body image, dating, wedding

The Dating Game

I didn’t date in high-school and didn’t get my first boyfriend until after college.

To be fair, I did go on two dates while a teenager, although neither were of the romantic persuasion. My sophomore year, a male friend who was a grade above me asked me to homecoming because his girlfriend’s mother hated him and wouldn’t let her go as his date. Then my senior year, my prom date was an acquaintance in my friend group who also didn’t have a significant other and so we just kind of ended up paired together for the event.

I watched my friends, with their long-term boyfriends, and wondered what was wrong with me. Why was I not worthy of being chosen?

In college and my early twenties, I may not have dated but I certainly kissed and flirted (and did other things) but the idea of dating, of being coupled and in a relationship was completely lost on me.

Squire's castle

I used to blame this on my weight, believing that the guys I went to high-school put too much emphasis on looks and, therefore, pursued all the skinny girls. But, the thing was, I wasn’t fat in high-school. At least not at first. A picture from freshman year homecoming shows an average sized girl.

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But I didn’t see that at the time. No, when I was 14, I saw my weight as the biggest hindrance to all my life problems. If I could just solve the weight problem, then magically everything would be perfect, including getting a boyfriend.

Of course, that’s not how this works and along with being average sized when I was a freshman in high-school, I was also hiding an undiagnosed binge eating disorder so while I was struggling with my weight mentally, I was also struggling with it physically, too, so by the time I graduated I looked like this:

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By 18, my dress size matched my age, a fashion trend that would continue until my late twenties. My prom dress was a bridesmaid dress ordered from a JC Penny catalog because nothing in stores fit. This is not a remark on my size, but a comment on the dearth of shopping options available to plus size women, let alone plus size teenagers, back in the late 1990s.

In college, in between all the flirting and kissing (and other things), I continued to believe my weight was the cause of all my angst. Along with experimenting with men, I experimented with diets. I first joined Weight Watchers in college which began my fifteen year on-again-off-again relationship with dieting. Weight Watchers. Carbohydrate Addicts diet. Atkins. Weight Watchers again. Slim Fast. Blood type diet. Mediterranean Diet. Intermittent Fasting. 5:2 diet.

Honestly, if there was a book about it, I probably tried it.

Up and down and up and down and up and down the scale went as I chased after the snake oil belief that if I could just hit that ideal number, I’d meet the perfect man and life could finally start.

When I think back on some of the relationship decisions I made in my twenties…. I made some shitty, shitty choices, y’all. I also put up with really shitty behavior from men because I was more terrified of being alone. I begged a cheating boyfriend to take me back, I was so convinced I’d never find anyone to love me ever again. Like. Seriously. What the fuck.

And then, one day, about five and a half years ago I actually did hit that ideal number. All the restriction and nights going to bed hungry had paid off. The scale showed me that magical, completely arbitrary number. And then nothing happened. Life stayed the same. All those problems and issues I had before were still there. I didn’t suddenly get a boyfriend just because I had lost weight because my weight wasn’t the problem. My weight had never been the problem.

My attitudes and beliefs about my weight were the problem.

I had bought into the cultural and societal pressures that told me that I, as a person, only had value if I was thin. I believed the magazines that told me fat women never found love. I put up with shitty behavior from men because my warped brain told me that I was lucky to have them because no other man could ever possibly love me as a fat woman. I needed to put up with this shitty behavior because if they left, I’d never find love ever again.

My problem wasn’t my weight. My problem was diet culture bullshit, which states that thin bodies are good and fat bodies are bad and I am a bad person for being fat and so, therefore, I deserve whatever bad things happen to me. Conversely, because I have a “bad” body, I don’t deserve good things. I don’t deserve love and happiness and relationships and marriage. No, those things are only reserved for those people with “good” bodies.

I spent most of my life legitimately believing that was all true.

For years, I hid behind my weight, contorting and fashioning myself to act and behave the way I thought men wanted because I didn’t think I was good enough. I was too quirky, too weird, too … well, too much of everything. I also was too much physically and since this guy was already making concessions by dating my too much body, I needed to make sure everything else about me was just enough. Or not enough. It was under the limit, whatever limit it was. I tempered my personality, my opinions, my interests, so as to not make him rethink his decision to date me.

It’s bullshit. It’s all bullshit.

I know it’s bullshit because I’m getting married this weekend. I’m marrying a kind, generous, funny man who loves me exactly as I am. There’s no tempering of personality. There’s no belief I’m too much. There’s no pressure to lose weight or look a certain way. Our interests and opinions align, but even if they don’t we find ways to balance them because we love each other. I’ve gone disc golfing with him, he took the Pottermore quiz for me (he’s a Ravenclaw, which is what I guessed).

I used to believe that nobody could ever possibly love me as I was. To be fair, I spent so long trying to change who I was, I don’t think I even really knew the real me. And while it’s great and all that he loves the real me, and I can really and truly be myself around him, the fact that I like and love the real me is even more important.

The irony is, I knew him back in high-school. We worked at the library together, were in band together, and our friend circles overlapped. It just took us about twenty years to find each other again. Which, on the one hand, seems like a really long time but sometimes time is exactly what you need in order to get to where you are supposed to be.

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