This post is not (at all) about fashion. This is a post about one of my experiences as a single, fat girl, so if you've had some crappy experiences with dating and don't fancy reading one of mine, please feel free to skip this post. Ultimately, there is light in this post. His name is Mr. Darcy and he is wonderful... But, if you like, skip this one and come back in a couple days when fashion will abound. I've already taken the photos and they are AMAZING. xxx.
I read a really interesting blog in these last two weeks about Plus Size dating over at Confused Brit... I thought I might post one on my experiences and thoughts.
I think lots of people - fat or thin - can have similar experiences with dating. It can be wonderful and fun, as well as daunting and uncertain - no matter what your size. For myself, I've never really believed in being "in" or "out" of anyone's league, and for me, as a plus size girl, I never really saw my size as something that stopped my ability to meet someone. I did sometimes wonder "Will he like a fat girl?", but I never really let my being overweight stop me from having a bash at dating. Mind you, I seemed to spend most of my twenties perpetually single, with only a few boyfriends dotted here and there. Only one of them was great. The one I've ended up with.
I think self-esteem and self-worth are the keys to good dating. I really, really do. That seems such a simple thing to write, but as I never really realised - and, therefore, never really IMPLEMENTED - this until I was about 27, I know it just ain't that simple. I always had confidence to say hello or chat to people. I went on dates, too - some lovely, some horrendous. I never really connected with anyone the way I wanted to, though, so, through my twenties, I sometimes felt a little bit lonely. I had super-fantastic friends, and in many ways embraced my single self with a great (sometimes outrageous!) gusto. But I DID want someone special. I DID want to be someone's princess. My early twenties were good, but certainly there were times that were a bit grim. You see, I tolerated far too much. (Picture, left, from 1999).
Now, rather than go on a painful diatribe about my dating experiences circa 2000 - 2007, I might just discuss one particular incident. Not a great incident, but one SOME of you may relate to. An incident that all of you will read and likely think "Why did she tolerate that?". Well, confidence and self-esteem are not the same thing. To me, these days, I would rather be vulnerable and a little uncertain with PILES of self-esteem. For me - in dating - self-esteem and self-worth made all the difference.
Back in about 2005, I'd been seeing someone for about five months when I asked him if I could look in his phone to pick up a message I'd sent him. We were at a pub and were about to head to someone's home; I knew I'd texted him the exact address earlier in the day... with his permission, I went into the phone, opened the messages and there it was. My text. And there was my name, just as he'd saved it:
Shock. Such shock. Like a slap.
I looked at him and asked, "Do you have me saved in your phone as 'Fat Em'?" His eyes opened wide. I handed him back the phone and walked out of the pub.
Such humiliation. Even now, this recollection - which is maybe SEVEN years old - still makes me feel a little sick. I didn't answer his calls after that: I just went home, went to my room and cried and cried. My housemates gingerly approached my door, but I ignored them - I felt so humiliated and alone.
I didn't know how I could admit and tell anyone that I'd discovered how my "boyfriend" had saved me as "Fat Em" in his phone... I just didn't want to be humiliated.
I also didn't want my friends not to like HIM. (ARGH!!!)
Hours later, he eventually came to my house and apologised. He said he'd just saved it that way when we'd met, as a joke, and it didn't mean anything. He told me that I meant something to him and he was sorry. I asked him why, after months of being together, he hadn't changed it...
There was no reason.
It hurt so much. I felt humiliated, embarrassed and betrayed by someone I trusted (trusted not just with my body, but with my heart and mind). All too quickly, I forgave him. Kind of. For some reason I desperately wanted to be with him, and so sort of let it pass. But I never really forgot it. I wonder now if I really just didn't want to feel alone.
Now, fact is, I am fat. Yes! That's fine. But for him to have me saved as "Fat Em", well, it wasn't meant in any endearing or loving way - he did it to laugh at me. And not in an inclusive "taking-the-piss-out-of-each-other" way. I wasn't in on the joke. I WAS the joke. He was laughing in a mean way. Full stop. It took me ages to accept that though; to realise he could write that and I could walk away without feeling guilty about what he'd done. I didn't need him to think I was okay in order to actually be OKAY. We were together for a little while after that... ultimately, though, it didn't last.
The first time a boy I was seeing described me negatively as "fat" was when I was about 17, the last time when I was about 27. And that was pretty much it for me. At 27, I started looking at all the things I'd forgiven in dating. I looked at what I accepted and who I'd let into my life and saw little REAL worth in any of it. Experiences? Yes. Definitely. Some wonderful moments had occurred, but so too had some really awful ones: NONE of the men were worth the inevitable upsets which were caused each time. And I decided my heart deserved more. Needed better. My self-esteem with men was pretty shattered and I had trust issues. But then... something lifted. At age 28, I decided I wouldn't spend time with anyone who didn't treat me as I should have been treated. Treated me what I was worth.
2007... Around the time I started asking myself, "What am I worth?"
After that realisation, it was a hard road. There was one night I was out, dressed up, looking really nice and a guy came up to me, told me I was beautiful and asked if he could buy me a drink. My eyes suddenly glowered viciously and I demanded, "Is this a dare?!" He retreated, terrified by my obvious vitriol. Later, after he'd left, one of his female friends came up to me and gently told me she'd seen what'd happened, and that he was a good guy. She smiled and said, "You look really beautiful and seemed really smiley and confident. He really did just want to buy you a drink".
I thought about that incident a lot afterwards. It was my self-esteem that made me worried and suspicious. I felt confident in myself as a person and thought I looked okay, but my self-esteem had taken a battering: I just didn't know how to trust someone or really believe in myself. I suddenly felt a real need to control situations and desperately tried to, but, of course, that's impossible. So, with the idea of what I was "worth" to myself, I kept on.
Apart from a couple of non-descript dates, fleeting flirtations and superficial interests, nothing much happened for a while. I liked to think something could've happened at any moment, but I didn't really want it to. I wanted something that made me feel right.
2008. Living for myself. Enjoying Life. Purple Highlights. Feeling Better.
I met Mr. Darcy in April, three months before I turned 30. I hadn't had a boyfriend in well over a year and none of my dates had led anywhere during that time. We went out a couple of times and each time my heart would leap a bit. He was a gentleman and he took me on dates and clearly wanted to know who I was. We would email a lot and talk on the phone and soon we were spending loads and loads of time together. There was no pressure. I slowly told him about my life and experiences, good and bad, and he would just listen to me. Darcy made me feel - and still makes me feel - safe. I mentioned briefly in THIS POST about letting Darcy see my "self-conscious bits", like my little belly. In those moments, my confidence would give way to vulnerability, but, that was okay as my self-esteem and my self-worth (and, indeed, my Mr. Darcy) were taking care of me.
When I was due to meet Darcy's parents, I asked him (kind of in passing, but still seriously) if he'd told them I was fat. He looked confused and told me that he'd told them I was lovely. Even now, when I very occasionally say, "Do I look really fat today?", he'll smile at me and tell me I look really gorgeous. He knows about my past experiences - and he lets me have these vulnerable moments. Vulnerable moments are okay.
Darcy and I now live together and will be at our three year mark next month.
For me, finding Darcy wasn't about confidence so much as it was about my self-esteem and self-worth. I am in love with him and I know he loves me back.
Now, clearly, my man and I like each other and are attracted to each other. But, ultimately, in finding Darcy and navigating away from bad choices and dates, I had waited for him. I had waited to meet a man who treated me what I was worth. It was THEN that I also made sure I liked him and loved him.
In being with Darcy, my confidence and self-esteem have absolutely grown.
He was worth waiting for.
Finally... a photo, after all this time I've been blogging! My Mr. Darcy and I!
If you're in the dating world, just know that one day it will suddenly be really, really easy... maybe even a little bit scary as you realise what you have and how much you want to hold on to it. When you experience something like that, that's probably when it's about right. You should feel like a princess.
It is worth it.
(Oh yeah, Darcy also takes pretty much EVERY photo on this blog for me. This whole blog couldn't exist without him. He is AMAZING).