Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Day My Small Heart Grew 10 Sizes

Recently I came across an interesting discussion on the Dimensions Magazine Forum. A member there began a thread titled "When I Knew it Was Okay to Be Fat."

Not many people who claim to be "okay" with their size are. I have been over 200 pounds (I'm 5'6") for most of my adult life. I have belonged to the Fat-Acceptance movement for as long as I can remember. I have always dated. I have always claimed to accept my size as a natural part of myself.

I was lying. Until June 27, 2001 I was really a fat woman in fear of rejection, one who wanted to be accepted and loved, never truly believing it would happen. Until that date I felt it was RIGHT and FAIR for me to accept the shape God gave me, but I had absolutely no real hope that anyone else would accept me in it. Then I went to the Barnes and Noble cafe in Braintree, MA to meet an endocrinologist with whom I had been chatting and emailing online for over a year.

I have always joked that I was planning to ditch him for good, and on some level I was. It was my secret belief that he, an educated man from an affluent family, would take one look at me and begin finding polite ways to make our first date our last. So confident in his rejection, I was unprepared for what actually came.

As I've said, I dated. I had a boyfriend throughout high school, even wearing a size 16/18 in those hard, formative years. I dated men in college. They did, I knew, find me attractive. Perhaps I was unaware of it then, but a small voice buried beneath the louder, brasher voice with which I spoke to the world, had always been whispering that they didn't really find me attractive so much as attractive enough. I was, I thought, most certainly never anyone's first choice.

All of that was rattling around inside my full-figured, faux-confident self when he walked into Barnes and Noble. We had seen photographs of one another. I knew him to be handsome. He insisted he found me beautiful. The little voice snickered. Wait til he sees how gigantic your body is, it said. You were always careful to send pictures of your head and shoulders.

It happened very quickly. I looked up, saw him, and saw him see me. He knocked over a book display just as I noticed how extraordinary his eyes were. This was not just a handsome man. He was not conventionally handsome in an American way. He was exotic, with eyes the color of sunlight through cognac. He had a hawkish nose and long face, but it was a thoroughly beautiful face. And he was trying to catch dozens of paperbacks while stabilizing the cardboard display he'd just leveled. I wanted nothing in the world as much as those eyes lifted to mine once more; yet I dreaded the moment they would reflect his disappointment.

Then a funny thing happened. He made a defeated gesture with his hands as a manager rushed to help him and looked up once more. But it wasn't disappointment or dread I saw. It was warmth, frank admiration, and an honest connection I don't think I'd ever experienced with a man. It was like the wonderful, instant comfort I had so often found with other women in friendship, but it had so much heat behind it I felt myself blush down to my toenails. Without meaning to do so I uttered my first words aloud to this man I'd known through written words for over a year.

"You're going to be trouble."

Had I said it out loud?

We fell in love.

At the time-- June 27, 2001-- we were not aware that love was the thing happening. I suppose that's the real debate about love at first sight. Does anyone ever look at another human being and fall instantly, irreversibly in love? I think we do, sometimes, but can't process what this whirlwind thing is until much later. I know with a certainty that by the end of that evening-- in which this big, magnificent, sexy creature knocked over a glass of water, backed into another car's bumper, and had me forgetting things I'd known my whole life-- I was on a path from which there was no diversion or return.

That night, when we returned to the book store parking lot after dinner, a movie, coffee, and a lot of talking, something astonishing happened to this fat girl. A man straight out of my dreams looked at me with heat, with wonder, and with a clear escape route. He could say he'd enjoyed himself, shake my hand, kiss my cheek, and walk away. He didn't. That night, in the parking lot, Ahmed asked me if he could kiss me. It was formal, polite, and utterly charming. It seemed somehow appropriate to his character in spite of his forceful and clearly overtly masculine demeanor. I felt almost as if he were warning me, and it sent fireworks through me. I gave him permission. He kissed me. He smiled, began to walk away, and came back.

"I can do that better," he said in the sexiest voice I'd ever heard. "I was nervous."

The second time his arms came around me, when he kissed me that second time, tumblers in the universe clicked, rattled, and fit together with a solid, prophetic clunk.

And as they say down in Whoville... well my heart, which had been cowering a bit for all its brave posturing, grew ten sizes that day. Oh, I know-- the Grinch's heart only grew three sizes. But I'm bigger than him. I had more chest to fill.

I'd been spouting the tenants of fat acceptance, of embracing one's body image, for years. I'd been a professional, paid, respected writer on women's issues and body image. And I'd been full of fear, self-rejection, and crap. I wanted to believe there were men in the world who found the roundness of a woman's body beautiful, but I doubted it.

There is nothing like hard evidence to turn a girl's head.

So there it is. June 27, 2001. That was when I learned it was not only "okay" to be fat, but quite lovely. My mother told me I walked through the door in a daze. "Your feet were not touching the ground," she said.

They still aren't.

4 comments ]:[ Add your comment:

Sceptics' Tank said...

You guys make me believe in it.


Eva Gale said...

What an incredible, beautiful story.

No wonder you write romance.

Faith said...

My mother is very heavy, and it bothers her SO MUCH, but sadly about half her problem is the meds and her diabetes. Still, it's hard to watch her when she's so down on herself. It really makes my heart hurt.

Shelli Stevens said...

That is really romantic. Gives us a little hope. I still haven't found my prince, but... I'm not sure I'm even looking any more!

Post a Comment