Author's Note: This one is like BEER! It tastes funny at first, then it grows on you. Intimacy, touch and fatties; an odd combination to try.
Those of you who have not been totally turned off by the mention of rolls of fat in a sexual context (and we will come to fat sex sometime soon in the series) the point to consider here is not sexual at all. Some people might find it weird that her most cherished memory wasn't of the first kiss, or the moment of losing her virginity or something equally sensual and erotic, but that of the guy actually touching and commenting upon her being fat; but I get it. To have a man be attracted enough to get you into bed is enough of an anomaly but to have one at ease with your weight; enough to speak of it candidly and without judgment? Not one who is besotted with your awesome personality and can get himself to be in bed with you, but at the same time wants the lights dimmed and the covers up, dropping hints all the time about how sexy you’d be if you shed the “extra” weight, but voila – one who can actually touch you without shaming you? Touch you without guilting you into crash diets and power workouts? One who can revel in the physicality of two bodies sharing pleasure, and one being yours? Oh my god that is a dream come true! Of course I get it. So do all other fatties.
We have probably all heard of the importance of human touch; of how touch- even something as simple as a hug or a pat on the back or even a high five – can elevate mood and lift depression, increase performance and foster a feeling of being cared for. We surely must have heard about the study involving infants in orphanages that concluded that babies who are not touched and nuzzled are more likely to die than those who are, all other things being equal? Well, now let’s consider this – living in fat bodies also oftentimes means living in an intimacy vacuum.
Once we outgrow the stage when our parents cuddle and hug us, touch us, ruffle our hair and just generally make us feel loved – we grow into a phase when our need to be touched and physically acknowledged is met by peers, oftentimes but not always, by those we are romantically involved with. So, how does being fat change things?
For starters, most often the acknowledgement of our physical being is negatively termed and critical in nature. Even those who “love” us, and especially them, cannot seem to address our bodies without the accompanying “lecture” or the recriminations. The line I most often get when being hugged,
“One of these days my arms won’t fit around you!”
And oh so often, my mother will grab my flab and tell me,
“Look at where your body’s going!”
This one time I remember her coming up to me and holding my belly and squeezing it and proclaiming that it’s just like Pig’s fat! And when I looked at her askew, she assured me that she isn’t funning around. She means it. Literally and most sincerely! That made it better.
The people close to us aside, how about others? Well, think about the last time a “fat body” was the focus of attention, whether in newspapers, or movies, or whatever, and the conversation and/or scenario did not either involve some form of ridicule, disgust, a joke, or health advice. I can’t come up with one such instance. Now try and think of the last time you saw a sexually or otherwise physically intimate scene/picture involving one or more fat persons. Anything ?
I can think of the sitcom “Mike and Molly”, and then of course I remember THIS ARTICLE. Here’s one paragraph that particularly struck home:
- “So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroin addict slumping in a chair.”
For me, it only went to emphasize the fact that more often than not, Fat bodies (I am deliberately referring to the body and not the person) are associated with disgust and abnormality. Not surprisingly then, it becomes more emotionally bearable for the fat person, and definitely more socially convenient for the non-fatties, for the “fat body” to be left alone. Not commented upon at all. Not acknowledged. The old “if you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all” philosophy? So, that leaves the Fattie with two options; either their body will be acknowledged with a whole variety of fat shaming attached to it, or it will be ignored because anything else is too uncomfortable.
Reminds me of a book I once read, where the protagonist has one side of his face brutally disfigured. The author described the social isolation the man felt, being different, and how people were uncomfortable about his “deformity”. I remembered how the protagonist cried when the woman he loved kissed him on the injured side of his face. And most poignantly, I remember him telling her then that no one had touched his face for all the years since the disfigurement and that most people even looked at only his good side. I cried with him, for the feeling was something I could empathize with.
It is almost exactly like the physical isolation fat people go through. The discomfort other people, and oftentimes they too, feel with their own bodies leads to the “intimacy vacuum” I spoke of earlier. Our eyes, our hair, the shape of our lips, our smile, even our hands and feet may be commented upon and complimented, but the body remains a no-go-zone. Our dance partners would feel awkward holding us because they can feel the fat, our friends may feel abashed at accidentally touching us where they encounter evidence of our “fatness” or we may feel awkward at showing skin, or letting another person touch us.
And physical intimacy of the romantic/sexual sort? That is a mine field we’d better leave alone for another time. However, it bears mentioning that a fat body is as far from erotic or the sexual ideal as is possible. Unless, of course, one has a fat fetish. That doesn’t count. Where does that leave the Fattie now? Mostly single, physically un-appreciated and bodily unloved. More importantly, it leaves them craving physical intimacy. It leaves them craving a physical connection. Touch, not sex. The feeling of a person’s fingers running through your hair, a peck on the cheek, a kiss on the neck, a murmur in your ear, walking holding hands, someone to gather you into their body when you are alone and upset and feeling sorry for yourself. Someone to put their arms around you and pull you close when you are talking to your friends, someone to lie down with their head on your belly, someone to trace ticklish patterns on your thigh. Touch, not sex. There must be a million and one ways of getting yourself off, but manufacturing a hug or a hand clasp, that can’t be done alone. When they are with someone, well, that’s another process of battling perceptions and unlearning and relearning love, intimacy and attraction.
I must admit that I have been blessed with a fair share of friends who do not shy away from my body. I am a self avowed hugaholic. I am extremely physically demonstrative. I love my hair being ruffled, or hugging as a way of greeting, or doubling over with mirth clutching each other, or watching a movie with a friend sprawled in my lap, or dancing the waltz, or being slapped on the back, and high-fives – I love high fives! I am also fortunate to have friends who for most part are as comfortable as I am. At the same time I must admit that that’s not true of all my friends. I have experienced the feeling of being an “untouchable” or an “unmentionable”. I must also admit that despite all the revelry, when I have seen people close to me sit cuddling with their partners, or being casually physically demonstrative in public, I have felt the pang. I have felt the emptiness between my fingers.
Oh well, it is only a small part of an otherwise full life one would say. There’s always tomorrow, and hope, others would opine. And who knows maybe tomorrow there’ll be an app for hugging and hand holding. In the meanwhile, my love goes out to those fat people who live with the cultural restrictions of not being allowed any spontaneity or intimacy unless it’s with one’s spouse. It goes out to those who don’t have friends that tell them that, “But! If you lose weight you won’t be so cuddly and huggable!”It goes out to those who will never know the joy of being touched, and looked at without judgment. Most of all, it goes out to me – for all those times I go without a comforting touch and a non-judgmental word.
~THE FAT CHICK