An Open Letter on Dating While Fat

Dear Fat Girls:

I just ran across another one of those Dating while Fat articles on Salon.  You’ve read them, right?  Usually written by body-positive feminist bloggers.  It’s an important topic that we don’t talk about enough.  I’m not really that comfortable talking about it myself, but I’m going to.  Not because these articles reflect my experience, but because they don’t.  I do not want you to expect to be treated like dirt because of your size.  You should not expect it.  You should not tolerate it.

I am not immune to the negatives of skinny culture.  Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror, and I don’t like what I see.  Sometimes I see a picture of myself that makes me feel ugly.  Sometimes I get out of the shower and sit on my bed in a towel and look at myself below the knees and think how lovely my calves are because I don’t carry extra weight there. These are real things.  I do not let them define me.

What I want you to know is that pretty much everyone has pictures they want to burn, mirrors they want to break, and some physical features they like better than others.  This will probably happen to you. And to your skinny classmate.   You can both choose not to dwell on your own flaws.  Seriously, find something else to do.

This article, like others I’ve read, talks about how difficult it is to date when you are fat.  She’s not lying.  What I want you to know is dating is difficult.  For everyone. She says that men reject her because she’s fat.  What I want you to know is men will reject you for all kinds of reasons, and you will reject them.  It’s part of the dating game.

Yes, it has happened to me.  I do a lot of on-line dating which makes Dating while Fat especially tricky.  I’ve never had a man tell me straight out he did not want to be with me because I’m fat, but I’ve had two dates in particular (one of which involved me driving to Arkansas) where this horrible awkwardness started as soon as he saw me, and so I think that is what it was.  But I didn’t ask, so I don’t know for sure.  These were unpleasant experiences.  But what I want you to know is that there have also been times (more than twice) where I have gently rejected a man because I was not attracted to him.  I can’t point to one physical feature that turned me off.  It wasn’t because he was too short or too hairy or too bald, and these are things men worry about.  (I’m waiting for the Dating while Hirsute article.)  I’m not sure why I wasn’t attracted to them, really, but I don’t think that the fact I don’t know makes me a better person.  What I want you to know is that mutual physical attraction is really important.  And it can be tricky.  It may be trickier for you than for some.  Don’t let it stop you.

After the Arkansas fiasco, I’ve learned to be more upfront about my size with men I would like to meet.  Yes, this is an awkward conversation.  What I want you to know is what men like is women who are confident in their own bodies.  If you are not, fake it until you make it. Most of them do not expect your body to be perfect. They don’t even know what thigh gap is.  I don’t say, “I’m fat. Is that ok?”  I say, “I’m a DDD, and the rest of me matches.”  I have yet to have a man back down after I’ve said that.  It’s all in the presentation.

Dating while Fat articles often caution you against men who have a preference for larger women.  They say these men are perverts, fetishists, broken somehow.  This has not been my experience at all.  I will tell you the details when you are older, but my experiences with men who prefer larger women have been overwhelmingly positive, and they were otherwise normal men with all the flaws and strengths of other men.  I want you to know that a man who prefers bigger women, who treats you with respect, who makes your palms tingle, may be a great partner for you.  I also want you to know that there are other men who really don’t care one way or the other, and they can be great, too.

There are men who do care, I suppose.  Who do not want to date a larger woman.  Do not worry about these men.  No matter how cute he is, a boy who is not attracted to you is not someone you want.  It is ok to stay home and watch Netflix or read a book or play dress up with your cat rather than give a man like that one minute of your time. Even if he is an otherwise nice guy.

A man who is not attracted to you is not quite the same as a man who is ashamed of you.  This article talks about that, too.  And I’ve heard this story from other women-about the man who likes your body but will not be seen in public with you, the man who will take you to bed, but not to Denny’s.  The man who will be rude to you in front of his friends but thinks you look just fine naked.  This has never happened to me.  Never.  And every time I hear this story, I’m just horrified.  What kind of man would do that?  Not one you want.

If this ever happens to you, I am so  sorry. But what I want you to know is, and if I could make you believe one thing, it would be this: anyone who treats you like shit for any reason is not worth a single tear.  A man who would treat a woman this way has bigger problems than your fat will ever be.  If a man is ever unkind to you, and there will probably be a time when one is, it will be everything about him and nothing about you.

What I want you to know is that you are just as beautiful as you think you are, and that dating can be a wonderful and frustrating journey.  And you should expect to be treated like the strong, interesting, intelligent woman you are.  Any man who believes differently is dirt beneath your feet.  Treat him accordingly.