This morning, when I was choosing my clothes for the day, I chose black stockings, a black dress made out of leather, and black pointed-toe lace-up boots. When I was doing my makeup, I made sure my skin looked perfect; I primed it, I applied concealer and foundation with my eyes squinted, searching. I drew on my eyeliner thick. I made sure I had a many lipstick choices in my bag before I left the house, as well as a small collection of makeup so I could touch-up before I left work for a first date. I feel unapproachable, I feel like an untouchable monolith, and that’s how I want it. In the beginning, I dole out kindness carefully.
There’s this stereotype in our culture of the undesirable fat woman who is just happy to be seen. This 2-dimensional cartoon is overly kind, giggling, simpering, accommodating. Her partner calls all the shots and she goes along with it all because she’s just grateful to be invited to the party. I do not want to be her. I don’t want anyone to think, not even for a second, that I am her.
There is a hypervigilance that happens, I think, when you grow up fat and enthusiastic and your desirability is constantly being called into question. When I think of myself back in highschool, I was a Tracey Turnblad lookalike and actalike – I bounced, I giggled, I listened, I held, I accommodated. My needs were second to others’, I performed personality reactively instead of truthfully. I was very aware of being fat and how this played out in dating, friendships, etc. I wanted people to like me and to see my beauty, and I thought I could get them to do this by being very very nice. Turns out, being really nice to everyone is exhausting and fake, and it certainly doesn’t make the structural and institutional realities of being a fat woman any different (and this is only compounded if you’re a POC, disabled, of a lower class, etc). No matter how sugary sweet I was, it didn’t erase the fat on my body, it didn’t make that not a very real part of me. I look back on my younger self, always eager to please, and never without denying herself, (either with food or otherwise) and I have a huge pit of embarrassment in my stomach. This is that pit where we internalize shame and hatred instead of directing it outward at the source of the ire. However unproductive and self-hating that is, it’s what I did and it’s how I lived for a bigger majority of my adult life so far than I want to think about.
Fast-forward to…whereabouts now. I like to think I’m a bit more self-actualized than I was, having clawed and fought and cried and wrestled myself into this thicker skin, this body that I practice loving every day with a fierceness that only comes with the necessity of survival.
I think about clothes, I think about dating, I think about work, I think about sex. My body is present in all of these worlds. I feel it, the people around me feel it. So, I put on armor. Lots of it. It’s big and it’s metal and it can be scary. My armor is my loud derisive laugh. It’s my black dresses. It’s my teasing, it’s my topping, when I want to. It’s my bottoming, when I want to. It’s never saying “I love you” first. When I give compliments, which I will, take it as a gift. When I let you fuck me, take it as a gift, because you need to see what it’s costing me. Knowingly running full speed into a sea of vulnerability can make my fat femme heart scream with fear, and I will do it because of survival, but it costs me.