My sexual accessibility has never been up to me, and this was a crucial and painful epiphany to have. Content Warning: this essay mentions depression and instances of sexual coercion. It’s not that I haven’t been celibate before. As someone who lives in the gray area of the asexual and aromantic spectrums, I’ve gone long […]
Dear Virgie: I Need Fat-Positive Dating Advice
I am newly single fat woman, and need some help figuring out how to start dating again on my terms and how to find someone body positive.
OMG new singlehood can be both scary and exciting! Everyone experiences being newly single a little bit differently, and I encourage you to use this time in a way that truly honors you.
I don’t know how eager you are to start dating again right away, but I wanted to point out that you have the right to take some time off if you feel you need it. For many people, the time directly following a breakup is important because it offers space for insights — what you liked and didn’t like, what worked and didn’t work.
I know sometimes we feel the impetus to jump into something new right away — especially if you were dissatisfied for quite a while and the breakup was really just a formality because you’d already drifted apart. I think it’s important, however, to take the time to feel the feelings and not avoid them. Allowing yourself time to mourn your last relationship (even if it wasn’t great) will set a good foundation for your next thing (whether serious or casual).
Sometimes it’s intimidating to start dating after you’ve been in a long-term relationship. I know in the past it has always felt super awkward to re-initiate flirting and meeting strangers after having been with the same person for a while. I don’t know about you, but often I feel like my last partner is the only person in the world who could have accepted me. Even though I intellectually know that isn’t true, it feels true to the scarcity-oriented part of me. I also think that as a fat girl, I have been taught that kind of scarcity mindedness.
It’s hard to get back out there.
I am no dating expert, but I do have some ideas for you. I must say that the recommendations I’m going to give you are deeply inspired by the work of Krista Niles, who is a plus-size dating expert. We are collaborating on a duo course next month. So look that up!
I think it’s important to be intentional about what you want and what you don’t want. Take some time to write these things out. It doesn’t need to be an exhaustive list, but pick your top two or three dealbreakers. It’s really important to write this down. Writing helps us focus and makes things easier to recall. If you know what your dealbreakers are, you can incorporate them into the screening process before even meeting someone.
With online dating, for example, if I were you I might focus most of my attention on talking about who I am and the kind of person I’m looking for. You can work dealbreakers into the language in a way that invites inquiry. Also, I might use language that focuses on what you want rather than what you don’t want, e.g. instead of “I don’t want to date fat haters,” maybe try “I’m seeking someone who sees beauty and worth in a range of body types and sizes.”
Recognize that dating is actually A LOT of work! Pace yourself! If you feel yourself hitting a wall, just stop for a while. Don’t keep striving when you actually need a break.
Finally, trust your gut. Yes, dating is really challenging for the overwhelming majority of people. Period. And also, yes, there are special challenges for fat folks because, duh, fatphobia dehumanizes us. I know for me, personally, it’s super challenging to have the openness and enthusiasm that dating kinda requires. I walk into dating scenarios presuming that my date is trying to take advantage of my social position as a fat woman in a fat-hating sexist culture. So guess what? I’m not low-maintenance!
That’s part of dating a person who has been through a lot. I think it’s totally OK to bring caution to the table, center what *YOU* need and vet people as much as you need to. If you don’t want to go on a date right away, then don’t. If you want to talk on the phone three times before you meet, then do it. If you don’t want to have a casual hookup, then don’t. If you do, go for it. If you only want to meet up for 15 minutes before agreeing to going on a longer date, then ask for that.
I hope this helps!
Virgie Tovar is an author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp, a 4-week online course designed to help those who are ready to break up with diet culture, and started the hashtag campaign #LoseHateNotWeight. Tovar edited the ground-breaking anthology Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, November 2012).