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Commentary

Alanah Davis: We’re just fluffy

Image by Alanah Davis.

If the desire for lighter skin and smaller waists is so well documented in what we see in beauty trends, diet fads, social media and even the relationship choices of so many people around us from celebrities, close friends and even couples we might admire from afar on the internet through the scope of hashtags like couple goals or #blacklove, why is it so confusing when I bring up my literal experience of who gets chosen in relationships when we know who often gets picked for long-term, loving, marital or even platonic connections? People who look good.

It’s people who fit the mold of what Western feminine beauty standards have been telling us for decades. Bodies that are proportionate, bodies that are less blemished, bodies that are picturesque, digestible and attached to minds that haven’t been traumatized by the constant rejection associated with a fat-bodied experience are the ones we see in relationships more. We could go further into how sometimes physical attraction is where the buck stops for folks in picking the best romantic suitor and how that might play into the rate of failure in relationships. We all know that life is about so much more than how someone looks by now, right? *eye roll*

Fat bodied people do at times find acceptance in social circles, on social media platforms and in love for being exactly who they are. I love that for us! I more recently am even celebratory of the marital engagement of a plus-sized friend and her newfound Queer love that I can’t wait to celebrate. But the distinction of Queer in this instance is one that freaking matters. Especially when we contextualize her romantic interest in men for decades with no traction, no real mutual interest in who she was, what she brought to the table and certainly not long-term partnership or soon coming marriage that mimics anything like what she’s experiencing now in this full-bodied (pun lovingly intended) experience with another Queer woman whose body is more akin to what hers looks like.

Our imaginations don’t need to stretch that much in order to imagine what life might be like for any 200lb+ woman with darker skin, acne scars and a distinct voice that includes the ability to be able to speak up about mistreatment from people with a special attention to relationships and dating. That’s my experience, and while not all fat women are monolithic, many of our experiences of mistreatment because of the way our bellies might hang over our thighs are collective, similar, real and at times painful.

Not only am I and my other fat friends the kind of people who aren’t traditionally seen in media or in our minds when we think about hashtags like couple goals or Black love, but I just can’t shut up about it and that makes any of the sexy allure I might initially have to interested suitors, friends and even colleagues dwindle. People don’t want to hear it. People don’t want to hear about a fat, Black sad dating experience or existence. They don’t want to hear about the rejection, the teasing, the ridicule, the comparisons, our bad dates or our almost constant singlehood. Sometimes that singlehood is purposeful after a lifetime of getting kinda luckily chose by cis-het men and hidden or told not to tell anyone or never being taken public, let alone proposed to.

When I do speak up about it, the way I feel or my experiences, I feel a condescending tone that is very much shut up, wait your turn and someone will choose you soon, sweetie — just not me. Be happy for what I did choose, though. OR, we’ve all got preferences, why don’t you respect mine? becomes the conversation after you’ve already invited someone over, shared yourself and apparently allowed them to privately explore their curiosity about a fat bodied person, they’re welcome?

It’s not all been bad per se. There have been times in my life where I’ve experienced love, marriage, sexual pleasure, relationships, situationships, all that. Beautiful and sometimes even happy connections that I was happy in for a short time. I can’t negate that something about my experiences are different when I compare notes with understanding small-bodied friends even though sometimes I feel like I can’t even talk about it amongst friends, as if it didn’t come with enough shame when it all happened.

I’ve spent years in romantic situations where I was giving my body, time, heart and continued interest to folks who as recently as this year shamed me for sharing an over decade-long engagement in conversation with a friend of mine. I shuttered and backed down from the conversation in anger and confusion as if I had done something wrong by sharing that I cared about this person in a way that was more than friendship. It was a horrible but familiar feeling of guilt and my silence has always served as the agreement that I’m just not good enough to claim publicly? That I’m not the girlfriend? That I’m fat?

After years of being the good fat friend I decided not so long ago that I’m not interested in the downgrade of friendship when I was initially interested or involved romantically with someone even in friendship and it’s always to the tune of them finding someone — you guessed it — who is lighter in skin shade and smaller bodied than I am. And I’m supposed to just be a good friend, allow the person to glean my fat goodness, not commit and lovingly support the relationship to the person they did end up choosing, no. Helck no.

The agreement usually starts off as a small notion that maybe things should be private or maybe the person used to tag you but won’t anymore on social media. The speculation that something romantic between you might be buzzing about in your shared community or friendships and even that is enough to make the person’s skin crawl, enough to make them switch up on you and start calling you sis when the nature of the tension between you was as clear as the Caribbean. Tropical fish round your feet and all. Romantic in all its vacation adjacent goodness. It always feels good to get away from the status quo of not getting the love I feel I deserve if even just for a few months.

The shame and guilt that fat bodied people like myself experience around just wanting love, having love but having it change makes that Caribbean and the tropical fish dissipate. It’s more like the Hudson River and electric eels now. More like if I was more agreeable and my experiences weren’t my experiences maybe just maybe if I get chosen one day? Tuh!

My recommendation, if your eyes could stomach this rant for 1,000 words now, would be to, if you’re fat bodied, stop accepting less than you deserve in every area of your life. You are fat, not stupid, not ugly, not undesirable. You don’t deserve to be neck deep in the Hudson River getting shocked by migrational electric eels, feeling guilt for wanting what I assume every warm blooded human wants, love.

If you’re not a fat bodied person and consider yourself an ally or friend who hasn’t recently had unsuccessful or flirtatious dealings with a fat bodied person with no follow through or real interest than keep being a good listener, inspect the preferences of the people around you and even yourself. Hook your fat bodied friend up with someone with their consent. Tag your fat friend on social media and hype them up like you do your smaller bodied friends. We can tell the difference in the celebration 

If you’re a person who has recently dated but hid or rejected a fat bodied person and you are smaller bodied, then it might be time to inspect what biases you carry when you’re in the dating arena. Did you make odd requests of a voyeuristic nature for this fat bodied person that they should watch and be happy with what you ended up choosing when it wasn’t them? Nothing that looked like them? 

We do have feelings, we’re just fluffy.