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"You know what I like about you? You’ve got fat pride. I felt that way, too, until I realized I wanted anyone to fuck me ever."

We’d been talking online for weeks — he was funny, erudite, nerdy, kind. He’d told me he’d lost weight in the past. I’d done my due diligence of telling him how fat I was, working hard to avoid repeats of past hurt and disappointment. I’d weeded through dozens of profiles about wanting to meet "healthy," "active" women and several that pointedly instructed that fat women weren’t welcome. Many men had sent graphic, sexual messages, and when I politely declined or didn’t respond, they issued lengthy screeds. "U SHOULD BE GRATEFUL." "I wouldn’t even rape you."

In amongst all of that, I’d found someone who seemed like a gem. And then, on our first real date, this. It was frustrating, isolating, and made me feel so big and so small, all at the same time.


I gently pushed back. "You know you’re saying that about me, too, right?"

"What?"

"When you talk about no one wanting to fuck fat people, you’re talking about me, too."

He shook his head. "Don’t take it personally. It’s not personal."

I got quiet then asked for the check. He said he’d walk me out. When we got outside, he tried to kiss me then asked if I wanted to go back to his place.

Years later, I was falling for a new partner.

We’d been dating for several months, and she was extraordinary: full of life, wildly intelligent, absurdly beautiful. I’d tell her often  — maybe too often — how stunning I thought she was. With equal frequency, she’d talk about my body. "You’re so brave to dress the way you do." "I want you to feel empowered."

At first, her responses sounded like reciprocity, but they always seemed to sting. I felt deflated every time she said it. Like that first date, she couldn’t see past my body. She valued me, but she didn’t desire me. When she spoke, she never spoke about my body — only about my relationship to it. She was amazed that I wasn’t sucked into the undertow of self-loathing and isolation that she expected from fat women. Those comments were a reminder of how frequently she thought of my body, not as an object of desire, but as an obstacle to overcome. She was impressed that I could. She could not.

When you and I talk about dating, dear friend, we have a lot of overlapping experiences because dating can be difficult and awkward for anyone.

It’s a strange auditioning process: all artifice to find someone who can respect your uncrossable lines, and failed auditions usually mean those lines get crossed. It’s easy to feel judged, stalled, alone in the process. It can get exhausting, exciting, frustrating, exhilarating.

But dating as a fat person means contending with so many added layers of challenge.

You told me once you imagined it was impossible to date as a fat person. It’s not; it’s just a lot of work. Lots of people are willing to sleep with fat people. Many are willing to date a fat person.

Few are willing to truly embrace a fat person. Almost no one, it seems, really knows what that means.

That first date, dear friend, is such a frequent moment.

My sweet, funny date was abruptly overthrown, overtaken by years of the same anti-fat messages all of us hear. He couldn’t reconcile being fat and being loved. All of that, suddenly, was visited upon me, as it so often is.

I only bring up my feelings about being a fat person after knowing someone for some time. But, with startling regularity, new acquaintances, dates, and strangers offer diet advice, trial gym memberships, and, even once, a recommendation for a surgeon. My life as a fat person is a barrage of weekly, daily, and hourly offers of unsolicited advice. At first, the detailed answers, the constant defense, the explanation of my daily diet and medical history are ineffective — no answer is sufficient. Over time, it becomes burdensome, then exhausting, then frustrating. And it doesn’t seem to cross the minds of most people I meet that I’ve heard what they’ve said before — not just once, but over and over again, in great detail. I have a forced expertise in diets, exercise regimens, miracle pills, and the science of weight loss.

That may not be your experience, dear friend, because people may approach you differently.

You might not know what it’s like to feel your face flush or your heart race when your body so reliably becomes a topic of conversation during dinner parties, work events, first dates. There’s a familiar wave of frustration, hurt, and exhaustion. It’s all the visceral, invisible consequence of unintended harm because few of us — even you, my darling — have unlearned the scripts we’re expected to recite when we see a body like mine.

As a fat woman, I just want what anyone else wants: to be seen, to be loved, to be supported for who I am. To be challenged and adored. To be worth the effort for who I am.

When I meet people whose first response to me is about my fat body, I learn something important about that person. Whether their opening salvo is "Fat bitch" or "I’m concerned about your health" or "Have you tried this diet?" or "I think you’re beautiful," they all send the same message: that I am invisible. Rather than seeing me or getting to know who I am, they can only see my fat body.

It’s true of so many people I meet. They’ve got this deep-seated block: They can’t see fat people as individual people with individual stories because no one expects them to. Nothing in our culture indicates that fat people might have individual experiences, different stories, life experiences as rich and varied as anyone else. Instead, we’re met with diagnosis, prognosis, quarantine: an anthropological impulse to demand to know why we are the way we are and to figure out how to stop us from having the bodies we have. We’re reduced to figures in an equation, a puzzle to solve. But truthfully, we’re so much messier than that. We’re just as contradictory, real, and human as anyone else you know, and loving us is just as complicated.

When we have conversations like this, you often say, "I had no idea."

It’s heartening, dear friend, and it’s also hard to hear. It’s a harsh reminder that even those closest to me are subject to all those same influences and impulses.

There’s so much work in just working up the mettle to date at all. Building your own confidence and battling your own doubt enough to date at all can be difficult, in part because there’s no template. Media representation is seriously lacking for many communities; seeing thriving fat people in media is nearly nonexistent. Being fat means not seeing yourself reflected anywhere as being happy, healthy, or affirmed.

Being fat means taking on the Sisyphean task of creating your own world, one in which you can declare a truce with yourself and learn to feel OK or feel nothing at all about yourself when the entire world seems to be telling you that is not possible.

It means finding whatever you can scavenge to build yourself some makeshift shelter of thatch and driftwood. It’s brittle and dry, and it’s something. You try to build something that can withstand the gale-force winds of seeing an episode of "The Biggest Loser" or hearing a stranger offer unsolicited diet advice that you’re already taking. You build it slowly, painstakingly — testing methods and gathering rare, essential materials over time. It’s precious and fragile, a labor of love and a means of survival.

And finding a partner means opening that hard-fought home to someone else, over and over again, knowing that person might destroy it.

Usually, they do.

You’ve mourned it a hundred times. Your skin has thickened. Sometimes that person burns it to the ground, setting a fire to watch it burn. But more often, they just forget to extinguish their cigarette. Yes, when we look for love, some of us are hurt intentionally, cruelly, because of our bodies and because of overt fatphobia. But usually, we’re hurt without malice, through rote scripts about who we’re allowed to be and an expectation that we’ll devote our lives to meeting those expectations.

Often, when looking for friends and partners, I search for those who will be gentle with the home I’ve built, ramshackle though it is.

What made such an impression on my partner from years ago was that I didn’t stop there: I wanted someone who would help build that home, someone who would protect it, someone who would call it their home, too. Because a lack of harm isn’t love.

I want love. And as a fat person, there’s audacity in that.

Health

A child’s mental health concerns shouldn’t be publicized no matter who their parents are

Even politicians' children deserve privacy during a mental health crisis.

A child's mental health concerns shouldn't be publicized.

Editor's Note: If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is in need of help, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 200+ crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.


It's an unspoken rule that children of politicians should be off limits when it comes to public figure status. Kids deserve the ability to simply be kids without the media picking them apart. We saw this during Obama's presidency when people from both ends of the political spectrum come out to defend Malia and Sasha Obama's privacy and again when a reporter made a remark about Barron Trump.

This is even more important when we are talking about a child's mental health, so seeing detailed reports about Ted Cruz's 14-year-old child's private mental health crisis was offputting, to say it kindly. It feels icky for me to even put the senator's name in this article because it feels like adding to this child's exposure.

When a child is struggling with mental health concerns, the instinct should be to cocoon them in safety, not to highlight the details or speculate on the cause. Ever since the news broke about this child's mental health, social media has been abuzz, mostly attacking the parents and speculating if the child is a member of the LGBTQ community.

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Putting creative work out into the world to be evaluated and judged is nerve-wracking enough as it is. Having to market your work, especially if you're not particularly extroverted or sales-minded, is even worse.

So when you're a newly published author holding a book signing and only two of the dozens of people who RSVP'd show up, it's disheartening if not devastating. No matter how much you tell yourself "people are just busy," it feels like a rejection of you and your work.

Debut novelist Chelsea Banning recently experienced this scenario firsthand, and her sharing it led to an amazing deluge of support and solidarity—not only from other aspiring authors, but from some of the top names in the writing business.

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This article originally appeared on 04.15.19


On May 28, 2014, 13-year-old Athena Orchard of Leicester, England, died of bone cancer. The disease began as a tumor in her head and eventually spread to her spine and left shoulder. After her passing, Athena's parents and six siblings were completely devastated. In the days following her death, her father, Dean, had the difficult task of going through her belongings. But the spirits of the entire Orchard family got a huge boost when he uncovered a secret message written by Athena on the backside of a full-length mirror.

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The legality of abortion is one of the most polarized debates in America—but it doesn't have to be.

People have big feelings about abortion, which is understandable. On one hand, you have people who feel that abortion is a fundamental women's rights issue, that our bodily autonomy is not something you can legislate, and that those who oppose abortion rights are trying to control women through oppressive legislation. On the other, you have folks who believe that a fetus is a human individual first and foremost, that no one has the right to terminate a human life, and that those who support abortion rights are heartless murderers.

Then there are those of us in the messy middle. Those who believe that life begins at conception, that abortion isn't something we'd choose—and we'd hope others wouldn't choose—under most circumstances, yet who choose to vote to keep abortion legal.

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