I am fat and I am proud. I’ve described myself this way for many years. I’m mostly comfortable in my body, and it reflects in the way I portray myself. However, no matter how comfortable I am, dating as a “big girl” will always be a special sort of challenge.
I spend a lot of my mental currency on how I portray myself on dating sites. Do I say that I’m fat in my profile? Do I post a full body pic? If I don’t is that a misrepresentation? Will posting the pic get a lot of creepers? Does “curvy” accurately describe my physique, or should I choose something like “full figured”? There’s a lot of grey area, and sometimes a very minimal space to put this information out there.
When online, I have the best (and arguably the worst) luck on niche dating sites. Specifically, those that cater to BBW’s. “BBW” is not a term I’ve ever felt comfortable with. Literally, it means “big, beautiful woman.” I can get down with that definition, but it’s often used on dating and porn sites that fetishize fat women. I’ve never said “BBW” and not felt at least a tiny twinge of shame. When I say it, I feel othered, fetishized, and dirty. Why should I have to place so much emphasis on my body, especially when I’m looking for a relationship with someone that focuses on more than that?
The truth of the matter is I’m not like my thin counterparts when it comes to dating. I typically can’t be set up on blind dates — I’m not what most guys would expect. Digging deeper, it feels like I’m not what most guys would want. Even if they’re attracted to me, men are often ashamed to admit it.
American culture is so focused on the “perfect” body that people who don’t fit in that mold (or close to it) are overlooked. I remember going to visit my sister at her college and flirting with boys, knowing that it wouldn’t go beyond that point because of my size. I had fun, but my “otherness” weighed on me throughout the whole trip.
When I’m confronted with this feeling of “otherness,” either by my own doing or someone else’s, I feel myself overcompensating to prove my desirability. I talk about getting cat called or hit on. I bring up a guy I’m seeing. I want to prove that, yes, I can be desired. Despite my confidence, this shows the cracks in my self-esteem. It puts me in the mindset that, despite everything, I am not worthy of a relationship. It’s lead to me only being confident in my sexuality, not my inherent worth as a woman.
After all these years of being over sexualized but not being in a relationship, I’ve started to compartmentalize when it comes to dating. I put men in boxes. One is for dating, one is for sex, one is for a relationship. No one ever combines all three. I’ve worked hard for the confidence that I have, but obviously I could use some more growth.
Dating for anyone is a struggle. It brings a lot of our issues to light and tends to leave a lot of us feeling self-conscious. As I strive to put myself out there and go on more dates, I’m going to try to stay positive. People of all sizes deserve to find love. Even me.