This story was originally published on August 22, 2017.
“You’re fat?” I stared at the Tinder notification on my phone; wonder how I should respond to this kind of statement-question.
“Yes! But I also really like podcasts and art museums. Any of those interest you?”
This is not the first time someone has realized I am plus-size after we matched. I’ve had potential dates review my photos after exchanging a few messages and then ghost me. I’ve even had people ask why I don’t mention my body type in my profile so that “people can search better.” The simple reason: I’m not a category. I’m a person.
I’d like to think we’ve moved past reducing plus-size bodies into their own dating nook; safely cornered away as to not be grouped with the coupling of straight-size people. But I’m reminded on a daily basis through messages, DMs, and even personal emails that to find me attractive is fetish-based — something I should apparently be grateful for because plus-size bodies are still not considered sexy or good enough to date without creating a red flag. (And if you do find me sexy, you should obviously receive a fucking gold-medal for your wokeness.)
The issue doesn’t spawn from the amount of full-length photos I have on my profile — there are enough photos of me; my Instagram is a literally dedication to what I look like. The issue is that I don’t immediately put a warning label for my body in my profile. While some may consider this an act of size deception, it’s more of an act of considering myself part of the norm and not a niche. This counts as a pretty revolutionary act as a person of size in 2017: stating to the world that you should swipe right if you’re attracted to me and not worry that you’re going to forever be known as a chubby-chaser. There’s this misconception in online dating that plus women can’t have standards, value, confidence. We can’t just be looking for a date, a hook-up, a side-piece. We don’t deserve a chance, we aren’t good enough, and we should be happy for any attention that we get.
I’ll admit, I used to feel pressure to overcompensate for my plus-size body. I pushed it into every part of my profile, just to make sure whoever was taking a peak would know what they were getting into first. My way of being like, Hey! Hey! I have a belly and big hips . . . just making sure you know that before falling in love with my profile! — the world’s saddest caveat to basically admitting that I know you’re settling and . . . sorry? If I had to guess, I’d say this behavior is the result of years and years of never seeing my body represented anywhere in a positive way. Women who look like me in TV shows and movies are always the unaware, funny fat friend. We have to lose weight in order to find love. We are the comic relief; the food obsessed; the desexualized maternal character.
I thought that anyone who would be into me would have a thing for fat girls or I was some weird bucket-list item for men to check off. Have I ever had sex with a fat girl? Yes! And that’s how I thought I’d have to live out my existence: being someone’s settling point, fetish, one-time try. Luckily, this is not the case now. Not even a little bit. In fact, I’m very much known for my act-first dating method — basically going up to people at bars and saying, “Hi, I’m Laura. You’re super cute. I’m sitting over at the bar if you think I’m cute and want to keep chatting.” I have fought through the self-hatred to come out on the other side with a hell yeah attitude about myself and how I should be treated. It didn’t happen overnight. Neither did removing my body size from my profile. But eventually I stopped making it my own thing and became more comfortable with presenting myself without a caution sign.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t write out a descriptor of your body on a dating app. Not in the least! I’m the first to talk openly about the plus-size experience; ready and willing! But I’m constantly thinking about the why I can’t just live without having my size be proverbially attached my attractiveness or worth. I’ll put it this way: Maybe just stop and ask yourself why you’re mentioning it.
I often think about what it's like to app-date as a straight-size person and the ability to simply put one's interests/wants into a profile. I still get pretty intense comments. Being plus-size on the internet in any capacity is basically a free-forum for people to have opinions about your weight. (I even have an entire art project dedicated to it.) The comments I find the most offensive are not graphic in any way. It’s those messages that start with, “I love BBW girls” or “I have a thing for big girls.” I always respond like this: ‘Do you write this to thin women? Or is it just because I’m fat you want me to feel grateful for this kind of message?’
And yeah. I’m a lot of people’s first. The first fat girl they’ve ever dated, slept with, took out to dinner . . . in public. Not an intentional role I want for myself, but one that has been pretty remarkable to watch evolve. It usually comes up in the middle of the date: “I don’t mean for this to be offensive. You’re a lot of fun . . . I wasn’t expecting to be so attracted to a bigger girl. I’m glad we went out.” It’s the reason I’m not currently on dating sites dedicated to plus-dating and fat-admirers like WooPlus. I know a lot of people that have had success finding what they’re looking for there, but it doesn’t give me the opportunity to change a person’s mind or question their biases. By sticking to common apps, I’m forcing potential partners to look at me not as a plus-size woman, but just a woman.
As you’re navigating sex and dating as a plus person, do me a favor and don’t forget that you’re not someone’s test. You’re not an asterisk. And you’re certainly not making someone into a hero for being into you. You’re a person with so much to give to the world regardless of your size. My only dating regret is that it took me an exorbitant amount of time to realize this.