I wrote this for the Bold Italic, for whom I had a short-lived freelance writing career. They wanted something honest about being my size and dating in Los Angeles. When they folded, it was returned to me to do as I wish. And then I suddenly found myself afraid to publish it so it's been in a folder for a few months. I don't know why, but I finally felt like sharing it. It's not really written like I'd write a blog post -- it's a little formal but my voice is still in there...
Finding love is always challenging, but it’s especially hard in a city with tunnel-vision-like focus on appearance for someone who doesn’t match the high standards set for beauty in Los Angeles.
LA is the national headquarters for the super-fit and the stunningly beautiful. Seemingly perfect-looking people flock here from all corners of the earth, whether for the lure of Hollywood glamour or the glorious weather and sprawling beaches. Perhaps the overflow of models, actresses, and beach bunnies is contributing to Los Angeles’s perpetually landing on lists like “Worst Cities for Women Looking to Marry.” Our “norm” is a practically unattainable standard.
I have never been “the norm.” I have been overweight all my adult life (see also heavy, curvy, voluptuous, fat, “BBW” — whatever term you want to use).
Being a single, overweight woman in Los Angeles, I learned early on that my dating life will never be normal. Not just because men (and women) treat you differently or because single women can be competitive, but because I am my own worst enemy. I impose the most rules, restrictions, and justifications in my life. As the chief lawmaker of my own village, I abide by a somewhat irrational code of conduct.
“If I wear this long jacket and stand just so, no one will even realize how overweight I am.”
“If the lighting at the restaurant is dim enough, I can totally get away with this top.”
“If I wear these heels, my legs will look slimmer. Who cares if my feet hurt like hell all night?”
“If I make self-deprecating jokes about the size of my ass and make him laugh, he’ll fall in love with my sense of humor.”
“If I show up later in the evening, all the beautiful people will have gone home.”
“If I show up earlier in the evening, all the beautiful people won’t be there yet.”
“If he isn’t interested, it’s fine — who meets their soulmate in a bar anyway?”
The list goes on.
In a very pragmatic way, it is also actually physically hard to meet someone in Los Angeles. Our bars and restaurants are crowded, and I hate being the big girl trying to squeeze into a booth or through the room. It’s downright tough to leverage myself into a cluster of people waiting for drinks at a bar. I fear bumping into chairs. The most embarrassing moment of my life? Asking a restaurant hostess to move my party to another table because I literally could not fit into it. Sometimes the skinny girl’s easy, fun night out in Hollywood is the fat girl’s night of stressful geographic strategy.
On a more personal level, I’ve found that oftentimes, men can be cruel. I’ve been on the receiving end of some rather shocking insults I never would have dreamt a person could say. One I’ll never forget: “Your shape is not desirable to me.” At least he tried to make it sound like a business transaction. Another I will never forget, but not because it was so tactful: “I would have sex with you, but I’d never be able to introduce you to my friends or family.” I’m not an alien! In fact, I happen to be a very friendly person with a solid sense of humor. But my big hips preclude me from being relationship material? I'm great for a roll in the hay but not to meet mom.
Nobody likes to be insulted, and when it’s super-cruel in this way, it’s utterly heartbreaking.
Would this happen in the Midwest? I honestly don’t know. But it happens here.
Some men assume that if you’re overweight, you are also desperate and use that as an excuse to treat you like dirt. Some prey on the vulnerability of heavy girls, hoping to get laid quickly and get out without any further commitments. Worse, some men are fetishists and like you in such a way that it’s actually creepy to be around them. Those are the guys who “really love a cuddler” and couldn’t care less about getting to know you. They hide behind compliments that are really back-handed insults like, “There’s so much more of you for me to squeeze.”
It’s hard to remember that if a guy’s a douchebag, I don’t want him anyway. Of course I don’t. But sometimes all I can remember is the sting of rejection, his cruel remark, or him looking through me to the skinny model in the corner. Similarly, it’s always hard to remember that I do not have to settle, that I am entitled to my happy ending just as much as the next girl, whatever size she may be. No law says I have to lower my standards, even though sometimes a guy will make me feel like I do. Your friends may make you feel that way too. I’ll never forget the time a friend implied that I should “keep to my own.” Since I am heavy, I guess I need to date a heavy guy. There’s a judgmental subtext there. I'm not allowed to be attracted to Chris Evans because he's fit. A skinny guy would never be attracted to a fat girl. That it’s wrong.
To be clear, I’ve dated guys of all shapes and sizes.
In addition to passing judgment, people make assumptions about what I like, how I feel, and what I eat. It’s always strange and amusing when a man is shocked to learn that I’m successful in my career, drive a new car, live in a nice home, etc. As if my being plus sized has somehow earmarked me for failure in life across the board. Surely, I must sit at home eating ice cream all the time watching Mike & Molly reruns.
My bottom line on dating is actually what I imagine it would be for many people: never let anyone convince you that you’re not entitled to self-respect and pride because of an abnormality. And I think that in the end, what people fail to remember is that we all have our abnormalities — our flaws. Some of them are just out there for everyone to see. Skinny girls have their own struggles when searching for love too. And if we can remember that fact, we might be able to join forces in the battle instead of walking into a room and identifying anyone who’s different from us as a competitor.
I also find a little comfort in pop culture. Having people like Melissa McCarthy and Billy Gardell on prime-time TV, and seeing bloggers like The Militant Baker and The Curvy Fashionista ascend to mainstream popularity, makes me feel a little less abnormal. Brands like Michael Kors and Calvin Klein are providing fashion options for larger women that are on-trend. These things may not help me find a man, but they do help me smile. And the smile can help me find a man.
But in the end, I don’t know if the happy ending I’m seeking will be in finding my soulmate. I think instead it might be feeling truly comfortable in my own skin, learning how to be patient, and letting go of some of my silly rules.