So, I actually meant to write about this a while ago, and then I spaced it, as I am wont to do, but I decided to write about it anyway. I recently read an article in the Los Angeles Times about an increasing number of plus sized shows on television (the Times is far from the only paper to talk about this, incidentally, us fatties have been getting a lot of press these days, and it’s something I will probably be talking about in the relatively near future). It was a pretty short article, and not much about it struck me, until I got to this line:
Do overweight people date any differently than their slimmer counterparts?
I was reminded, momentarily, of a scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary in which the single Bridget is invited to dinner with a bunch of smug, happy couples and the following exchange occurs:
Cosmo: Seriously, though. Offices full of single girls in their thirties. Fine physical specimens. Can’t seem to hold down a chap.
Woney: Yes. Why is it there are so many unmarried women in their thirties?
Bridget: Oh, I don’t know. I suppose it doesn’t help that underneath our clothes, our entire bodies are covered in scales.
I kind of wanted to haul up an equally brilliant retort, call that silly Los Angeles Times reporter, and shout it down her telephone. I mean, my first response was “seriously? Seriously? You really need to ask that question?” And my second response was “uhm, actually, yeah, we date pretty much exactly like our ‘slimmer counterparts’,” and my third response was “well, actually, it’s so difficult to put down the doughnuts that most of us don’t bother dating, instead preferring to wallow, manatee-like, in our down-filled and chocolate smeared beds.”
It’s fascinating that fat people have been so othered in society that people are apparently under the impression that we live in some sort of parallel universe where we don’t have human experiences, or our experiences are so different that they need to be highlighted. And make no mistake, some things about being fat are definitely different from life as a smaller person, but dating? Not one of those things.
I think that the question was actually trying to suggest that fat people don’t date at all (because we’re all fat and disgusting), but the fact of the matter is that we do. We even get married. We may date our slimmer counterparts on occasion! Just like everyone in the world, we embark on stupid/bad/silly/amazing relationships. We make mistakes. We get our hearts broken. We have partners who are ashamed of something about us (our color/education/interests, for example) so they don’t want to introduce us to their friends. We have partners who go gaga over us. We go on dirty weekends. We flirt with clerks and they flirt right back.
We are also fetishized. I’m sure that Stein wasn’t thinking about this, at all, when she wrote the article, but people who are fat are in fact heavily (ha ha) fetishized by a surprisingly large (aw man I did it again) number of people. I actually get asked out more often now that I am fat than I did when I was thin (which may have something to do with the fact that I am no longer an extremely unpleasant person all the time because I’m not eating a dangerously restrictive diet to try and remain a size two, and instead am just an extremely unpleasant person most of the time). And even I, on the low end of the fat spectrum, have been specifically asked out by fetishists, something that I personally find very disturbing and alienating because fetishes based on size or race or other physical characteristics are very objectifiying, and I find them uncomfortable.
I might also note that in a number of studies conducted on responses to fat bodies, that many men who explicitly state that they only prefer smaller women and would only date women under a certain weight actually respond sexually to fat women. I think that a lot of this has to do with social pressure and expectations: because people of size have been othered and because we have been trained culturally to think that they are repulsive, some men don’t want to admit an attraction to larger women, or have in fact subverted their attractions so successfully that they aren’t even aware of them. Personally, I appreciate the sizeist attitude in the dating world, because it weeds out the people I probably wouldn’t like before I even have to deal with them.
Given the huge proportion of this nation’s population which is considered large by idiotic standards like the BMI, I’m a bit confused that a journalist would think that fat people date differently than smaller (not-fat?) people do. Alas, as another writer (whom I can’t find to cite, so I apologize ahead of time) pointed out, many of the people of size on television are in fact examples of miserable fat people, and they therefore provide a pretty poor example of what life is like as a happy fat person. Though I loathe reality television, maybe it’s time for a health at every size-slanted show.
I wonder if journalists date any differently than their non-journalist counterparts?