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: Why Don’t More Fat Activists Talk About Being Fat, Single and Happy? (Part 2)
I recently started giving myself permission not to flirt or do any romantic labor whatsoever, and holy shit, it’s amazing!
I’ve wanted to see more writing from within the fat community about crafting a good life in the absence of romantic relationships/partnerships. It seems like a “hot potato” issue that many FA writers don’t want to touch, even though it’s the reality of many fat people’s lives.
Related: Dear Virgie: Why Don’t More Fat Activists Talk About Being Fat, Single and Happy? (Part 1)
To finalize my thoughts from last week, I thought I would share a story. A few years ago I was talking to a friend and he was telling me about his decision to remain single for the remainder of his life.
He talked about his decision through the lens of decolonization, sharing with me that he felt that the idea of romance and monogamy were social constructions that people spent a lifetime seeking and rarely happily finding. He is a gay man whose gender is femme, and he acknowledged that his experience with misogyny had informed his decision. He decided to re-assign the resources once put into finding a romantic partner toward mentally and spiritually healing and becoming accustomed to singlehood. He opened me up to a possibility that had never been discussed by anyone I knew. I’d heard of people “giving up,” but this felt different. He was talking about weighing the pros/cons, being grounded about the way oppression affected his potential for connection and opting out of romance intentionally.
So, my advice begins with that: intention.
In the wake of a recent breakup, I started reading the 2003 book Living Alone and Loving It by Barbara Feldon. Her book really moved me, really inspired me, really made me think. She gave some practical advice (which I’m going to share) and she also nudged the reader to recognize that there is so much cultural pressure to be coupled that we lose sight of the wondrous parts of singlehood (even if singlehood wasn’t necessarily our first choice).
My fave piece of advice was:
1. Don’t be brave. Be prepared.
Babs advised making a plan for the holidays or occasions that might throw you into a downward spiral. For me, those are Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve (oh my god, once while single I made the mistake of being around couples at midnight on NYE and it sent me into a two-day stink-eye grump slump). If you suspect that a certain day(s) is going to give you feelings, listen to that intuition and take care of yourself. Don’t suck it up! I decided to spend Thanksgiving alone this year (first time!). I made a plan that included buying delicious food the day before (because everything was going to be closed), zero phone time, renting DVDs from RedBox and making a small list of things I was going to do if I was triggered by something unexpectedly.
2. Create opportunities to be around other people.
Babs said instead of reading at home, go to a coffee shop and do it. Instead of doing YouTube yoga, go to a class. It’s normal to want to be around people. We often funnel ALL that desire into a partner.
3. Do less (or zero) romantic labor.
I notice when I’m single, I am kind of in huntress mode all the time. Some of this has to do with being fat — I often feel pressure to be extra perky/flirty/romantically proactive in order to neutralize the invisibility that stigma has cast upon me. The pressure is exacerbated by scarcity mentality (is this the last person on Planet Earth who is going to give me the sex eye?). I recently started giving myself permission not to flirt or do any romantic labor whatsoever, and holy shit, it’s amazing!
4. Give yourself permission to revel in the magic of being alone & recognizing how often LTRs actually aren’t great
There are approximately one trillion magical things about being single and we rarely talk about them: not having to negotiate decisions with another person, not having to deal with another person’s (likely awful) family, not having to ask every single friend whether it’s normal that you don’t want to have sex with your boo ever again (it’s normal, unfo), casual sex, having the whole bed to yourself and more mental/emotional bandwidth generally.
5. Masturbate early and often!
Frequently, people in relationships experience a drop in sexual desire — and single people experience more sexual desire. It’s probably science, but it’s hella inconvenient. So be mindful of your sexual needs. I recommend masturbating frequently. Like, even before the need hits, just take care of it. I’m trying to make masturbation part of my morning routine but haven’t successfully accomplished this yet. I’ve noticed that often I confuse the desire to emotionally connect with another person with the physical need to orgasm. It’s frequently the latter.
6. Recognize you didn’t fail.
There’s a great book called Outdated: Why Dating Is Ruining Your Love Life; it’s about how oppression (particularly misogyny) truly does hamper our shot at human connection. Remember: we live in a culture that actively ruins people’s ability to actually love each other. When we allow ourselves the space to recognize there’s nothing wrong with us and that there’s a bigger cultural issue happening, it can shift our mindset entirely.
I think the ways to craft a good life in the absence of LTRs are as numerous as the individuals who are living the single life. If you have ideas, please share in the comments!
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 women who are ready to break up with diet culture, and started the hashtag campaign #LoseHateNotWeight.