For many, dating is a magical experience. Going out, deep gazing into each other’s eyes, handholding and eventually falling in love is all par for the course. For myself, I’ve had similar initial experiences but the end results haven’t been as fruitful.
I identify as a Southern, heterosexual, plus sized, black woman. I have what’s considered a pretty balanced attitude, personality, a sense of humor, and intelligence. Dating should be enjoyable but as a heavier woman, it has been disappointing, embarrassing, ridiculous and weird. After more than a few bad dating experiences coupled with some blossoming romances fizzling to nothing, I can’t say my size is the the only barrier to love but I can say it’s one of the most significant hurdles in my quest for true love. Dating has been just as challenging, if not more so, as losing weight.
Per my BMI, I’m classified as morbidly obese. With an hourglass shape, I’ve slid by as thick for a long time. Since puberty my size in relation to men has been someone’s concern; mines, my mother’s, aunts even an uncle. At a size 14 in high school, I was active but thought I was fat. In reality, I just built bigger than some.
My mother was a slender person BK (before kids) so in her mind my weight was (is) a problem. When in middle school, she’d drop tidbits about what men liked and it was not someone who looked like me. She’d tell me then and even now and then “all you need to do to get that weight off your legs is walk!” Her statements were not designed to hurt but they lingered in my spirit and at a young, impressionable age I believed my body was wrong and men wouldn’t like it.
More importantly, I felt this thing that was wrong with me couldn’t be fixed. Mentally I was fat and unattractive. I carried this baggage with me everywhere. Dating in high school was non-existent so I was woefully underprepared. I headed out to college with so many ideas in my head about what men wanted but more importantly I was stunted by the idea that I wasn’t what they wanted.
College, graduation, work, play-still no bae. I was then what I say now, the most solidly single woman in my circle of friends. Dating ebbed and flowed for me in a feast or famine fashion as one of my best friends describes. I’d meet men who seemed interested then out the blue they’d either ghost or create some reason to disqualify me as a suitable mate.
Considering I’m not a bust your windows out your car type woman, I oftentimes was left wondering, is it how I look? My vanished dates weren’t around to give me any feedback so the wondering associated with their abandonment morphed into a complex. It had to be my size. I’m friendly, accommodating, understanding and a listener.
I’m pretty, work full time and pick up part time work when necessary for extra money. I have good credit, a car, lodging so what is it if not my size? Girlfriends who love me as assure me that’s not the case but I’m acutely aware that only one of my besties has attempted to help me find love or at least a decent date.
As I gained more weight in response to loneliness and mild depressions, I became a magnet for those who had big girl fetishes. I met men who were interested in sex only type relationships but nothing deeper. I began to imagine maybe this was all men wanted from me.
I imagined as a heavier woman this was all I deserved. Images of “desirable” women on TV, the internet, and in print never looked like me. They had perfectly arranged bodies, flawless makeup and hair. The idea was being pressed that these women were the desirables. All around me in the city I live in, the couples I saw matched the image of “perfect” as if the woman’s dress size directly correlated with how awesome a mate she could snag.
In my early twenties, social media was still in its infancy. CollegeClub, Black Planet, and MySpace were some of the more popular sites I perused. These new sites opened us up to having to share photos online to be judged by potential dates.
Not to mention online dating made it easy to pick and choose based off looks not substance. With some men blatantly seeking “cute in the face, small in the waist” the Bad B*tch started to make her come up. She’s the woman who emotionally may not be all the way there but since she exhibits extreme body confidence, men are attracted to her looks.
She’s seemingly every man’s dream. She is not overweight so beaches and bikinis are part of her dating experience. The closest I’ve gotten to that is sneaking into a private pool with a date on a sunny September day.
I’ve been asked my size by a date who stated he had never dated a plus sized woman. When I wouldn’t tell him, he said “well I’ll just check your tags!’, implying we’d be intimate enough for him to have access to my clothes off my body. At this point we hadn’t even shook hands, let alone get naked together. The nerve of some people. I told him, “I’ll cut my tags out” to which he replied “well if you’ll do all that, never mind”.
Honestly, his fascination with my size was so bizarre, I couldn’t even get pissed. However, the exchange was wearisome in that I was fully aware this wasn’t a quiz he would have given a smaller woman. When I got home, I chose to explain to him that his question was offensive. He seemed to get it but we didn’t talk or see one another again after this situation. Even though he didn’t verbalize this, it was clear there was too much of me for him to want to deal with.
My ex-boyfriend was never as openly crude in his approach to my size, but he would insinuate he had issues with my girth by inviting me to his gym knowing full well I hated gyms. He didn’t introduce me as his girlfriend in public and when our relationship started breaking down, he told me at dinner out my size affected our sex life. I was crushed.
Not to mention, I was already embarrassed because we had to switch to a table from a booth because it was a tight fit for me. I shared my insecurities about my size with him during the course of our relationship and he weaponized this information against me. Even though what he said hurt it also diminished my ability to be vulnerable with men. Especially black men. It caused me to build another wall around my heart and mind to shield myself from the inevitable jabs at my size. It caused me to sincerely start doubting my chances of finding a love of my own as a plus sized, black woman.
Currently, I’m celibate. I’ve pretty much made peace with the reality marriage and a family may not be in my future, especially if I don’t lose enough weight. When I discuss my dating struggles with friends and my sisters they are always supportive. They attempt to encourage me. They remind me how beautiful a person I am.
One friend, in particular, wishes I meet someone special while I’m heavy because in her mind he would be genuinely attracted to me. My brother is more realistic. As a successful, fit man he’s been honest with me that he wants me to not only be healthy and around for years but he also doesn’t want to see me settle because of my size. As challenging as dating has been it’s promising to imagine love is out there even if it’s self-love and love from family and friends.