Dear Virgie: I'm a Fat Man Who's Afraid I Won't Find Love at My Current Size
Dear Virgie,
First, I’d like to say I am glad that there are people like you in the world, who preach body positivity in a society that tries to make us conform to industry standards.  I saw you at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco last February and loved the speech you gave (you may recall I gave you a hug).
I am a 33 year old male with body issues. I am overweight (according to my doctor) and I suffer from depression. I am at a point where being in a relationship is a number one priority for me — more so than losing weight. My mom, however, is suggesting that I might be more attractive to women if I lost some weight.  As you can guess, this does not make me feel better, but a million times worse, because now I feel like asking women things like “Do you think I’m attractive? Do you think I need to lose weight?” and so on. Losing weight has always been a challenge for me, because to me it means eating less things I like and exercising more than I like. I would rather be known for my kindness and generosity (and cuddling skills) than for how I look — yet my mom (who also grew up with body issues) also says physical attraction plays a role in finding a life partner. To me, this says that the world is superficial and there is little hope for someone like me, with goals so far out of reach.  I am turning to you for a possible ray of hope and inspiration to help me carry on.
Self-conscious in Sunnyvale

Hey Self-Conscious in Sunnyvale!

I do remember hugging you!

So, yeah, Moms is trying to do her best at giving you advice, but is actually in essence (perhaps unknowingly) actually not offering you the support you want and need. It is totally OK to set boundaries with your mom. This can look like a multi-layered plan of action:

1. Start with a frank conversation in which you tell your mom that you appreciate her concern, but would prefer that her support not look like advice. I actually had a talk with my little brother a couple years ago because I was trying to be a “helpful big sister,” but it was mostly landing as “controlling asshole.” I realized I actually wasn’t helping him with my unsolicited dating and career advice. I was just making him feel self-conscious and alienated. When we spoke I told him I was scared that he wasn’t living the most amazing life possible for him. Then I asked him “what do YOU want from me?” And he said he just wanted me to be present in his life.

I can see the convo with Mom mirroring the one with my brother — assuring her that you’ve got this, that her opinion matters, but that she doesn’t need to take on matchmaker or advisory duties. It might take two or three reminders to get her to understand that this is a new boundary, but I would cap attempts at a number that feels good to you.

2. If #1 doesn’t work, then you will need to manage engagement. This can look like choosing not to discuss romance with her, changing the subject if she brings it up or trimming down time you spend talking with her on the phone or in person.

Now, onto sunshine:

I agree with your assessment about losing weight to find a partner. It is total bullshit that our culture pushes us to believe that love is dependent upon body size. All people have inherent worth regardless of body size. Duh. 

The idea that thinness = love is based upon the truly bigoted social belief that thin bodies have more worth than fat bodies. That belief derives from a racist, ableist and sexist history that needs to be completely smashed to the ground and stepped on repeatedly, like, yesterday.

Related: I Feel Like My Body Doesn’t Look Right In A Fatkini. Can You Help?

When we premise our love-feels on bigoted ideologies, we relegate ourselves to the perpetuation of those ideologies — not to the growth of love because that’s not the point of bigotry. The point of bigotry is to maintain the status quo by enforcing people’s obedience. Love is a truly magical and unruly thing that cannot be attained through obedience, because obedience is premised upon fear — love’s opposite. 

What I — and, I think, you — want to do is refuse to engage in a cycle of behavior that affirms a shitty social belief. It is important to behave in a way that honors our authenticity and integrity. There is nothing authentic or integrous (legit had to Google “adjectival form of integrity” for that one) about diet culture.

Here is where people get stuck when it comes to fatphobic romantic stuff: is it true that it is easier for thin people to find dates? Yes — because of fatphobia.

When someone refuses to date you because you are fat, they are in essence saying “I want to create a relationship with someone whose body falls in line with what is socially acceptable because I am afraid to act autonomously. Being in line with a bigoted social view is more important to me than actual connection with another human.” This doesn’t honor our autonomy. This doesn’t honor the magic of our true selves. Furthermore, behaving in line with fatphobia means committing to a repressive ideology indefinitely.

I think people don’t realize that having more choices doesn’t mean having more good choices. Privilege offers more choices, but it doesn’t promise good ones. P.S. I stole that line from fat massage therapist, Deb Malkin, btw.

I think you should stick to your guns on this one because what matters most is what YOU want — that’s all there is at the end of the day.

Xox,
Virgie

10152452_885983978085906_4667376112611908087_n

Dear Virgie is a weekly advice column by Virgie Tovar, author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp, the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, November 2012) and the mastermind behind #LoseHateNotWeight. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality with a focus on the intersections of body size, race, and gender. Virgie has been featured by the New York Times, MTV, Al Jazeera, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine Online, and Bust Magazine. Find her at www.virgietovar.com.

Comments