I tried a dating website once, met a guy, and we started going out. This is a very efficient way to meet people you would otherwise never know even existed. The main drawback is that you meet them out of context. You may not meet their friends or family or anyone else who can vouch for their character. You only know what they choose to tell you about their past – or their present, for that matter. Another drawback is that dating websites have a lot in common with catalog shopping. You scroll through, find something you like, put it in your cart, only to find out later that it doesn’t necessarily match its photo or description. At least with shopping you can compare user reviews!
Anyway, when we met, this particular guy was lean and fit; he ran track in high school. I was… well, I was at about 95% of the heaviest and most out of shape I’d ever been in my life. My sport was marching band. What transpired was a lot like the ending of Grease. Personally, my heart melted when I saw Danny in the letterman’s jacket. I thought that was the happy ending. Then Sandy steps out with a cigarette, looking like a dominatrix, which is a very scary persona for a 9-year-old kid, and there goes my happy ending. I do live in a musical, but no, neither my Internet boyfriend nor I wound up choreographing any dance moves at a carnival. What happened was that we beheld each other, I decided to get fit, and he decided to relax.
About six months in, I was going to Curves and working out five days a week. He had quit working out with his personal trainer and quit running, too. He started getting anxious. “Don’t let your butt get too small!” he chastised me. He started trying to overfeed me and talk me out of workouts. At the same time, he started complaining about his own weight gain and his lack of motivation.
While we were together, I think he gained about 20 pounds. I lost 17 inches in a month and dropped three dress sizes. We were like two ships passing in the night, briefly at the same latitude and longitude, but ultimately with opposite headings.
When we broke up, he opened up. He told me my success had made him anxious. When we met, I was flat broke, fat, and out of shape. I quickly got my feet under me, started getting promotions and raises at work, and started getting fit. He felt insecure and thought that I wouldn’t want him anymore, that after I’d upgraded everything else I’d want to upgrade my boyfriend, too. So he deliberately tried to hold me back and undermine my efforts. I was the one who initiated the breakup, but still, this shocked me. What I felt was just a poor match was actually a deliberate, conscious strategy of sabotage!
This story is partly about why I don’t tie my body image to the male gaze. Different men have different tastes – you know that, right? – but one particular guy’s penchant for a certain hair color or figure type is irrelevant to my interests. I can’t simultaneously be a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead, while also being tall and short, curvy and lean. I have to be myself because trying to be anyone else is unsustainable for more than the duration of one costume contest.
The main point of this story is that my Internet boyfriend and I had completely incompatible beliefs about motivation, willpower, habits, goal-setting, and ambition. I thought he would be impressed, possibly inspired, by all my hard work and focus. Instead he felt threatened.
My physique was, and is, only one manifestation of my ambition. I’ve had the same improvement-oriented mindset over a 35-pound weight range. I have had maybe three boyfriends who prefer a curvier physique, who thought I was sexier when I was heavy, so I know those guys are out there. When I met my husband, I was in my largest clothing size. He accepted me as I was, but it definitely caught his attention when I became a gym rat. He appreciated my transformation from sedentary bookworm to endurance athlete; it gave us more in common. He’s been there to help me shop at every clothing size from 14 to zero. What he likes is seeing me at a higher energy level, with color in my cheeks instead of dark circles under my eyes. He sees the real me: passionately curious, constantly experimenting and changing, driven to experience as many facets of life as possible, with only my body and personal environment as laboratory.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.