Sorry to have been away. I was doing 18-20 hours a day in the hospital with my mother for much of the past week. Against all odds, medical reasoning, and anything else you can stack against the survival of a septic 80-year old, she’s made it out of the hospital and into rehab (that itty-bitty body is apparently made of spider silk and stubbornness), so I am catching my breath a bit and getting back a little into my grooves.
So, first there was this:
then came this:
and then this:
Actually, I could keep going. There is a large list of pieces out there about dating-while-fat, canoodling-while-fat, and every other variation on the subject that you can think of. What was interesting about the middle piece is that it was by a guy, about being/dating fat in the particularly savagely appearance-sensitive universe of gay men. I have yet to find anything by a straight fat guy. I wonder whether that’s because , up to a certain level of fatness (which I am not sure I’d want to be asked to define), the ever-living patriarchy still lets them mostly get away with bigness, or because even broaching the topic would break some huge bro-rule, or because that sort of emotional nakedness is really tough for straight guys for a long list of other reasons. At some point on the body-size-continuum, I suspect that dating fat for straight guys is pretty much the same complicated, fraught, difficult issue that it is for straight fat women.
Come to think of it, I haven’t seen (and, admittedly haven’t looked for) anything on dating-while-fat for lesbians or anyone else on the LGBTQ continuum, though my vague impression is that fat is not, generally (allowing for individual tastes) nearly as much of an issue for my sister-loving sisters. Good for them. If I’m right, then that’s a fascinating discussion in and of itself in terms of what it says about male fears of the female body–some of which I’ve talked about before, but the lesbian angle is simply one I don’t know enough about to speak with even my usual pseudo-know-it-all authority.
I will admit that, as the first two articles flopped around in my head over the past week, the thing I kept thinking was that if you’re dating a FAT person of any gender, then that person shouldn’t be dating you. You either date a just-a-person or you don’t, mostly, deserve to date. But that’s pretty naive, or at least pie-in-sky idealistic. And the fact is that personal taste does figure in who and how we date, get together. So it’s right, but too simple to be a useful response. And all three of these articles are full of good-sense suggestions that get rather nicely at the ways in which people can retrain themselves away from the socially-conditioned language and behavior that can, all unwittingly, damage the bejeebers out of the beginning stages of a relationship. Which is important precisely because fat carries a quite specific set of wounds and fragilities with it that do kind of need a map (“Beware dragons!!!”) (“Quicksand here!!!”) and some sensible tools to negotiate. People manage on their own, but not always. And pretending something isn’t an issue generally doesn’t work well for humans.
The sex article, btw, isn’t nearly as much about sex as it is about how to treat and be in a fat body in ways that will not treat it like nothing beyond a FAT body. It’s a very kind sort of approach.
The whole thing reminds me of how much feminism is and has been about the body, about the protection and sanctity of the body, and about the genderlessness of that sanctity. It’s always recognized that the tyranny of patriarchy cripples both its victims and its practitioners, that patriarchy inherently cheapens the bodies it strides over as it builds and clings to and institutionalizes power.
So I’ll leave you with one of the most luminous moments in one of the most luminous poets’ writing, because it offers another vision of this whole business:
The experience of loving, that now disappoints so many, can actually change and be transformed from the ground up into the building of a relationship between two human beings, not just a man and a woman. And this more authentic love will be evident in the utterly considerate, gentle, and clear manner of its binding and releasing. It will resemble what we now struggle to prepare: the love that consists of two solitudes which border, protect, and greet each other.