The Absurd and Amazing Adventures of Cafe Girl: The Weight of Issues

February 12, 2011

The Weight of Issues

Can't Stands - Excessive Overweight - I can't stand a partner who is overweight.

The statement stared back at me from the computer screen, relentless, unwavering. It was about as clear as it could get.

The Fat Chick in me narrowed her eyes while a variety of cutting yet funny statements flew through my mind. Hey buddy, John Denver wants his hair back. Peter Pan, it's time you grew up. Who writes a profile with no caps and exclamation marks? Where'd you go to school anyway, Tween College? Want to dot your 'i' s with couple of hearts there?

Every so often, I am faced with the stark reality that I have unresolved issues. That's right, issues. As in plural, as in more than one, as in many. I suppose, like everyone else that walks this earth, I am tempted to say that these unresolved issues really don't affect my day-to-day living. For the most part, that is true. These unresolved issues don't ever touch me as I wake up, drive to work, deal with clients, spend time with friends, worship at church, watch television. It isn't so much that I'm hiding these issues, it's just that they are latent.

That is, until one seemingly innocent statement from a man who, at this point, is merely a photograph and a series of poorly constructed phrases sends me into spiral of pain and shame.

You see, I used to be excessively overweight. Up until my late twenties, I consistently carried an extra thirty pounds. On a five-three frame, that isn't something you can hide. Growing up, I was teased for my weight by my peers and by some really mean adults. My mother hovered nervously around desperately wanting me to be thinner while never wanting me to "go on a diet", as if I could, miraculously and naturally, drop the lifelong weight without doing anything on my part. As I grew into adulthood, no man would have any romantic interest in me. I'm sure there were many other reasons for that, but I'm also sure one of those reasons was my weight. Over time, I came to believe that unless I was slender, I would never be attractive - not to a man, not to anyone.

Ironically, what made me eventually drop the weight was a health scare, not a beauty one. By the time I started to lose the weight, I had already come to a grim but ugly belief that perhaps I would never be considered attractive. But as the pounds rolled off, people, men in particular, started paying attention to me. One afternoon, as I walked down the street in a sun dress, a man driving by did a double take. A few weeks later, a man pulled up and asked for my number. Then they started coming out of the wood works, smiling at me on the street, being gracious, paying attention.

At 168 pounds, I was smart, funny, gracious, and loving. At 128 pounds, I was still the same woman on the inside. It was just that now, people started to notice. But I wasn't flattered. I was horrified and angry. Where were all of you when I was fat?

Most of all, I was sad. The lie that only the attractive can ever find love and acceptance seemed to actually be true. Afterall, that was how my life was playing out. When I was fat, but smart and funny, no men would come around. Now that I was not overweight, the same smart and funny was now interesting to these men. So it was true, I thought, men don't care about what's on the inside, as long as what's on the outside looks good.

It would take another few years, and many other models of good people in my life who love their mates for who they are, for me to dispel the lie that no one can see me for who I am because of how I look. Every day I work towards the truth - I am loved for what is on the inside. This is the kind of love I want to receive. This is the kind of love I want to give.

Ironically, now I live in Los Angeles - where yes, it is as shallow as it seems. It's not that everyone is attractive here - they just think they are. And they certainly believe they are entitled to a mate of great attractiveness. This is pervasive not merely in secular culture, but also in circles of faith. A few nights ago, I was part of a conversation, where people of faith were wondering if at a singles party, a Christian man would be willing to spend a few minutes talking to a Christian woman he wasn't immediately physically attracted to.

More often than not, when the topic of physical attraction comes up among Singletons, even those of faith, the consensus is that if a man is not almost immediately physically attracted to you, there's no hope of him ever developing an attraction to you, and ergo, no hope of him ever even thinking of pursuing you. And, to make matters worse, that "immediate" physical attraction is supposed to come within 4-5 seconds of seeing you. And it's not just that old adage that men are shallow. Women have told me it's the same thing for them - immediate physical attraction, or bust.

In the same breath, the "Immediate Physical Attraction" camp claims that what is physically attractive to one man or woman, is not necessarily physically attractive to another. That is supposed to make it all better, because it really means that you TOO could be immediately physically attractive to someone.

Except that I look at who the Immediate Attraction camp is attracted to and they don't vary in scale of attractiveness. The Immediate Attraction camp, regardless of their own level of attractiveness, is attracted to beautiful, lean people with good skin and limited physical flaws. There are no balding men, short men, or chubby girls in the mix. And there are certainly no people that are like me - of average physical beauty but clean up nice.

When the Immediate Attraction camp is questioned on why they are attracted to people of this high level of attractiveness, the response I get is that people are naturally attracted to what they are attracted to. In other words, everyone is wired to have a type. What no one is admitting, is that the "type" is also known as "unbelievably hot."

And with that, my heart sinks. Now, to be attractive, I can't just not be fat. I also have to have good skin, be lean, and, for a lack of a better term, be hot. The lie feels true - you are loved for how you look. No one will even find out how wonderful you are because they can't get past the fact you're not hot. Horrible thing is, the "hot" bar seems to get higher and higher. Since I can't reach it, and I'm not particularly willing to die trying, my alternative seems to be a life of being alone.

More horrifically - the longer I live in LA, the more I find myself gravitating towards what I've been told by LA culture is attractive. LA tells me that an attractive man loves the outdoors, exercise, and fitness. He surfs, he swims, he spends his weekends hiking. He's tall, he's tan, he's lean. He eats organic food. LA does not tell me what he thinks about, if anything. LA does not tell me how he treats those around him. LA doesn't give me a clue what he holds dear and true or if he has any integrity or grace.

When I lived in Chicago, I wouldn't have given this man a second thought. But now that I live in LA, there's a spark of me that wonders if I could, somehow, "win" this kind of trophy LA man. I find that I'm soaking in the culture I live in, morphing into the kind of person that perpetuates the lie that physical attractiveness is the key to a life of being wanted, valued and loved.

Tonight, I am helping to run a singles speed dating event - where it is literally all about first impressions and immediate attraction. Tonight, the questions of what one is immediately attracted to, what one thinks they want, and what one thinks they deserve in a mate, will all come into play. Thankfully, tonight I will merely be facilitating this event, so all the worries of whether I'm "hot enough for him" aren't a factor. But that's just tonight. Tomorrow, the question will still remain. In spite of what appears true - that physical attractiveness is king - do I still strive for what I believe - that the kind of love I want to receive, and give, is based on what is on the inside?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As someone who knew you in your early 20s, I can say, us guys, missed the boat. We're sorry.