I have recently come to the conclusion that I’m going to have to lose a significant amount of weight in order to have a viable chance at a love life.
Let me be clear: this is not a fat-hating post. When I look in the mirror, for the most part, I like what I see. I like my curves, I like ass, I like my legs, I like my boobs (which I only have in abundance, when I’m tipping the scales), and I like my face.
But the fact remains that I’m a short, dark-skinned, fat Black girl, with a natural. I’m all those things in a culture that not only hates fat, and finds it repulsive, but also in a culture where fat dark-skinned women can only find roles in movies as maids.
Even so, one could argue that these mainstream films reflect the desires of white America, or more to the point, white men, and not Black men, which up to this point is the only group of men I’ve dated.
But with brothers I find, that they, too, have internalized a particular relationship to the body-type most associated with the mammy figure. They see girls like me as sisters, as homegirls, but not as love options, because they don’t find big girls sexy. They usually find us comforting. Strong. Stable. Huge difference.
I know there is this myth in Black America that brothers like their sisters thick, thick like a luscious milkshake, that “brings all the boys to the yard,” as it were. But what I call thick and what the average brother calls thick is not the same thing. I’m (pre-weight-loss) Mo’Nique thick. (Sister looks fabulous, by the way.) Not quite Gabourey Sidibe thick. But thick nontheless. And when I was doing the online dating thing (I’ve tried it twice, and I’m taking a break) I saw one brother that specifically said, “I’m not into the Mo’Nique thing, ladies.” Translation: No fat girls need apply.
Even Demetria Lucas’ whose fabulous and feminist book on modern Black dating you should check out, has (reluctantly) said as much, in her dating advice column.
It’s not popular to say (and I’m sure I’ll be e-stoned for saying it anyway), but if you’re overweight and serious about expanding your dating options, it may be worthwhile to shrink your waistline. I’ve interviewed thousands of men in my career as a dating expert and journalist, and I’ve noticed that on every rundown of what it is that men are looking for in a woman, weight inevitably sneaks high on the list, usually in the form of “She works out” or “She stays fit” or “She is concerned about her weight and personal appearance” — i.e., she’s not fat.
No stones to throw over here. The girl speaks the truth. So does Britni Danielle over at Clutch.
Acknowledging these larger structural issues around the commodification of male desire and the way it affects our dating options and choices as women is difficult, because it can make us feel powerless and/or less-than-feminist. So posts like this make folks uncomfortable, often leading to three kinds of reactionary (and unhelpful) comments. The first will be from those folks who insist that I must really have low self-esteem about my weight and that it must be coming through to the dudes I’m meeting. Um, that would be a Negative. That ain’t it. Even though we all have insecurities, self-confidence is not my major struggle. The only way to live in my body, doing the work I do, is to be confident.
Others will come over and lecture about weight loss and health.
Before you do it, don’t.
I know that we have huge problems with obesity in Black communities. I have thought long and hard about my relationship to food (and exercise), and I have started to make some changes in order to remain healthy. I also have both short and long term goals for doing so. I made those choices for myself, not for a man. So please save the condescending lectures (and arm-chair therapy) for someone else. This big girl (and I suspect every other big girl with access to a TV) doesn’t need it.
And a third, fundamentally more well-meaning group, will come over an give anecdotes about all the thick chicks they know who have male partners. The number will usually total up to no more than 2 or 3 mind you. Those stories ring hollow, because they ultimately amount to a futile attempt to amass enough exceptions to disprove the rule. Moreover, perhaps folks aren’t considering that the partner-less fat girls simply remain invisible to you, and the thick girls with guys are visible, precisely because they are an anomaly.
What I’m getting at is something much more fundamental. Because desire is socially constructed (no matter how much folks justify their limited dating choices based on ‘natural preference’), the fact that we live in a fat-hating culture greatly affects who we’re attracted to, and what we find attractive. The idea that we’re only attractive within a range of sizes is absurd. And narrow. And it is absolutely a function of patriarchy. And yet, I live daily with those realities.
Some (admittedly anecdotal) examples:
Several months ago I was in a bar/lounge type spot, with a group of 7 or 8 homegirls. We ranged in size and skin tone, from short and petite, to tall and lanky, from light-skinned to dark-skinned, from skinny to fat (me being the fat one), and everything in between. The homeboy of one of my homegirls happened to be in the club. Now in many ways, he was my type. Mid-height, stocky, dark-skinned, bald-headed. My girl gave us his vital statistics and it turns out the brother is highly intelligent and very accomplished. He was also a natural flirt. This I discovered, as I watched him at different points during the evening, strike up a conversation and flirt with every single girl in the crew—except me. My homegirl indicated to me at some point that I should make sure to meet him, because she thought we’d have similar interests. Not one to be shy, I did at some point attempt to strike up a conversation. He barely acknowledged me! I mean he literally didn’t look me in the eye, made no real attempt at conversation, and pretty much gave me the brush off. And starting talking to another one of my homegirls!
It was clear to me that he wasn’t really that interested in a serious thing with any of the girls at the bar that night. He was just doing the bar/lounge thing, as was I. But why the cold shoulder, from a brother I’d never met? Why the unique snub reserved for the one fat girl in the crew? I wish I could say that this experience was isolated, but it’s been more the rule rather than the exception for me.
I think of all that CRUNK club-hopping I did in ATL back in the early days of the CFC. Nothing can make me dance with abandon like a smoke-filled club strung out on CRUNK. And when me and my girls would go and shut the club down, routinely, I’d be the only chick that hadn’t been approached, danced with, hit on. Now I never thought I’d find my prince charming in a club. But everyone likes to be desired. So no matter how much Big Boi proclaimed back in 2003 that “Big Girls need love, too,” I don’t think the other ATLiens got the message.
And of course there is that story of the time that Crunkadelic and I went to one of those Big Beautiful Women parties. But um, I’m not trying to date a dude with a fat fetish. No hate on fetishes, but being the object of that particular one feels…objectifying. I want to date a man that has a range of desires wide enough to see a big girl as attractive. Just like I find a range of men attractive.
Getting back to Big Boi, the reality is that Big Girls do need love. This big girl anyway. So as much as I resent the limited range of desire that it seems (Black) men have and the ever-present male privilege that allows them to never have to interrogate their sexual and romantic investments, I hate my limited partnering prospects much more. As un-feminist as I’m sure it is, and as much my Sagittarian self wants to say f**k the world and embrace my life of singleness in a blaze of principled feminist big girl glory, the #truestory is that I’m seriously trying to figure out how I can get my J.Hud on. (Well, maybe not to that extreme!) In my thirties, I’m prioritizing self-care and that includes being loved on and getting my groove on. Regularly. And I know for sure that those things are feminist. I also know being thinner won’t guarantee me a date, but I’m willing to bet it’ll improve my chances.
Feel free to weigh in in the comments on your experiences dating as a big girl, your thoughts on the sometimes un-feminist things we do for love, or anything else you wanna say. But be nice, please. I mean it.