I sometimes think I let myself get and be fat as a line of defense. Stop with the torches – I know it’s a shitty thing to say. I recognize it, but hear me out before you blast me into oblivion. For better or worse, society associates fat with unattractive. It’s not ideal in a mate because everything around us tells us that fat is shameful, that it’s disgusting. In this paradigm, a pretty thin woman will always ALWAYS get more attention than an equally pretty fat woman. Not with all partners, of course, but I’m fairly sure even the most stalwart defender of “beauty in all sizes” cannot disagree with what I’ve said. While some folks are forward thinking re: the attractiveness of all bodies, the vast majority of society is not.
Rewind to when I was at pretty much an ideal weight. Pardon my vanity a moment, I’ve got a good face. Mama gave me some looks and for it, THANKS FOR THE GENES, MOM. I also stick out. I’m tall – 5’9″ and I have this shock of wild black hair and very pale skin. You see me coming. The bright red lipstick probably doesn’t help me blend, but I’m not sure I would have blended well anyway. I’m going to highlight in no particular order just a few of the things that happened to me during my tenure as “weight-appropriate fit chick” –
1) A man at a bar bought me a beer on draft even though I was drinking bottled Corona all night. I lifted it up to thank him when my girlfriend pointed out the white shit dissolving on the bottom of the glass. He’d put a mickey in my drink. I slid the drink down and away. I was shocked. Erica looked at him, and realizing he got caught, he took the fuck off out of the bar. Hillary narrowly avoids date rape, Story One. There’s another narrowly-avoiding-date-rape story, but I don’t tell that one and I never will. Just believe me that it wasn’t fun.
2) I was on a boat at a wedding wearing a nice dress. One of the men at the party cornered me between the deck railing and the side of the reception hall. He ground against me and forced me to lean so far back over the railing, I had to grip it for fear of falling overboard. I was saved by the arrival of a guy who saw what was going on and forced the guy away from me.
3) I walked down the streets of Boston to meet a friend who was visiting from out of town. While walking through Boston, three guys followed me around six curving blocks. I ducked into a convenience store when I realized I was being followed. When the gentleman behind the counter asked me what he could do for me, I told him what was wrong. The three men outside lingered for a minute. Fortunately, the guy in the store was a hulking dude and basically went out to clear them out for me. He also assured me if they gave me crap, he was willing to use the various implements of anti-robbery he had behind the counter if need be. Thanks, Hero Stranger.
4) Dave had this friend who was well over six feet tall and BIG. Every time he saw me, he would NOT stop groping me. Boobs, butt – you name it, the guy was a pig and manhandled the piss out of me and did not take no for an answer. And yes, I said a lot of “No.” It wasn’t until Dave told him “If you don’t stop, I will break your fingers and then I’ll tell your parents” that he backed off. Me? Ignorable, I guess. Not deserving of personal space on the merits of my own choice.
5) I went to a comic book convention with my friends. Because I like to look nice? I wore a skirt. I was warned, “Don’t do that, these are stinky fan boys.” I’m stubborn – I wanted to wear what I wanted to wear and fuck society for telling me I can’t. While there, I had my ass palmed no less than four times.
There are more examples. Many more, actually, now that I think about it. A girl (or any victim regardless of gender) never forgets how you feel during this shit. Disgusted, scared, and I think even the smartest person is left thinking, “What could -I- have done differently to avoid this?”
Last night, I went to a concert with my mother, my aunt, my uncle. The man in the row behind us was a friendly sort, kept talking to my uncle. He also stroked my hair at one point. Like, full sweep of this stranger’s hand on the back of my head and down to thread his fingers through my hair. I was shocked, but I thought MAYBE it was an accident – when he did it, there were people walking in front of me and I’d had to lean back into his row to get away from them so I didn’t get an elbow to the face. I told my mother what he did, whose response was, “If it happens again, tell me.” It didn’t. Not until we were leaving. My uncle had just said we ought to go a little early to avoid traffic, so we were packing up. The guy asked us if we were leaving, I said yes. Not only did he put his hands on my shoulders and say, “Aww, that’s too bad,” but as I turned away, he touched my hair again. Same deal – open palm on the back of the head and down to my back.
Because we were leaving, I didn’t make a thing. I just wanted to get out of there because it was gross. This particular feeling of discomfort is a VERY distinct one, I find. Once you are in the midst of it, you are reminded of all the other times that you were feeling similarly horrified by someone treading all over your personal space and boundaries. And while my shut-in lifestyle and weight have, to a point, acted as a shield, apparently last night it was my turn to be creepy touched again.
The thing I found — find? — sad was/is, I’ve recently dropped a healthy chunk of weight. Not all of it, but enough that I comfortably feel like I’m heading in “the right direction” for my particular goals. And I actually found myself wondering, “Do I want to invite this shit back in.” Because it happened to me frequently enough when I was skinny (or as skinny as my body type gets) that it’s going to happen more and more. And there’s this awful fear that goes along with that thought that I’d love to explain but I’m not sure would do it justice. Powerlessness is the best word that comes to mind. Not being in control of your own body. Not being respected in your own skin.
I guess the reason I’m blogging about this is there’s a lot of talk about how rape culture is exaggerated and how the feminists need to shut up about women’s issues and “Dudes get it.” Do they? Really? Because I’m thinking the ratio of dudes having to deal with the powerlessness thing compared to women is pretty low. Yes, male victims happen and DUDES, I AM SO SORRY for you. But this does tend to slant towards a female problem most of the time. And if we are as enlightened of a society as people like to claim, if dudes REALLY GET IT, why would someone like me dread getting back to what society deems an ideal proportion for me? Why would I -ACTIVELY- think about, “Do I want to lose the rest of this weight? More people will touch me.”
Isn’t that fucking sad? I think it’s sad. That’s why I’m talking about it here. And no, I’m not going to stop losing weight out of fear, but when it actually crosses my mind that “maybe I shouldn’t,” something is terribly, terribly wrong. I only wish I knew how to fix it, but it’s an issue a little bigger than me alone.