Thursday, 30 December 2010

A Weighty Matter

First of all, I am not a doctor. And second, I am not so super-pleased with the photos my brother has taken of our Christmas revels this year. Married couples often gain ten pounds after the wedding. I think I have gained more than that. Curse you, British eating habits!

One of the most painful, poignant questions that comes my way--so painful that it is usually only alluded to and never phrased in a direct question--is "Am I Single because I am overweight?"

My answer to this is a quick "I am not a doctor" although my first question (much more delicately phrased) is "How overweight?"

There are many gorgeous fat women. They are not usually called fat, though, which has become a mortal insult. They are called curvy. They include Queen Latifa, Jessica Simpson, Kelly LeBrock, Carnie Wilson, Elisha Cuthbert and any plus-sized model. Kelly Osbourne was until very recently pleasantly plump, and my guess is that she will become so again. And these are just the celebrities. The world is full of beautiful, plump, curvy women. Plumpness was itself a hallmark of beauty until the 20th century.

That said, obesity is on the rise, and because fatty food is so plentiful and so comforting, many women--including me--are tempted to munch away our sorrows instead of eating healthily. And only since I saw my brother's photos of me in my married state have I realized what being overweight makes you look like: it makes you look married.

Now this could be complete nonsense, so feel free to chastize me in the combox. I am not advocating dumb diets and reckless exercising or self-blame or all those other things otherwise intelligent women embrace. Apparently the average adult woman of childbearing age should be eating 1500 calorie a day, so if your doctor says you should eat 1500 calories a day, eat 1500 calories a day. I am just throwing out there the only original thought about weight that I am ever likely to have: that too much weight makes you look married already. Everything else possible has been said.

For example, it is quite clear (and repeated by me over and over again) that men are not attracted just to model-thin women. In fact, many men think model-thin women are TOO thin when they see them in real life. This is not great news for model-thin women. However, I must say that when I was a boxer, and was 117 pounds of muscle, I got hit on a lot more than I got hit on when I was 140 pounds of squish.

Of course, the most memorable person who hit on me was a woman. She thought I looked like a Greek goddess and said so and followed me around a bit. But I do remember more men than before or since hitting on me at the gym and in the clubs, and my telling a male friend that the great secret of becoming attractive was weighing no more than 119 lbs when one is only 5'2". I don't believe that now, however. I was squishy when I met B.A.

Men like who they like, and although fashion designers and other tastemakers have done their damnedest, they can't get all straight men to love only those women who look like teenage boys. Keira Knightley looked so much like a teenage boy in Bend it Like Beckham that is it no mystery to me that the hot Irish football coach fell for pretty Jesminder instead.

Jesminder, of course, was also rather slim, being both a teenager and a brilliant footballer. But she was slim in a very feminine way, and I have noticed that Indian women I have met have the most feminine, graceful hand gestures I have ever seen outside of ballet. And traditional clothes for Indian women are so beautiful, it is little wonder that many choose to wear them outside South Asia.

I wonder if the secret to being attractive while being very slim or being rather plump isn't the ability to make it seem very feminine. Certainly, being obese isn't very feminine--or, in men, very masculine either. It is unhealthy, and healthy people are attracted, not only to happy people, but to healthy people.

If any reader is wondering whether they have crossed the line between deliciously squish and bad-for-their-health, then I encourage her (or him) to toddle off to her (or his) doctor to ask.


The Crescat said...

I will say this. Women of weight have often hid behind their girth so when they are rejected they can place blame more readily on the man claiming they are all shallow and obsessed with appearances.

Sometimes it easier being fat because you have an excuse for your failed relationships, after all fat is easier to fix than changing neurosis and behaviors.

I can say this because I have done this. Even at my fattest, 250lbs, I was still able to attract men and go on plenty of dates. I have since lost 85 lbs but I am still a heavy girl. 5'9 and 170 is not dainty. I do say at my height and with my ethnic [Hispanic] natural curvature I will never be anglo dainty.

Some men like it, some don't. It's 100% about attitude and taking responsibility for our own role in repetitively failed relationships... and LEARNING from them.

Seraphic said...

Oooh! But what is "anglo dainty?" Are non-Latinas believed to be smaller than Latinas? You should hear stories about my German-American great-aunt Tilly, who weighed more than 300 lbs.

Although there are lots of skinny non-Latinas, I assure you that being anglo is not a passport to dainty, any more than being white means I have smooth, wavy hair.

Seraphic said...

(As a Canadian, I get really very confused by American ethnic/racial expectations, and once when I was the target of anti-mixed-race comments on a U.S. campus, I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to report it or what, not actually being mixed-race.

Anyway, my experience of American white non-Hispanic women not-on-TV is that they can get just as fat as anyone else. I simply do not understand the "Hispanic-women-get-fat" meme. In Toronto, the slenderest women seem to be Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese. But even then there are lots of plump Chinese women.)

theobromophile said...

If you can come across it in the UK, there's a book called "My Big Fat Greek Diet", written by a physician who was 450 lbs before he went on a (literal) weight-loss journey. One of the things he complained about his how his friends would only fix him up with similarly fat women, as if they could bond over eating ice cream on the sofa.

(Interestingly, he re-met his wife after losing about 200 lbs.)

The flip side: when I was 125 lbs, and I'm Crescat's height, I had a boyfriend tell me that his ex-girlfriend looked nothing like me, because she was so much skinnier and prettier. Those men are not worth having: any man who is that unreasonable about a woman's weight WILL (always, always will) be unreasonable about other things.

Which is to say: Seraphic is absolutely right - healthy is the way to go. Healthy covers a wide range of body types and it has non-dating-related benefits.

(Yes, it took me several years to get over the "I'm not skinny/my frame would be perfect for a guy/yeah, feminine isn't happening unless I starve myself and turn into a couch potato" mindset.)

The Crescat said...

sorry, I wasn't more specific. When I say not dainty and refer to Hispanic women, I mean we have very round plump areas that white women do not... normal weight white women. Pardon the expression, but we typically have junk in our trunk. Lots of junk, no matter how skinny. White women, for the most part, have very flat posteriors. When I was in high school and weighed a meager 110lbs the boys said I was fat. I wanted nothing more than to be iron board flat like the rest of my friends... and a size zero or two. I was a size 6 ... fat by their standards. That was what I meant by anglo dainty... flat. I don't mean this in a negative manner at all, believe me. I good deal of my youth was spent enviously eyeballing these perfectly slender woman.

I didn't mean to take your great post off topic. But the gist of my comment was it is less about weight than women would think and more about attitude. And a man that would make it about weight is not worth your effort. If you are heavy the important thing is not to make yourself vulnerable to predatory me who feed on woman with low esteem.

sciencegirl said...

Re: American ethnic expectations.

The key phrase is "not on TV." Most of the white actresses on TV train 6 hrs a day and have artificially colored and straightened hair and either tan for real or spray it on, and many even have had nose jobs, so that's what people think we all look like, or maybe what we should look like. I have typical English/German features, but not for any non-comedic roles, so I get lots of comments from people of color who think it is amazing (and thrilling) that I sort of resemble Chelsea Clinton, who has the same ethnicity. Different regions of the country were settled by whites from different European regions, but that mix doesn't get on TV without being cosmetically "enhanced." Different regions also have different attitudes towards food and women's weight, with some high schools having more problems with anorexia than others. The ethnic expectations of any given American will be influenced by a) her own ethnicity b) her state & city c) her personal knowledge of people of Ethnicity X,Y,Z and d) TV watching to fill in gaps in personal knowledge. Since (c) is heavily influenced by (a) and (b), we all end up depending on (d) to a large extent, and we all know Hollywood loves to cash in however it can, even at the expense of its actresses physical and mental health.

I grew up in a place surrounded by better tanned Anglos & Hispanic women and men of all weights. The married ones were heavier, but then again, they were older than us teenagers and had given birth a few times.

sciencegirl said...

also, re: junk in trunk.

It really sucks sometimes to be an atypical Angla in this regard, as it does I'm sure for women of any ethnicity who want cheap clothing that looks professional and actually fits. I want my waspish, conservative clothing, darn it! Good darn luck finding inexpensive pants-with-booty in an East Coast mall that aren't marketed to attention-deprived teenagers. It would not look professional for me to wear studs, sequins, painted butterflies, or apple patches on my rear end at work. I once tried on every pair of pants in Old Navy to no avail

The Crescat said...

Yeah... I definitely look like I've given birth, with or without child in tow. HA!

I can see where a plumper woman would give the appearance of a woman who has given birth, thus married. And yes, this could very well be why more plump woman aren't approached.

And science girl made a good point. I was the only hispanic girl in my rural school where the ethnicities was either black or white and no in between. When I expanded my geographical horizons to the DC area which is an ethnic melting pot I started to feel much better about myself.

Ginger said...

Re: Surroundings affecting what weights are and are not acceptable:

I haven't been or felt "thin" since I was 12. Once puberty hit, I filled in almost immediately.

I went to a small high school with all-girls boarding where, for my age, I was more developed than the other girls. (They wore A cups while I was well into the Cs. Nevermind that the ribcage sizes were the same.) The girls I went to school with called it fat and I was cruelly teased. I became convinced that I was fat and still have some residual issues with body image.

Four years later, after all of us had graduated and parted ways and made way for a totally new generation of students, I went back to work at the school. Now there's a whole different set of girls, with a greater variety of sizes than there were when I was a student. I look back at pictures of myself at that age and realize that I was the same size as those considered among the smaller or "normal." And those girls who are among the plumper, and plumper than I was then and am now, are treated with more respect by their peers than I was.

My point is, with a different set of girls came a different attitude towards weight.

Personally, my attitude toward my weight is on a day-to-day basis. Some days I feel beautiful and happy with my weight, and some days I look in the mirror and make a vow never to touch any of the foods I love ever, ever again.

In an honest light though, I'd at least like my New Year's resolution to be to tone up a little.

A good gauge (not that I should be gauging) for me to tell now whether or not my close friends think I am overweight, without asking outright, is by the fact that we can poke fun at each other about taking an extra-large scoop of ice cream, while we would never say such a thing to someone who actually had weight problems.

Seraphic said...

Science Girl! Complete strangers (not of any of my ethnicities) have told me I look like Chelsea Clinton!

I have friends--two sisters---who are half or three-quarters Swedish from the American midwest. One is very slender with a very flat bum, and the other is quite big with, er, "junk in the trunk."

I can never understand why people ever thought think Jennifer Lopez was fat or had a big behind. Her behind looks perfectly normal to me. Maybe, though, normal is usually not allowed in Hollywood?

Ginger said...


I once whined aloud to a girlfriend that I "felt fat" that day. A passing male who overheard piped in, "Didn't you just hike 20 miles up a 14,000 foot mountain a couple weeks ago? How many fat people do you know who could do that?"

That kind of logical reasoning was much more successful in changing my momentary lapse in self esteem than any empty rebuttal would have been.

I guess whatever you actually weigh, or what size you wear isn't so much the issue so much as like, Seraphic said, general health. No matter what numbers are in the waistband of my jeans, it will be more significant than what is a healthy size for you-- whatever size that allows you to stay active and energetic is probably good enough.

Nekeisha said...

I don't think weight plays that big of a role. Maybe it's just that I am in the Caribbean, although guys all over like skinny girls. Anyhow... I am skinny no two ways about it, I was a plump baby well over 9 lbs (but I was a long baby which have taken up that weight) but I was a skinny child, skinny teenager and skinny adult. I was teased as a child, teased as a teenager and teased as an adult. My sister who is curvy than I am leaning towards plump but not quite there is never hurting for a boyfriend.

My mother always told me when I was younger "do you know how many people are dying to look like you.", I didn't really believe it as a kid (the teasing didn't help), I believe it now but I don't think men are exactly looking for it. I know many women on the plumper side are happily married. Each guy has his own preference I just need to find one whose preference is 5'9", 1--lbs and healthy appetite.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Lopez first became famous, I think, when she starred in a movie about Texana singer Selena. The latter, though not plump, was famous for her exaggerated waist-hip ratio - very small waist, very generous behind. Jennifer Lopez had or was made to look as if she had the same shape. She has since lost weight and worked out so that her behind is smaller than it was.

But fashions in such matters do change, even among Anglo whites. When I was a young woman, curvy behinds were NOT admired by women, whatever men might have thought. You never heard of anyone getting buttock implants to enhance her curves.

The favored models from the late 70s to the mid 80s were known for their trimly boyish hips and broad shoulders, though they did sometimes have generous bosoms too. I'm thinking of women like Christie Brinkley, Paulina Porizkova, Nadia Auermann, Jerry Hall, and others from the 1978-85 era.