Thursday, August 30, 2007

"...are you going to get bigger?"

I grew up with a mother who was a model before she met my dad. She has always kept her weight low, and she has a very ectomorphic body type, in addition to being 3-4 inches taller than me.

The pursuit of thinness has always been paramount to her, and got foisted onto me as I grew up. It didn't matter that I'm built differently than she is (I'm shorter, and I put on muscle really easily, and my fat is distributed in a curvy hips-ass-boobs pattern), she was still as obsessed with my weight as she was with hers. She truly believes — and always told me so — that "the boys will line up to date you if you just lose some weight."

Meaning, my weight makes me unlovable. And I've always believed that, partly because it seemed to be true — no one ever wanted to date me. (When I was a teenager, I didn't understand the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy, and how believing something can *make* it true.) So I've always considered my weight to be something much more than just excess fat and flesh; if it made me so damned unloveable, then it must be something horrible and disgusting.

I've been dating my boyfriend for over a year now, and we've been seriously considering moving in together. In fact, our recent vacation was somewhat of a test to see if we could tolerate each other in close quarters for an extended period of time.

I really can't over-emphasize what a good relationship this is. He is truly the kindest, most gentle person I have ever known. He's never careless with my feelings. I feel totally safe with him.

My boyfriend and I talked last night about the prospect of moving in together, now that the vacation "experiment" is over. We talked about still having some fears, but that for the most part we want to do it.

And then my boyfriend said, "Okay, here comes a major question...." And he paused, and then asked, "....are you going to get bigger?"

For a split second, I just wanted to die.

You know, people can't help who they're attracted to, or what physical attributes they find attractive/unattractive. But I had just been assuming that my weight wasn't an issue with him, because he regularly demonstrates that he is *very* attracted to me. I mean, I *thought* so. You can't fake sexual arousal; or, at least, I can't fathom why anyone would fake it that frequently for such a long period of time.

So, if I go with the assumption that he *is* currently attracted to me, his question still makes me think only one thing: that there is a point — a weight — at which I would be unattractive and disgusting to him.

Just like my mom said.

I'm really thrown for such a loop right now. After he asked me that question, every old fear and old ugly belief came rushing back, and crushed any semblance of body acceptance I had developed. I cried and cried and cried and could hardly even talk, for at least an hour. Finally I calmed down a little, and we talked through it. I explained all the old shit with my mom, and my old ugly fears. He told me that he *is* attracted to me. However, he didn't address the issue of whether or not he'd find me unattractive if I gained any more weight. And I certainly wasn't going to press the issue.

He has always been so careful with my feelings, and I know that he didn't ask that question to hurt me. But I also don't know how he thought it would do anything *but* hurt.

I feel like shit right now. I feel disgusting and ugly and worthless. I woke up this morning with my head full of plans to exercise 7 days a week and go back to Weight Watchers. That's not the answer, I realize that. Accepting my body is the answer, I guess. But all I can think at this particular moment is: does it matter if *I* accept my body, when the man I love *doesn't*?


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about you pain and hurt.

You need to talk to him about it. You can't just leave it as it is- out there. You need to let him know how hurtful his question was and how it hit against some very painful issues for you.

I would also point out to him that the crystal ball is hazy for you, as it is for everyone. You can't predict the future- and yes, maybe you will gain weight. But would that make you less worthy of his love? It shouldn't. If he feels it does, you know this cannot be a safe, unconditional relationship. You will know that under the surface, that qualifyer is out there, waiting for him to decide and judge if you are good enough. And in all likelihood, you will be setting yourself up for a heap of worse hurting than you are even feeling now. You may very well find yourself gaining weight if you stay with him, pushing the envelope somehow- or eating more in desperation.

You can also point out to him that there are scenarios you will find as a deal breaker too. Its not all about what he judges as good and right in the world.

Rachel said...

If your boyfriend considers this to be a "major question" for him, I think you have your answer right there.

As hurtful as it may be, you need to press the issue before the relationship goes any further. A future together that is hinged on whether or not you will gain any more weight is not healthy in any sense and like anonymous said, will only lead to more hurt and pain in the future.

Healthy relationships ought to be built upon friendship, trust and respect - not weight gain.

Michelle said...

Oh, I feel so bad for you, it's such an icky thing to say. That would plummet my self esteem down a bit, but then I would probably get over it. Hell, does he want you to sign a contract stating that you will not gain "x" pounds? I think he was felling comfortable with you and thought he had a right to ask that question, which he didn't.

Another point.... what if you ended up in a wheelchair, or he did? Would your love diminish because of this fact? There are so many factors in life that we have no control over, you have to take the good with the bad (fat is not bad!!).

You need some deep, serious talking to with the boy and let him know how this makes you feel in no uncertain terms!!

Hugs to you !!!!

ottermatic said...

While I agree with the advice provided above, I'm mostly posting to say that you are fully justified in feeling hurt. I think a similar comment would devastate me. My heart is breaking for you because I think I know how awful you must feel. I wish I knew you better so I could tell you all the specific ways that you are awesome. I can say that I have read your entire blog and have found a lot of strength and hope in your words. It sounds so trite, but hang in there, and be kind to yourself.

Meowser said...

To me, that's like asking a guy, "Are you going to lose any more hair?" or maybe, "Are you always going to make this much money?" (Or, "Are you ever going to make any more money than the pittance you're drawing now?") With the implication in back, of course, that if the answer (which of course, you can't predict years ahead) turns out to be not the one you want, you can look forward to years of a dead fish lying in your bed. And believe me, sleeping with a dead fish is much worse than sleeping alone.

I'd start the dialogue by asking how he'd feel about being asked some of the above questions. Really, though, if you're taking the best care of yourself that you can, that should be good enough for him. If it's not, what the hell does he expect you to do?

Sparkle Pants said...

Eegads. My own stomach dropped down to my ankles when I read this. I'm still battling that "fat = unloveable" bullshit. It has been drilled into my brain by the world around me most of my life. I'd be devastated if the man I loved asked me that question - I'm with the others, you have every right to feel hurt and need to talk it out more. But I know it's difficult to do. I'm sending some major warm fuzzies your way, girl. *giant hug*

Nicole said...

Holy crap. I am so sorry that you're having to deal with this. It's one thing to put up with this kind of hurt from anonymous strangers--to have your boyfriend say boggles the mind.

I think I would have reacted in exactly the same way, FWIW. As for what to do now, I have no idea. Just know that you are deserving of love now and every day in the future, regardless of how much you weigh at any point. Love should not be conditional.

custardfairy said...

Hello there. I kinda stumbled here from another blog and as one of the many "fat = unloveable" parental survivors, I wanted to put in my fat cents.

Will you get bigger? Maybe. You might be hit by a bus, or you might develop a horrible illness, or you might win the lottery, or you might never change or grow at all as a person.

You may or may not have control over what happens to you in the future.

If getting bigger is a deal-breaker for him, then it just is. I think it sucks, and it's not fair, but there you go. But if that is the case, then maybe you're better off without that dead fish, as someone else said.

Of all the conditions I would put on a relationship, getting fat or thin or having stretch marks or growing nose hair wouldn't be involved. Will he still find you attractive if you get bigger? Well, again, that's his deal. You can't control it, but you can control what you decide to do with your time and your love.

I hope things work out for the best, and maybe give consideration to having a lot of talk time in the future with your beau.

Rose said...

He knows that you can't answer that question, it's his way of "gently" telling you he thinks you're too fat. I don't think this is what you want to hear, so take it with a grain of salt, but I think you should "gently" tell him that you're moving on to a more decent and mature man.

You are worthy and loveable and you deserve nothing less than someone who will appreciate you for all you are.

Becky said...

That seriously broke my heart =( I also worry that I'll keep getting bigger and reach a point where my fiance won't find me attractive anymore... so I know exactly how horrible that must have made you feel =(

But sweetie... if weight gain is enough to make him stop loving you, he doesn't love you enough. You deserve someone who loves you so much they would still find you loveable and beautiful even if you weighed 1000 pounds. You need to push the issue, because if he doesn't love you enough to stick with you through thick and thin (no pun intended, heh), it's better you find out now then five years down the road. Good luck to you.

twilightriver said...

I spent six years loving my best friend who only had the best of intentions in showing concern for my weight. It started like your story with him being proud of me for a walk that was only a fraction of what I usually walk daily and asking me if I was going to get bigger.

As our relationship grew more intimate he felt more free to share his thoughts about my body, my eating habits, and how much I exercise. I let him convince me that all of the changes I was making were in my own best interests.

However, none of my efforts were ever enough to make him feel completely at ease with my body. Even when we were engaged, he avoided touching my fattest parts and was constantly worried that eating out once each month was going to make me fatter.

He cheated on me with a tall, thin woman with long legs and married her because he'd gotten her pregnant and he was in love with her in ways he hadn't been able to love me because my weight was a disappointment.

That's a worst case scenario. Even if that doesn't happen to you, he's still saying things that hurt you and making you cry. It isn't your fault for having emotional baggage. It's his fault for not loving you just the way you are. It's his fault for thinking that he feel less for you if you gain weight.

Don't make excuses for him. He's shallow and there are guys out there who aren't. There are people who think you are worth more than ten of him because you are wonderfully you, just the way you are and even if you weigh 500 lbs because weight is just a number, not a value judgement or a reflection of your work ethic or your moral fortitude.

There's a happy ending to my story. When I stopped wasting my time on a guy who made me cry because "he was just looking out for my best interests". My life started to fill up with people who love me just the way I am and think I'm hot just the way I am and won't think less of me if I gain weight or fail to lose weight. My life started to fill up with those people when I stopped making excuses for the jerks like my "best friend".

Whether you choose to stay with your bf or look for someone who doesn't hurt you with his good intentions, I hope that you love yourself just as you are because you deserve all the love you can find it in yourself to give. When you give it to yourself first, it overflows into everyone around you and they give it back.

Boobarella said...

ITA, discussion with him is needed pronto.

I've also gone through the parental fat=unloveable programming BS, have struggled with my weight, and finding a man to accept that about me. Now I finally have, and that acceptance has made a huge difference in my life. He accepts that I may get bigger and is not only ok with it, relishes the idea of me with more curves.

Your present and future happiness is worth finding someone who can love all of you.

Autumn said...

I'm so sorry to hear that. And extremely boneheaded of him to ask. That's like asking if he'll go bald or develop ED, or if one of you will develop a debilitating illness. Sometimes taking all of those fears you have and putting them out there straight to the other person---in this case, asking him if there is a size at which he wouldn't want to be with you---can be the most freeing experience. I wish you the best in talking through this.

Lindsay said...

I am so very sorry that you've going through this. I think my stomach dropped into my toes when i read what he'd asked you.

I don't know either of you, well... at all, really. So i don't feel comfortable commenting on either of you individually or the two of you together.

However, i think if i were in a situation of this sort, i would not want to proceed with the moving-in process until this issue had been thoroughly discussed and resolved. If someone was going to put such arbitrary conditions as weight on how they felt about me, i... well, i'm the sort who's more inclined to rip a band-aid off than try to coax it gently and slowly.

My heart goes out to you - however this works out, it can't be pleasant or easy.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm so sorry.

I realize that you're pretty serious with this guy, but he just slapped a major condition on his affection for you, which is a total red flag for me. Even if the reason you got so upset is because of parental conditioning (been there, done that), the real problem isn't you and you didn't overreact. Your post made it sould like you took total responsibilty for getting upset at what he said, without really making him own up to the fact that it was pretty fucking horrible for him to have said that. Please please please don't let him off the hook. Don't make it about your "oversensitivity." It's about a guy who will only agree to love you if you are within a weight range that he finds acceptable, and THAT is NOT acceptable.
Again, I'm really sorry.

goodwithcheese said...

Oh, man. That is so hurtful. And he knows it was hurtful, or he doesn't *know* you. And if he doesn't *know* you, then...well.

You're not being oversensitive and he needs to explain where the question is coming from.

At the end of the day, a man can be kind and gentle and a good man, but that doesn't necessarily make him a good man *for you.*

Cindy M said...

I'm de-lurking because your post went straight to my heart. I don't know you, but I want to offer hugs anyway.

does it matter if *I* accept my body, when the man I love *doesn't*?

My answer to this is a resounding "YES!" I've struggled so, so, long with this same feeling, but one thing I've learned--even if I can't always be in touch with the knowledge--is that YOUR OWN feelings about yourself matter more than anyone else's. If you build your self-esteem on another's judgment, it's like building a house on sand.

When I first met the man who I later married, he told me that he appreciated all women "except the really fat ones and the old ones." I was fat at the time, but not nearly as fat as I became later. After 16 years of good times, awful times, and real friendship, we divorced peacefully but very painfully. One of the major issues--for him--was my weight. It was devastating.

But I had my clue right there at the beginning. I was already fat and I was guaranteed to grow old.

Your pain is more than your parental programming. It's telling you something very valuable.

I wish you strength and wisdom; I'm so sorry for your pain.

Lauren said...

I had a boyfriend who's grandparents didn't like me because I was fat and that concerned them because I might die earlier than him and his health insurance might be higher. He loved me and was concerned about my health ,but it didn't matter to him how fat I was, just as long as I was healthy and happy (which I was neither) Then I had another boyfriend who said he loved me and was attracted to me but then was embarrassed when I was around his friends. You have to be happy with you because other people ...well sometimes they just suck.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. My advice would be to get out of this relationship. Is this really someone you would want to be with?

There are guys out there who know that outward appearance doesn't matter. Don't you think it's worth it to wait until you find one of those guys?

I think that if you stay in this, he might just hurt you more. And even if you lost weight and became his "desirable size" then he would probably find other things that are "wrong" with you and demand you to change them.

Don't you want someone who will love you no matter what?

I wish you the best :)

Anonymous said...

don't settle. Do you really want to live with some guy who makes you feel like you want to die?

and don't be so easy on him. every guy in America knows that weight is a touchy subject with women. he had to know that this was going to hurt you.

don't forget: you deserve someone who loves and accepts you!!!

Tarah said...

You deserve someone who loves you unconditionally. That's my best advice.

Sarah said...

I am so sorry that happened. I see it's been a few days, I hope things are better. I have no idea how I would handle that situation. I hope you're ok.

Anonymous said...

I felt for you as I read this, and I agree with the comments above. If you really think this guy is putting conditions on his love for you, then it's not going to work. Your feelings are telling you something.

But, I feel like one thing is missing from the discussion, and that is the sad effect that fat hatred has on men, even men who are attracted to larger women. Often, when a man criticizes his partner for being heavy, it's more about his sense that she is "embarrassing" him in front of other men than a lack of attraction or love on his part. I'm not saying that's any better, since he's holding her responsible for "their" bad behaviour and prejudices, and his feelings about them, which isn't fair, but it is a different issue, more related to his own lack of confidence and fears about his masculinity.

I'm sure you're talking to him about all this, and working to unpack his issues about this. (And they are "his" issues--don't let him tell you that this is your problem. He's an adult and has chosen to be in the relationship with you, and now he's turning around and poisoning the water--what's that about.) You might find that there are some things you can deal with, or maybe not.

I guess my point is that this stuff can be pretty complicated, and you might be surprised at what is really at the bottom of things.

sincerely,sharon said...

okay first of all,i am so sorry that you had to go through one should be made to feel that way,intentionally or unintentionally.

reading your story was kinda like reading mine.only that i probably was much fatter and back when i had the pounds on me,i could never get a bf.

i've lost the weight but at the back of my mind its like im always worrying that if i put on the weight again,i will be unlovable,like you said.

i think your bf is testing the waters. but even that question that he asked,goes to show that he IS thinking about it.

i really thinks it lies down to what you what and are you happy?if youre happy with your weight and yourself then hell to whatever anyone else thinks.

Anonymous said...

I'm de-lurking to say I'm so sorry this man hurt you this way.

The commenters all make good points, and there is no question that you have the right to be loved and accepted, by yourself and your partner, no matter what your size. Your boyfriend's comment also raises questions about how he would behave if something else went "wrong," such as getting sick or being in an accident. Would he see those things as a dealbreaker, too?

But, yesterday's anonymous commenter also made some good points about how size discrimination affects men and their ability to be satisfied with the real women they love. Yes, there are men who will love you even if you weight 500 lbs, but even those men are constantly bombarded by media images that connect the beauty of their partners with their masculinity and success, and definte that beauty as slenderness. I've seen men who like larger women derided as chubbychasers, if the women are overweight, and sick perverts if the women they're drawn to are obese, and openly mocked for "scraping the bottom of the barrel."

Heck, I'm fat myself and yet I have to admit I am drawn to slimmmer, seemingly fitter people over heavier ones. If we struggle with that ourselves, maybe it's not fair to completely write off an otherwise good guy because he has been "contaminated" by society on this. Still, as Anonymous pointed out, it's important not to let his issues become yours.

I guess my main point is that, while I can certainly see why you might not want to continue the relationship with this man, it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. It's easy for well-meaning friends and readers to say "dump the jerk," but that might not be the answer. Only you (and he) can know what this means for your future.

--Freyjah(at hotmaildotcom)

KateHarding said...

Oh, Teppy. I was away last week and just got to this now. It about killed me.

I was reading this post and thinking, "Yep, exactly" about all the fat makes you unlovable stuff. (FWIW, I got that message very strongly from a FAT family, not a thin one.)

And then, as so many others have said, your boyfriend's comment was just a kick in the gut.

But all I can think at this particular moment is: does it matter if *I* accept my body, when the man I love *doesn't*?

YES. Because honey, this is not the only man out there. And it doesn't sound to me like he's the man for you. Here's why:

He's never careless with my feelings. I feel totally safe with him.

I'm afraid I don't quite believe either of those things after reading this post.

No, you can't control what you're attracted to, and he's got every right not to be attracted to larger bodies. But that doesn't mean you have to stay with him and keep worrying that the other shoe will drop someday. It means he should date a naturally thin woman, and you should find someone who adores your body just as it is, and adores YOU so much that question would never cross his mind.

I know you love him, and I'm making this really black and white, when your feelings are anything but. But that question is just a HUGE red flag for me.

If nothing else, it means he doesn't understand fatness at all. I mean, not only can you not see the future, but if you started gaining weight, it wouldn't necessarily be because of factors under your control. Almost everyone gains weight as they age, for starters. Medication and illness can cause weight gain. (I've gained quite a bit in the last year on Lexapro, but my bf much prefers me this fat and happy to less fat and depressed.) Do you two want to have kids? Does he think that a woman's body should be the same post-pregnancy as it was before?

And as you know, DIETING will ultimately make you fatter. If you keep up the demand feeding and moderate exercise, you will probably not get fatter because of factors under your control; but you might get fatter anyway, because hey, it happens.

And if you do? You will still be lovable.

And oh, Teppy, I just read your last post, too, and I'm not digging that comment about being proud of you for walking a mile, either. Listen, I once broke up with a man because (among other reasons) after three months of dating -- and five years of being acquainted before that -- he couldn't stop acting SURPRISED about how smart I was. He was a bona fide genius, used to being the smartest guy in a room, and he thought it was this huge compliment to keep saying, "Wow, I can't get over how smart you are!" every time I said something vaguely interesting. At first, it did feel good to hear that, of course. But after a while, it was like, "Have you fucking MET me? It's still NEWS to you that I'm smart?"

That little habit of his became a big red flag, because it told me he wasn't seeing who I was; he was still working off some concept of me that had nothing to do with the daily reality he would have witnessed, had he been paying attention. And that's the first thing I thought of when I read that post. If he doesn't know you can walk a mile easily, who the hell has he been dating in his mind all this time?

The guy I'm with now said something like, "Wow, I can't get over how smart you are" once, right after we met. After that, it was, "Wow, I can't get over how lucky I am." And he still thinks that (which he's welcome to keep saying for the rest of his life) over a year later and with me probably 20 lbs. heavier.

That's what I want for you, hon.

Sorry about the world's longest comment.

Meg said...

De-lurking to say... just, Jesus. This made me cry. No, no, no, no, no.

Here's what he should have said, and I know for a fact that there are guys out there who think this way and who would say this:

"Whatever form you take, I will find you sexy and loveable and wonderful. You and your weird little brain are my kink. If you turn green, I will find this strangely arousing. If you grow a leg out of one hip, I will probably be delighted to figure out new sexual positions that two-legged girls can't do. If you grow a third boob, you know I will be down with that. If you lose all your hair, I will rub your head with scented oils and that will probably be hot, too. Gaining weight is not going to be a problem. Nothing is."

Either he can say that, or he can't. It doesn't say a damn thing about you, but it says a LOT about him. Either he gets the righteous hell over this, or he is not the man for you. Some guys are stuck with weight limits to their affections, but there are guys out there who are not. You deserve one of those.

RioIriri said...

What Meowser said. And, I am really really sorry.

What kind of question is that anyway? Does he think you have control over that, and you're only maintaining your current size by restraining yourself?

There ARE men out there who aren't like that. I know plenty, and I married one of them. Don't settle for someone who puts conditions on his love.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar problem with a boyfriend, except the issue wasn't weight. It was my body art. The question he asked was "Are you going to get any more tattoos or piercings?"

He just didn't find them sexually attractive. It wasn't a dominance issue or a feminist issue or a political issue or anything heavy like that. He just didn't find them attractive. Although it hurt to be "borderline" for him, I also understood that he had his preferences. I was pleased that he was mature enough to bring it up.

I get told all the time that my body art is ugly. Why on earth would I ruin a beautiful body with that ink? Those rings? What have you done to yourself? What will your children/parents/boss/teachers/whatever think? People on the STREET tell me this. I have an idea what it's like to go against the norms of appearance.

But here's the deal, people don't have to change their preferences to love me, just like I don't have to change myself to be loved. I would say the "OH how COULD you?" feelings need to go take a vacay. Self-pity does no good for anyone.

That said, I did end up getting more tattoos and piercings. And the straight and narrow dude took a hike. And now I'm engaged to a guy with even more tats than I have. But do I look back at the old boyfriend and think "What an immature prig. He should have forced his tastes into an arrangement he found uncomfortable because it's my RIGHT to be loved like this."? NO.

If you don't like living on the edge, ditch the dude.

Wanting to have a partner you find "sexy" isn't a sign of immaturity. It's a human thing. Most people are going to find physical appearance a critical factor. I know I do. Not all, but most. I mean, if someone loves us for our body and appearance, they're awesome, but if they discriminate, they're scum? Come on people.

j. said...

i very much agree with what meowser said - ie - would you ask him "are you going to lose any more hair" or "are you going to get impotent in 20 years" or so. i do not think you would. and it also seems to me he has too much of an upper hand in this relationship - maybe i am wrong but it seems to me like that.

i would really find it easy and enticing to say "just dump him and find someone who will treat you like a goddess" - shich is what the columnists usually say. but to be honest i do not think there are millions of men out there waiting for us fat girls who were hearing various variations of "if you get fat nobody will love you" when growing up.

j said...

one more thing - a reaction to anonymous saying "the sad effect that fat hatred has on men, even men who are attracted to larger women. Often, when a man criticizes his partner for being heavy, it's more about his sense that she is "embarrassing" him in front of other men than a lack of attraction or love on his part. "at 11:15 AM.
that is so very true! i have met a pair of about 45 year olds recently. ther were from a small village and i. being from a city, kinda thought that in there the weight was not such an issue - and yet it was. the man told me that his paly tell him, after a few pints of couse, that they find his (overweicht├║ wife extremely attractive but would not want to have anything with her because of the other men. what a stupid loop

Anonymous said...

It worries me that this is the last post on this blog. Are you okay?

Anonymous said...

I just read this and decided to throw a few words your way.

I just figured the natural progression of relationships, and life in general, was to find someone you love, grow old, get wrinkly, flabby, near sighted, far sighted, bald, toothless, hard of hearing, hunched over, forgetful, lazy, crabby.....and love each other more and more each day not in spite of these things but because you're still you...and they're still the person you fell in love with all those years ago.