That Time I Was Fat Shamed By A Man I Dated
TV ads make going through puberty look so appealing. The way I remember it, puberty hit me like a Mac Truck. One day I woke up with breasts. Two years later, I had my first period and then things began to fill out. I became increasingly aware and awkward with my body. Genetically, I’ve never been predisposed to being on the svelte side of the spectrum. I was always curvier than a lot of my friends. Once, a classmate’s mom embarrassed me in a room full of people by pulling out a tape measure and looping it around my hips, but not before belting out that they were too wide. I’ve always been made to feel like an “other” for my size.
When I was younger, I dated and was in love with a man I had no business giving any of my affections to. I literally moved across coasts with no plan just to be with him — chalk it up to being young and in love. Moving to a new city is never easy for anyone, even when you have a “support system.” My routine changed drastically and it became difficult to find quiet spaces in New York City to simply take everything it all in. So, I began to self-medicate with food and sank into a place of functional melancholy.
Within the span of a year-and-a-half, I had ballooned to almost 240lbs. That’s doable on a taller frame meant for weightlifting or bodybuilding. However, on my small 5’4 frame, it was the most drastic change my body had ever undergone. This sudden weight gain affected an already underlying health issue and made it much worse. All the while, I was in a relationship that wasn’t working and grasping at straws for affection.
I’ll never forget when he said it. One day I was feeling a little frisky and he, well, wasn’t. To my knowledge, of all the problems we had, our sex life wasn’t one of them. However, on this day, instead of telling me that he wasn’t in the mood, the man I love chose to berate me.
“I can’t [redacted] you when you look like this,” he told me. “It’s not even cute anymore.”
I felt like Eve discovering her nakedness for the first time. The tsunami of shame that washed over me was palpable and, years later, I’m still working on letting it go. It’s one thing when the world tells you you’re not beautiful, when you barely see positive representations of color or bodies that look like yours in mainstream media. But it’s another thing entirely when the person you love flatly tells you that they no longer find you desirable on account of your weight. Seeing how upset I was after stomping in his own pride and entitlement, he apologized but the damage had been done.
One could argue that he was well within his right to say that he was no longer physically attracted to my body and the weight I’d put on. We’re all entitled to our feelings and have the freedom to express them as we choose. However, words mean things. Ideally, one should weigh out the intention of their words versus the impact. My boyfriend didn’t do that. While we may have concerns about the physical health and even aesthetic appearance of those closest to us, I’ve found that an encouraging word, positive reinforcement and heartfelt team efforts are more beneficial to inciting change than the tasteless explosions of our own personal discomfort.
Eventually, I lost the weight — and the boyfriend — and got my health in order. But truth be told, that one aspect still gives me pause whenever I’m with a new partner. It’s a challenge not repeating what he said to me. I’m still working on accepting my body as it is in all its curvy wonder, mostly for what it can do and not so much what it looks like. Because when it’s true love it’ll be encouragement and not shame when it comes to my nakedness.