Most humans are taught from a very young age that in order to be worthy of a fairy tale ending, we must remain as thin as possible. It's likely why we don't see plus size women with thin men in our media streams. The thinking goes that thin, conventionally attractive dudes should only be paired with thin, conventionally attractive ladies. There are no plus size cartoon princesses riding off into the sunset with Prince Charming. There are no Rebel Wilsons starring in films alongside Brad Pitt as the love interest. Fat bodies go with fat bodies; thin bodies go with thin bodies. And that is all.
Most of us can agree that first-world cultures tend to perceive plus size people as second-class citizens who should hate their bodies. We're constantly bombarded with weight loss campaigns, commercials for slimming pills and surgeries, and mocking from fat-phobic groups like Project Harpoon and Thinner Beauty. Sadly, this means that when a lot of plus size individuals are approached by conventionally “good-looking” counterparts — both in real life and on-screen — it can be difficult to believe that the attraction is legitimate. From my experiences, I know that compliments from a potential S.O. are often regarded with suspicion. But I also know that this self-hatred and doubt are toxic to any relationship, and especially the relationship you hold with yourself. My conventionally hot husband taught me this.
The first few months of dating this handsome man were filled with insecurity and doubt on my part. This guy was gorgeous — not just by my standards, but by society's — and I couldn't help but question his motives. What was he doing asking me out? Was he just experimenting with a big girl? Was this like that movie thing where the hot guy asks out the "pig" as some kind of cruel joke? I wanted to believe that I was "on his level," that the interest was really there. But doubts implanted in my psyche by our culture would creep in, destroying any confidence I felt.
Even once we started dating, I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't good enough for him. Was he checking out that thin blonde walking by in the sexy heels? Was I the largest woman he had ever been with? The stream of negative thoughts were only fueled by the looks we would get when he would take me out. I could feel the disapproval purely in the facial expressions and under-the-breath comments cast in our direction. We were clearly considered an oddity.
When I finally plucked up the courage to confront my husband with the stream of questions pouring into my head, the combination of rage, surprise, and outrage that came from him was palpable. It had never even occurred to him that people were judging us, and he was flabbergasted at the thought that I had been perceiving myself as less than beautiful.
And you know what? Being presented so clearly with this man who didn't see my fat as a problem to overcome, but who saw me as a desirable, beautiful, caring, and independent, made me realize that I'd been spending far too much of my time concerned with the petty perceptions of others, and not nearly enough time concerned with my own feelings about my body. While our validation shouldn't stem from the validation of others, sometimes, having someone shut down any negative self-talk in your head is the push you need to acknowledge just how absurd the negative self-talk is to begin with.
And so, the more I allowed my confidence to grow, the more I discovered that it was said confidence that made me feel sexy. It wasn't lingerie, jewelry, or high heels. It was the secure feeling of knowing that I am beautiful. And that I get to define what that word means to me.
In a society that profits from our self-doubt, choosing to love oneself is an act of rebellion. When people see my husband and I — he the "good looking" male, and me the "fat" woman — supporting each other and showcasing our love, it challenges stereotypes. Sure, it makes certain people extremely uncomfortable. But if you are not ashamed of your body, and if your partner is not ashamed of your body, those outsider opinions begin to grow mute.
Listen to the latest episode of Bustle's The Chat Room, where we discuss body positivity and the reaction to Ashley Graham's Sports Illustrated cover:
Images: Kat Stroud/House Of Winter