...because sometimes you want to feel like it never really happened.
I credit FFA writer Xyantha for her resonant story, Negativity, which inspired me to write this. Finding her work raised some old memories and feelings that I’d set aside several years ago, but had evidently not forgotten. So here’s to catharsis and breaking the fourth wall.
There’s that whole done-to-death trope about life being a series of choices, and each single little choice you make leads you basically through the twists and turns of your life. While I tend to side more with the whirling mix of randomness and agency over some pre-set fate, I have also found that at a very personal level, some things don’t feel like choices; sometimes you’re just ‘born this way.’ I certainly didn’t choose to be somewhat non-standard in my sexual interests, but with the wisdom of age I’m thankful that I am. Yet, I also have to admit to myself that for a while I did choose my way through a somewhat dissonant relationship history.
This confessional piece is definitely not a play for sympathy. With the luxury of having those thorny years behind me, it’s much easier to see now how my romantic trials and tribulations gave me some perspective and ultimately brought me to a better place. So I will admit right up front that I did get an awfully happy story arch. But I also feel I’m long past being stuck in that old dumb muck, and ready to expel some autobiographical demons by writing it all down and seeing what it looks like when the words reflect back at me.
Rewinding a bit first… I can go back to grade school for my earliest fat fascination memories, but it wasn’t until middle school when self-awareness of it kicked in. That’s when I realized it was more of a unique thing about me. I found myself getting curiously interested in chubby bodies, and subsequently feeling crush-y about boys who had the slightest paunch or bit of flab. I distinctly remember seeing the smallest protuberance of belly and thinking, well that’s awfully cute! Not too long after that, my adolescent internet explorations went that direction as well, entering every euphemism for fat into pre-google search engines to see what I’d find and let me tell you, Jeeves was a cheeky little web chaperone. He led me to several fat-positive online spaces to explore it all further; and I also remember the sigh in massive relief that while it was a unique thing, I was not alone either.
During high school I dated a few different guys, but it was generally based on being asked out by the jocks and preps who hovered around my spectrum of friends. I intuitively gravitated toward the thicker built among them, but the ones who were my ‘real’ type were not plentiful enough in my peer group to make that happen.
I also had the awkward luck of being raised in a religiously ambivalent, progressive-ish family, and we just happened to live in a community heavily dominated by Christian conservatives. This was before the angrier and more extreme philosophical divisions we see too much of today, but it was rare among most kids in my high school to not be at church every Sunday, or not be firmly aligned with most ‘red state’ values. I was taught to be tolerant of different belief systems, but the culture surrounding me made it abundantly clear it was not acceptable to express any opinions heretical to the conservative status quo.
Unfortunately that led to a lot of superficial friendships. I didn’t trust that anyone could accept me and my less conventional views whether it was politics, or religion, or fat. Very few ever really got to know the real me, nor did I want to share myself with someone I couldn’t relate to; or those I figured would not respect me. I blame myself as much as anyone for those walls; the binary way that my immature brain operated amplified a perception of some massive ‘me vs them’ chasm, and that probably got more in the way of meaningful relationships during my formative years than any fat anxiety stuff.
I’ve always been naturally protective of my privacy, which hardened all the more as I learned the not-so awesome art of smiling and nodding, avoiding conflict and thereby avoiding much by way of intimate connections. I belonged, but only in a very surface way; I don’t know that any of them ever even realized it, but I felt like an outsider. That’s not abnormal for many teenagers, but at that age, it’s common to live a little deeper inside your emotions, and feel even more different than you really are.
As I began to realize that I was interested in a ‘more than just a little thick’ body type, true, viscerally sexual feelings about much bigger boys emerged, and consequently increasingly naughty thoughts about them. I tend to think that it was all of the ‘hiding who I was’ and ‘secretly not belonging’ undercurrents that drove me to express my hopes of what love could be by writing my romantic daydreams down; all in password protected files, of course.
By college I became naively brave enough to formalize those simple stories of easily found big boy romance, with tidy happy endings, and submit them for public consumption. Imprinting my girlish fictions onto the permanent internet record was not just a way to self-publish my preferences into a YA formula, as I’d thought about it back then. I can now see that it was actually also aspirational. I wanted the same relationship success that my heroines achieved, with a gorgeous, charming fat guy who would make me feel all grown up and complete. Writing it all down made it feel more possible, realistic and hopeful.
Unfortunately, life is never tidy nor simple like romantic formula narratives. It wasn’t too long into college that I experienced a different social reality than I’d expected. I went in idealistically thinking life was going to be so much easier now that I got out of the group-think trenches in my old suburbia. Instead I found myself wondering where were those amazing, mature, thoughtful big guys whom I’d created in my daydreams? Instead, the social scene I ended up in was littered with too many selfish, immature bros who didn’t fit into my chubby hero fairytale.
It didn’t help that I was still far too inhibited to walk up to a cute, shy stranger and ask him out, especially when he embodied what I found physically ultra-hot. I was completely angst filled in the presence of the males I was most attracted to. The fatter the guy, the more self-conscious I became. And to gawk at their bodies was rude and uncivilized, so I always looked away in my own shyness.
The weird thing was that I hadn’t ever thought of myself as a social coward; general friendliness and light conversation had actually always been my thing. I could socialize easily with just about anyone. But that persistent self-restraint I experienced around the biggest, cutest boys completely confused me about who I really was.
I get what that reads like, and yes, admittedly kind of lame, but I really do remember feeling like I was regularly tripped up from getting what I wanted. I knew what I wanted, but somehow I ended up tangled in nets cast by guys I didn’t really want. When the non-fat ones are the only ones who ask you out, especially when you’re inexperienced and not yet feeling empowered, it’s hard to overcome the impulse to just go with your peer group expectations and say yes to those flirtations. It was not so much because of a pressure to date thin, but more a pressure to date within the group of guys “we all know.”
Inside myself I knew it was gnawing at me, to never get the one I wanted… the soft boy way across the lecture hall who always seemed so far away no matter how many times I glanced over… the most amazing-looking big guys at the bar, always off in another corner, never looking up to find my gaze, blocked by a bunch of boring, lean bodies between us … the one perfectly big man in the room that my body ached to have on top, or perhaps underneath, of my most naked self.
In parallel, I also tested various internet corners for romantic potential, thinking that some initial mental connection was maybe a better strategy to find the right guy than at house parties or campus gatherings; especially for finding someone who met a set of ‘boyfriend standards’ I had in mind. I’d always had a long laundry list of requirements and I can’t deny I’ve been the picky sort when it came to intellectual, personality and ambition traits, in addition to the obvious physical criteria. So I’d decided that big data would deliver my big guy by browsing and selecting; and then communicating with his mind before the physical stuff got in the way… it just made so much more sense.
But that approach bit me back in the form of some very unpleasant stalker drama, pushing me firmly into the fiercely privacy-driven life I lead online, which I remain living to this day. It’s been years since I was made to feel that life-altering level of unsafe, but I still treat online interactions, along with my cautious social media presence, with significantly more distrust than most people seem to these days… despite the fact that I must rely on it regularly in my now public-facing, media-leveraging job.
I started to feel like I was really failing at the whole FFA thing. The elusively perfect guy never ended up on my futon, or in my apartment bed… and not even in my inbox. I wouldn’t say that I lived a nun’s life either, and there were a couple of brushes with the real thing. A party during my sophomore year delivered my first true ‘handful of fat’ experience. I enjoyed a mildly drunken evening with a considerably chubby guy who was cute as hell. Finally digging in and feeling that softness? Definitely a fortifying moment. Unfortunately it also turned out that he was more interested in partying than studying; and I wasn’t interested in a casual friends-with-benefits relationship either; so my solo search continued.
At some point later in college, I resolved that a lack of any chub on a potential mate would be a clear deal breaker. I would no longer accept dates and fake dating satisfaction with a great guy who happened to be ‘not at all fat.’ I was done trying to be flexible. I’d already written it several times through the characters in my stories, so why would I, in real life, settle for something I didn’t have to settle for? I could absolutely find the ideal guy who was also physically right for me, I just had to work harder to make it happen.
I remember feeling super frustrated by how easily so many of my friends fell into relationships when I did not. My life was like a lame letter to an advice column for the forlorn… I’m bright, attractive, and a genuinely thoughtful person… why not me? I had no problem attracting a respectable amount of dating interest, and was happy with what I saw in the mirror. The fact that I’m even mentioning my looks in context makes me feel uneasy, but I can’t deny that it’s been a factor in all of this weirdness. In a screwed up way, the way I look added an extra hurdle to jump to cut the chaff from the wheat, and cast aside the aggressive thin suitors so I could dig into a more sexually nutritious relationship.
It would be easy to blame prejudice, or the ‘socially unacceptable’ aspects of dating an obese guy, especially when young and insecure. But I can’t go with that explanation either. Even though I did feel some push to be with guys in my friends’ circle, I don’t ever remember harboring a fear of being a seen with a fat guy. It kind of actually excited me to upend people’s assumptions about who I should be with and I’m still very much that way. I didn’t run around wearing a sign that advertised it, but does anyone really do that with their attractions? Yet I still struggle with the possibility that I somehow kept myself from what I wanted for a while.
Those undercurrents finally changed for me after I graduated. I’d just gotten my first real ‘grown up moving to a big city’ job as a copywriter for a marketing and media agency in Chicago. It was far enough away from where I grew up, and farther away from where I went to college that I had very few connections and had to start a new social life from scratch. My co-workers began to invite me out for happy hours, ‘young professional’ networking events, and weekend social gatherings.
I’d also fallen deeply in love with the long stretch of lakefront miles that gave fresh wings to my life-long habit of distance running, and I found more centeredness in that ‘me time.’ My heart, not to mention my thirsty body, was more grown up, open and ready; so much so that it’s still a very memorable feeling.
And as soon as that feeling really kicked in hardcore, I stumbled upon Ryan: a sweet, brainy and super handsome civil engineer. He was way beyond cute, with eyes that were mostly green but sometimes hazel; and ‘so brown it’s almost black’ thick hair that he wore it short in a slightly fashionable cut. He had that charming way of making the simple act of trying to be trendy the most adorable thing in the world. He never really succeeded, but I quietly admired his effort.
We met on a Friday. I was invited out for post-work drinks to celebrate a friend of a co-worker’s birthday; I didn’t really know anyone very well yet, but a large group of guys also showed up who were connected to my co-worker, all from their days at Purdue.
Ryan was part of this group. At first I couldn’t see his body behind the table, but I could tell he wasn’t skinny. I worked my way over to where he was, trying to nonchalantly get close enough to make conversation. I think it took me nearly a half-hour, multiple attempts to catch his attention, along with two beers before I could get in a position to say hello.
Then I got a real look at him, like any true fat admirer would thoroughly scope out. At the time he had a moderately-sized jelly belly, in that range of being considered fat by most people, but not all that fat to a girl like me. His love handles were outstanding in their grab-able shape, and I couldn’t help but admire his visible chest. I’d developed a taste for softness, not just size, and he looked like plush velvet to me.
I opened him up a little in some light dialog and witnessed his sweet smile. He was truly an awesome guy to talk to: no raging ego, slightly shy, but still a great conversationalist. I was smitten from all angles within minutes. I actually missed some of what he was saying as I got lost in thoughts of hoping he would think I was pretty, and strategizing in my head over how I would ask for his number.
When he squeezed himself out from the table to use the men’s room, I got a good view from behind and let my imagination meander farther into the naughty nether regions of my mind. He was on the verge of being tall, about an inch shy of 6 foot. He wasn’t very broad like a fat linebacker, but he wasn’t wimpy-shouldered either; and definitely blubbery, but not totally rotund.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the anti-fat world to creep back into my haze of infatuation. As soon as he was out of sight, one of his friends said something along the lines of, “You’re really being nice to him,” in an annoyingly suspicious tone.
I’d actually been anticipating some patronizing comment, as I’d already noticed the snarky way they were observing us connect. It was what guys often did, jockeying for position with a single woman in their midst by dismissing the competition, even among friends. Of course I found the subtleties offensive, but I tried not to let it show.
“He’s cute,” I remember feeling bold from beer. Being romantically assertive had never been hardwired in my DNA, but the alcohol had temporarily eroded my coy edges a bit. “Is he single?”
They all stared blankly at me.
“Do you think he’d give me his number if I asked?” I’d pressed them.
“He might die of shock if you do,” one of them responded.
I ignored it, but they continued talking about him in his absence, sharing another very memorable piece of information. “He’s lost a lot of weight… I guess it’s paying off.”
And so began the roller coaster of mixed feelings. Those words had pierced the slightest pinhole into the fantasy bubble that I’d already built in the first hour of knowing him. Weight change was certainly among my personal interests. Weight gain had long been flat out sexy to me, but weight loss was particularly fascinating in its own way. And this “a lot of weight” comment was telling. Had he been “a lot” bigger? How much bigger? That was damn exciting right there. But I was still very naïve as to how much that news would haunt our relationship. I was still too far gone in positive ‘new guy’ vibes.
When the group began to disperse for the evening, I asked Ryan for his number. A relieved smile came over his face and to my massive relief he gave it to me. I called him two days later, and we made a date for a few days after that: drinks after work, which became dinner. And that’s when I learned more about his stupid-ass diet. I didn’t tell him that I thought it was stupid-ass, but it was. He was doing one of those short-sighted, carb-denying, unhealthy interpretations of lopsided nutrition, that I’m surprised he didn’t suffer from scurvy too.
Diets always sell themselves innocently enough; watching what one eats is not unreasonable. Heck, so did I, so who was I to tell him to throw caution to the wind? But as he shared more, I remember him exhibiting an unnerving mix of pride and shame in discussing this unholy eating regimen that had led to a nearly 50 pound reduction over the preceding several months. He’d lost a significant amount of weight for the first time in his life, so it must have been healthy; at least that was his reasoning.
I refrained from letting him know how I despised unsustainable diets. It was the first of an uncountable number of times I held back from sharing my true thoughts on anything remotely related to weight loss, diets, calorie counting… and basically all things fat.
Pretty quickly I learned to walk on egg shells about his weight issues. I was extra careful not to talk about fat, grab any fat or certainly not express desire for his fat. It wasn’t an overt decision, but his discomfort was an ever present buffer between us, so I just rolled with a non-confrontational strategy to keep things humming along as smoothly as possible. I was used to non-confrontation anyway, it was definitely my thing. Besides, I was finally, actually dating a great, handsome guy and I was totally into him. It was too perfect to ruin it by expecting him to be perfectly content with himself too.
After a few dates, some kisses and hand holding, and then a few make out sessions, I’d invited him over to my place for dinner and hopefully more. We’d been seeing each other for a couple of months, and I knew I was dying for some naked intimacy. It wasn’t my first time with sex, I’d tried to make it work with a couple of non-fat boyfriends before; and there was that chubby frat guy from Sophomore year... but this would be the first time I could possibly get what I wanted, and really needed from a guy I truly cared for. I was 24, for crying out loud, it was about damn time I had an orgasm in the presence of a sexual partner I admired inside and out; because both a fat body and an emotional connection were part of the equation for that to happen.
It started off promising, until I finally slipped my hand under his shirt and touched his bare belly, which was when he shifted away and told me he was ticklish. Then I went to unbuckle his belt, and he guided my hand back into his. “Am I going too fast?” I asked, channeling every guy I’d ever been in the same position with; except now I was on the aggressor’s side of things.
He shrugged, “Maybe.”
That was hard to hear. But I’d also realized that my own persuasive actions were a lot like the behavior I never liked from those pushy guys who’d unsuccessfully tried to get in my pants before. Of course I had to check my needs at the door of his comfort level.
I invited him to talk about it, but at first he wasn’t forthcoming. I still wasn’t 100% sure his weight was “the” issue yet. He wasn’t all that big, especially since he’d lost a bunch of weight anyway. He was one of the softest, plushest guys I’d ever had my arms around before, but he wasn’t even close to having an extremely round body like those I’d been admiring since my teens. I had no idea what he weighed, but I wondered how much, so I could calculate on the extra 50 and fantasize about what his peak weight would have been like.
Okay, sidebar this for context notes, I’ll clarify my kink flavors right now. Some fat admirers are into feeding, some are into gain, some are into inflation, and a whole host of other interests and sub interests. I think anyone who has read my fiction can draw some conclusions about me, but for clarity’s sake I’ll lay out my relatively vanilla yet unambiguous predilections.
I love handsome fat men, of course, and prefer them already fat. A thin guy gaining 20 or 30 is intriguing, but it doesn’t do much for me compared to a man who is already 100 or 200 pounds overweight and doesn’t need to gain an ounce to make me hot; just be gorgeously fat and I’m mesmerized. Now, in some cases weight gain is very nice, and can be a total turn on, but that’s more a sub-interest, along with sensual eating and encouraging little indulgences along the way. I can appreciate the idea of dom/sub power dynamics that involve fat-related role play, but I’m not big on rough stuff, tools or toys.
Fat talk and teasing is incredibly sexy but has to be 100% welcome. I wouldn’t be turned on in the slightest by humiliation without explicit and mutually savored consent. I’ve never been into inflation, stuffing or anything close to immobility. My most fetishy inclinations revolve around the way fat changes a man’s shape, along with his movement and motion. A fat guy stepping on a scale is extremely exciting to me. I also love the way clothing envelops the heavyset, with buttons, zippers and seams barely managing to hold together those lush landscapes; and I’m deeply and seriously into body contrast.
With Ryan I didn’t even deign to dream about anything fetishy though, I just wanted maximum possible access to his sweetly soft yet elusive body. The night I met him, when hearing of his recent weight loss, I then recognized that the chub I’d been admiring on him did accompany that hint of a deflated look. He still carried a good amount of softness but less of the swollen size that some heavier fat guys exhibit. I just knew that I loved the way he felt when we hugged, and I lusted after the remaining flab that hung over his belt, settling into a mound of delectably soft pudginess when he sat; and of course the sexy way it wrapped around the sides of his waist.
As I began a series of attempts at drawing him out of his sexual shell, and trying to touch his body in more gentle ways to find our path to intimacy, he said words I will never forget: “I wish I could re-meet you in a few more months.”
And then I remember freezing up more with what he said next, “I just want some time to lose more weight for you.”
You don’t have to… yes I do… I think you’re great the way you are… but I can be even better… I’m very attracted to you right now… not yet… yes yet… you’re just being nice… I’m not a liar… I didn’t say that… why can’t you trust me?
Each one of those little arguments were like the tiniest pebbles hitting a car windshield. You can barely see the injury at first, but once they really anchor in, it spells doom for the whole sheet of glass. His ‘wait until I’m thinner’ wishes were an early fracture between us. Yet for most of our two years together I still thought it could be repaired with love and honesty.
I utterly hated feeling pity for him, but it was there, wedged right between us. From the beginning, he’d set us up on unequal ground. No one is perfect, certainly I wasn’t; but a princess pedestal was created for me de facto by the self-deprecating hole he’d dug himself into around us. We could make all the progress in the world with emotional and intellectual intimacy, but as soon as my hand cuddled his belly, or my words praised his body, he withdrew.
He continued his diet for a while. That half-assed Atkins-paleo scheme lulled him into a false sense of having the magic bullet that would allow him to finally leave a lifetime of fatty status behind him forever. After a couple of more months and just a bit more deflation, he’d seemed to feel like he had lost enough weight to open himself up to more intimate sex with me. Especially if he had a few beers…
It was not lost on me that he sometimes used alcohol to help him lose inhibitions and let me touch his body without clothing on. I use the word ‘touch’ because he still always wanted the lights off and resisted me seeing him naked. I’d already been well conditioned not to grab anything fat on him. I could sometimes caress, but not really dig in. I allowed myself to enjoy what I could anyway, figuring that I was with a great looking guy who made me smile and laugh most of the time. And the sex was the best I’d ever had because at least there was still an adorably soft man up against my body, offering me some of the ‘fat satisfaction’ I hadn’t had in any truly intimate way before.
At some point after that, he stopped losing, hitting a plateau and the plateau didn’t last long, as his weight began to tick back up. That’s when we entered a kind of no-man’s land of weight weirdness. With his food issues emerging more, I tried to help him feel stronger in his body by suggesting long city hikes with me. It was often difficult to find the right words even for that though. I never want him to misunderstand me and think I preferred him to lose more; no matter how much I told him that I loved him as he was, he’d always revert back to thinking that I was just being polite and overlooking his weight.
In a more primal place inside of me, of course I’d wanted him to gain back the weight, but I consciously fought against those thoughts; it was so heretical to his goals. But his body relented to my unspoken and unscrupulous desires, and both agonizingly and mercifully, he did gain. And as he put on weight, my fetishy feelings emerged more, making me feel so burning hot frustrated to be so close, and yet so far away from satisfying my fantasies, that I may have seemed like a completely inexplicable mess to him.
He also became passive-aggressively resentful when my active hobbies intruded in our lives. “Doesn’t it bother you that I’m not in shape enough run with you?” he’d once said with bitterness in his voice as I threw on my running shoes early in the morning after he’d spent the night.
“I’ve never liked running with anyone else, I prefer it alone,” I’d always try to shut things like that down. It was true, I honestly I never liked running with anyone, regardless of their athletic ability. I like setting my own pace, getting into my zone and leaving the noise around me behind. Solitude and earbuds are a big part of getting past the initial discomfort of exercise and scoring my runner’s high.
I get the irony that the big role fitness has played in my life does not entirely match up with the role that fat admiration has also played in my life. And I use the word ‘irony’ mostly from a perception standpoint, not an actual incongruence. Fat folks can be fit, strong and healthy too, and it saddens me that people assume otherwise; or that some fat people feel anxious about exercise, as Ryan did.
On the other hand, when you spend your spare time doing high intensity active hobbies that tend to put you in the company of mostly lean people, along with having people assume things about you because you’re into athletics, it probably doesn’t help find opportunities to meet the fat boy of your dreams. When walking off a long run or stretching out after a workout, athletic guys may approach, but fat guys just don’t. Gyms tend to be riddled with lean guys or guys trying to get lean; and the few well-rounded hotties there rarely make eye contact, much less chat you up. And when a fat guy you’d like to know more hears that you’ve run a marathon, or done some other ‘-thlon,’ kind of event, he often assumes you’re not cool with fatties.
I still think all of those assumptions that posit the thin not jiving with the fat are pretty damn dumb, considering how attraction can work. I have used the analogous inquiry with hetero cis men, “Well you have a penis, so does that mean you want a penis?” Or the less cheeky, “I have blonde hair, does that mean I should only want to date blondes?” I did catch myself once using the wrong comparison, “I have boobs does that mean I want them too?” Uh, wait, yeah, that’s actually true. And if they’re perky and bouncy? That’s particularly awesome on a guy, by the way.
Suffice to say though, being in a relationship with someone you lie to about how you spend your time, especially when it’s actually in a constructive and healthy way, for no other reason than to spare their feelings, is a recipe for more mutual resentment. The groundwork was set for even rougher road. Throw in a lot of unspoken tension, and things were looking even grimmer.
So I stopped talking about my active interests at all. Sometimes I even lied about it like an adulterous cheat just to avoid the uneasiness. I’d go ‘shopping with a friend,’ or ‘be working late’ just to sneak in time at the gym, or weasel in a quick run. He’d even accused me of cheating on him at one point because I wasn’t where I said I was - I was out running and not still at work.
This dysfunctional lunacy around weight was not our whole story. We were so compatible personality-wise. We shared a compassionate skeptic’s view of the world, which I adored about him. We laughed at similar things, liked similar music and movies; and we really enjoyed being in each other’s company in spite of those mostly silent tensions.
He was my best friend for a while there, no question, and the physical intimacies were not always contentious. He did get more comfortable in cuddle mode at least, even when his weight loss tapered off and turned into gain. So for a while we enjoyed the ways of the careful vanilla. I really didn’t have to tell him I was a fat admirer, I was just a Ryan-admirer. He was gorgeous, and we loved looking into each other’s eyes on weekend mornings in bed… schmaltzy but true.
I could get away with telling him that I liked a guy with meat on his bones; and that skinny guys or washboard abs were not my thing. But spelling out the more descriptive ways in which I got tingly for a gut that hung over a beltline, a growing roll of fat, or a jiggling chest bigger than my own was not do-able with Ryan, and was never going to net me anything. It wasn’t going to get me belly worship privileges; it wasn’t going to get him on my scale as foreplay; it wasn’t going to bring food fun into our bed; and it wasn’t going to accomplish anything other than to make him feel more self-conscious about something that clearly pained him think about much less talk about.
And then we moved in together because that always fixes things.
Despite our underlying issues, we rationalized the idea around economics as much as love. Apartments in the city weren’t cheap. I was always at his place or he was at mine. I still had delusions that I could change Ryan, or myself, and we might find some idiotic compromise in between, where we could both enjoy the good pheromones and feelings that came to us during and after sex.
His gain continued, and eventually almost all that he’d lost had come back. God help me, but I will admit that it was as delicious for me as it was defeating for him. He accused himself of getting too comfortable with me, but I think it was mostly that he couldn’t sustain that level of restricted and lop-sided eating; and his body couldn’t sustain its caloric and carb depravation. So just like a Biggest Loser contestant, even though he wasn’t inhaling food, he was steadily gaining. I felt chronically repentant for secretly loving the way he was filling out, hating myself for finding so sexy what was so awful for him.
Despite his anxieties, it had been hard for me to see the true depths of his pain before we lived together, since he was actually a somewhat confident guy about his career, brains and wit; and he didn’t ever deny it when I told him how dang handsome he was, which was all the time. But praise for his body? He’d never buy into any of it.
While we were living in the same space and sharing in the familiarity that can only come through co-habitation, he began to reveal, sometimes in passive aggressive ways, the depth of his self-loathing feelings… the cruelty that followed him growing up as the only fat one in his family; and being bullied for being the fattest kid in his class. The countless times he’d been told, ‘you’d be so good-looking if you lost weight.’ His fat-shamed confessions all starting trickling out of him more and more.
Sometimes when we were most intimate with each other, with his chub rubbing up against me, I’d be feeling such a loving connection; and that’s when he’d say awful things about his body. Amidst my pleading reassurances, I was also not a reliable source for moral support because of my own body type.
Easy for you to say, you’re thin.
I was mostly careful not to be an encourager, but I would occasionally bring home rich food, special desserts or our favorite wines. I figured that everyone gets treats sometimes, right? No, fat people don’t deserve them, apparently. To offer anything lacking nutritional value to a fatty was to be an insensitive jerk. I became a little bitter about that whole thing myself. I probably was an insensitive jerk, but it didn’t make me any less resentful that we couldn’t just be “normal” about food.
Damn that thin privilege...
About a year into living together, we were out with his friends. He’d left the table and two of them started in on me: “Ry’s almost back to the size he was before he started the diet.” Then they really laid in on me, “We thought he’d lose more with you, guess not.”
Guys can be really hard on each other when it comes to weight; like they’re supposed to always be tough about it. Women may be even crueler to each other in more indirectly brutal ways, but I hated the extra pressure on our fragile situation from his circle of friends. This episode made me feel even more awful for Ryan, who’d already endured shitty treatment by so many peers in his life. I gradually began to realize that I could never be what he wanted: a girlfriend who might have pushed him to get thin instead of letting him be fat.
Not long after this, we experienced our first big break up, and it was horrible. We were checking out a new craft beer bar a couple of blocks away from our apartment. Before we sat down, he got a call from work and went outside so he could hear. I sat down and ordered, and pretty quickly some guy was chatting me up, as happens in hipster places where dudebros go to lose their inhibitions and descend upon any single woman sitting at a bar.
Ryan came back and sat down with me right as I was explaining to this guy that I was with my boyfriend, pointing to Ryan. Dudebro said that I didn’t have to lie if I wasn’t interested. Without realizing what he was implying, I protested that I was not lying and that Ryan was my boyfriend. “Yeah right,” he laughed. I saw at the revulsion on Ryan’s face and quite literally felt a pain shoot from my throat to my stomach. It was awful because I knew right then our evening was not going to end well.
He became very withdrawn and angry with me. He didn’t want to order anything, and he didn’t want to be there, so we left. By the time we got back to our place, I was sobbing from the argument that had swirled up around us. I wasn’t supportive, I wasn’t interested in his well-being, I wasn’t being normal. How can you say you like this? What’s wrong with you?
Each time we’d reconcile, I was pushed closer to a place of capitulation and avoidance because I couldn’t see any other way of living. His worldview was layering itself over my world view and maybe everything I’d thought true about ‘health at any size,’ and ‘fat positivity’ was wrong and unsustainable. I honestly questioned myself as an FFA, something I’d never thought I do. I think I loved him so much that for a little while I bought into his way of thinking instead of my own.
While we were on another break, I took a couple of weeks away from our place and stayed with a friend in Milwaukee so I could still take the train back down to the city but give us some space. That was when he went to a bariatric doctor to seek out weight loss surgery. I believe he eventually had it done, but I’ll never know because after the second break up, we ended our lease, moved out and never spoke again.
I still didn’t stop writing my stories, but certain themes seeped into my characters. Sure, there was always my usual superficial romantic and erotic gratifications in play, but I also used them as a small form of therapy. To spite Ryan, even though he had no knowledge of my online writing hobby, I used his name in one of my stories for a character who embodied what I really wanted him to be: a confident man who liked being fat. And more vindictively, I made him an intentional gainer. He was Ryan in good looks only; but I changed him into what I Karmically wanted him to be: unapologetically and transgressively fat.
In actuality, the real Ryan came through in a different story where self-doubt killed the relationship. It wasn’t a coincidence that the heroine in that story went on to fame and fortune after he dumped her. I harbored my own resentments too. But that was the extent I could use my writing to deal with those miserable relationship feelings while I was still in the thick of them. It was too painful to let my readers know that the girl who writes happy endings was actually a total failure in her real-life fat romances. My hobby was just light fictional fun to share with internet strangers; my real heartache was not okay to share with anyone.
While writing was an outlet, my friendships ended up being my real emotional safety net. Over the years I had connected with a couple of my fiction fans in the same general Midwestern vicinity. They helped me realize that I was not the worst person ever for failing with my dream guy. My Milwaukee friend talked me down off the ledge, and I ended up passing her sage FFA wisdom along to my Minneapolis friend, who then came to stay with me for a while when things fell apart in her love life.
I’m not living close to them anymore, and we can go for months without connecting, but their presence in my life at that time made such a difference when I really needed a very specific flavor of FFA understanding and affirmation. I’d be remiss to not mention their roles in dragging me back up from the abyss of ‘that’s it, I’m doomed to a life of solitude because I refuse to date thin guys again, and I can’t seem to make it work with fat guys.’
Taking a new job hundreds of miles away from Chicago was my next healthy step. The guilt of leaving Ryan for good lingered for a while in my heart, but the break-up and make-up pattern of our relationship was too painful to continue for either of us.
I know it sounds like a really bad pop song, but I credit the man who became the love of my life with resurrecting my faith in the possibility of healthy love; not to mention the actual existence of true fat guy confidence. It was with him that I learned how futile it had been to feel bad about how I felt and what I liked. He restored my certainty that someone who likes fat and someone who is fat can have a very compatible connection in a healthy relationship.
He got his own highly fictionalized story out of me during our early days of knowing each other. I was so excited about meeting a charming, gorgeous and successful fat guy who was mostly comfortable in his own skin, that I had to express the epiphany of someone like him in fictional context; and that was even before I knew how truly precious he would become to me. I have conflicted feelings about telling the actual tale of our courtship to an indefinite audience of strangers, but maybe someday it will feel right to share the sequel to this story.
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