When I was growing up fat, I wanted to be beautiful. (I can understand that to some people, size and beauty do not have anything to do with each other. But I never felt beautiful when I was fat. Nor was I ever treated like I was beautiful.) I thought that being beautiful would solve most, if not all, of my problems. But then, I thought that my problems arose from outside of myself. I thought God, and the world had done me wrong. God by giving me a broken body. The world by judging me for having that body.
When I got control of the food, I became beautiful. I’m pretty, by genetic luck. I sleep well and regularly. I’m present and aware because I’m not high on sugar anymore. I have a nice figure because I eat well, walk a lot, and again, got genetically lucky. Plus I’m confident, which makes me sexy. Basically, I got what I always wanted. And you know what? I still have most of the problems I had when I was eating compulsively. I’m just not fat or crazy anymore. And now I have a whole new problem. Unwanted attention.
This morning I was walking to the train on my way to work. A man coming toward me had been ogling me for a whole block. When he got to me, he literally said, “Damn, I would fuck the shit out of you.” I literally said “blehhhhhgh!” I kept walking. But I was upset. It made me feel gross. And unsafe. It was attention because I’m beautiful and sexy. And I didn’t want it.
The truth is that I love the way I look now. I look in the mirror (most days) and think I’m gorgeous! I love the way I feel now. I love loving my body. I love loving myself in general. I deal with food the way I do for myself. And that’s good. Because what happened to me this morning is exactly the kind of thing that would make me eat a chocolate cake if I did it for anyone else.
Living inside a fortress of fat made me invisible for most of my life. It meant that I didn’t have to know how to reject boys, and eventually men. They were the ones doing the rejecting. I didn’t really understand that girls/women were being liked and pursued by guys they had no interest in. And if you had explained it to me then, I probably would have scoffed at such a “problem”. Oh, poor baby! Too many men like you. Boo hoo. I didn’t know that fat made me feel protected until the fat went away and I was left vulnerable. Yes, being overlooked made me lonely. But there was a safety in that loneliness. No, I wasn’t getting attention from men I was interested in. But I didn’t have strangers making lewd comments about or at me at 8 in the morning either. I didn’t have strange men touch me when I walked down the street. (Yes. That happens to me now. Yes. I throw an unholy fit and publicly shame them. Grab my ass, and you’ll think twice before you do it to another woman. Just so you know.)
I know other women like me. Women who got control of their food, lost a lot of weight, and found out that they were beautiful. Some of them, like me, found strategies for dealing with this unwanted attention. We found a reason to keep the food at bay that had nothing to do with society or people outside of ourselves. But some of them couldn’t handle it. They would rather eat themselves to death. They would rather be eternally lonely. They would rather have the misery of fat and insanity, than the fear of unwanted attention.
For me, it is fear. Fear of not having my person, my body, and my life respected. And it’s a different kind of disrespect than I had for most of my life. Until I was in my late 20s, I was at best, ignored. At worst, humiliated for being unattractive. I am grateful now to be attractive to men I am attracted to. That part is fantastic! But before I got a handle on my eating, it had never occurred to me that if I were attractive in general, all sorts of men would be attracted to me. The ones I liked as well as the ones I didn’t.
With respectful men, it’s both easier and harder to deal with. Easier because I don’t feel threatened. Harder, because I don’t like rejecting people. Especially when they have been genuine and vulnerable. Especially if they’re nice guys. But I had to learn how to say no gently and sweetly. And I did learn how. Because the truth is, attention from any man I am not interested in is unwanted for me. I am not the kind of girl who likes attention for attention’s sake. I got used to being left alone. I had to learn how to be a beautiful woman in the world. And like most things that have to do with male-female relationships, I did not get my education growing up. I got a crash course around 30.
The other thing I don’t like about rejecting men is that there is a shamed fat girl living inside me. And she doesn’t think she’s good enough to reject anybody. She’s got a whole lot of who-do-you-think-you-are going on. It’s sometimes hard for me to remember that I’m not a fat, lying cheater anymore. That I’m kind of a catch now. And there’s also the irrational panic of scarcity. If I reject this one, maybe another one will never come along. Though rational Kate thinks If you’re not interested, you’re not. You would still not be interested in this one, even if nobody else ever did come along. (I’ll say it helps that I like somebody at the moment. It keeps me from worrying about who is coming along.)
Maybe you’re reading this and scoffing, like I would have. Boo hoo. You’re beautiful now. Life is so hard. But I want to say that this is an actual issue for me. It’s something that I have to deal with day-to-day. Without cake. It’s something that fills me with anxiety. But every time I find myself getting attention I don’t want, that makes me uncomfortable, I have to choose it. I have to accept that it’s a part of my new life. It’s the trade-off. Because being beautiful is merely the byproduct of having a handle on my food. Which I do because it makes me happy. Beauty is the side effect of loving my life.
But here’s where it balances out. When I have my food under control, I can deal with life. I can find peace inside myself. I can get through a difficult situation. I can deal with an uncomfortable feeling. I can manage feeling unsafe. It’s not that I hate being beautiful. Like I said, parts of it are fabulous. I just don’t like everything that comes with it. And it sure as hell is not the magical answer to all my troubles I thought it would be when I was eating compulsively. What I love is being sane and capable. And being able to deal with whatever comes my way. And having the ability to say, “No. You cannot have my number. You cannot walk with me. But I’m flattered. Have a nice day.”