From Our Readers
February 05, 2016 10:45 am
Illustration painting of a curvaceous woman in a vintage style boudoir.
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In a few short weeks, I will be heading to the courthouse to marry my best friend. For more than six years he’s been my biggest cheerleader, my security blanket, and my home. There is almost nothing that man wouldn’t do for me, nor I for him. But his refusal to let the “F” word into our house was starting to drive me bananas. That is to say, he wouldn’t call me fat.

I realize that desire might seem a little strange (and likely goes against everything he has ever been taught about what is appropriate to say to a woman), but hear me out.

I am a fat woman. One who has had a tumultuous relationship with her body for over two decades. I’ve been no stranger to hating the word “fat,” feeling shame for my size, or being angered by the presumptuous opinions and advice of strangers. Coming to terms with my weight and my size has been a long fought battle. Claiming my body as my own and redefining my relationship with it is a deeply personal, constant thing.

Part of that journey has meant embracing my fatness, and taking back the word itself. For years I’d tried to ban it from my vocabulary, leave it outside, lock it away in a closet of past abuses I didn’t want to face. I wasn’t sure if I could untangle the word “fat” from the negative web of associations into which it had been so firmly weaved. But I did — and that process for me has hugely reaffirming.

I am many things, and fat is but one of them. It describes my body and nothing more. And while I believe that my own personal relationship with my body is the most important, it was also important to me that the man I loved be able to embrace “fat” too. So his inability to even hear the word was becoming increasingly frustrating.

If a coworker or a stranger were to shush me for beginning a sentence with the phrase, “As a fat woman,” I would try to explain, but my explanations generally fell on deaf ears. The reaction was always, “You aren’t fat, you’re beautiful,” as if the two are mutually exclusive. From acquaintances, I usually shrugged it off. I knew their intentions were generally good.

But coming from the mouth of the man who sees me naked, it bothered me. Because the thing is, I am fat. I couldn’t fully embrace my body while he was continuing to contradict my own account of it. His inability to accept my fatness as I had was starting to feel like a rejection — like an invalidation of my own feelings. It seemed it was okay to love a fat woman as long as he never had to say it. Like he was harboring some kind of secret shame.

I started questioning whether he was only with me because he would feel bad leaving the fat girl. Or if perhaps he stayed because he’d seen what I looked like when I was smaller, and he hoped I’d get back to that size once again. But what if my body never got smaller? Then what? I was starting to worry that if I looked at him and said, “Listen buddy, I might be this fat for the rest of our lives, cool?” he was going to change his mind. And on top of that, what if I didn’t want to get smaller, myself?

I realized I didn’t want to be loved in spite of my fatness. My body should not be overlooked; it is worthy of being cherished. I began to push back harder against his resistance of the word, and it became a running theme in our relationship. I would talk about my experiences as a fat woman and he would immediately remind me that I’m beautiful. There was some progress — he had at least stopped telling me that I wasn’t fat, but he also still seemed to feel the need to throw in a counterpoint, as though fat were a dirty word.

When I pointed this out to him, he told me that he was just trying to make sure that I knew I was beautiful. But I reminded him that I did know that; I just wanted fat and beautiful to coexist. He understood, but it was still a word he was struggling to hear in relation to my body.

And then, one day, after months of sending him article after article about what it means to be body positive, and countless conversations about why I was accepting the word fat and it would help me if he could too, it happened. He finally called me fat.

I’d been stressing about an upcoming doctor’s appointment to figure out why I’d been having constant migraines and I was worrying that the doctor would just tell me it was because I was fat. “Stop it,” he told me. “It isn’t because you’re fat.” I shot him the look. “I mean you are fat, that’s just not the reason you are getting migraines.”

He froze, his uncertain face fighting back panic. “I think you just called me fat,” I said. He waited. “Are you okay with that?” I asked. “Me being fat, I mean. Can you love this body? Am I good enough right now, just like this?”

He relaxed. “Of course I do,” he told me. “I love you and I love your body, every inch.”

I had never felt so close to him as I did in that moment, and thinking of it still makes me smile. It was an affirmation of what I’ve been saying all along. I am fat, beautiful, healthy, strong, and loved. And “fat” will no longer be a bad word in our home.

Our relationships with our bodies are our own, but it helps to have those we love on our side. His willingness to join me in cultivating a healthy, body positive environment at home helps me stay positive on those days I struggle.

And I know that no matter where life takes us or how our bodies stretch, shrink, or wrinkle in response to the passing of our days, I am immeasurably lucky to have him on my team.

Ashley Bievenour is a writer and recovering recluse living in a mysterious, undisclosed location. She enjoys reading, napping, and daydreaming about zombie attack scenarios. You can follow her on Twitter, where she likes to keep a public record of her most unimportant opinions.

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