Back in my single days, the pool of men willing to date me seemed to grow larger as I became smaller. Having gained and lost weight a number of times, I can speak with a certain degree of authority. I don’t want to over-generalize or stereotype men, some who prefer curvy woman, large women, while others are more equal-opportunity daters. But I definitely found that when I was thinner, men responded to me more favorably.
You only need one, though, right? I tried to remain positive and didn’t give up. I did a lot of (far too much) online dating. Ultimately, I did meet my husband on Match.com, so there’s that. Before that though, I have some ugly stories, so I’m probably not volunteering myself to appear in any of their commercials any time. I tried a bunch of (too many) sites though, so I’m not singling Match out.
On these dating websites, men (and women) created “profiles,” checking off boxes like a shopping list, of the qualities they wanted and didn’t want in their mates. And so I had “answers” to the unspoken question always on my mind when meeting me in the “real world.” When reviewing a man’s profiles, my eyes immediately zoned in on what size woman he’d chosen. Would he date a curvy girl? How about a “few extra pounds”? Was he even (miracle of miracles!) open to a “full-figured” woman?
I reached out to those guys who seemed like they’d give me a shot. Often, I felt the men themselves weren’t a good match, but since they were being “open-minded” I tried to be too. When I didn’t hear back from some of them, I’d think liar! You aren’t really open to larger women. Forgetting that there are million other things that go into it. Maybe they met someone. Maybe they weren’t looking. Maybe there was something else in our profiles that didn’t gel for him. That was especially likely when my gut told me I was “compromising” and we weren’t really compatible.
Then I’d hear from guys who didn’t pick my body size in their profiles. Were they too ashamed to publicly own up to their predilections? Were they so bowled over my amazing profile that they changed their mind?
Needless to say, I made myself a bit crazy. I had issues. I mentally assessed my attractiveness on a continuum, based on where I was in my ever-changing weight loss and weight gain.
One time when I was still “reasonably” sized, (“curvy” or a “few extra pounds” at most, but by no means “full-figured”—horrors), I met a guy we’ll call Mike. Not because I’m trying to hide his identity, but because I’ve actually forgotten his name. So he didn’t scar me for life.
Mike had seen my pics and nevertheless seemed interested. He was decent-looking—muscular, a bit on the short side, starting to lose his hair. Kind of rough around the edges.
We went out and had a decent time. If he seemed slightly dim, he also seemed nice, and best of all, into me.
After several dates, Mike confessed with a mix of shy embarrassment and pride that he’d recently lost a lot of weight—over a hundred pounds.
We’d both lost weight! We both had the same issues! It was love, we were soul mates. I wanted closeness and intimacy too soon. I took his revelation as an opportunity to open up, perhaps overshare.
“Oh, I know, it’s so hard,” I told him. “I lost a lot of weight too. Twice, in fact.” Mike looked quizzical. I didn’t know when to shut up. I pressed onward. “You know, it’s so hard. It’s a process. You lose, you gain. It’s the maintenance part that’s tough.”
Mike’s face hardened. “I worked my ass off to lose the weight. I’m disciplined. There’s no way I’m gaining it back.”
“Oh sure, sure,” I jumped in, trying not to sound like I knew better. I swallowed the small, defeated, negative voice in me that wanted to pipe up and say yeah right, I used to say that too.
After that night, I worried I’d said too much. Last thing he needed was me telling him his weight loss was going to be all for naught. Nice going being supportive, I berated myself. I figured I wouldn’t hear from him again.
But then he invited me to dinner at one of his favorite restaurants.
The restaurant was romantic and our conversation was flowing. I wondered about what to order. I was only half-watching my weight at that point, but I didn’t want to make Mike uncomfortable. Or make him think I couldn’t control myself. But the way he dug into the warm bread, and ordered a huge “Surf and Turf” special put me at ease. He could enjoy himself. That was good. I liked the idea of moderation, of being able to enjoy yourself rather than having to watch every bite all the time.
After dinner, we seemed to naturally wind up in my apartment. Mike noticed framed pictures propped up against a wall, instead of hung. “When did you move in here, again?” he teased me.
Yes, it had been a year. I was pacing myself. I’d been working a lot. And I wasn’t really the handy sort. He insisted on hanging them all for me, while I watched, thinking, I could get used to this.
Afterwards, he even found some Christmas lights I’d had strewn hanging out of a box. He hung those in the window for me. Then we dimmed the lights.
I’m not one to kiss and tell, but I will say this. Three times. He couldn’t get enough. It was like he was devouring his last meal.
And then….nothing. It appeared he’d had his fill of me. The smart thing to do of course would have been to let him call me. Or to call once, then let it go. I waited. I reasoned, after a night like that, he couldn’t possibly be blowing me off. Then I left a message. And a second. Bad move, I know. I’m not proud of myself.
The third time, Mike picked up the phone. “You need to stop calling,” he told me sharply.
He was annoyed and so was I. I refused to be put off. “I just think I deserve an explanation.”
He told me I didn’t want to know. I insisted I did. He started talking about our incompatible lifestyles. How he’d worked too hard to get healthy. And he couldn’t risk seeing that jeopardized.
Like I was going to shove food down his throat. I didn’t even cook, for God’s sake. I thought to myself. I didn’t voice these words. I was too stunned, too ashamed. He’d seen through me. Even if I wasn’t fat, my true self was inescapable. Even if I was managed to hang onto my weight loss, I was slipping. It was inevitable. I would never change. The latent fat girl in me would always be lying in wait.
Okay, then, thanks, I told him, and quickly hung up. What more was there to say?
It pains me even now to think of that story. Part of me thinks Mike was a jerk, another part of me understands that profound fear of failure, the pain of being fat, that can consume you. For a long time I thought, maybe if I handled it better. Maybe we could have weathered our bodies and their changes together. I envisioned us being a support system for each other. But if Mike was that skittish from the start, I doubt he had that in him then to offer. Or that he’d be there for me in the other ways you look for in a partner.
With time, I’ve gained perspective. Looking back, I’ve dated men when I started out heavy, then lost weight. I’ve dated guys where I started out thin, and lost weight. I even dated one where I started out thin, gained weight, lost it, and started to regain it again. They all stayed with me, didn’t treat me any differently. While some men hadn’t found attractive, my desirability to men hadn’t always depended on what size I wore. You aren’t ever going to be attractive to every guy. Unless you’re, like, Megan Fox or Angelina Jolie, of course. Conversely, guys I’ve been with have gained and lost weight as well.
Yes, there are men (and women) out there who are shallow, who aren’t willing to adjust to their partners’ shifting body sizes. But there are others who see things less narrowly. Other qualities are simply more important–as they should be.
This brings me back to the statement that you only need one person. You deserve someone who loves you for you. Your match, who embraces your body through its ups and downs. Because you are right for each other. If you aren’t, it ultimately doesn’t work out no matter what you look like. Wait for him (or her). Don’t settle.