real life

'I went on a date and everyone stared at me.'

It starts with a sideways glance

What follows is an abrupt double take - a turn of the head and a proper once over, just to make sure that their eyes are certainly not deceiving them.

What comes after is typically a nudge in the side of the person they're sitting next to, or a headshake, or a comment only loud enough for them to hear.

Watch: How to improve your daughter's body image. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

I imagine that later, they'll go home and tell their friends or family about what they've seen. The large girl with the normal-looking dude. How grotesque. What an unnatural sight.

Tonight, I'm on a second date with a perfectly nice, perfectly handsome guy, who is much smaller than me, when I notice it all around me. I should be used to it by now. I'm 25 years old. I've been on plenty of dates and I've been fat for all of 'em.

The staring should be an aspect of my reality with which I'm well acquainted already.

But I'm still not used to it. Not at all. It is never not uncomfortable to know people are judging me and the person I am with, like I am part of a circus act, or their entertainment for the night - as if though I am nothing more than an object to spice up their boring lives. 


No one has ever said anything to me or my date, now that I think about it. 

But they do raise their eyebrows. They do make eye contact with me and refuse to break it until I do. They might even put their hand over their mouths to whisper in their friend's ear before they both turn around to steal a glance at me.

But they haven't outright told me that they're judging me.

Snickering isn't unusual. Neither is a grimace or a shrug that reads as, "Ah! What an eyesore! But we should mind our business!"

Friends used to say I was overreacting; creating something out of nothing, trying to find a problem where there isn't one.

Then they'd go out with me one-on-one. A stranger might mistake them for a love interest and then something clicks. They notice it too. We're the giggling mates lost in our own world one moment, the evening's entertainment the next. All eyes are on us. My friend's (understandable, well-meaning) gaslighting turns into an apology. Thus this is the cycle of most of my friendships.

"I notice it all around me." Image: Supplied.


I used to dream about being the smaller pretty girl in the corner, sitting next to the handsome guy pouring her wine. Probably holding hands under the table, staring intently into each other's eyes. They're not grotesquely flirty. They just like each other and it's obvious. They're also almost invisible. No one seems to notice them.

The number of times I've wanted to be invisible is innumerable. As is the number of times I've wanted to simply enjoy my dinner. To laugh loudly. To flirt brazenly. To touch the person I'm with without fear I'll be shamed in circles I'm not even a part of.

Instead, I eat with a hand over my mouth as I take each bite. I otherwise keep my arms at my sides. I smile politely. I laugh quietly. Maybe there will even be a few innocent touches - strictly under the dinner table though, or later in the night when we're wine drunk and in an Uber going back to their place or mine.


I will not be the fat girl they laugh at; or rather, I'll try my hardest not to be.

Because instead of being invisible, I am the balloon at the end of a long string tied around the wrist of some kid in a crowd you can't see. You can't miss me. I'll always be there, in your line of sight, unavoidable.

Sometimes I avoid a date altogether and write off a perfectly interested prospect as a one-night stand or dirty hook-up I'd rather not see again. Sometimes, when I know I am a bit too mentally 'weak' that day to ignore the persistent glare of strangers, I'll opt to stay in altogether. Cancel any chance of building something that could be meaningful or amount to anything for me.

I'm not mad. I understand, truly, the reason for the glances. I won't write them off as fat phobic either - my optimist heart won't allow it (and that's much too presumptuous, anyway). Often, I know they're just confused. When they can finally make sense of what they're looking at, they'll smile at me and go on eating their food. Other times, their eyes will adjust after going wide and they will not look at me or my date again.

They don't mean to be cruel or ruin my night. It just happens. Such is life. 

It would be better if people didn't stare. Much nicer if others didn't judge. Life would be great if we shed all the bad and only left the good.


But that's not so realistic, is it?

I realised this not long ago and finally accepted my reality. I'm not used to it, but I do understand it.

So, on this night, while I'm on a second date with a perfectly nice, perfectly handsome guy, who is much smaller than me, I lean in when he talks.

When the couple next to me raise their eyebrows at one another, I roll my eyes and scoot in closer to my date. 

I touch his hand. I let him pour me more wine. I'm smiling and my eyes are dancing with something unfamiliar to any of those who have ever watched me during a date. Something just a little shameless.

Maybe I'm fat, fatter than anyone they've ever seen. Perhaps it is odd for them to see a girl on a date with a guy smaller than her. It is possible that they see who I am and they don't like it.

So many "maybes". Far too many "perhaps" and "it's possible". 

Too many for me to count. I'll acknowledge it later. I'll care tomorrow. Let it eat away at my conscience another time. Life is so short, too short, to let this keep gnawing at me. 

Tonight, I decide I don't want to care about anyone else. 

The stares, the glances, the mocking? I can't say it won't hurt my feelings. It probably will, when I let it. But for tonight, I'm choosing to exhale. I'm choosing to let go.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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