Darling you send me..

Monday, January 16, 2006

Loving Large

Loving a Larger Woman
by Bruce Guberman

I'll never forget the day I found out my girlfriend weighed more than I did.

She was out on a bike ride, and I was home watching football, leafing through the magazines on her coffee table, when I found her Weight Watchers folder - a palm-sized folio with notations for what she'd eaten, and when, and what she planned to eat next, and whether she'd been drinking her eight glasses of water a day. There was her name. Her identification number. And her weight, which I am too much of a gentleman to reveal here. Suffice it to say that the number shocked me.

I knew that C was a big girl. Certainly bigger than any of the women I'd seen on TV, bouncing in bathing suits or drifting, reedlike, through sitcoms and medical dramas. Definitely bigger than any of the women I'd ever dated before.

I never thought of myself as a chubby chaser. But when I met C, I fell for her wit, her laugh, her sparkling eyes. Her body, I decided, was something I could learn to live with.

Her shoulders were as broad as mine, her hands were almost as big, and from her breasts to her belly, from her hips down the slope of her thighs, she was all sweet curves and warm welcome. Holding her felt like a safe haven. It felt like coming home.

But being out with her didn't feel nearly as comfortable. Maybe it was the way I'd absorbed society's expectations, its dictates of what men are supposed to want and how women are supposed to appear. More likely, it was the way she had. C was a dedicated foot soldier in the body wars. At five foot ten inches, with a linebacker's build and a weight that would have put her right at home on a pro-football team's roster, C couldn't make herself invisible.

But I know that if it were possible, if all the slouching and slumping and shapeless black jumpers could have erased her from the physical world, she would have gone in an instant. She took no pleasure from the things I loved, from her size, her amplitude, her luscious, zaftig heft.

As many times as I told her she was beautiful, I know that she never believed me. As many times as I said it didn't matter, I knew that to her it did. I could feel her shame like a palpable thing, walking beside us on the street, crouched down between us in a movie theater, coiled up and waiting for someone to say what to her was the dirtiest word in the world: fat.

And I knew it wasn't paranoia. You hear, over and over, how fat is the last acceptable prejudice, that fat people are the only safe targets in our politically correct world. Date a queen-sized woman and you'll find out how true it is. You'll see the way people look at her, and look at you for being with her. You'll try to buy her lingerie for Valentine's Day and realize the sizes stop before she starts. Everytime you go out to eat you'll watch her agonize, balancing what she wants against what she'll let herself have, what she'll let herself have against what she'll be seen eating in public.

And what she'll let herself say.

I remember when the Monica Lewinsky story broke and C, a newspaper reporter, wrote a passionate defence of the White House intern who'd been betrayed by Linda Tripp in Washington, and betrayed even worse by her friends in Beverly Hills, who were busily selling their high-school memories of Monica to Inside Edition and People magazine. After her article was printed, C got lots of hate mail, including one letter from a guy who began: "I can tell by what you wrote that you are overweight and that nobody loves you." And it was the letter - that word - that bothered her more than anything else anyone said. It seemed that if it were true - the "overweight" part - then the "nobody loves you" part would have to be true as well. As if being Lewinsky-esque was worse than being a betrayer, or even someone who was dumb. As if being fat were somehow a crime.

Loving a larger woman is an act of courage in this world, and maybe it's even an act of futility. Because, in loving C, I knew I was loving someone who didn't believe that she herself was worthy of anyone's love.

And now that it's over, I don't know where to direct my anger and my sorrow. At a world that made her feel the way she did about her body - no, herself - and whether she was desirable. At C, for not being strong enough to overcome what the world told her. Or at myself, for not loving C, enough to make her believe in herself.

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