As a kid, I traded lost pounds for new CDs from my parents, and any ounce of confidence was threatened out by kids at school. Advice passed down to me all pointed to "shrink down and you'll be loved better." Thinness was an important currency for progress, and I was regarded as chump change.
Anytime I was close to the sweet triumph of a good date, this advice would hold me back. I'd go to dinner with someone I liked and not order any food. I'd go to the movies with someone I was attracted to on a hot summer night and refuse to take off my cardigan. After spending 6 years being on and off again with a boyfriend who thought my thighs were too big to fool around with, my version of dating was spending months chatting with people through OkCupid but never meeting them, trying to convince them my personality could make up for the body I was stuck with. In the height of my hopelessness, I attended a Post Secret event at my college, where people were posting their anonymous secrets on an art display. I left a secret saying, "I've decided to not have sex until I'm married. I'm scared I'm going to die a virgin." I was truly terrified and convinced I would die alone, a sick, sad, fat woman.
After admitting that fear, I was vulnerable enough to confront it. I was exhausted from trying to hide a body that took up twice as much space as the next person. I figured, I've tried being invisible and it's gotten me no noteworthy romances. People were still seeing me, just not in the way I wanted to be seen. Addressing my fear meant taking control of how I want to be seen by building up confidence that supported the body I lived in, not live in spite of it.
I embraced fashion I always wanted to wear. No sundress or pleated skirt passed me by without consideration. I glammed up to go anywhere; you could catch me in the grocery store with winged eyeliner so sharp it could kill anyone who dared have a problem with me. I took the stage more often and sang my heart out in front of crowds of hundreds. I posted selfies relentlessly with embarrassingly aggressive captions declaring my high self worth. It didn't happen in one day. I repeated small affirmations every day. I had to dive head first into being my own best hype woman and stay dedicated to it.
The confidence was contagious. My friends wanted to spend more time around me. I made new friends more quickly. Words like, "you're intimidating" or "I noticed you" were tossed around regularly. When I was being unabashedly proud, dates floated my way like clouds during a perfect storm. I was collecting flattering pick-up stories, like when a cook at a restaurant convinced the server to switch spots so he could wait on my table and ask for my number. Or, when a handsome musician recognized me from a friend of a friend of a friend and admitted he couldn't wait to meet me again so he could ask for a date exploring New York City. Never once did I lose a ounce to become more appealing.
Once the novelty of being wanted wore off, I started making more meaningful relationships. Ones with 5th and 6th dates. Relationships where they show you their old stomping grounds or want to sit and talk. Relationships where I'm meeting their friends and maybe their parents. Relationships that were so fulfilling, breaking up was a heartbreak instead of a set back.
The day I met my husband, I was mending from a breakup that felt like it could ruin me forever. Flashbacks of insecurity, feeling worthless were sneaking into my thoughts. I was at an impasse. The little fight left in me dragged me to that coffee shop to meet the guy who talked about flea markets and vinyl records. I convinced myself it would be a distraction from my sorrow.
I can't say that when I met him, I knew he was the one. There were no angel wings behind his back. There was no singing choir when he walked through those large wooden doors and into the line to order his drink. I didn't see a bright flash or hear a ding when he smiled as he saw me. I allowed myself to be open to chance, because that tiny bit of fight left in me knew I was worth happiness, even when feelings of loss and heartbreak were screaming that I wasn't.
My husband will admit he knew the minute we started talking that I was the girl he was going to marry. Though he didn't tell me at the time, he was prepared to wait for me to catch up. I had to recommit to my daily affirmations and make bold choices again. I had to be louder and more persistent than the voices of self doubt. I had to go to therapy consistently and work out my feelings, and because my husband was the right person, he was patient and understanding. With him, I wasn't chasing stories or running away from what I feared. When I knew he was the one I wanted to marry, it was because I was looking forward to our future together, full of antiquing and car shows.
Taking a chance on myself meant I wasn't going to marry the first person who loved me as a fat woman. I had to figure out that I was worth trial and error. Being in love can heal some wounds, but not all wounds, and sometimes healing means being a different person when it's done. Sometimes, healing is taking a chance on meeting someone at a coffee shop, and hoping they may be more than just someone accepting of fat women. After a childhood of bullying torture, years of unsuccessful dating, and a couple of hard heartbreaks, I married a man who made me excited about my future. I've been loved better as a loud fat women than I ever was when I was trying to be small. With all this said, meeting my great guy was not what cured fears of being eternally alone. It was taking a chance on myself when I was terrified, even when it wasn't for love.