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Help! I’m falling for a fat man!

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Cary’s classic column from THURSDAY, JUL 27, 2006

I like this guy a lot, but the poundage is a turnoff.


Dear Cary,

Currently I’m dating a man who just won’t leave my consciousness, not for a moment. I think of him all the time. He’s pretty special.

My problem is this: This wonderful man with whom I’ve shared some amazing moments and do share a phenomenal connection … he’s overweight. He’s not merely out of shape or a hike and a swim away from fit, he’s fat.

I’ve made a conscious effort to look past it (“it” being my own stupid, shallow, superficial, counterproductive reaction to the weight), but there it is, all of the time. In bed, he’s attentive, very strong, wonderful — we enjoy genuine chemistry — but even when the lights are out I find it difficult to navigate his flesh. I’m a smallish person stature-wise; it’s difficult for me to wind around a man with what little leg I’ve been given, never mind a man the size of one and a half men.

Worse yet is I fear being a selfish lover, because I don’t fantasize pleasing him the way I would ordinarily with a slimmer man. I’m intimidated, daunted and generally unprepared for certain activities.

I don’t know what to do. It’s a turnoff. And worst of all, part of the reason it’s a turnoff is that I see myself with a head-turner when the lights are on. I’ve always been with striking men — not pretty boys, but men who had that quality; after all, it’s that quality which turns my head in the first place. And this man just doesn’t light my fire in that way. I’m attracted to nearly everything about him but his size. So he doesn’t light my fire, and doesn’t feed my ego in the company of strangers. I hate myself even for admitting it; it’s just so superficial.

Am I trying to convince myself that we have a future together? Is there any way I can get past my bias and enjoy this person for who he is in total?

Weighing in, in Washington

Cary Tennis Writing Retreat in France

Dear Weighing in,

You haven’t gotten this far by pretending. You’ve gotten this far by being straightforward and honest, and I suggest you continue being straightforward and honest.

This is harder, of course, because we are freaked out about fat. It is one of our crazy things. It goes deep. It has its paradoxes and corollaries as well — we are freaked out about skinny, and we are freaked out about food, and the planet, and the body and money and exercise and power. We are a freaked-out culture. We are all freaked out.

The fat man knows this.

If you are a fat man in America you cannot help noticing that people are freaked out about fat. People will suggest exercise bikes. They will feed you lean portions. They will say to each other, “It’s his fault, and it’s disgusting; he must have no willpower; he must eat the wrong things; he must be repressing something; he must not respect himself.” And what does the fat guy say? He says, Yes, thank you for that astute observation, I have indeed noticed that I am fat.

So I suggest what you do is go in your backyard and sit quietly and meditate on the fact that you are not turned on by this fat man. Meditate on the fact that you like him very much but he doesn’t turn you on. Wait for something to come to you. Accept the answer that comes. If you come to the feeling that you have to end it, then end it. If you come to the feeling that you want to stay with him for a while more, then stay with him for a while more. If you come to both, then put each on an apothecary’s scale, weigh them and choose the one that weighs a little more.

Don’t try to reason it out and don’t guilt-trip yourself. We don’t know why we are the way we are. It’s not our job to know. Just meditate on it and wait for an answer.

Maybe you meditate on it and the answer that comes is that it’s just not right for you. OK. Make a tearful goodbye. Or maybe you meditate on it and it continues to intrigue you and so you stay with him for a while. What’s the harm in that? Maybe you learn something new. Maybe you have sex and it turns out to be good. Maybe it’s just some learning you have to do — maybe you are not used to having sex in ways that are not automatic; maybe there would be some learning at first and then it would be automatic, just as it always was. What can it hurt to find out?

And by the way, why are you in such a hurry lately? Two or three dates is not all that much time. Human emotion goes slowly. Insight is a complex computation; it can take days on our little computers.

Besides, consider: The sex is great in the beginning lots of times. This you no doubt know. It doesn’t always stay great. It might dwindle down. It might be great at first with some guy you don’t like that much otherwise. It might dwindle down and then what have you got? A guy you don’t like all that much anyway whom you don’t like to fuck much either anymore.

Some things are painful and sad and wrong but nonetheless true.

We are the way we are for reasons unknown to us. You needn’t feel guilty if it isn’t working out. Quiet your mind and wait for the answer to come to you.

Cary Tennis Newsletter Sign Up

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2 thoughts on “Help! I’m falling for a fat man!”

  1. OK – I am so glad to find you again, Cary. And impressed with the website and workshopoptions!
    I really like your response here….because meditating on the dilemma and deciding what is ultimately ‘gonna work’, without the guilt trips or any denial of how one feels and reacts just seems wise.
    And absolutely YES, that this is very early in the writer’s relationship….so giving it alittle more of a chance, and maybe if it feels OK enough – sex with this person, a try – also sounds plausible. Whatever it is, one can’t fake it – the sex might be good, or not – same as with anyone. (I know this is an old post, so I speak to those like reading now, who might be going through something similar.)

    Since I have been overweight – but now getting new insight around all this body stuff (and I thought I had explored it all…) — and since I’ve also dated people of various shapes, I will say two more things below. While I don’t care too much if they are unhip to say on this very ‘hip’ and free & honest, dealing with WHAT IS website, I think they are relevant from a human and life-as-lived point of view (something I think is your column’s forte):

    1) I think that the attraction to personality-chemistry’ that this person expresses and the ‘thinking about him constantly’ is as relevant as the fatness factor. I think that before checking out, tearfully or otherwise, some honesty on both fronts (both personality attraction and body issues-based on both their sizes and otherwise) may be something to share, tactfully, honestly and with some self-deprecating humor or whatever feels respectful enough.
    I thinking say I really like you (so far), but this is a factor, is real & respectful in its way.

    Of course, one must be prepared to be rejected right then and there when one says this, per the ‘freakout’ factor you mention. So one could say and be prepared for all that, if the personality attraction is big enough. I think it gives people the chance to share real intimacy & maybe deepen some things — if its meant to be.
    2) I have been 25-60 lbs overweight a lot of my life – and despite running and dieting, found it really hard to lose weight. Yes, a certain amount of comfort food eating, but….it’s been more than that. I can say that has recently & remarkably changed – and for the first time in 55 years (like since I was 3 years old), my food cravings have actually stopped – and it’s chemistry! The whole issue of so many people in the USA, and increasingly elsewhere being overweight/obese, & having a kind of dia-besity, has just been addressed by the new, 21st century ‘Functional Medicine’ — which understands real food vs. the Frankenfoods (like GMO soy and wheat, sugar in everything, horomone laced dairy and so on that creates so much addiction and FLC (Feeling Like Crap) syndrome, and has made so many of us fat – is just reaching mainstream media – and only just alittle. (Check out drmarkhyman.com – he’s been on PBS and is featured in the new film, ‘Fed UP.’) I’m discovering a new way of living and eating — am healthier, body and mind, and have slimmed like NEVER before. And relatively quickly. It might help the fat or other people involved here.

    I realize this writer didn’t really write to talk about a new way of eating or to change this guys body situation exactly – but rather, what she should do.
    I endorse your answer there. But taken the risk of telling this guy what’s she’d really feeling – and putting this guy’s fatness in some context might mean something to an outcome — yes, if it’s meant to be. None of living, including relationships, really works over time — if it’s forced or false.
    Post this if you think its helpful.

  2. Such a beautiful response by Cary. I deeply sympathize with this issue. We’re acculturated to find fat objectionable. That is a fact. Having been lbs 60 over my chart-ideal weight and having slimmed down, I am aware of the implication of both. My husband, who also became “fat and happy,” and I never talked about it, other than that it doesn’t matter and to reaffirm our love. But we started slim and had the love before the fat which was a factor in the ease with which we adjusted.

    In this case it seems the fat was the elephant in the room. Elephants are lovable, too. We spend money and resources on protecting them and no one thinks they should change their shape. We expect them to look as they do, we expect differently from people. But if people are capable of being fat, as they are, then this is part of what humanity looks like and not an aberration we need reject. In such a case as this, one should do what is necessary with the proverbial elephant–talk about it. Say what there is to say about one’s feelings and thoughts in an honest and considerate manner. Both parties. And get acquainted, explore the fat body together. It may be frightening at first, but no more than that first awkward and strange contact we all once made. Everything unfamiliar has the potential of feeling weird at first. I believe we can become acculturated to lumps and bumps and folds as easily as to flat surfaces. Who would judge a valley to be too flat? Who would judge a mountain ridge too high? All that stands in the way is the idea of what a thing is supposed to be. Ideas can evolve.

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