new. The Weight Watchers un-diet commercials were worth a lot of jokes. ( just like the catholic church isn’t really a religion… etc. )

  39. Harriet — my grandfather got remarried at 83, after my grandmother passed away. I adore his new wife, who is “teapot” shaped – short and stout (which is very different from my slight, delicate grandmother). I’m so happy she became part of our family, and happy that they are happy. He clearly loves her, and she him. They’ve been married now for nearly 5 years. The point being, well-seasoned folks get to be in relationships, too.

    Otherwise, for body-positive relationships, I think not commenting on what I’m eating can’t be overestimated. This is true of friendships, too — it’s one of the things I love about my roommate, who almost never says a thing about what I have on my plate. Given some of my crazy food issues, I can’t stand to have folks comment on my food. I’ve taken to eating lunch in the women’s center at work (I work at a university), because people there get the women/body issues/food issues thing, and don’t ever comment on my food.

    Also, my ex, whatever his faults, made it clear to me in lots of different ways how attracted to me he was. His sincerity was clear. That’s stuck with me — even when I feel shitty, or think I’ll never find another partner, I can remember that *someone* found me attractive once upon a time, and it’s doubtful that he’s the only one.

  40. So aside from the spiders… I tried to get Dan to respond to this thread but I think he saves his typing energies for ham radio forums. Anyway, but I suspect that if I asked him how he manages to be a body-positive partner, he would say something like “well, I like you.” (“I’m not a jerk” is his answer to why he’s a feminist.) So I would say that the #1 important thing is not to be with anyone who doesn’t genuinely like you. Easier said than done, of course.

    Of course, he’s fat and grew up in a fat family (at almost 300 lbs he’s the smallest person in his immediate family, which really brings the genetics thing home). I think getting together might have given both of us a body image boost, since obviously we have no trouble anymore imagining how someone might find a fat body attractive. But I think liking me and listening to me regardless has been the most important thing.

  41. He makes no comments or acknowledgments about what it is or how much I eat. Ever.

    Oooh, that’s a really important one. I’ve said before that one of the things I love about my boyfriend is he’s never, ever said: “Are you really going to eat all that?”

  42. This is one of my biggest fears, not being able to find a body-positive person to spend my time with. I mean, friends can only take that so far. They’re not the ones who’re gonna be conscious of my body. And it scares me beyond belief that I won’t be able to find someone who’ll love my body they way I do.

    Anyway, I hope to find someone who’d respond to this question with “don’t be a jerk” as well. How delightful!

  43. My husband never worries that I eat too much. If I don’t eat for a while, he will push me to have a snack because I get grumpy if I don’t eat for too long–sheer self-preservation I think!

    He makes it clear that he’s attracted to me just as I am.

    He compliments my cooking, and doesn’t fuss about what exactly it is as long as it tastes good. And if it doesn’t taste good or he has an idea to improve it, he lets me know that too–so I know the compliments are real.

    He accepts his own weight, and doesn’t worry about it or whether he’s attractive because of it. Though he does like to know I find him attractive!

    He’s always liked a sturdier build in women, delicate is not a look he finds appealing.

    He supports my interests and activities, I went to our local caucus yesterday and he watched our three all by himself for the whole day even though he felt lousy. I made sure he got a chance to rest and relax today in return.

    He never forgets birthdays, he’s actually much better about this than I am.

  44. My sweetie is an accidental fat-positive partner. He started out being just bigmovesbabe-positive (because my quasi-porn emails were so fucking hot, I guess), and admitted at the beginning that I was the largest girl he’d ever been with. He also said that I was not his “preferred morph” (ouch!), but since he came of age in a faraway land, where short, slim, darker-skinned, dark-haired women predominate, I was willing to write that off to cultural conditioning and wait and see. Fortunately, all my many fabulosities ended up outweighing the conditioning, and then on top of that he got exposed to my perspective (surrounded by Big Moves on all sides), so by now he’s fully immersed. Again, incidental. He himself isn’t a proselytizer; he’s a genetics researcher, so if anything he tends to geek out on the science of fat and talks a good game there. But here are the things that he does that feel really affirming:

    – He enjoys food with me: making it, talking about it, eating it, eating out, eating in, all of it. He doesn’t say anything about amounts or type of food. He told me on the second date that he liked being with a girl who had an appetite. Yay!
    – He gets up close to me all the time. He loves being next to me, touching me. Not only in bed! All the time: holding my hand, leaning his chin on my shoulder while I’m prepping food, touching the small of my back as he gently guides me ahead of him through a door. He is so small compared to me (I have 8 inches on him in height, 130 pounds in weight), that every now and then I imagine that he must look like a little tugboat pulling a big freight around. But in a good way!
    – He does NOT tell me that all my dances are beautiful or sexy. He tells me what he likes or doesn’t like, specifically. He actually gives good critique. Like several other commenters, I prefer to get real, specific praise.

  45. Mr. Incredible has a less…socially approved?… body type than I do. So he gets possibly more crap for being fat than I ever do. (He gets hassled all the time. I get passive aggressively treated like crap. Tough call.)

    So if anything I think it is really nice for me to have someone else who understands how much it sucks to be treated like crap in public. I guess “be fat too” isn’t the greatest advice. But it works for us.

    He just came in and I asked him what he thought he did that helped me not feel like a fat ass all the time.

    His response.

    “Uhh…. I do this *inserts finger in mouth and pops his cheek”

    Which I think translates to, “Be Silly.”

  46. He never forgets birthdays, he’s actually much better about this than I am.

    D’oh, that’s us, except I am like an idiot savant with birthdays. It’s just our anniversary I have trouble with. My husband woke me up one day and asked if I knew what day it was, to which I replied “uhh… Tuesday?” It was our 9 month anniversary of the day we met. We got married last July and I still mistake our anniversary date for June sometimes.

  47. When I asked C. to comment on this, he wanted to know specifically if I meant “how to get fat haters not to be fat haters” or “how to get someone who is not a flat-out fat hater, who maybe has had a little too much of the thin-centric Kool-Aid but honestly would like to be better about it, to be a more body-positive partner.”

    I told him the latter was more of what we had in mind with this particular post (the former, of course, is an ongoing battle we wage here on Planet ‘Sphere), and he said the main thing he’d tell someone in that position is, “Accentuate the positive. Concentrate on what you like about a person instead of what you don’t like. Everybody has something.”

    And when I asked him what was sexy about me? He said my body shape, sure, but also…the fact that I cared so much about everything and had a good heart. That, he said, was a really big turn-on.

    **melt**

  48. Oh, and SM, I think “Don’t be John McCain” needs to be a t-shirt. Or maybe a tattoo.

    And Dar Williams rox my sox. Not just a great songwriter, but I have met her and she is super nice!

  49. Ya Meowser, ditto on Dar. I worked with her years ago and she’s not only nice and genuine, but she’s laugh out loud ’til you’re doubled over funny. Thanks for sending me down memory lane.

  50. WTF is up with the spiders?

    It’s an important quality in a partner — not making you lie in spiders. (Came from watching Couples Fear Factor — not my fault. I told SM that her man was a good boyfriend because he didn’t make her lie in spiders, and she said “no, that in particular is because he’s an ADEQUATE boyfriend.” Sort of like not being a jerk.)

  51. before i first met my partner (via craigslist, of all places), he said he didn’t care what size, color or age i was. i thought, “yeah, right!”

    but we’ve lived together for five years now, and i’ve accepted that it really is true for him on a fundamental level. he really cares WHO I AM, not what I look like. that was HUGE. external body fluctuations don’t phase him at all, but he also likes to hear about internal body stuff: to him, it’s a form of curiosity that is very intimate. everything he says to me and about me makes me feel sexy and capable and comfortable in my own skin. between unconditional acceptance from him & the encouragement of fat acceptance blogs, any internal criticism i have left doesn’t have much power anymore. :)

  52. I asked the better half and he said, “In the immortal words of Jesus, ‘Don’t be a dick’.”
    To which I replied, “You’re an atheist.”
    To which he answered, “Maybe it was Wil Wheaton then, but still. I just think of how nice you are to me. And how luscious you smell and how delicious you taste and how your cheek curves when you smile and how your ass is so bubbly and how your tits [remainder edited for …appropriateness]”

    So, I guess you should try to find a sensualist.

    Hubby and I were actually both self-loathing fatties when we met. Though he tells me that I won his heart by eating a full meal on our first date, we did fight about weight in the first year of our relationship (I had gotten depressed and gained quite alot of it, he disapprovingly pointed it out, I retorted by reminding him that he had gained nearly twice what I had and that he was being a superficial dickwad). We had wordlessly called a truce, not mentioning weight (mine returned to normal (normal still being obese according to BMI), his staying constant) for another two years before my feminist awakening and consequent discovery of FA. During the intervening years, we had definitely given each other specific compliments, enjoyed hawt sex, eaten with gusto, worked out (although I tend to be the hardcore one; he just likes spending time with me whatever we’re doing), and generally lived together with all of the previously icky body stuff (he’s un-gross-out-able, which totally rocks). But within the nine months or so, I’ve shared with him a number of criticisms of studies (from Junkfood Science and the like) that has helped him break his “fat equals unhealthy” block (as had seeing his own younger brother hit full adulthood and gained enough weight to make him “obese”, and having met my fat, long-lived extended family). I would particularly recommend critical thinking stuff for the geekalicious significant others. Appeal to their big, sexy brains.

    Mostly, I think, body positive partnerships are nourished by individuals who believe in the inherent worth of all humans, and who love each other for myriad reasons including and beyond appearance. Be BFFs first, and then you can talk about anything.

    And, of course, there’s the sensualism…

  53. Cath!

    I’m pretty sure a link would get filtered out, but just google guinness ice cream and the first link is the recipe I used. It’s in the Boston Globe. Honestly, it was too rich for my taste, but very tasty! Believe it or not, adding dark chocolate sauce kind of balanced out the flavors and made it more to my liking. Also, it might have been better if we got it to turn custardy without curdling… we blended it, but that still always leaves an eggy taste.

    I see that you blog about food. Cool!!! Let me know if you try it and what you think.

  54. phledge: ”If you can’t be a good example, you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.” — that’s one of my favorite quotes! and now i’m glad to know who said it.

    redblossom: yes, sensualists are where it’s AT! also, sapiosexuals. :)

  55. i agree about the spiders thing. but then again i’m massively terrified of spiders, so i’m biased.

    i have come to FA since meeting and marrying (just got married on tuesday!) mr. raven. he was already pretty good about being supportive of my fatness. probably b/c he thinks my fatness is hot. i think that showing physical affection and demonstrating frequently how much he finds me attractive is huge in helping me follow the body positive path. also, he’s always telling me i’m sexy or beautiful or cute (whichever is appropriate at the time). and he says it sincerely. the one thing i think that is hardest for him is not judging food. he never tells me what i’m eating is ‘bad’ but he judges the food that he eats. and my mind extrapolates from there! so i think that (for me, at least) the not commenting about food EVER is super important.

  56. Is there anything that might be specific to a partner who is great about you, but really down on his own body image? Especially since I have a lot of trouble sitting by quietly when someone I care about is hurting. I could really use some active “do this” in addition to “don’ts.”

    My boyfriend grew up fairly skinny, but in the past couple of years he’s gained a bit of a belly, and he’s really sensitive about it. In terms of physical attractiveness, I’d prefer he kept the weight; I’ve dated several bony guys and cuddling with them is just not awesome. But of course if he did end up losing weight that would not be any sort of deal-breaker. His elbows will never be as ridiculously pointy as the worst offender’s anyway…

    But he’s really stuck in that “I need to lose an inch off my waist instead of buy new pants” stage, and really sensitive about his weight. I have occasionally mentioned FA things, and tried to direct him to this blog and JFS, but he’s not buying it. I think he’s resisting the idea that he cannot change his own weight because of how bad he feels about it.

    So I’ve mostly been trying to be vocal (and demonstrative) about just how much I like his body, and figuring that he won’t be receptive to giving up his ideas about weight loss until he’s more comfortable with his body as it is. It can be hard though, especially when he makes offhand comments that clearly hinge on the whole calories in/calories out “diets don’t work but eating less and exercising more is effective!” mindset. I’m hoping that if we end up going through with exercising together more, I can subtly talk up *feeling* healthy rather than *looking* healthy. It’s certainly why I exercise.

    Fortunately, he’s good about eating food that actually tastes good, and is nothing but positive about my own body. He will occasionally comment on the “badness” of various foods once he’s eaten them, but it’s not bad, and I try to simply (non-smugly!) express that I do not believe in food-related guilt.

    We’re already pretty good most of the other points. I probably wouldn’t be with him otherwise. They tend to fall in the “I don’t date jerks” category for me, too. And of course, I try to be body-positive and in general, not a jerk.

    I think what I have the most trouble with is number 6 on M. Leblanc’s list. He doesn’t even say it much, but seriously, the boy is not fat, not even by the stupid BMI. He’s like a 22.5 or something.
    I have to keep in mind that hearing that doesn’t mean much when you’re convinced of it yourself. And belittling his feelings can only be counter-productive.

    Karen, as for being attracted to someone in spite of their looks, I will say it’s definitely true for me, but I am a bit of a special case, being someone who does not experience sexual attraction. A personality attraction has to come first. I am, however, highly attracted to my boyfriend otherwise. If not for his interest in sex, I just wouldn’t bother with more than things like kissing and cuddling.

    Anyway, if he were just some random guy, I wouldn’t look twice at him. He has rosacea, which is another body image issue I try to be unobtrusively supportive about, but basically he’s not someone conventionally attractive. But because of how close we are, and how attracted I am to him in other ways (he smells great, I like his voice, he’s smart and funny and sweet and blah blah blah…and srsly the cuddling is wonderful), I really like to look at him.

    Like I said, I am a special case, but even that I think that should give you hope. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about whether or not I could, long-term, be with someone who desires me sexually when I don’t want him the same way (the discomfort with this has gone either or both ways, depending on other dynamics), but the physical side of things just keeps going really well with this guy. He is 100% supportive and respectful and non-neurotic, which really helps me be open, and we find ways to keep each other happy. Basically we are disgustingly adorable…I just wish he didn’t feel so bad about his body.

  57. hmmm….this is an interesting thread. i recently broke up with my long-term boyfriend after he told me he would love me more if i were thinner, and then proceeded to point out parts of my body which were inadequate to him. i have grown a lot in my own self-love and body acceptance since leaving him, but i do fear the idea of dating again, that there aren’t any guys out there are AREN”T image obsessed and who DO understand the concept of being attracted to the person because of the person…..according to my ex, all guys want the same thing — a skinny, tall, blonde, “9 or 10” and even after settling, will continue to look and fantasize about that ideal woman for the rest of his life. sounds pretty horrible. what do you guys think?

  58. I had talked to a previous s.o. about something similar to this, our upstairs neighbors screaming fights, before we broke up for completely unrelated reasons, and we came to a consensus which has served as a baseline for every relationship I have been in since. It was:

    The world is a shitty place full of assholes who do not care if you live or die; therefore, you deserve to come home to an environment and a relationship which are a safe haven, where you will not be insulted or denigrated or have to be on the defensive. Period. And if this means that you have to be more careful about thinking of your partners feelings when you get angry or annoyed or are in a bad mood, good, if they are important to you then you should be.

  59. Thanks, Tangerina, I’ll have to try it. Sounds amazing.

    I wish I could say something on topic, but my bloke is so very much himself, and not at all a jerk, that the main problem is getting him to even believe that anti-fat or anti-feminism and such like things actually exist at all. It’s very sweet, but also frustrating at times.

  60. raven, CONGRATULATIONS! Are you commenting from your honeymoon? :)

    I also wanted to say, re: the question about whether you can love someone so much their looks don’t matter… I guess I see it this way. My husband P’s looks matter to me very much. You know, there’s that particular smile he gets when he has to talk in front of a group. There’s the back of his neck, which we have a whole amusing shared history about. His hands, which I love because when I see them I see, “Practical, gentle, dexterous, etc.” or, in other words, I see a lot of the qualities I love about P. such as his, uh, practicality, gentle, dexterity, and so forth. The way he dresses even matters to me, inasmuch as he, like his father, is so meticulous in caring for personal possessions and so thrifty that he will wear shirts for decades and decades. (I think he’s bought new clothes once since I’ve known him, and we’ve been married five years and were together two years before that.) The way he dresses signifies TO ME his thriftiness and care for personal possessions — in all their admirable and infuriating aspects.

    So the way he looks matters a lot to me, because the way he looks is part of our shared history and the life we’re building together. What DOESN’T matter – or at least matters less and less the longer we’re together – is that he measures up to some standard, some list of qualities that, theoretically, I find attractive. The more we’re together, the more the “List of Qualities I Find Physically Attractive” gives way to just the way in which my spouse is, in fact, at this very moment, in this place, actually embodied.

    And he’d say the same about me, which is why he’s a body-positive partner. Because we both try hard to take the long view: what story are we telling here? what kind of life have we made/are we making? Where did we come from? When we die, what will this story have been about? All the physical traits that might not be “desirable” according to some theoretical list, mean something totally different in the course of a life. P’s out-of-date wardrobe is part of the story of his thrifty upbringing by religious farm folk. My slack abdomen with its stretch marks are part of the story of our two children’s births. I carry in my body the memory of many happy meals, a number of them cooked excellently by me.* That’s part of the story too. What do we care if some fashion photographer who doesn’t even know our lives, let alone care about or share that life, says those traits are unacceptable? What he or she is really saying is that the story is unacceptable, which I already know isn’t true.

    * – This, by the way, is why I gave up on Weight Watchers, even before discovering FA. It soon became clear that I would have to sacrifice my true gift for cooking – because whatever WW tells you, honestly, there are some foods and cooking techniques that are NEVER going to be “worth it,” point-wise. I determined that I was of much better use to the world as a cook and a host of meals, for which my talent is truly remarkable, than as an aspiring slender person, for which I clearly lacked any natural ability.

  61. My SO gets very sad when I get sad about my body. He loves it as it is, no matter what size it is. It also helps that he has dated women of all shapes and sizes, from slim to obese, and speaks in a very complimentary way about his exes’ bodies (in a nice way, not a creepy way). He explained it to me this way: it’s not that looks don’t matter, it’s that everybody in the world has beauty in them, and because he loves me, he only sees my beauty. I think that’s wonderful.

    It also helps that he is overweight himself (BMI of 27-28 I think, we figured it out a while back) and I find him roaringly attractive, so it’s easier for me to mirror that and conceptualise him finding me attractive, even though I teeter on the border between “normal” and overweight and am bigger than is acceptable to my family and much of society.

  62. Cath – my husband is similar. I’d ask him for some advice to post here, but I suspect I’d get the “what are you on about again?” look.

  63. A Sarah, that’s a really beautiful way of looking at a relationship — thanks for sharing.

  64. according to my ex, all guys want the same thing — a skinny, tall, blonde, “9 or 10″ and even after settling, will continue to look and fantasize about that ideal woman for the rest of his life.

    Erin, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and here are some of the many reasons why:

    1. Your ex is making the classic douchehound mistake of assuming his own experiences/desires/fantasies hold true for EVERY MAN EVAR (see stage 2).

    2. Most men have been socialized to want a certain “ideal” image of a woman, but just like not all straight women want to fuck Brad Pitt, this socialization is largely against their will. Some go with it, some don’t.

    3. Not all men are straight! DUH. It sounds facetious but I can tell you (being a queer woman with a queer male partner) that what Mr Machine and I fantasize about individually and together so does not fit what we’re “supposed” to. Even the straightest, frat-boy-est dude is going to have some desires that are outside of the incredibly narrowly prescribed “norm.”

    4. Fantasies do not have to be harmful or substitute for real people. Fantasies are delightful little mind movies (or stories, or photographs, or whatever) that bring you pleasure. Does that mean a person who does not “measure up” to a fantasy won’t bring you pleasure? OF COURSE NOT. I think Mr Machine is dead sexy, but sometimes when we’re touching my brain goes “Ooh Kate Winslet sure is pretty.” Does that mean when I open my eyes, I’m disappointed that Mr Machine doesn’t have spectacular decolletage? No. (But Kate Winslet, if you’re reading: call me!)

    I could go on, but the point is, your ex is being a douchehound and trying to sabotage your self-esteem even further by convincing you that all men are just like him. They’re not, as this thread (and many others) can testify. He deserves a swift kick in the teeth.

  65. I just chuckled to myself. I keep reading every comment thinking ‘look at all of us fatties, who are suppose to be so disgusting that it’s impossible for us to attract a suitable mate, and here we all have spouses, partners, fiances and boyfriends.’

    Anyway, my husband adores my body just the way it is. I gradually put on a little more weight with each pregnancy (all 4 of them). Creeped up 100 lbs from when we met. He actually complains when I start to lose weight and my butt doesn’t fill out my jeans anymore. He tells me to do whatever makes me happy because he loves me at any size. He tells me every time I make a negative comment about my body that it depresses him when he hears me talk that way about myself.

    I’m not really sure how I helped my husband become more body positive. I do recall finding an e-mail he sent his buddy when we started dating that said he thought I was ‘a little chubby, but made up for it with my personality’. I think it was just a combination of maturity and watching me struggle with my weight, and seeing how much it hurt me when people would make comments about my weight. Maturity being the main factor. Since boys are suppose to mature more slowly than girls, maybe the key is finding an older man. =oP

  66. My -very sweet and supportive- bf has more body a lot more body image problems than I do.
    His father is very heavy and also disabled, and I think that inconsciously he links those things together in his head, even though they are demonstrably unrelated. He is really terrified of ending up like his father, so even though he is VERY active, he beats himself up every day that he doesn’t make it to the gym or go out running, even if he skied that day, or walked to work, or whatever.
    He looks in the mirror and says disparaging things about his body, he looks at food as ‘good and bad’, and makes asides about his -TOTALLY ‘NORMAL’- weight constantly.
    I don’t think fighting him about this has ever worked, and when I tell him he’s hot, he often says that I’m not supportive because he doesn’t need encouragement to stay fat (!). I try to keep my opposition oblivious and positive, because that works the best.

    “That sandwich was good but soooooo unhealthy”
    gets:
    “I think a pastrami sandwich is a great breakfast if I’m going to be skiing!”

    And “I’m a fat lazy bastard” (seriously!)
    gets:
    “I think it’s rude to say things like that about my taste in boys when I’m standing right here”

    I think if I can encourage him to say it less, then at least he isn’t hearing it out loud (if only from himself), and maybe he’ll start to feel it less. If he feels it less then we can take another step later.
    He has so many things tormenting him , like we all do, and even though they don’t seem like demons to me, they chase him.
    I think that in his case, maybe his desire to controll his body and conform to a societal ‘standard’ is related to other feelings of inadequacy, and not measuring up. For him there are class issues that weight can appear to mark; both his parents are fat and he grew up actually poor, coming to priveledge later, which I think for him includes layers of guilt, ‘of being found out’,

  67. Being a body-positive S.O. myself I find that the first thing that comes to mind is … “Don’t be a dick.” However that is also my motto for every aspect of my life. I have dated a number women of varying sizes and the connecting factor is that I have loved their mind as well as their body. I don’t typically get hung up on physical appearance.

    In terms of things you can do or things you can look for there are a few suggestions:

    1. Make sure you have open communication. Make sure you can talk about anything and everything with your partner. I have seen some comments here saying you need to hold back and not say anything about what your s.o. is eating. IMO it’s not that you should hold back and not comment, but that you shouldn’t be concerned. If you want a relationship to work you need to talk and listen to each other. My girlfriend and I talk about everything, I want to know how she feels and what is going on. We cover all sorts of topics from the “ickyness” of menstruating to the dry patch of skin on her back that she can’t reach to put cream on and then to the fascination of how guys can pee standing up.

    I am a firm believer that if you hold something in it will just fester and continue to build until it becomes a huge issue. You need to talk about it to know where you stand, either your partner has their own food issues that have nothing to do with what you are actually eating, or else they have that feeling of “You are perfect, except for …. which I will help you change”. In either case you need to talk about it to know if it’s something that can be resolved or if it will become a huge bone of contention.

    2. Sometimes you don’t want a solution. As a guy, whenever I would complain/listen to friends complain the goal was always to come up with a solution. You listen to a problem and then you solve the problem. Becoming a better s.o. in general came with the realization that sometimes you can’t solve the problem. When my girlfriend feels fat or feels as though she isn’t good enough, sometimes there is nothing I can say that won’t come off as trite or patronizing (no matter how sincere I am) and the whole point of the exercise is just to get it off her chest. She doesn’t want me to solve a problem, she wants me to listen … and I do. I also am madly in love with her and want to be there when she needs me, I want to support her and I want to be that safe place where she can let down her guard, where she doesn’t have to be strong for everyone around her.

    3. Nobody is “Perfect”. I know it seems like common sense, but there are a lot of people who fall into this trap. I have always believed that a person’s body will and does change, I know mine does whether it’s over the course of a few weeks or over the course of a day (or heck, even over the course of a meal). Body change is normal, it happens to everyone and there is nothing you can do about it. Having said that, sometimes rationality doesn’t really mesh with emotions. All you can do is remind your s.o. that you fell in love with them for many reasons and that 5, 10, 15 lbs won’t change that. I love my girlfriend and I love holding her hand, I love touching her to let her know that I am there and that I want to be with her (as both a friend and a lover). We usually walk everywhere arm in arm or holding hands and it has been almost two years now. I love her body as much as I love her mind, changes and all.

    On a more personal note, I love to eat. I love food, as does my girlfriend. We have both said that we feel bad for people who don’t like to eat as we can’t imagine a world without choice and variety in taste. We have such grand adventures with food and both love trying new things. We love to putter around the kitchen making new recipes or improvising on them; although she more than I – my virgo tendencies make improvisation a bit of a challenge sometimes :- ). One of the things we talked about very early on is how food is not bad, there is no guilt in enjoying food and eating. It’s just one more thing we can share together and it makes us incredibly happy.

    Ok, one more thing: “according to my ex, all guys want the same thing — a skinny, tall, blonde, “9 or 10″ and even after settling, will continue to look and fantasize about that ideal woman for the rest of his life.”

    I agree with sweetmachine, this is just a comment aimed to hurt you and make you feel bad about yourself. It’s mean, petty and pretty much shows how much of an asshat he is. As a guy, what I want is a woman with curves, a sense of humour, an appetite and can put up with my really bad jokes (although I think they are comic gold). :-)

    I am very lucky to have found that person.

  68. Chris, to each his own and I understand that it’s important to have open communication and not let things fester, but personally I feel that if someone has a problem with what’s on my plate (speaking in the abstract now because this has rarely actually come up with my husband) then that’s their problem, not mine, and they need to examine why they might be reacting to what I am eating and whether it is appropriate to say anything about it.

    Later in the relationship, once a level of trust had been built up and my partner had been able to learn more about my history with food and eating, perhaps I would be able to feel confident that he was actually commenting out of concern for my well being (like I said, the examples like “You’re not eating, is something wrong?” Or even just noticing that I am not eating or appear to be eating compulsively and asking if something is wrong without referencing the eating behavior that led you to ask, which can put a person on the defensive if they are already feeling guilty about the eating behavior).

    But then I have a little bit of a knee-jerk reaction to this because there is such a gray area. To me the standard “But I just wanna help her be HEALTHY and EAT RIGHT,” even though the person may have the best of intentions, is pretty much totally inappropriate. It is not your job to change your grown-up partner’s eating behaviors and if you just can’t find a way to stand them, then you should leave IMO. (I know based on your comment that this is not at all the kind of communication you are talking about in your relationship, so I am in no way accusing you of making that kind of comment, but so many people really don’t seem to understand why this kind of thing could be a problem.)

    Mainly what I am trying to say is that although I totally agree that open communication is important–and there is pretty much no subject off limits between me and my husband in terms of the bodily stuff you described–sometimes it is a partner’s responsibility to understand that if they are annoyed by something their partner does, it might be their own hangup, prejudice, or misunderstanding that is prompting that annoyance and therefore it is not necessarily fair to force your partner into a dialogue about it.

    Like, you might be annoyed that I am eating what you think is too much junk food, but IMO the problem is that you think what I eat should be within your influence or control so you should bite your tongue on that one. Of course YMMV and in some instances it might be appropriate to speak up about that, just in general that’s how I feel.

    A Sarah, that is a wonderful description of how and why physical traits can matter in a relationship. I feel much the same as you about it.

    And finally: “bigmovesbabe-positive”… awwwww. Makes me smile. :)

    Hey rioiriri, are you around? I have really enjoyed your posts about your marriage and your thoughts on attraction and partnership. Not to put anyone on the spot, but I just wanted to mention that I admire your thoughts on this subject.

  69. I had an ex who told me for about a year and a half “If I met you now, I wouldn’t date you” and “Maybe I would be more interested in sex if you would lose weight.” He was mystified when I broke it off with him because I was tired of being not good enough.

    KarateMonkey (my husband) isn’t actively involved in FA, but it has (apparently) never occurred to him to comment on my weight or what I eat. We both love to cook and are beer snobs, and I can’t imagine how tortured we would be if we bought into the “bad” food meme.

  70. Hey spacedcowgirl, I think we are both thinking the same thing only saying it in different ways.

    I completely agree with what you are saying about it not being your job to change a grown-up partner’s eating behaviour. It could be that I have certain hang-ups about junk food (going with that example) and think no one should have more than 4.5 chips in a week (or some other ideology).

    In this particular case I feel it would be important that I tell you what I am feeling so that you know. This is also assuming I have done a bit of self examination and realize it’s my hang up. In that way, as a couple, you can work together to overcome that thinking and not have one partner resent the other one.

    The other reason I think communication is important is that it is usually fairly obvious if someone has a problem with what’s on my plate – sidelong glances, “subtle” comments (like “Are you going to eat THAT?”), etc. If you notice that sort of disparaging attitude to what you are eating it gets to you and you might want to know why. I feel it’s better to have that conversation instead of letting it fester. I also find it’s usually symptomatic of other dissatisfaction with the person or relationship. That sort of “Well, I’ll go out with you, but you are a fixer-upper” mentality. Nobody wants to feel as though their partner is dating them to fix them up to be “someone better”, it’s insensitive and insulting and I would rather know that in advance and tell them where to go.

    *Quietly gets off the soap-box he somehow found himself on* :-)

  71. @ a sarah… nope! we actually had to work the same day we got married. he did surprise me w/a mini-honeymoon on wednesday. which rocked! we are planning a more traditional honeymoon some time later in the year.

    @ erin… well i think your ex was being a jerk. clearly there are many of us fatties in very happy relationships. and i don’t think my hubby or any of the other hubbies/bf’s mentioned on here are thinking about how they wish they hadn’t ‘settled.’

  72. “Is it ever truly possible to be attracted to every other aspect of a person SO MUCH that looks don’t matter, either because you grow to love them, or because you are happy otherwise?”

    Just wanted to add my two cents as a more visually motivated person:

    Yes, in my experience, it happens all the time and always has for me. A few guys that I initially thought were unattractive became “teh hawt” after we talked a few times.

    The opposite has happened more times than I can mention! Ignorance (the arrogant kind) is the quickest turnoff there is, I think, no matter what someone looks like.

  73. Lots of good stuff here. What I’d add/reinforce:

    – The whole notion of “I’m going to have bad FA days” is important. While I’ve come a long way, I still have a long way to go. I’m not sure how I’d deal with it if I was having a “fat” day and my husband got impatient about it or just told me to get over it.

    – If I tell you something bothers me (a joke, a commercial, a comment I heard) please believe me. Don’t accuse me of being oversensitive or make me go into argumentative detail about why it bothered me. If I want to explain it, I will. Sometimes you just have to accept that it hurt me and I’m not sure I can always explain it. (See number 1 – I’m still a relative newbie on this journey and there are days when I don’t always have words for why something bothered me!)

  74. Holls: “I’m a fat lazy bastard” (seriously!)
    gets:
    “I think it’s rude to say things like that about my taste in boys when I’m standing right here”

    I do that with mine, too. My SO is so supportive of my body and is forever and always reminding me how sexy and beautiful he finds me, but can be quite down on himself. But I find if I sometimes make it about me, he’ll respond more. I think that re-frames it in his mind from “she has to disagree about the negative things I say about my body because she’s my girlfriend” to “what I’m saying is actually hurtful.” I hope I can get him to take it a step further, to hurtful for him TOO and NOT just me.

    Anyways, he loves me and lets me know it in everything he does. So that works. :)

  75. When I was at my lowest weight, I started dated a younger man whose experience of women’s bodies was mainly through porn. So he was a bit shocked to find my breasts didn’t stay still unfettered and I had (gasp!) stretch marks.
    I started putting on a little weight after he moved in – hell, so did he. One day he looked at my belly, and said immediately after ‘why don’t we go to the gym?’. It didn’t occur to me until after I’d dumped him that we had entirely different values. He was all about appearance, flash, designer clothes blah blah blah. And he thought he was doing me a big favour by trying to get me to the gym.
    My OH is very positive about my body – he loves my wobbly bits! And he only ever mentions my eating when he notices I’m eating compulsively, because he wants to know how I’m feeling.

  76. I am filled with hope after reading all of these posts! My ex and I were together for 3 years, and I swear, it is very difficult for me to believe that all men aren’t image obsessed, and that the one I next date won’t be looking at thinner girls and secretly wishing I would lose weight. I dream about being with someone who is in love with all of me, including my body, I fantasize about what that would feel like, and you all have given me hope that it can be a reality.

    I live in a college town that is filled with frat-boy type guys, and I have sworn off dating (in my head at least) until I move from this city in a year. But, like I said, I still have hope. Any advice on how to find these men-jewels who are human
    instead of superficial robots?

  77. This thread is making me really happy. I’m looking forward to finding an amazing, supportive partner like so many of you have!

    Being something of a youngun, I haven’t been in a lot of relationships, and my six-month one-night stand last year was pretty disastrous. For future reference, the first time someone sees you naked, he or she should NOT stare at your stretch marks and exclaim, “What happened to your stomach?”

    My first real boyfriend was wonderful in many ways, and very body-positive. He preferred me without makeup and did not get at all why I was so self-conscious about my Titties For Days. He was also a big fan of tattoos–I don’t think he would have cared if I’d been fifty pounds lighter or heavier, as long as I had the ink.

    Also, though this doesn’t totally relate to FA, I wanted to share a story. (Guy in question turned out to be a raging asshole, but this was his one shining moment.) A few years ago I decided to shave my head, and was super nervous that the guy I had just started dating would hate it. The first time he saw me without my waist-length hair, he looked at me from several angles, without speaking, for about a minute. Finally he smiled and said, “That’s going to be fun to get used to!”

  78. My boyfriend is AWESOME about this. I’m average-sized, but I’ve had some SERIOUS body hangups for most of my life, and it’s very important to me that the person who I’m with isn’t going to be critical of my body or those of other people (and preferably his own, although self body hate is the norm in this culture, so this is kind of hard to come across, unfortunately).

    I think the best thing he ever told me when we were having a discussion about how, even though I KNOW I’m totally healthy, I’m still scared of personal weight gain (I’m still at the “other people can be healthy and beautiful at any weight, but I’m not so sure about myself” stage — I’m working on it, though). I asked, “What would you think if I gained 50 pounds?” He said that not only could I still be attractive at a much heavier weight, but that if I was treating my body the same way I am now, he’d see no reason that I wouldn’t be perfectly healthy. That was probably one of the best things for me to hear. I’ve asked that question in previous relationships, and the answers have been more along the lines of “That’s ridiculous. You run marathons. You’re not going to gain 50 pounds.” Probably true (though not because of my physical activity, but because I’m at about my set point now), but NOT very reassuring. I don’t want to be with someone whose opinion of me would change with my weight.

    Whenever my boyfriend catches me criticizing my body, he says, “Hey! Stop insulting my girlfriend!” Kind of silly, but he’s got a good point. I would never ever insult him about his body, and I can be a special kind of cruel to myself.

    Also, he was willing to arm wrestle me in public, and wasn’t able to beat me (it ended in a draw, sore arms for the both of us, and my elbow hurt like hell), and DIDN’T get insecure about that. That was cool. Not only is he not fatphobic, but he’s not afraid of physically strong women.

  79. Erin,

    I find that image obsessed people are pretty easy to out. Make a comment about a famous person who’s not conventionally attractive and you can usually tell right away when they go “oh (him/her) ewww, they’re X is so nasty” Nice people say “He/She isn’t really to my taste, but I can see what some people would appreciate about them.” or “She/He is very talented but isn’t really my physical type”

    On the topic of body positive partners… I don’t really think my boyfriend *is* exceptionally body positive in a global sense, but he is very body positive about ME. For example, when I got up yesterday and walked into the living room nekkid he asked if I would walk around nekkid all day so he could look at me. It may be superficial but it definitely made me feel attractive :)

  80. Chris, I’m sorry if I put you on the spot there. I didn’t mean to accuse you of doing any of the stuff I mentioned… your comment just got me thinking about it, was all. :)

  81. I’ve been thinking about this, especially the food commentary part, and I’ve come to the conclusion about whether or not to say something about food is very individual and situational. For example, it was my husband who finally figured out the link between my anger and hunger (I don’t always feel hungry when I am, I often get unreasonably angry, which made for some awkward situations). I’m really glad he brought it up because it had never occurred to me.

    But I think the only time the words “Are you sure you should be eating that…” should be uttered from a partner’s mouth are when they are immediately followed by something like “…because I’ve noticed a green fuzzy patch on one side and I think it’s gone bad.”

    It comes down to respecting your partner as a mature, autonomous adult who is capable of and responsible for the decisions about their own body.

  82. No sweat spacedcowgirl, I didn’t feel put on the spot. I was replying to you cause I really thought we were saying the same thing and then as I sometimes do, I traveled off on a slightly divergent path and got myself all worked up :-)

    I like reading the comments and all the interaction because ti gets me thinking too. My girlfriend and I like to debate topics since it’s a great way to challenge what you think and reaffirm your beliefs.

    @ Erin: I agree with what Lexy has said, people concerned with body image are fairly easy to figure out. I would also recommend focusing on yourself and what you are interested in. I don’t want to sound too “Movie of the week” here, but for now just focus on spending time on yourself and be happy being alone with you. Once you get some of that comfort it won’t seem like such a daunting task and that’s also usually when someone wonderful falls into your lap.

    The other benefit of focusing on doing things you are interested is that if you meet someone there you know that you have at least that one thing in common. For example, I love playing volleyball and had joined a league with some friends, we were outside in the sun and on the sand with a number of different skill levels and it was a great social setting to meet new people who had at least that one thing in common. I made some friends and met a few women there and although it didn’t work out, it was a good place to start.

  83. linz: i shaved my head after a bunch of guys i worked with shaved theirs in solidarity with a coworker who was in a motorcycle accident. they were appalled i would consider such a thing, and nothing motivates me more than a double standard. ;) afterwards, i was happy my then-boyfriend didn’t seem to mind, but i was even more surprised & delighted at the reaction i got from women, which was almost uniformly supportive and almost awed. now that i think about it, shaving my head was probably my first step towards total body acceptance. (it’s not shaved anymore, but i’m really glad i tried it.)

  84. Erin –
    Try to meet people through friends, so you have some preview of their character.
    Also, this is a *wee* bit of a generalization, so forgive me, but in my expereince men who are a little older and/or have more experience/confidence will be freer to be interested in you rather than being worried about enhancing their status with other guys by dating someone skinny or who meets some other arbitrary criteria.

  85. Funny that so many of us have shaved their heads. I had shaved mine a few years ago, along with my hubby (who was then my fiance). Luckily I have the strong features to carry it, although with my tattoos and muscles, perfect strangers (all guys, mind you. Women reacted with awe and children with glee/confusion depending on level of indoctrination into the wonderful world of gender roles) were completely willing to yell “Fucking dyke!!!” at me, as if it was an insult. I can never fathom people who feel entitled to make assumptions based on appearance (particularly if they are things like, “You look like a lesbian”, which in my case isn’t entirely accurate, but also isn’t at all insulting. It’s more like code for, “You don’t adhere to patriarchal ideals and I am a complete fuckwad for pointing this out as if my noticing will hurt you in any way. Don’t engage me lest you be forced to do me grievous bodily harm.”) What’s even weirder is that, having shaved my head, even my supporters felt entitled to touch it. As a woman with 3/4 sleeves and an amazing back piece, I already lacked insulation from those who touched my tattoos without my permission. Now you’re okay with touching my hair as well? Wtf people?! Commenting as if you have any right to is endlessly annoying, but touching? Off fucking limits!!!
    Sorry for the rant.
    In conclusion, I find it very intriguing indeed that Shapelings other than myself have gone all GI Jane with their bad selves.

  86. My significant other is actually nine years younger than I, but he was nearly 40 when we met, & he is a conventionally handsome, athletic guy who dated all the prettiest girls in his youth, so he might not have been as unconditionally loving & accepting of me had we met 15 or 20 years earlier. However, I am fat, disabled, plain according to cultural ideals, & 58 years old, & no man could love a woman more deeply or desire her more than Ken does me. For the lady who thought she was too well-seasoned, I can say that it is indeed never too late to find real love. And I can also emphatically assure anyone who is looking that not all men are jerks & that some who are wild, clueless boys grow up to be very good men.

  87. Oh my God, yes, EVERYONE feels entitled to rub your shaved head! What the fuck is that about?

    Now that I think of it, the people who tried the hardest to talk me out of shaving were male. Kind of an obvious demonstration of how some men view women, isn’t it? If you want to do something that will make you less attractive to them, they take it as a personal affront.

    Shortly afterwards, I went to a costume party as Princess Buttercup, with a long blond wig. One guy COULD NOT get over how much he loved it. He actually said, “See how pretty you’d still be if you hadn’t cut your hair?” What. The. Fuck.

    Also some of my conservative Catholic family got very upset by it. Not my dad, though, bless his heart–he thought it was awesome and stood up for me steadfastly.

    Eli, I agree, it was a huge step towards self-acceptance! I keep thinking I want to do it again, but, ugh, the growing-out process. I have very thin hair, and when it was growing out I looked like a baby bird. I wore hats for months. If I ever shave again, it’s staying shaved!

  88. I think it’s important for the partner to be supportive of fat acceptance *in general* and not just of *your* fat – I’m sick sick sick of people who are attracted to me saying shit like “she’s clearly lazy and eats to many pies” followed with “but I like *you* just the way you are”. I don’t want to hear that you like me *inspite* of my size! (which, OK, is marginally better than “you are so fat and ugly I hate you” but somehow seems much more dishonest).

    I don’t want to hear my partner going off on some rant about how some other fat person they know is so lazy and eats so much crappy food (especially when said partner is lazy and eats piles of crappy food – and, oh, is thin anyway), I don’t *care* if they say that that fat person is “different” to me – it’s disgusting, it’s not at all supportive, and I just don’t want to have to associate with people who are rude about fat people.

    (I’m sick of people claiming they are into fat-acceptance just because they are dating a fat person and not forcing them to diet).

  89. So, my boyfriend and I have been arguing for the past week, culminating in a break-up last night.

    Reading this thread over the past couple days has given me the strength to realize that (a) my boyfriend has been being an asshole, and (b) there are other men out there who are not assholes. Which has been enormously comforting.

    Thank you so much, y’all.

  90. Oh, occhiblu, I’m sorry that you’re going through the pain of a breakup — but I’m glad to hear you’ve taken something positive from it. *hugs*

  91. but I’m glad to hear you’ve taken something positive from it. *hugs*

    Yeah, if only the determination not to stay in a relationship after the *first* time someone calls me stupid, rather than sticking around and assuming he’ll get nicer. Sigh.

  92. Linz, I had shaved my head on my own and it was a little uneven, so I went to the local Great Clips to get it more uniform. After tsk-tsking a bit, the women who was razoring it said, “You’re lucky you’re so pretty. Otherwise, you’d look like a little boy.” And my guy friends were varying degrees of horrified. My dad was actually the one to praise not only the practicality of the shaved head, but the aesthetics as well.

    Occhiblu, I send you hugs and reassurance.

  93. One thing my partner has taught me, and I think about it every day, not just in terms of our relationship but as an approach to the world around me, is the idea that we don’t get to cherry-pick. So basically, I may prefer if I were thinner or less grumpy, or maybe more interested in cleaning (I say as I look at the chaos around me) and maybe I’d like it if my mom were less critical or whatever, but we just don’t get to pick these singular things and exchange them for something else. All of our traits are interconnected and I’m not willing to be more interested in cleaning if it meant that I spent less time reading or blogging or walking… Or whatever – it isn’t just time management… I find for me, it’s an essential step in self acceptance and to accepting people around me. Sure, we can work on things about ourselves, but we don’t get to just throw out parts of our identity because we decide they’re bad. They are usually related to something really important about ourselves. Not sure if that makes any sense…
    So, yeah – I know that he takes me as the whole package and that’s taught me to try to look at people that way too.

  94. I’ve actually no idea if there’s anything my husband dislikes about my body because he’s always too busy telling/touching the parts he does like. I find that extremely liberating.

  95. i stumbled on this months later, because i was reading the feminism threads. and let me tell you, for such time as this, for such a time as this…i just want to thank all of you FAers above for your positive stories. i definitely needed this reassurance today, i’m in a tough patch… it made me cry. thank you again.

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