We’d meet secretly at a park. This way, when he told his wife he was going running, he wasn’t telling a lie — just omitting some crucial parts of the truth. He’d get his run in eventually, before or after our encounter. I should have taken this as proof he was a liar at heart, but I ignored it. He wasn’t the only one not telling the truth.
Inside my car, we’d make out like teenagers. Finally, after breaking apart, we’d watch the hummingbirds suck the nectar out of the red bottlebrush plants bordering the parking lot. I’d wonder what it would be like to go to dinner or the movies instead of this inconspicuous bird watching.
But I loved it that we had to be discreet, since it wasn’t because he was too embarrassed to be seen with a large woman. I could pretend that under different circumstances, he’d be proud to show me off.
I was the fat other woman.
I weighed over 200 pounds, and looked more like a Midwestern soccer mom than the stereotypical hottie on the side. Since his wife was thin and beautiful, I tried to justify our affair to myself. She didn’t need his attention and affection — I did. I decided that since society considered my fleshy body ugly, it was okay to be involved with somebody else’s husband, especially if it helped me to feel better about myself.
Rebel Wilson or Gabourey Sidibe will never be cast as the mistress. Plus-size actresses are usually the best friend or the hilarious sidekick, not the woman on the side. The common belief is that it’s completely unbelievable that a man would ever chose a big woman to be his lover. People also believe that no fat woman would ever cheat. If she’s lucky enough to get one man, she should do everything in her power to keep him happy so that he doesn’t dump her for someone who wears a size zero.
The truth is, you don’t have to be skinny to be skanky, and you don’t have to be what most people consider attractive to be involved in an extramarital affair.
I’m overweight and have been fat-shamed countless times. I’ve had strangers question me on what I was ordering in a restaurant, gym rats give me the stink eye while I tried to ride the stationary bike, and distant relatives sending me letters alerting me that I’m fat. (Thanks, and I own a mirror.) But as the fat other woman, it felt as if my secret guarded me from shame. Unlike all those times in the past where I would cringe and try to make myself smaller, the knowledge that I had a secret lover helped me to keep my head up and take on the cruelty aimed at me.
He didn’t hide the fact that he was married when I first started talking to him online. I had never been with a married man before, and I didn’t really plan on being with this one. I was having an on again/off again relationship with a single guy, so I used chatting with the married man as a distraction. The sort of available guy became more and more frustrating, which made the unavailable man all the more appealing. We had so much in common, and as time went on, I started to crave our conversations just as much as I craved chocolate.
The married man was an intelligent and accomplished businessman — not the kind of man to whom I was normally attracted. I wouldn’t allow myself to fall for obviously gorgeous or successful men; I was sure they had a hidden agenda. Were they involved in some kind of “dog fight” where they had to bring an unattractive woman to an event to win a prize? If they were legitimately attracted to me, there had to be something wrong with them. Since I hadn’t intended to get involved with the married man, my guard was down, and I was able to just be myself. We connected in what I thought was a meaningful way.
When my previous four-year relationship ended, I decided I needed to take charge of my love life. I felt that I wasn’t welcome in the bars where thin women go to meet men, as if there was an invisible sign at the door that said, “If you weigh more than this, just go away.” After doing some research, I discovered a whole subset of places for fat women and the men who admire them. There were Big Girl Dances, Fat Girl Clubs, and even Large People Meet-Ups.
During this time, I met men who wanted to feed me, men with mommy issues, and submissives who wanted to be dominated by a big woman. The worst were the men who were attracted to large-sized women but were embarrassed by it and kept their desires on the down-low. I never seemed to meet anyone who was into me no matter what my size.
If I didn’t like the kind of men I was attracting, why I didn’t just lose weight? My weight has always been an issue, even when it wasn’t a problem. But I can’t blame anyone else for my being fat. Although I used food as an escape and a pleasure, it didn’t shove itself in my mouth. I couldn’t stand feeling deprived about anything; I wanted my cake and to still be wanted after having it.
At a certain point I had to decide to accept and love myself for all my imperfections, both invisible and visible. If I waited for everything to be perfect when I was thin, I might end up wasting my entire life.
I went online and discovered all kinds of size-positive websites for everything from plus-size dating to hefty hook-ups.
"Too big if it’s a problem for you."
My mouse was hovering over the tiny x on the instant messenger box getting ready to end the conversation and move on to someone else when he said that my size wasn’t an issue.
I immediately sent him a current picture — not a photograph of me from 10 years before. I wanted to avoid the awkward and demeaning scene of opening the door to him for the first time and having him turn right around and leave, obviously disappointed in my looks. But once he saw the photo, he became even more interested in me. He found me funny, hot, smart, and I ate it up.
His rationalization for getting involved with someone outside his marriage was the classic “my wife doesn’t understand me.” Starved for positive attention from a man that I thought was normal and well-adjusted, I accepted his reasons for needing companionship outside his marriage without question. He wasn’t an overweight watcher or only into big girls. He just liked women of all shapes and sizes. (I didn’t realize how much he liked all women until much later.)
We spent a lot of time talking about everything: our hopes and dreams, his life from boyhood to adulthood, and how he felt trapped in a loveless marriage. I encouraged him to pursue happiness. And yes, I fantasized that his life and happiness would be with me.
The sex was amazing; I felt as if he found every part of me delicious, and I finally understood how my body could receive and give pleasure. I wasn’t hideous — I was voluptuous and curvy.
The end of our affair came the way I feared it would: with his wife discovering that he had been cheating and making a big online announcement about it. I had been monitoring her blog for quite some time, desperate to discover any new piece of information about them. The big surprise was that I wasn’t the only woman he had been involved with — just one of many.
I was the fat other, other, other woman.
When I found out the truth, I confronted him on it. He didn’t apologize. He thought that I understood the very little he had been offering; I was just a super-sized portion that he had wanted to try. I was devastated, but knew better than to expect any sympathy from anybody.
I still go to that park to walk. I haven’t lost tons of weight, but I am trying to take better care of myself. He was my crutch when I had first decided to try to love myself, and in some ways, he really did help, even if that wasn’t his intention. And now, I have someone in my life who loves me for who I am and who belongs only to me.