By CYNTHIA GOODFELLOW
I like to people watch. I’m good at it.
I like to watch my fellow shoppers and challenge myself to catch the affectionate looks, the subtle touches, and the verbal shorthand that can all suggest that two people are indeed a couple. Some couples are prone to PDA or public displays of affection, and some you really have to watch for the subtle signs.
For most people being out and about with a loved one is commonplace and whether or not strangers recognize them as a couple is insignificant to them, but if you’re a fat girl who’s been told her whole life that she is too fat to find love then being recognized and acknowledged as part of a twosome is a big deal.
Twenty years and a hundred pounds ago my father, who couldn’t have loved me more, was really clear that if I ever wanted a partner I would have to lose weight. He didn’t say it to be mean, he said it because he cared. He said it because as much as he loved me he knew that most men would never take the time to be dazzled by my personality because they couldn’t see past the size.
While I can appreciate that my father wanted to encourage me to lose weight, comments like that tend to have the opposite effect on me and the added bonus of killing what fledging self-worth I had. In fact I had such a low opinion of myself and my ability to attract a partner that I spent many years alone and if someone did approach me or suggest that we have coffee I was oblivious to the fact that they were interested or I thought that they were making fun of me. When I did finally start to put myself out there and explored the world of internet dating I was floored to find out how many men actually appreciated someone like me.
Then I hit the next obstacle. There are two distinct kinds of men who love the larger ladies – the ones who don’t care who knows it and the ones who treat it, and you, like a dirty little secret. I met some very attractive men online and I felt pretty and sexy and desirable and then I started to notice a pattern. The men I was meeting were happy to meet for a quick coffee, but after that we always hung out at my place, we talked about going out, but it never seemed to happen and they had the oddest work schedules which only allowed them to come over after dark and they had to leave before breakfast.
I might be a little slow to the plate, but I’m not a complete moron and each time I met someone new I was quicker to catch on to what was really happening. These men weren’t going to walk through a mall with their arm draped around my shoulder and they certainly were never going to introduce me to their friends and family.
Eventually I met a man I really liked who was happy to be seen out and about with me, but ours was a more casual relationship, one where we were free to date other people.
We were at an event together in a crowded venue, the kind where the people around you can’t help but overhear and intermittently become part of your conversation, and he was standing behind me with his hands on my shoulders. It was an outdoor event and I was wearing a big floppy sun hat and he was really cute ducking under it now and then to speak to me. We were visibly a couple, talking and laughing, sharing a bottle of water, talking about where we might go for dinner and then he made a comment about another woman he had started dating.
I knew the score, I was aware that we weren’t exclusive, that didn’t bother me, but as he talked I could tell that the people around us didn’t understand and suddenly I felt like a fraud.
I know that my self-worth should not be directly tied to the opinions of those around me, I shouldn’t need their validation, but let’s get real for a minute. What he said wasn’t wrong, but it was insensitive and had he thought before he spoke he would have realized that most people would assume from his comments that we were not actually a couple.
I looked like a pathetic fat girl who was pretending to have a boyfriend.
Even now with a boyfriend who has no problem being seen with me and introducing me to his friends there are times when my insecurities get the better of me and I feel the need to ask if he is embarrassed to be seen with me. This question always annoys and insults him and yet every now and then I am compelled to ask. Recently I was talking to a friend of mine who is my size and a few years younger and I was laughing about how my boyfriend, who normally doesn’t use terms of endearment, forgot himself for a moment and called me “Honey” in the middle of a Walmart. Instead of laughing or agreeing with me she paused and then with a slight melancholy in her tone she said “That’s never happened to me. I’ve never been in that situation.” My heart went out to her because I know that pain.
I know the pain of feeling left out and alone.
It’s important that one’s self-worth not be based on the opinions of others and I often talk about the importance of building and maintaining a healthy self-esteem, but for many fat girls nothing feels better than walking down the street with a partner who wants to hold your hand.
Cynthia Goodfellow, or “the Goddess” describes herself as “fat and funny with sensible shoes”. She writes about living large and healthy and believes that people of all shapes, sizes and abilities need to live life to the fullest. You can find her blog here.