Right after I first came out, I went with some friends to Fire Island, the homo party-Mecca of Long Island. At the time I weighed 185 pounds, a standard weight for my five-foot-eleven frame. Several hours into the evening, my good friend’s date pulled me aside and declared he had the hots for me. Stammering with disbelief, I reminded him that he was on a date with my friend, not me. He ignored this statement, put his hand on mine and leaned in declaring these words that I’ve carried with me ever since; “You have such a pretty face, if only you’d lose some weight.” It was my official introduction to the world of gay body images and the enormous pressure to look perfect.
While on the one hand this man was complimenting me, it was a back-handed statement that outlined the twink-versus-bear mentality that is used in the gay community to label and categorize appearances, and hence people, with dismissive ease. I politely rejected his advances, but his words resonated in my head for the rest of the night. When I woke up the next day, I immediately began limiting my food intake to orange juice and pretzels, believing that I clearly would need to lose some weight if I ever wanted a serious gay relationship.
Several weeks later, I was out at a club when a sexy man followed me to the bathroom and started chatting me up. We went home together and began what was a tumultuous two-year affair. About a week in, my new boyfriend, who was incredibly athletic, suggested we join a gym together. Remembering my Fire Island admirer’s statement, I quickly agreed. The next eighteen months I proceeded to diligently visit the gym six days a week, whittling myself down to a lithe 158 pounds. Friends and family became concerned as I was slowly wasting away, but the attention I received from my man and the boys in the bars more than made up for their worries and validated the importance of being skinny.
Reveling in the shape of my new body, I went out dancing one night with my boyfriend, where I saw a heavy-set guy tearing it up on the floor. I was so surprised by his carefree attitude that I smiled and clapped along while he boogied away. After all, I couldn’t look in the mirror without seeing a few more pounds to lose or an inch to tone, while this guy was confident in letting it all jiggle and hang out. As I stood there joyfully clapping away, a cute and fit dude dancing nearby turned to me and chuckled, “If you just want sex, fatties are the best aren’t they? You can treat ‘em like shit and they don’t care.” Disgusted, I left the floor.
A few weeks later, I learned that my boyfriend had been cheating on me for months. Rather than leaving him immediately, I somehow convinced myself that he never would have gone astray if I was in even better shape. Thus, I worked harder at the gym than before. However, as our relationship continued to deteriorate, I became exhausted keeping up with the gay-Joneses at the gym. It was too much work, and I resented denying myself the things I enjoyed in an effort to stay some horny man’s wandering eye. Thus, I started quietly sneaking junk food in private when no one was looking. It was ridiculous because I’d sup on grilled chicken and salad while we were together, but I’d hide a stash of chips or cookies that I’d inhale the second my boyfriend left the apartment. Needless to say the relationship eventually collapsed. I moved out, ate myself into gleeful oblivion, and slowly ballooned to over 225 pounds in a period of a few years.
After a while, I began seeing another guy, but when this new relationship appeared to be stuck in neutral, I asked my new love where we were headed. He then leveled me with hauntingly familiar words, stating “You have no idea how beautiful you could be if you just lost some weight, but I don’t see this going further until you do.” Devastated, I bought a treadmill online that very night.
One evening while toiling away on the equipment, I picked up my cell phone to answer a call from this current boyfriend where he proceeded to tell me, through my panting and gasps, that he was leaving the country the next day on business and wouldn’t be back for a few weeks. He suggested that when he returned we should pursue a more casual relationship by just hooking up for sex on occasion with no strings attached. I replied by stepping off the treadmill and politely telling him to kiss my fat ass.
After that, when I went online to meet people, and I was particularly cognizant of guys writing “no chubs” in their posts or letting me know up front that being overweight was a definite non-negotiable. I also began to explore parties that catered to bears or chubbies and their chasers. However, I couldn’t help but be annoyed by the idea that I had to be regulated to a label or group. That’s not to say there isn’t great empowerment in these groups, but I just personally didn’t feel like I needed to officially belong to any particular clique or cater to fetish-like admirers in order to find a partner. Thus, I kept it moving and stopped putting energy into worrying about what anyone saw me as on the outside, as eventually all beauty fades.
At last, I knew I had stumbled on the man of my dreams when out on a first date he asked me if I wanted to order dessert. When I said I couldn’t decide between two items, he ordered both of them for us to share! Many years and ice cream sundaes later, I am fully confident that letting go of the insane expectations of weight and shape have led me to a more fulfilled life. By first focusing on the value of my own inner worth, I was able to secure a relationship that was not based on my girth, which has fluctuated greatly through the years. My fabulousness, however, has not!