Fat, Other Stuff We Read, Self-Image, Sweet Machine

Fat people in love: Not as rare as unicorns

Hey, remember all the troglodytes over the course of your life who implied, concern trolled, or flat-out decreed that you would never find love if you’re fat? Fatshionista’s Lesley has put together the ultimate comeback: The Museum of Fat Love, “an incomplete collection of evidence proving the existence of those not-so-rare creatures: fat people in love.”

Fat people in love
Fat people in love

Like fat athletes and fat models, fat people in love are not the rare thing we’ve all been led to believe (more evidence: fat brides). I really like that the MoFL includes the stories of the people in the photos: it’s amazing what happens when you give people space to use their voices. And, you know, their heads.

Lesley is still accepting submissions from “anyone, in any variety of romantic relationship, who’d like to be included,” as well as individuals who’d like to “share themselves and their stories of self-love.”

61 thoughts on “Fat people in love: Not as rare as unicorns”

  1. Somehow, those same troglodytes were not very happy when I did find love, and some even tried casting aspersions on the fellow concerned. I’m sure they’re just as concerned about my love life as they are about my health (which is to say, not at all).

  2. this gave me some hope… after being told my whole life that the only way anyone could love me was if I lost all this horrible weight and feeling no hope that that kind of love could ever find me, this has given me a little bit of hope. I still find myself looking for the ulterior motive when my boyfriend tells me he loves me, or mentally discounting it and telling myself that sure he loves me for now…. until he finds someone thinner, prettier, better, and that is who he will end up marrying. I don’t know what the future holds with anything, but I have more hope now, and I am working on stopping those inner voices that I have heard for so long from so many telling me that I can never be a “forever girl.”

  3. @Mulberry:

    I totally feel you. You would not believe the comments made sometimes because my husband is legally blind (and therefore, he must have NO IDEA that I’m fat!!). Because blind people also lack any other senses and a brain. (And invariably, must be treated like invalids and shouted at). Ok, I’m done venting.

    Just last week a stranger looked me up and down and said to my husband, “trust me, you’re not missing anything”.

  4. Just last week a stranger looked me up and down and said to my husband, “trust me, you’re not missing anything”.


    “Women’s bodies are the public property of men”: Object lesson #1.

    I’m really sorry that assface did that to you and your husband.

  5. Look at the wedding and engagement photographs in The State newspaper of Columbia, SC, where I live. Lots of very lovely women, many of whom are fat. Every week.

    Amazing, huh?

    I don’t know why it never occurred to me to look there when I was single and beating myself up.

  6. Look at the wedding and engagement photographs in The State newspaper of Columbia, SC, where I live. Lots of very lovely women, many of whom are fat. Every week.

    I need to start looking at those. As opposed to the NYT wedding announcements, which I’m pretty sure refuses to ever print photos with fat couples. It’s pretty striking.

  7. I wondered why I was suddenly getting a bunch of new submissions! Thanks for the link, SM. :)

    To those sending in pictures and stories: I am lagging behind on uploading and responding because I’ve been out of town since Thursday. But I will get to you! Promise.

    What’s funny about this is that I am among the least romantic people you will ever meet, and yet some of these pictures and stories have even made me mist up, a little. We can only combat negative stereotypes with visibility, and this is why visibility is powerful.

  8. ((Jen))

    No, it’s not. At least not in the sense that there’s something wrong with you. I’m with Kate on this one: “you are exactly what someone is looking for, and that someone is exactly what you’re looking for.” (From the brilliant Dumb Luck post.)


  9. You know, I love this. Especially the part where the women talk about how very attractive their partners are.

    There seems to be some sick social perception that people who are gorgeous partner with gorgeous, not attractive with not attractive, etc. Like someone’s handing out numbers, then corralling us: “You, over there! Get with the threes, and keep away from George Clooney, he’s a nine.” I don’t want to be partnered with someone who thinks I’m a three, but he doesn’t deserve better. I want to be partnered with someone who considers me just exactly what he likes best. And my partner also deserves a woman who thinks he’s dead sexy, not just the best she can do.

    I feel like my early dating life mirrored my shopping life. I go to a store, and a pair of jeans fits. So I buy them, even if they aren’t great jeans, because in my experience, I can try on twenty pairs, and only one will fit. The pair I’ve found is probably the best I can do.

    For a long time, I felt as if guys who were interested in me were the rarity, so it was hard for me to say, “Eh, this isn’t exactly what I hoped for.” Because I was the broken one, so how dare I pick and choose? This was the best I could hope to do.

    Sometime in the past year, though, something has shifted (thanks, FA!) On a gut level, I now believe myself to be beautiful, desirable, interesting, and a great catch for some lucky man. And OMG are they coming out of the woodwork. Tall guys, short guys, thin guys, muscular guys, fat guys, black guys, white guys, foreign guys–it’s insane. There are a hell of a lot of guys who do find me attractive and desirable. Now I’m finally dating with an attitude of abundance, and that means I can choose to date men that are very attractive to me, who wow me with their intelligence, who are kind and thoughtful, who are good in bed, and who don’t overuse LOL in e-mails. I have no hesitation dumping the ones who aren’t all that into me, physically, because I know that there are plenty of guys who are.

    There’s a crabby little corner in my mind that’s saying, “You know, they call that self-respect, girl.” And that’s true. But I’m not going to beat myself up about internalizing the lack of respect this culture shows for women who look like me. Instead, I find myself grateful for the guys who made it clear to me that my body was wonderful, not just something they were magnanimously overlooking. None of them was my soulmate, but they’ve made it much easier for me to believe that someday I will get my happily-ever-after and show up in Lesley’s gallery.

  10. I am so grateful for this slide show: it’s powerful. I am confident in a million ways, and quite successful: and I am a 35 year old woman who has never had a boyfriend, despite years of wanting to be in a relationship. I simply have always believed that if a guy expressed an interest in me, there must be something wrong with him, because I’m fat. And every weight loss attempt I’ve made has been for the sole purpose of reaching a weight at which it would be acceptable for me to start dating. Ugh. For the past year or so, I’ve been working so hard on responding to those horrible messages about fat being undesirable–working so hard on seeing myself as desirable and on finding (and accepting!) men who agree. Images like these are enormously helpful in that work, and I’ve worked on totally avoiding the other images. (The good news: I have, at least, gone from being a total non-dater to being a woman who has had many, many dates. Baby steps forward.)

    And I think we cannot overestimate the power of images–both to help create the sense that fat is ugly AND to dismantle it.

    I’m very, very grateful for the slide show: we need to keep the photos coming!

  11. I’ve been fat all my life but I’ve also had a weird sense of self confidence. I think it’s the kind of geek I am; that I never picked up on the social clues that the reasons guys might not like me was because of my weight and not just because I was weird.

    Anyway…I use to love being the first girl for geeky guys. That may sound twisted but I loved being a part of their “ah ha” moment. Because all it took was a night with one girl to make them realize that there was a whole world full of people that wanted to get with them.

    As I’m reading the comments here, I’m reminded of those guys that couldn’t see what was right in front of them. I have this urge to tell you that all it takes is a little bit of confidence. Just enough to open your eyes. So you can see that there is a world full of people that want to get with you.

    I’ve known fragrantly sexual fat women. Women that never had a problem finding or keeping a man. I’ve always been a little picky. But, if I wasn’t happily married, I don’t think I’d be on the market that long.

    I really believe it’s just a matter of putting yourself out there.

  12. @Amy P *sputter* What the hell?

    Sorry, that just got to me. I can’t even respond to that madness in a coherent thought but I’m righteously outraged on your behalf.

    I loved this gallery. It’s a common thing in my life to hear the hateful comments directed at me when I say that I’m a single, that it’s because I’m fat. Actually, my fat isn’t the reason I’m single. But of course, it’s the woman’s job to attract the man. I mean, if she’s single it must be because she isn’t attractive to any man. It could never be because she hasn’t met a man that meets her standards. Standards? Yes, fat girls are allowed high standards too.

  13. AmyP – You have got to be kidding me. I probably would have punched him.

    Jen – Unfortunately, I sometimes feel the same way. Men actually do look at me…but it rarely goes beyond that. So, either I’m only good for a one night stand (according to my harasser-troll, this is true) or I’m totally awkward and lacking in the personality department. (Ok, I know this isn’t actually true – any of it – but I’ve been single for over 2 years now, despite not especially wanting to be, and I’m getting tired of it.)

  14. there are some great photos and stories on there! Heck, all of them are great. I sent ours in, too. Joining the ranks of “fat nerds who met online.” :)

  15. The day the project went up, I spend a half an hour looking at the pics and reading the stories; each and everyone of them are beautiful. I’m a fat single woman who has never been in a relationship, and that project gives me hope.

  16. Oh, this got to me. Thanks to Shapely Prose in part, and to not being in high school anymore in part, I’m starting to gain some confidence. I made eye contact with a cute boy the other day and I thought “Oh god, he probably thinks you are such a creeper.” Then for the first time ever some other part of me went, “that only makes sense if you’re assuming there is no possible way he could be attracted to you.”

    It was awesome when I realized that maybe he thinks I’m cute and was really happy when I was being kind of flirty. Or even if he didn’t, now I can try it out with other boys, maybe even throw in a smile or two.

  17. Jen – ditto.

    I’ve hit a point after so many years of internalizing the abuse (and magnifying it on myself) that the troglodytes don’t need to be external any more. They live in my head now, and have so deeply beaten the message that I am fundamentally unlovable into me that it’s never coming out. And it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, it’s safer (on multiple levels) to stay home surfing the internet than try to find some locus of civilization I could get to and then risk the humiliation of blanket rejection. I’m so accustomed to protecting myself and clinging to what dignity I’ve managed to preserve in life, I don’t know any other way to be any more. The hard part is learning to accept this as permanent.


  18. Thanks all, for your empathy. This really did happen – it was quite possibly the most brazen insult I’ve endured since I was in high school. My husband didn’t really catch on b/c it was night time (he’s mostly night blind) and didn’t realize the context until I told him.

    As for being told no one will want us cuz we’re fat – is it me or is the family actually the worst at this? Whether it’s subtle or not so subtle… my Dad flat out told me when I was 14 that I’d better lose weight or I’d be sorry when I was sitting home alone on prom night (my Dad, for the record, has been ‘morbidly obese’ almost his entire adult life. But oh, he was on Medifast or some bullshit at the time). My mother was more passive-aggresive in her ‘pity’ when all my friends were dating and I wasn’t. Well, you pretty much told me already I’m a worthless piece of crap that no one would date, so I’m not really going to try, now am I?

    I did go to my prom, and I rocked it. But not before my mom made some passive-aggressive comment about me being able to take out my 125-lb. boyfriend (on account of our weight difference) if he ‘tried anything.’

    Ah, okay, enough about me. The point is the story has a happpy ending, even if I do have to put up with the occasional asshat who is both sizist and abelist (and who can not mind his own effing business).

  19. I don’t want to be partnered with someone who thinks I’m a three, but he doesn’t deserve better. I want to be partnered with someone who considers me just exactly what he likes best.

    Nicely put.

    I love this project but I cannot submit my photo because of my allergy to personal narrative. Especially sappy personal narrative.

  20. @AmyP: What an ASSHOLE. I’m so sorry someone said that to you, and I’d kick his ass right now if I could.

    @Lesley: Thank you so much for this! You are so right about the visibility. I knew this was true—I’m a fat person married to an awesome guy myself, but actually seeing it all together like this in one place was really powerful. I have to find a photo of us to send in!

  21. As for being told no one will want us cuz we’re fat – is it me or is the family actually the worst at this?

    Yes! This! My mom just didn’t understand why it made me so upset when she would tell me that “Well, guys your age don’t like girls with big butts and small boobs…they are afraid to date fatter girls because they will get made fun of.” etc etc. Of course, since she told me sympathetically, it was okay, right? I just didn’t want to hear it because I was in denial, right? Asking her not to make such comments was just trying to censor her, right? oy.

    It was that or, You’re not fat! You’re beautiful. Which, I was. Both.

    I love this slideshow btw… :) I’m in a wonderful relationship with a guy who thinks I am sooooo sexy and I feel the same about him. It still makes me uncomfortable when he squeezes my fat though, or makes an offhand remark about an actress or someone being too skinny for him to find attractive… In a twisted way, I want him to think of me as thin, even though my non-thinness is part of what he finds so attractive…But things like this blog and slide show help a lot :):):)

  22. Ah love . . . it’s a wonderful thing. I don’t think my husband would go for having his picture posted on the internet, or I’d see if I could find the snapshots my dad took on our wedding day. We’re not picture people, so it’s either a blurry snapshot from two years ago which is already digital, or a pretty good snapshot from our first Thanksgiving together 15 years ago, which I would have to find and scan in.

    I have a deeply amusing story of a hater getting her comeuppance. I used to know this woman who had some serious issues with her weight and self-esteem and so forth, most of which were inflicted by her mother. The mother was coming to visit for her birthday, so my friend threw a party. We were all pretty much aware that we needed to be as nice as pie to the mother, but we needed to be a buffer so the mother would not spend the party and the day of the birthday running my friend down.

    So we had cake and etc, and we had a lovely conversation. There were several people at the party who were fatter than my friend, but I was by far the largest. I knew the mother would have issues with me, but I did my best to be Cathy Charming and Paula Pleasant, and the mother responded with adequate politeness.

    A few days later, my friend told me I’d won a prize: I was her mother’s least favorite person. She said it was because of my “terrible long hair”. I thought that was pretty funny. However, a little while later, my friend’s roommate let the cat out of the bag:

    “Actually, it’s because of something I said to her later.

    After you’d left, she said, “Well, she’ll never get a man.”

    And I said to her, “But I’ve met her husband, and he’s very nice!””

    And to that, the mother had no reply.

  23. I’d contribute, but I honestly don’t think we HAVE a single picture of the two of us together. Except one from Cave of the Winds, but since we don’t have a scanner that doesn’t help lol. And besides, not sure if theres much that would make a good sappy anecdote about how we got together — my younger sister met a guy online and wanted to meet him in real life, wisely she didn’t want to be alone. So she told him she was bringing her sister, he told her that he’d bring his room mate and they’d make it a double date. They didn’t precisely hit it off, but we did. Within a month, he came home one day with an 8 week old kitten and said the magic words “Sorry I couldn’t afford a ring. If I give you a kitten will you marry me anyway?”

    Hmm, ok I guess that IS kind of a cute sappy story.

  24. re: dating while fat

    I don’t want to get all Advice for the Lovelorn here, because all I’ve got is my own experience–which was that having one smart, sexy, successful man prostrate with admiration of my 5’8″, 235 lb self changed my life. Not because it was True Love, but because I couldn’t tell myself that there was something wrong with him, that somehow I was still not worth male attention. Every time I tried, my rational self came back with the answer, “He’s a professional art critic. People pay for his opinion of what’s beautiful. Ergo, you’re beautiful.” And damn! what a change. When we stopped dating, I still knew I was devastatingly sexually attractive to some men. So I began walking around like a beautiful woman, interacting with men like a beautiful woman, and dressing myself like a beautiful woman.

    I’m not Crystal Renn. I am not anything out of the ordinary by our cultural beauty standards. But I was definitely this man’s favorite flavor, as it were, and I have been dumbfounded to discover how many other guys share his opinion. After many years of not dating–including the parts of my adult life I’ve been at my thinnest–it turns out that the world is full of men who find me perfectly acceptable just as I am. If I could bottle this feeling and hand it out, I would, because it seems like it’s the major reason I now have an exciting dating life.

    This seems like such a reactionary idea: Affirmation by the Male Gaze, and its cousin, Find A Good Man. But it’s weird–the approving male gaze was there all along. I just missed it because I was too busy considering myself unacceptable and hiding from what I presumed was a universal judgment. So maybe it’s a more a matter of self-identifying as beautiful and embracing the radical idea that we can wear lovely clothes and great haircuts and bright lipstick because we don’t need to hide ourselves in shame.

  25. Oy, while this is awesome I still don’t like the tone of some comments — you’re beautiful because some dude finds you beautiful? Are you not beautiful by merely existing? And why do you need some dude’s approval to realise that?

  26. Joy-Mari I think most people making the comments (myself included) understand that it’s problematic to base one’s sense of attractiveness on the opinion of another person. At the same time, I find it difficult to maintain that confidence without some sort of external confirmation. I think it’s human nature.

  27. Joy-Mari, I’m going back and looking at my comments, and you’ve pointed out something important–I’m using “beautiful” as a synonym for “sexually attractive.” They aren’t the same. I think “desirable” could probably be subbed in for “beautiful” most of the time.

    I’m not a big fan of the idea that the male gaze determines worth in most areas, but (assuming you date guys) it does have relevance in the context of sex, love and relationships. I think that having a guy confirm that you are sexually attractive can be really important in a culture that regularly denigrates your worth in that arena, and it carries a lot more weight than your mom or your best friend saying the same thing. I’m cool with my mom saying I’m beautiful (sunsets are beautiful!) but not that I’m sexy, because how would she know? It’s theory to her.

    I do think, though, that you have to be in a place you can accept the idea of yourself as desirable while fat–what the guys have to offer is practical confirmation of an idea that you are already in the process of embracing.

    Sorry to post again but this stuff is working itself out in real time in my mind, including a 5 am “Ooh, that’s relevant” post that may be relevant but is also a little disjointed.

  28. And SM, I love that post of Kate’s, which makes a million times more sense than my sleep-deprived ramblings.

  29. Joy-mari-

    And why do you need some dude’s approval to realise that?

    For me: .. because I have terrible self-esteem. *sigh* I WANT to believe in my own beauty, apart from external confirmation of it — and sometimes, sometimes I can — but it’s not just as easy as just… deciding to do so. I doubt you meant your comment to sound patronizing and mean, but at least for me, when I am struggling with confidence in my appearance, hearing “Well why can’t you just realize you are beautiful just for existing?!?!” is equivalent to hearing “And here’s one more ostensibly easy and simple thing you are failing at, you big fat failure you.” People who can just wake up and feel beautiful because they’re alive are really lucky. For me, while I work out my own issues, I’m glad I am lucky enough to have my boyfriend around to remind me that I don’t actually look like a naked mole rat or dermoid or something except fat, and I don’t think I should have to feel guilty for that.

    Rebecca – great story
    Erin S – cuuute


  30. “Oy, while this is awesome I still don’t like the tone of some comments — you’re beautiful because some dude finds you beautiful? Are you not beautiful by merely existing? And why do you need some dude’s approval to realise that?”

    Feel free to criticise me as I’m not speaking from a woman’s perspective (or for that matter as a person with a huge self esteem here) but I think even a person with no self esteem issues whatsoever might find the idea of remaining dateless for the rest of their lives quite depressing.

    Most people want intimate, romantic and/or sexual love or attention of some sort. Lots of people would not choose to be celibate rather than being with a person that is good for them, and having a reminder that you are not completely written out of the definition of what is considered attractive to other people, and the odds aren’t stacked against you seems like a positive thing.

    I’m sure the people who find theirselves beautiful usually already have a perspective that there are people out there that would find them attractive, and that’s part (note I didn’t say all) of the reason that they have a healthy attitude towards theirselves.

    Yes, being found attractive shouldn’t be people’s only means of validation, but its good to be able to think that you’re able to be an attractive partner to somebody that you find attractive yourself.


  31. @AmyP – Yes, I believe it, and yes, I believe the family is worst at this. Strangers are one thing, but my main troglodyte was my mother. At one point, when my husband told her “I love her just as she IS”, she indicated without words that she thought he was nuts.

    @Rebecca V. – Your friend’s mother must be an amateur at the fat-hate game. The most hateful haters are undeterred by logic. Such a person would have answered your friend, “Well, there must be something wrong with him.”

    @Erin S. – Did you name your kitten Diamond Ring?

  32. I’ve been in this discussion before…you know, about external attraction vs internal self worth. I’ve had people really go at me when I say that I know people other than my husband are interested in having sex with me and that knowledge is part of my self-esteem.

    Yes, self-esteem comes from the inside. And basing your self worth solely on other people’s opinions isn’t really self esteem. But I don’t think the awareness of external attraction and internal self worth are at odds.

    Part of self esteem is about realizing that other people find you desirable. And part of self esteems is bout liking yourself and seeing value in yourself. The issue isn’t an either or…its a both.

    In a perfect world you find value in yourself BEFORE you recognize that other people desire you. But why is it wrong for it to happen the other way? To have someone show you that you are valuable and then to find value in yourself because you see yourself through their eyes.

    I’ve know women that said they fell in love with themselves after someone in their lives truly love them. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

  33. On the internal/external validation thing. I do think a lot of one’s esteem comes from, and should come from, inside. We can’t be just at the whim of whatever society throws at us at any given moment. However, checking my feelings with external reality is very very important. Frankly, lots of seriously messed up people think they’re just dandy, because they’ve become immune to the reactions of the world around them. It’s all well and good for me to think I’m attractive, but the truth is that if I never actually attract anyone then I’ve got a case of “that word, I don’t think it means what you think it means” (though I realize there’s the issue that beauty and attractiveness aren’t the same thing, but I’ve beaten that to death previously so I’m not touching it this time around).

    Basically, I don’t want to base my self-image solely on whatever ya-yas I happen to be running into on a given day, but I don’t want to be like the comically clueless douche I used to work with who was positive sure he was a “total catch” and it was just all these stupid women who didn’t see how great he was. Seriously, it was freakish how great he was, yet not. one. women. ever. saw it. There needs to be a balance.

  34. I think it’s ok to expect some degree of validation to come from other people. We don’t live in a vacuum–we all know that many of the challenges to our self-image and self-esteem come from external forces, so I think it’s ok to look to people you love, respect, and admire to remind you once in a while on your low days that you rock. Yeah, I would love it to be entirely intrinsic. . .and I imagine that if I were to situate myself on a desert island with no critical eyes on my body or negative messages in the media telling me the myriad ways I suck, I probably WOULD be able to gain tremendous measures of respect for my strong legs and soft skin, and extra flesh that helps me float in relatively short order. But sadly, that’s not the world I live in.

    My personal experience has been that the experience of having a couple of men I respected and was attracted to finding me attractive in return clued me in to what I had been trained by all these other evil forces in our society not to believe. I was able to think, “Huh. He’s smart, adorable, and clearly not insane. And yet, contrary to what every magazine I’ve ever looked at would suggest, he finds me crazy hot. Could there be something to this?”

    I don’t want my entire self-worth to come from my partner, obviously, but I have days when my energy flags, and it’s good to have his support when that happens.

    (We’re Alicia and Matt in the slideshow. Yay, Leslie!)

  35. *sniffle* Oh, this gallery is wonderful. I know, intellectually, that fat people date and fall in love and get married, but actually seeing fat people in love makes it sink in. I have real trouble getting out and meeting people due to mobility issues. (Not being able to drive in suburban Southern California SUCKS. Public transit around here is downright awful.) I’m at a real university now though, so hopefully there will be a student organization or two that I’m interested in! And maybe I’ll give dating sites another try. Thanks to FA, I am slowly learning to accept my body and believe that I can be beautiful. It’s hard, especially when I have my picture taken with my naturally slim and petite sister. “Dear Maude, I look enormous next to her! I’m hideous! No… no… we are different sizes. Always have been. We are both pretty in different ways. That’s it. Breathe.” Nobody ever said self-acceptance would be easy, though.

    Lesley, if you’re reading this, thank you for putting the Museum of Fat Love together! And thanks to Sweet Machine for letting us know about it.

  36. @Starling, Elizebeth and Alicia Maude:

    I have to second a little queasiness at the male gaze vs. self-worth piece. It was ALMOST enough to keep me from submitting a photo to Lesley’s very affirming and powerful moment…. (That’s us with the pink car).

    I often talk with DH about my puzzlement at being more confident than other fat women, and wonder why. Elizebeth’s attitude roughly approximates my own, and I never wanted to date anyone who didn’t “get” me, unless it was an issue of sexual orientation. Don’t know if it’s because I come from a fat family, so didn’t see limits in that department. More likely just a remnant of my F*-U punk rock past.

    I have spent many years happily coupled as well as an entire voluntary decade happily single. As I am fiercely independent, I didn’t see a huge difference in the issue of needing male affirmation, but as mentioned, I certainly appreciate it on a down day, just as I appreciate all the other great things hubs does to make my life easier ( like cooking, or fixing stuff, etc.).

    I struggled with wanting to watch those women on THAT show, as they made me really sad-I hate to think the feelings of inadequacy, shame and self-limitation go that far for so many people. I’ve really thought a lot about it lately. Maybe many of us need to care less what other folks think in general, and it isn’t so much about a particular size, or even look, but the gaze in general. How can younger women see a limitless future without some healthy sense of self? Not sure what there is to do in that direction, but I thought Lesley’s project was the best start I’d seen of late.

  37. Today I went on my first date in about two years with an unbelievably cute boy from my physics class. I had a great time. When I was walking back to my car, I realized that a year ago, I would have spent the whole time wondering, “What could he possibly see in me?” or thinking that he saw me as Just A Friend, since I’m not a size 10 or whatever. But since I actually, you know, LIKE MY BODY as it is, I focused on having a good time. I don’t know what will come out of it, but we’re having lunch together later this week, so… yeah.

    Sometimes I look back on how weight-obsessed I was in high school, and I realize that Person X didn’t like me because I was so self-centered and unconfident, not because I was fat. It makes me pretty angry.

  38. @ pandora: I definitely *get* the queasiness, and I would certainly be alarmed if the entirety of my self-worth hinged on whether my beau thought I looked good on a particular day. (Huh. I say that as if it’s a hypothetical, but I have been in that sad place before, unfortunately.) On the other hand, I don’t think that because I’m a feminist there has to be guilt inherent in enjoying my partner’s attraction to me and the fact that it makes me feel good about myself when he enjoys my aethetics, especially given that I seek affirmation in all kinds of other places, too. My positive interactions with my students affect how I see my place in the world and confirm when I’m on what I would consider the right track. The abundant love and support of my girlfriends help buoy my sense of self-worth daily. This community teaches me so much about what’s possible in terms of loving myself. The kindesses I do for myself each day remind me that I am enough as I am and deserve to give and receive love. So, it’s a boost that this particular male gaze (cast by someone I deeply admire and respect) sometimes helps me notice things about myself that I didn’t before, and to like those things, and I think that’s ok. If that were the sole source of esteem, though, I think I’d be in some pretty troubled waters. (Again. . .that’s not so much a hypothetical as I would like it to be. I feel sad for the 20 year old AliciaMaud sometimes. . .but thankful I’ve left her behind!)

  39. I’ve believed the lie that I would never find love or have someone find me attractive for too long. Thank you for this post. Now that someone does find me attractive, it’s weird. It’s unbelievable. And I don’t know what to do with it. I want a relationship, but I also want to be like…’Look. She’s prettier.’

  40. Oy, while this is awesome I still don’t like the tone of some comments — you’re beautiful because some dude finds you beautiful? Are you not beautiful by merely existing? And why do you need some dude’s approval to realise that?


    Whether it is depressing or not to be told you will not date or whatever, it is clearly false.

    How many fat people have parents who are fat? We all know fat people in relationships, and thin people who aren’t, so why do we believe it when we are mislead? Do we want to believe it?

    But more importantly, you could argue that being fat gives one a chance to get how unreal that definition from the outside is, if you aren’t validated, it can be sad, but it can also mean you are liberated from it, before those who match up more with society’s expectations. In this way you could say fat is a feminist issue.

  41. Alicia Maud-
    Thanks for giving “the Gaze” a bigger context. Like many things, I suppose it can be just a piece of the total picture when moderation is in play. It’s not that I don’t struggle like everyone else does with weird images and expectations, it’s just that I think I go out of my way to avoid media garbage in general ( we’re a No-TV household). I should think more in terms of what my total support network is, and how validation for my attractiveness/sexworthiness, etc. fits into that picture.

    Addressing what Wriggles said about validation; I often think of being fat as a sort of built-in shit detector. I won’t add to the lengthy literature about how fatness CAN shield you from unwanted male attention (’cause it sure don’t shield from blatantly negative attention) but it does make it easy to find out who is likely to be ‘on your side’ relatively quickly. Not that I couldn’t tell I didn’t want to hang with the “No Fat Chicks” guys, but it works in more subtle ways-for instance in groups in the workplace, etc. Hey-if I am spared from spending breaks at a convention with women who want to talk about their $400 handbags, that is a plus, right?

    Also echoing the “fat parents” idea. Were there never fat people in the generations before us, and how did they couple and reproduce, anyway??? I was just reading an obnoxious diet article from a 1962 Ladies Home Journal. Classic Cinderella stuff about how she was always the friend when she weighed 300, but never the date. They talked about her fabulous loss, and how she had gained the confidence to get a job and date, as well as her disturbing 1,000 calorie a day diet, etc. etc. but…..the goal weight that made her slim and gorgeous was ….160.

    Same old crap, but just ratcheting it down, I guess. Maybe encouraging folks to look for their happy fat ancestors is not such a bad idea….

  42. This afternoon, I had to restrain myself from squeeing at (and appearing very creepy to) an adorable lovey-dovey couple on the bus. The woman was around my age and size, definitely fat, and not conventionally pretty in the face, but that didn’t stop her man from holding her hand, kissing her, whispering in her ear, and smiling so widely that you’d think his face would break in half. They both looked so happy, and it was wonderful to see.

    I’m one of those who did need external validation in order to discover (or at least encourage) an internal sense of self-worth. Not just regarding attractiveness, but that was a big part of it. Five years ago next week, I was raped by a guy I was dating after several months of more subtle sexual and emotional abuse. He justified himself by saying that it was okay because I was too fat to be respected, among other things, as well as that I was too fat to be worth loving. This was after starving myself down 40 pounds in two months, from 235 to 195, in an attempt to please him; he never even noticed that I had lost weight. I took what he said to heart, and carried that evil, nasty voice around inside my head for a long time.

    In the next few years, I had a couple failed attempts at dating that resulted in much self-pity and self-hatred about how horribly fat and ugly and undeserving I was because of it. I am eternally grateful to the friends, one in particular, who alternately cajoled and berated me out of that thinking and prompted me to take a break from worrying about men until I could at least stop abusing myself, if not come to love myself.

    Then, after a while, came Chris. He was my friend, and he knew about the rape, and he knew about the things my abuser had said to me, and he didn’t look down on me. It turned out that he liked me, and I liked him, and after we both finally admitted to it in an awkwardly cute high school kind of way, we started dating. Being in a relationship with him was one of the most healing experiences (or series of experiences) I’ve had. He let me know loud and clear that he loved me, that he thought I was beautiful and attractive, that he actually liked my big squishy belly, and that I didn’t need to change anything to make him happy. He wasn’t a creep, and he wasn’t with me just because he thought I would be an easy target but because he liked and loved me for me. Things didn’t work out between us, but, for the first time after a break-up, I knew that it didn’t end because I was ugly or worthless. It didn’t end because I was fat. It didn’t even end because he didn’t love me. I knew all this because he had treated me like a real, valuable human being.

    Now, even though I don’t have him reassuring me every day that I’m beautiful and wonderful and worthwhile, I know that some man out there will be lucky to have me, and that I don’t have to settle. I know that, even if I don’t find that man (or he doesn’t find me), I’m still valuable. I know that I don’t have to be attractive to every man I meet in order to be valuable. I know that I deserve basic human dignity, no matter what. As nice as it would be if I had gotten here on my own, I don’t think I would know these things if Chris, along with many of my friends, had not *shown* me they were true, and that I didn’t have to listen to the ugly voice repeating my abuser’s words in my head.

  43. Elizebeth Turnquist: I hear ya on being a geek guy’s first. It’s so much fun :)

    And I’ve debated saying this for quite a bit for fear of sounding creepy, but here goes: Charlotte, ever since I saw your avatar pic, I’ve thought that you’re very pretty!

    As for the appropriation by male gaze… My ex-girlfriend thought I was beautiful. My boyfriend thinks I’m beautiful. I’m not quite sure I see the difference. And he’s just not ‘some dude’. He’s the most important person in my life, and I’m the most important person in his. There are other things at play than simple pandering to the male gaze.

  44. Yikes, I hadn’t been back here in a bit…since my last comment here.

    @gottalovemn: No, that isn’t how I meant it. I, too, fail to excite all guys’ libidos. And yes, it does feel awful sometimes. But somehow, eventually, I learnt to detach myself, to not be that needy of a guy’s approval. [I lay the blame on Shapely Prose and Steve Pavlina’s respective doors ;) ] It’s akin to wearing a dress that no-one else likes, but you love it. And you wear it to death. And then, someday, someone comments on your dress and tells you that it’s pretty. Yes, you got the approval that you had been craving; however, you rocked the dress way before that lone comment, regardless of the other people’s approval.

    @Meems: Yeah, I know. But we can try, no?

    @Sweet Machine: Ooooo! It’s an awesome article.

    @Starling: Hmmm. How hampered would your progress be if no-one lets you know they think you’re attractive?

    @Oliver: Good point you make. Yes, it is easier to consider oneself attractive when a fair proportion of the people around you concur that you are attractive. But there are other criteria that we use to decide whether we’ll date someone. Luckily!

    @wriggles: Fat is absolutely a feminist issue, though some just don’t like that idea.

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