As someone who has spent years with cakes, pies, and thick thighs, I’m a resident expert on being the fat friend. I’m fortunate to have a village of varying body sizes, bodies that reflect my own and those that do not. But boy, the ones that do not? They’re about as clueless as Stacey Dash in a room full of Blacktivists. It’s not that they’re unaware of my fatness, I’m just not quite sure they always know what fatness means in daily living. So on behalf of the fat friends who have suffered in the silence of the ignorance of their friends, let me help y’all do better.
The Fat Friend Is Not Thinspiration
“I’m so fat,” you exclaim after eating any (or every) meal. We shift uncomfortably in our seats, wincing slightly because we know what your statement actually means. Your self-deprecation does not fall on deaf ears. You use our bodies as a benchmark for your physical insecurities. We know that after “I’m so fat” is a sincere gratitude that your bodies are not as large as our own. Your statements are a thinly-veiled cries for affirmation. You wait with baited breath for our resounding “girl, you know you’re not fat,” a small validation of what you already know.
And it hurts. It hurts not because we are fat, but because you do not see the humanity beyond the size of our bodies. Even while you call us friends.
The size of our bodies doesn’t mean that we have enough strength to carry the weight of your insecurities on our shoulders. We do not exist to boost your self-esteem. Our bodies are not your motivation to go to the gym. Your friendships with us should not be based on the ability of our bodies to ease your shortcomings. Honey, we are not here to be your “at least I’m not that big” inspiration.
Love is a Battlefield
We hate talking to you about dating while fat. You give us empty echoes of “girl, you’re pretty. Any man would be lucky to have you” whenever we mumble a complaint. You are painfully blind to our truths, despite seeing them in action. You tell us we are beautiful while frantically dieting to lose 10 pounds.
We are beautiful yet you don’t want to be us. Deep in your heart, despite your denial, you know the truths we hold are self-evident. You see as we do how men lustfully look you over when we’re together. Surely you see how men approach us only to gauge their chance of shooting their shot with you. We hate when you try to hook us up, throwing out the caveat that s/he “doesn’t care about looks.” We are invisible to them and our disillusionment is invisible to you.
We are fully aware that there are suitable partners who needn’t look past our bodies to see us. Many of us have been blessed to partner with people who look at us with love and lust in their eyes. We are fed up with your willful ignorance that dating is simply harder with large bodies. It frustrates us to not have our experiences validated by those closest to us.
Don’t Dismiss Our Experiences
We don’t need minimization of our problems. We don’t want to be told to lose weight to snag a partner. What we crave is to be heard and understood. Oh how we wish you’d stand up for us. We’d love to see you telling men who approach us in order to approach you to do better.
It’s hard to date when the pervasive narrative is that fat girls are more desperate. Dating blows chunks when men tell you that they “normally don’t date” women like you. You have no idea what it’s like when people wonder if you were chosen because you give great head. Or because you’re willing to bankroll their lives. All assumptions that are made purely because of the size of your body.
You should listen to our complaints about dating with a sympathetic ear. We ain’t complaining because we hate ourselves. The complaints are because we know the politics of navigating romance with large bodies.
Keep Your Unsolicited Opinions
There are days that we hate our bodies. There are times we wish our bodies looked more like the ones that grace the pages of our favorite celebrity blogs and magazines. You know who else does this? Every-freaking-body.
Listen: fatness is not permission to make assumptions about our choices that you wouldn’t make about someone who is smaller. We don’t need your psychobabble about the deep, emotional reasons behind our fatness. While I know you are excited to use that freshly minted PhD from WebMD.com, you gotta chill.
We don’t need you skinny friends exchanging glances when we decide to go for seconds and dessert at the dinner table. Don’t suggest that we buy the one piece and a swim cover when we have our heart and confidence set on a bikini. Don’t tell us that our romantic partners are “good people” for choosing to date us, fat and all (bish, whet?). Don’t tell us we’re imagining the judgmental looks when we’re put that sweet treat in our grocery cart or upsize the combo at [insert fast food of choice here].
Oh and about those backhand compliments: when we say “I’m fat as hell,” “you’re not fat, you’re beautiful” is the wrong damn response. You need to realize that we are not beautiful despite being fat. We are not waiting for our beauty to emerge once the fat is gone. Yes, our bodies may be sexually unattractive to some but that goes for anybody. There’s not a person walking this earth who hasn’t struggled with body image issues. Damn, let us have our moment without you going all Dr. Phil/Phylicia on us.
We Ain’t Ya Walking Punchline
Despite what popular film and television has told you, we ain’t here to be your goofy sidekick. I mean sure, we can be funny. Yet you should know that’s not our job to be funny. Our humor often eases our own pain but, our contributions to our relationships are much more.
But we’re also not fodder for your attempts at social media fame. Don’t take pictures without our permission to be mocked just so that you feel better. We deserve to go to prom and share photos with our family without them going viral for cyberbullying. We deserve to shop without fear that someone is behind us with camera phones poised. Our bodies are not “teachable moments” for your rotten little brats children on nutrition and exercise. And your fat friend? We’re watching your laughter at the expense of fat bodies. And no, you saying “not you girl, you not fat fat” is not reassuring either.
Yes I know, lil’ bih [pun intended]. All women on the extremes of the spectrum are victim to body shaming. I know that all women, regardless of size, struggle with body issues. Yeah I know we all outchea strugglin’ to love ourselves in a world that hates us. But this ain’t y’all conversation. It is your opportunity, however, to do better by the fat friend in your life.
If you landed here from a Facebook share from your one fat friend, chances are she wishes you would do better. She probably wishes you’d understand why it hurts when she hears “you’re pretty for a big girl.” Maybe she wishes you knew that she doesn’t want/need people giving her medical advice in the course of casual conversation. I bet, though, that she just wants you to know that her journey to self-love could be much easier if you knew how to better support her.