Weight Bias Swings Both Ways
Sunny Randoll Haas is a woman of many talents, none of which earn her a red cent, but tons of well-deserved praise. While awaiting entry to culinary school, she is currently expending her energies on mastering the home management arts, while trying like the devil to find time to write. When she’s not catering culinary feasts for her boyfriend’s office mates (in hopes of getting them to someday pay for it), Sunny is working on her first book. Hers is poignant and often uproarious expose’ of a cute-ish, chubby girl in a “thin is in or you’re out” world. Her most fond wish is to inspire millions to skip the seemingly endless waves of high drama and despair, dream big and go straight on to happiness. Speaking of which, Sunny currently resides in Central Florida with the love her of life, his three sons, her beloved kitty Miss Jake and her darling puppy Ruby.
When most people think of weight bias and the stigma that surrounds a significantly overweight individual; let’s face it, the advantages aren’t the first to come to mind.
Considering the ridiculous amount of press, particularly pertaining to the health issues which may arise from excess pounds, its only reasonable that folks don’t put much thought into the plus side of being plus size.
I mean, seriously… between the unnecessary oversaturation of Angelina Jolie’s every thought and move and the confusing over reporting of weight-related health issues… it’s hard to know which is getting more face time out there! It’s fair to say that, based on the volume of warnings and fear-mongering that surrounds “the obesity crisis in America” in the media (and consequently in society), if you don’t know at least five life-threatening reasons to fear fat, you’ve been living in a cave… in Iceland… your whole life.
“But, Sunny,” you may pause me to ask, “are there favorable discriminations surrounding obesity?!” As someone who was once unbelievably obese, I can say without question, “That depends on how you look at it.”
Being big isn’t always a downer. If you are craving, and enjoy attention, being one of the biggest people in the room often grabs you the instant center of attention. In many social situations, some find overweight women more approachable than their thinner counterparts. The “softness” of a rounder woman often puts people at ease, where the preconceptions of thin, beautiful women being cold, or self-serving work against that group (which is no more fair than assuming all fat people are lazy and stuff their faces).
There are also times when companies are looking for a bit of diversity and being a bigger person can play a key role there (this was particularly so when living in the LA area, considering the abundance of unearthly, gorgeous aspiring and working performers who might come off as unapproachable to less metropolitan clients or vendors). Whereas there were countless jobs for which I was perfectly qualified and later learned I was passed over because my size gave an impression of not being able to “keep up.”
Interestingly, I’ve rarely seen evidence that society finds it terribly shocking that men may be rather large and still considered attractive, even sexy. John Goodman during his Roseanne days was one of the most adored and desired men in the business, Seth Rogan dropped a load of weight before filming Green Lantern and there was an actual outcry from his fans, Jonah Hill has experienced the same.
We like what we like, we need what we need, and as much as I had been told my whole life that nobody wanted a fat girl, I was flooded with almost as much relief as I was disbelief, when I learned how many men truly wanted, adored, admired and were hungry for a big, round girl. Even so, I learned that there were some who would say I had an unfair advantage when it came to that arena.
I’ve always been called “pretty”, but for most of my early life that word was nestled inside what you might think of as a “stealth slander sandwich.”
“She has such a pretty face! If only she weren’t so big!” or “You could be so pretty… if only…” which would trail off in a maudlin sigh of pity (often coupled with a textbook “such a shame” shake of the head). It absolutely shocked me, and it may equally shock you, to learn that when I was cresting 400 pounds I dated and was hit-on more than I ever had been.
A good portion of that upsurge was attributable to the internet and the advent of dating sites and groups for BBWs (“Big Beautiful Women”) and the men who found them irresistible. I thought, “Finally, a bias for me, not against me!” and so did hundreds of men and women I associated with.
During that membership I found myself fielding a lot of offers and romantic interest. I happened to be among the more attractive, fashionable, youthful and fun-loving of the fat ladies to choose from (those are positive attributes I carry with me at ANY weight).
As with any social grouping, however, unchecked insecurities among members of the group soon led to pecking orders and a clique mentality within the community. Due in part to the same social and romantic competition or natural selection that would happen with any other group, and largely due to the anonymous nature of conducting group interaction online, people seemed to be quite free to show petty and often cruel behavior toward one another that didn’t happen quite the same when we met in person. This group of men and women who shared a wanting to belong and to feel accepted in a society they had felt rejected by, began by reaching out, but ultimately tried to destroy each other’s happiness. What should have been an empowering experience for one and all, was often utterly decimated by the negative-beliefs and unaddressed insecurities from which we were so desperate to be free.
Conversely, as a result of the perceived advantages I had over others in the group I was regularly the target of utterly childish, deeply hateful attacks laden with the prejudices that kept these people in a state of desolate loneliness.
“She only got him because she’s thinner!” Really? On a website specifically geared toward the preference of a large (and sometimes there were specifications for “super-sized” mates), the excuse for not connecting successfully with the object of their desire is about who’s thinner? And yes, if I had ten dollars for every time someone used that one on me I could have paid for my lifetime membership.
While we’re on the subject, I just have to ask… “lifetime membership”… to a BBW dating site… does that not almost immediately set the tone for hopelessness?
There are some well-established, longstanding arguments for the natural order of how people behave in a given social situation. I was naive to have hoped, or assumed, that just because these people had likely suffered all the same emotional / spiritual puncture wounds as I had (if not more, in some cases), that they would make it a point to generate their safe-haven by keeping their demons and discriminations in check.
Did I expect that kind of behavior from my chubby sisterhood? No. Should I have?
In hind-sight, yes, I should have expected that not all overweight people are built the same. We were, after all, still individuals with our own experiences informing our choices and behaviors, which had nothing to do with our size.
Fortunately, I was not deterred by the twists and turns of social weirdness that surrounded my search for love. Thankfully a smattering of the amazing, beautiful friends I made in the men and women I’d become close to during the two years I spent looking for acceptance and companionship, also persevered past the distraction. Many of them found their mate on the site, some of them moved on and had better luck elsewhere. Others, still, found that limiting themselves to the preference of those who wanted only a larger mate, was the motivation it took to get their excess off. As I said before, there are benefits, and it all depends on how you look at the situation.
For my part, I ended up finding, meeting and marrying the absolute man of my dreams online (through a social network for the corporation we worked for at the time). No kidding, I had a list and everything! All the traits, elements I felt I needed and wanted, right there… one guy… ON… LINE! Only thing missing? He’s not over 6 feet tall. Turns out that doesn’t really matter when you get every other thing you could possibly wish for in a partner. And if he had never seen my chubby face, and my Bettie Page bangs, when I posted a profile photo, it might never have happened. For the record, I am my husband’s second wife. His first wife was none of what he wanted, particularly in the fact that she is rail thin and hates fun; but he spent nearly two decades in a marriage that began with a feeling of resentment and sadness, that if he were to love and marry a voluptuous woman he would be ridiculed. I don’t know about you, but I am (and he sure is) pretty grateful that the times can, and do, change and so can our reaction to public opinion.