I unexpectedly found myself crying on Sunday night. I had spent the evening with a friend who used to be more than a friend, and it had been overall very pleasant. But after he left I recalled an earlier conversation we’d had that suddenly seemed to stick out. He does mixed martial arts and has always encouraged me to try them myself, some of which I have actually done before in theatre and acting training. For some reason he seemed particularly persistent about telling me I should come to classes because it would be beneficial to my career, and also “if you’re trying to lose weight or get fit, it’s the best thing.”
He knows that I’ve struggled with food issues and an eating disorder and that I actively avoid focusing on weight loss but rather on the other aspects of health and wellness, and I completely believe he was trying to be helpful but I couldn’t help myself I had to ask, “Are you suggesting that I should lose weight?” He insisted that he wasn’t saying I had to lose weight but asked me what my goals for health and fitness were, and said that it would do great things for my career if I trained in martial arts and I could be a “savage.”
The night went on and I forgot about the conversation, but after he left I reflected on it, as I always do, and before you know it I was crying. I cannot figure out why it seemed to hit a nerve only after the fact, but it hit pretty hard. Because despite the fact that I believe he was trying to encourage me to do something great for myself, him being a guy who I had been romantically involved with (and it did not work out) added a layer to the whole conversation. It’s a thing that I have been pondering for years, even when I was a lot thinner; is my weight a large part of the reason guys don’t seem to view me as a romantic option? Even seeing myself write that makes me cringe… but I think about it all the time.
Ashley wrote an awesome blog entry called Love Interest on here back in the beginning, in which she described the frustration of rarely seeing a bigger woman as a love interest in the media. Like it or not, we have been conditioned to view certain people as more worthy of love than others. Media played a big role in the way I thought about my reality growing up, and I internalized a lot of it. On top of the fact that I am an actress who would love to play romantic leads, I am also a woman who would someday like to fall in love with a man and get married. Both of those things feel like a distant dream because of my current weight. This has been at the root of my body issues from the beginning, when I was in middle school and my concerns about my body began. And back then I was nowhere close to overweight, but I was convinced I was hideous, and probably suffering from undiagnosed body dysmorphic disorder.
But my body type (and frankly, my race) have played such big roles in my romantic relationships with men. At a mostly white prep high school, I was never asked out on a real date with anyone, and it seemed like the same group of white girls were dating all of the guys on rotation. My first boyfriend who was black, liked my body but also let me know that I had a smaller butt/breasts than what he was used to. He actually preferred girls to be bigger! How fair is that?! The demands feel endless!
Obviously, there is a physical attraction to someone that you like, and everyone has their preferences and much of it can’t really be controlled. That doesn’t make it any less hurtful when someone says “You have such a pretty face, if you lost weight you’d be a perfect ten.” Suppose I took that advice and lost the weight, what about if my boobs sagged because of the weight loss? What about stretch marks on my hips? At what point will I be deemed beautiful enough to star in my own love story?
Ultimately I know that my friend was trying to be helpful. So many people who offer up their opinions about my health and fitness are trying to be helpful. And the thing is a lot of the stuff he was telling me was stuff I had been thinking about doing on my own already. But if I were to hit the gym because he said I should, or for any other reason other than wanting to do it myself, it would be a regression. At this point it is so crucial for me to make choices based on what I want, not what others think is best for me. I’m not totally sure what “doing it for myself” looks like yet, but I am working on it.