This week I was trying to remember the first time someone loved my jiggly belly, my squishy arms, my round cheeks – the parts of me I had been taught were inferior because they didn’t measure up to our culture’s unfortunate standard of conformity (I think the phrase “standard of conformity” is more accurate than “beauty standard” because this culture’s obsession with thinness, light skin, able bodies, and youth has nothing to do with beauty and everything to do with control).
I could remember this person perfectly.
His name is Sam. We met in kind of an unorthodox way, almost ten years ago. I was working in radio. I had graduated from being a producer to having my own call-in radio show at CBS San Francisco.
The live shows were recorded and turned into podcasts. Sam had stumbled upon some of the recordings. He wrote me this long, incredible, beautiful email detailing his curiosity about me and the arduous research he had to do to find my email address (this was before social media was really a THING-thing).
He said that one thing he was struck by was how I expressed uncertainty about myself on the show, and he encouraged me never to apologise because I was perfect.
At the time I was still dieting, still chasing the affection of misogynists and fatphobic lovers who weren’t worth my time (as one does, often, when dieting), and had not yet been introduced to fat liberation.
His words were like some kind of heavenly balm.
We started talking on the phone and instantly connected. He loved how blunt and over-sharey I was. He loved how much I talked about my period, my sexuality, my dissatisfaction with the culture as I knew it.
He maintained that I was amazing.
But my thoughts quickly returned to the refrain I’d learned when I was barely even 10: “He says I’m perfect now, but wait until he sees me.” I, like many fat girls, had been taught that if I was very, very amazing and smart and bubbly and sexually available that maybe (maaaybe) someday someone would be willing to “overcome” my body and “accept” me despite my “flaws.”