Hello. I’m a single woman in my late 20s, and I am fat.
I felt that I should start with this descriptor, because that’s pretty much all people remember about you when they first see you.
Have you seen Kanksha? She’s that…uhm…healthy-looking girl wearing a black dress.
It is in moments like these that I wish I had thick-rimmed glasses or a hook for a hand. A nice mix of descriptors would render a certain fascination to my being. Maybe they’d say:
Have you seen Kanksha? She’s that fat girl with a hook for a hand.
But I digress.
You see, descriptors are important, more so on dating apps. Your entire dating app experience rests on them. Hinge, a popular app that is ‘designed to be deleted’, does not allow you to proceed unless you’ve uploaded a minimum of 6 pictures of yourself. It asks you to provide captions for them too, if you wish to give your pictures a backstory.
Anecdotal accounts and informal studies have shown that men who put up pictures with pets are more likely to get swipes than regular ol’ pet-less dudes.
Move over, guitar-playing softboi. It’s a dog’s world now.
It’s logical that a stranger would want to attach a face to the bio of another stranger they intend to date. But as a fat woman who has been in the game for a fair period of time, I can say that it isn’t as uncomplicated as it looks. At least not for those who don’t fit the bill of conventional attractiveness.
I started my online dating journey with Tinder, the only available dating app back then (which meant fewer avenues for rejection, if you ask me). While on a regular day I consider myself a confident person, I fell into a tizzy trying to find the perfect set of pictures to showcase my ~personality~.
What would a picture of me wearing a bindi imply? What if I show too much boob? Or no boob at all? There were several internal boob-or-no-boob debates.
But the one picture I was sure of putting up – something thin people don’t have to think twice about – was a full-length one of myself. Head to toe. Boobage notwithstanding.
It was my way of showing potential matches that I was fat. I wanted them to know what they were getting into. I didn’t want them to feel blindsided, should they decide to meet me.
A friend of mine – let’s call her A – once told me that she did the same thing. Except that she made it look aesthetic – the right angles and posture would make her potential matches aware that she was fat, but also that she looked good regardless of it.
In a world where women are expected to tone themselves down – speak less, eat less, complain less, demand less – fat women are an anomaly. We take up space. Literally. We’re large and soft and bodacious. Some of us try to minimise the effect, such as A did, but in doing so we are risking catfishing someone.
We want our size not to matter, but the world is often unfair to us, and dating apps are a place where we can announce ourselves so we can weed out the judgement.
If you’re still unconvinced by our wildly different dating app experience, there are a bunch of dating apps designed specifically for plus-size women.
Fetish, fetish, fetish
What’s the similarity between a pressure cooker and a man on a dating app? Both can go from 0 to 100 real quick.
I re-installed Hinge after a terrible break-up. Because I hadn’t deleted my profile but had merely uninstalled the app, I was welcomed with likes in the higher double digits (not me humble bragging). After a few seconds of ruthless swiping (guitar softbois are an epidemic), I landed on a man who had left me the following message: “Ooh, I love chubby girls” followed by three earnest heart-eyes emojis. And that was the first of many.
Some men called me ‘thicc’. Some called me a curvy goddess. One gentleman chose to coddle me by saying he’d like to respectfully ‘bite my cheeks’. My chubbiness was the talk of the town. What I had showcased to weed out fatphobic men was an attractive quality to others.
Society does this funny thing where it makes fat women believe that they are either completely undesirable (I’m looking at you, Victoria’s Secret), or the object of a man’s perversions (Silk Smitha comes to mind).
We cannot expect an in-between – it is so hard for society to accept fat bodies as normal that it is assumed that anyone who is attracted to them must have a few loose screws.
Many men who compliment big girls on their bodies often suffer from a saviour complex. Calling us thicc, curvy, or BBW makes them feel like they’ve infused in our world a bit of hope – that we’d feel grateful for being desired when everyone else thinks we’re gross. And when you brush it off like it’s no big deal, it hurts them. How dare you, a fat woman, reject advances from me, a man who uses shampoo as soap?
While I enjoyed the hefty doses of instant gratification, I felt like my body was on display. And to counter that, I had to ensure I didn’t come across as too forward. Because if I did, I probably wouldn’t find love in a hopeless place. I’d just find horndogs sending me “U up?” messages at 2 am.
Here’s the thing: I don’t think having a preference for big girls is bad. Some women prefer tall men; some men prefer their women rounder.
It only becomes a problem when you want a round woman in the sheets, but wouldn’t hold her hand in the streets.
And the lack of this distinction, mixed with the complicated language of casual dating, is the bane of a fat woman’s existence.
Cultivating self-love as a fat woman online
The world doesn’t exist in absolutes. Between the rejection and the fetishization exists a sweet-spot: men who truly don’t care about how you look. They’re the ones who make dating apps a little bit worth it. They pay attention to your bio as much as to your pictures. And they have my whole heart.
Gratefulness aside, self-love is a deliberate process for fat women, both on and off dating apps. For some of us, the slightest indiscretion can have a lasting impact. And it’s normal to feel that way – there’s a cost to having a body like ours. And when we choose to get on a dating app, you’d best believe we’re giving our 100%.
If you’re a fellow fat woman reading this, know that not all men out there think you’re gross (I know, I used the cliche).
To know where they stand, ask them questions. If you’re OK with their advances, try to equalise the dynamic by expressing what you want. Take control of the narrative. It’s a part of the self-love process.
As for me, I’m anticipating the day the yassification of my body stops. That if someone were to describe me, they’d only focus on my hook for a hand. I wish to not be a representation of the ‘confident’ fat woman. I wish to be a woman who happens to be fat and is OK with it.
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