Men, dating, and relationships can be complicated and scary for the average woman. But for fat women, there is often another layer of confusion, fear, and the unknown.
Every Tuesday night my friends and I go to our local pub for a pub quiz. Last week I was sitting facing the end of the bar, a blank wall behind me. Two friends were sitting across from me, so when I looked at them, I could see the end of the bar behind them. I go early to grab a table because it’s often crowded and busy. When I had settled into the table, I noticed a man at the end of the bar. He was fairly cute in an unkempt kind of way: dark hair, scruffy beard, dressed casually in jeans and a white t-shirt. I only noticed him because he was looking at me. Throughout the night, as I chatted with my friends, I kept locking eyes with him (on my part only because he was directly in the line of sight to my friends). He never smiled at me or did anything else – we just kept catching each other’s eyes. To most women, this would surely indicate a sign of attraction or interest. To me, it’s way more complicated and anxiety inducing than that.
For most of my life I’ve heard that I was fat, ugly, and not worthy of being found attractive or of being loved. This was also demonstrated by my lack of dates and boyfriends from high school and into college. The few times I was approached by men – at a bar, at a party, or at a café – I was always suspicious of their motives. As a fat woman, I had heard all kinds of horror stories about men and fat women: men who were dared by their friends to try to pick up the fat chick; men who thought fat women were easy lays because they must surely be desperate; men who would chat with the fat woman so his friend could pick up her more attractive friend. I’m sure that while I was friendly to these men, I was sending off strong “not interested” vibes (even if I was interested). My lack of experience with men and dating, combined with these stories, led me to become extremely unaware when men do show interest and flirt with me. I’m terrible at picking up flirty vibes and reading romantic signals.
So when I see a man looking at me numerous times, my first thought is always “why is he looking at me?”. I discretely check to see if I have food in my teeth or something smudged on my face. I check to make sure my cleavage is in place and not falling out (an everyday occurrence with a large chest). I wonder if my hair is sticking out all over or if my shirt is riding up. But then, after those thoughts pass, I begin to wonder if he finds me attractive. I will then try to catch his eye a time or two. But then the doubt starts to set in. I begin to hear all those little voices from my past telling me that I’m fat, ugly, and don’t deserve love. My thoughts then turn to “he must think I’m so ugly that he just can’t help looking at me”. I then have an internal battle trying to figure out what his looking at me means. It’s why I have such a hard time approaching men – I just don’t know why they look at me and I don’t want to approach someone with the intention of flirting, only to be dismissed, shunned, or laughed at. That feeling of not knowing creates such stress. And I know that it’s not only me, or other fat women, that experience this. But for me, it is so hard to overcome years of doubt, rejection, and insecurity.
I am a work in progress. One of the things I’m currently working on is to not need to know why someone is looking at me. They might be judging me based on my appearance, but so what? I don’t need to impress anyone or have everyone like me or find me attractive. If I am being laughed at they aren’t deserving of my time and effort. So the next time I see a guy looking at me from across the room, I may just give him a smile and see what happens!