He sent me a picture of him. It was taken on a warm, sunny afternoon, standing on a green golf course, his chubby hand and short stocky fingers were resting on a golf club. He wore a weathered polo shirt that was two sizes too small, stretched miserably over the protrusion of his belly and gathered tightly across his broad shoulders and wide chest. His double chin showed the beginning of stubble. There were small rivulets of sweat on his square brow, prominent beneath his receding hairline.
Meanwhile, in the picture, I saw an intelligent man, a warm broad smile, expressive eyes, arms to hold me while we danced and a person that I had come to adore very much over the past few weeks of online repartee, phone call banter and intelligent, informative email exchanges.
“Very nice” I said, holding the phone, rapidly flipping through the photos on my laptop, and finally settling on one, dragging the photo into an email and pressing send.
“Sent” I said, waiting for his reply.
The picture was from my cousin’s wedding a few months prior and was in my opinion the most flattering. My long dark curls framing my face; my dress a dark ocean blue that accentuated my formidable curves; I detested smiling in pictures but there I was grinning at the photographer who made an obscene joke before snapping the camera shutter.
I loved that picture. I had lost 40 pounds for that wedding and had managed to keep most of it off.
I waited and waited and finally dared to speak, “Liam”? I asked into the receiver.
The silence was cruel, but I was undeterred. “ Did you fall down with shock at my radiant beauty?”
“You’re fat” he said finally. “ How could you be fat? “
“I have a voracious appetite ….for everything ” I said salaciously.
“I can’t be with someone who is fat .
“Okay” I stated, and hung up.
Later that day, I received an email where he blamed me for being inconsistent . According to him , it was impossible to be young, intelligent, witty, sexy, open minded, talented, successful , generous, loving and fat. The last adjective seemed to negate the others; Such a powerful word in three little letters; F.A.T.
I call “bullshit”.
She is not “valued”. She is not “worthy”. No one thinks she’s “precious”. She is nothing if she doesn’t conform to today’s standard of beauty. Today’s standard of skinny . Less than nothing actually , she is an aberration ; Something to be rejected and annihilated; Someone to be destroyed and never spoken to or of again ; nothing is worse than the great sin of being fat.
For years , I suffered through monotonous ,vociferous and completely unsolicited advice;
“you have such a pretty face, if only you would lose weight…. “ Their voices would trail off at the end , and I was often tempted to say ,,,if only ,, then what ???
“Have you ever heard of the scarsdale diet ? It’s so easy ! My daughter in law lost 50 pounds in just two weeks ? “ No, I would muse to myself sarcastically , never heard of that or the 87 other insane fad diets that ran the gamut of apple cider vinegar, grapefruit and soup .
“Do you really need that piece of cake ? “
Need it ? Does anyone need anything ? No, I didn’t need the cake,, I wanted it .
The consensus appeared to believe that I didn’t know I was fat; I didn’t realize I was overweight . It was a secret that was being kept from me. I was somehow uninformed, or didn’t own a mirror , or didn’t feel my own massive self when I tried to buy a new dress , climbed stairs or bent down to pick up a cookie , that in my haste had fallen to the floor.
The truth was much different . My idea was that I was extremely worthy . My exterior was superficial , unimportant , irrelevant . Those who knew me and loved me , would tell you , I was extremely intelligent, articulate and witty. I was successful in my life and career . Well read, well spoken, well educated, well traveled, and well, sexy as hell .
My voluptuous frame was soft and inviting ; finding partners was easy.
Within the week, I received two more emails from Liam , since I decided not to answer the phone when he called , or return his messages or texts with any form of acknowledgement.
He had placed the limit on himself , something he couldn’t do ; I had no limits, I could do anything.
One week later, in his last email, he offered a conditional olive branch, stating that IF I were able ( because he was certain I would be unable ) to lose 50 pounds, and then politely reach out to him , he might “reconsider” , provided of course that he hadn’t found someone else by then , and that I would of course submit to weekly weigh- ins to monitor my progress and ensure my success in achieving a weight he found “acceptable” .
In my positive, sarcastic, yet polite response, I thanked him profusely for his kind and generous offer and then regurgitated his words to him. I was “unworthy”. The number of my dress size was more important than the number of my IQ. The size of my thighs was more valued than the size of my heart. I also informed him, how I had unfortunately misunderstood, as I thought he was a man of conviction. I wished I hadn’t take his first statement of rejection as his final. I had found someone else already, who was positive he wanted me, and didn’t need to place conditions or considerations on the pursuit of a relationship with me. Okay, I lied, but he didn’t need to know that.
He didn’t want to settle for someone who didn’t “fit” into his parameters of perfection and I didn’t want anyone who didn’t want me in return. Not only were there plenty of fish in the sea, there were also fresh water fish, land mammals, birds and amphibians who were both land and sea creatures.
“Later for that” my best friend chimed when I told her what happened, “its dollar Molson night and the night is young “. I had no limits, therefore plenty of options.
Several years, pounds, and dress sizes later, I joined another website and reluctantly wrote another witty introduction, citing obscure facts and references that only an intellectual would recognize , being deliberately difficult and extremely selective about the type of person I was seeking . The modern websites removed the anonymity once offered in online dating, and pictures were now mandatory. No agony, or difficulty this time, pulled out three full length shots, a group picture from a birthday party in a short sexy dress, ( I’m the one on the right ) one from the county carnival , laughing in denim shorts and a white t-shirt , holding a stuffed giraffe , the last one on the beach writing my name with an empty shell on the wet sand ( making my mark on the world , or at least on the beach ) . All of them were flattering. I looked slim in all of them, because I WAS slim in all of them.
I was a fraction of my former physical self; my exterior was no longer a demanding , indomitable presence. I was barely a presence at all, my slim form fading softly into shadows. I could walk by unnoticed. I blended in .I finally fit into today’s standard of skinny, another zombie in the walking “unfat”.
I had expected that I would attract my fair share of online trolls; Men seeking an easy sexual conquest; Men who were married but pretended to be single; Men who still lived at home with their parents; Men who were grammatically challenged and felt that “s’up?” was a perfect way to start a conversation.
What I hadn’t expected was the new email that sat highlighted in my inbox. The subject line read, “Hello Beautiful”.
The email was brilliant. Funny and flirty; Engaging, with ample detail and emotion;
It was revealing and vulnerable. It was honest. It was someone who was trying very hard to make a good impression. I felt the instant awe of meeting someone new and feeling as though I’ve known them forever. He was sweet and so utterly familiar.
The first knot churned inside of me when he described himself as an “ older, retired widower from Texas”. I had heard that before, but Texas was a big state I reasoned and people died all the time.
He explained his love of golf, how it was a challenge against the self. There’s a golf usa store in every city, it’s a very popular activity for men his age.
He admitted his passion for classical music, Chopin being his favorite. Coincidence I insisted, mostly to myself, lots of people like Chopin. “Prelude in C Minor” EEK!
I was sweating now, possessed by an indescribable trepidation; I could not continue; it could not be …
At this point, I stopped reading and scrolled all the way to the bottom of the email, “Fondly, Liam“. It was.
I double clicked on his user name and his profile populated my screen. Same face, same shirt, same damned golf picture. Was that the only picture he had? It was very clearly the same Liam. He even had the same email address.
Liam, who had rejected me so many years ago for my heinous crime, my cardinal sin; Do I answer? Do I ignore him? Pretend we never spoke? Press delete? Block?
I had decided when I began this endeavor that I would respond to all email. It was the polite option, even if it was to say, Thank you but no thank you.
This was different. He didn’t deserve polite.
He deserved the wrath of a woman scorned.
Surprisingly, I didn’t feel scorned. He had been superficial and shallow. Despite the many years that had transpired, he still was and most likely always would be.
A person’s attractiveness could not be measured by a “pretty quotient” or checklist of physical features. Those attributes were secondary and incidental. I was always more interested in “who “ a person was, rather than “what “ they looked like. I saw people by the brightness of their soul, their inner depth.
The savory part of a nut was always inside the hard, unattractive shell. An avocado gives no indication of the luscious green delicacy it hides under its dark, stained rind. Watermelons are the perfect deceiver, green and yellow on the outside, but when open, are red, juicy and sweet.
He did not know and had not learned that the container did not always depict the beauty of its contents.
I went back to the email and started reading where I stopped. The same Liam, the same desires he described over 7 years ago, the same indications for a relationship, the same desire for adventure and not-so-subtle hints of his net worth. He asked for more pictures because he “liked looking at me”.
Since our initial encounter many years prior, I had lost 187 pounds. It was a remarkable physical transformation. Liam had remained stagnant. He had not changed his psyche or his physique.
I needed some time to reflect on my emotional turmoil. My silence was met by a daily onslaught of emails and online messages demanding not only a response, but a positive one, accepting his interest as my own. This did not surprise me (I told you he hadn’t changed) and I was amused by the tenacity he continued to display in his correspondence.
A return receipt indicated that the email I sent in response was read. The subject read: “Cousin’s Wedding”. An attached sound byte played Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor; The attached photo showed a beautiful girl in a blue dress; we both smiled secure in the knowledge that she was worth MORE than her weight.