Having a boyfriend makes me feel fat
In this instance, it’s not my boyfriend who makes me feel fat, quite the opposite in fact. He makes me feel amazing and sexy and gorgeous through an almost-constant regime of compliments and general groping.
It’s the everyday adulation I get from him that places past relationships in stark contrast, and causes me to think about the specific kind of body insecurity I feel when I’m part of a couple. It’s a very hard thing to explain, this niggling shame in the back of my head. Since I decided many years ago to let go of the hatred and shame I imposed on myself on behalf of society over the way I looked, it’s a puzzle to me that this faint remnant of fat girl guilt remains.
While I know my boyfriend loves me and my body, I am painfully aware that he is in a minority – not a minority of one, but a minority nonetheless. The majority of men are attracted to the size 8-12 norm, and many of those men wouldn’t be able to fathom being attracted to a plus-size woman, much less dating one. Many see it as a blow to their status, or simply embarrassing – as if they can’t get a thin girlfriend.
Girls are worse. The “what’s he doing with her?” comments are palpable in their eyes and whispered asides, and though it’s often 100% jealousy that brings them on, they’re damaging nonetheless.
I wonder why, when I can deflect any sort of fat-phobic criticism personally, I go all to pieces if someone dares to questions my worthiness of a man. I know my worth as a person isn’t devalued by my weight – but I can’t get past the notion that my worth as a partner is. Isn’t that awfully sad?
This insecurity came bubbling up to the surface in the past few weeks as the boy wants me to meet his friends and family. I told him I was scared to meet them in case they didn’t like me, the unspoken reason being because of my weight. When I finally managed to let him know why exactly I was so afraid, he was quick to try to dispel my worries… but again, the ghosts of relationships past won’t let me believe that I’m worthy.
I don’t mean to sound so very sorry for myself here… I have a hell of a lot more body confidence than most women, fat or thin. It’s practically a miracle that I can manage to get naked with a bloke at all without fear of being laughed at, or worse still, grimaced at. But there’s something about being in a relationship that makes me study my shadow on the ground as I wander along, hand-in-hand with my boyfriend, and notice the huge difference in our silhouettes. He’s so tall and svelte, my boy, that I look rather rotund and stubby next to his long limbs and narrow hips.
That’s exactly what I was doing last weekend as we tottered up St Stephen’s Green towards the car after drinks with my friends. The streetlights behind us cast our shadows forward onto the ground and I was distracted by them as two drunken lads walked past us. I heard some sort of laughing comment behind me, something nasty, I could tell by its tone. What he said, I don’t know, but I do know that the boy twisted around to look after them. Was it about me? Us? Probably not. But that last scrap of shame deep in my gut is trying to convince me that it was.
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