My new boyfriend is sizeist.
"That person is already dead," Jake will say of a well put-together but heavy receptionist. And he is beyond concerned for strangers' health when it comes to the visibly overweight. (But not in any other regard.) He thinks "fat people" should go to education camps because they don't understand how dangerous their fat is. I have tried to explain that fat people know all about fat, and diets, and weight already.
"That's child abuse." he'll say, of a person just non-abusively parenting while fat. Or, "People don't understand that there's no cure for diabetes. They're not thinking about the future."
Is this what skinny couples do all the time? No, right?
All this stuff hits very close to home, since at 5'3" and 170+ pounds, I am obese on paper. Obesity may be real, but the measure, Body Mass Index, is archaic and arbitrary. Anyone familiar with Kate Harding's Illustrated BMI Project wouldn't be surprised to hear that I have topped out of the "overweight" BMI category and am definitely obese. I like to trot out my BMI score as a party trick, and guys are always stunned. It's like they consider obese folks and people they are attracted to mutually exclusive groups.
Once when we were hanging out, Jake grabbed my stomach and his and said, "Hm."
I don't know why, but I said, "I'm not fat." Meaning, "I am not going to do anything about my fat." He said, "I know, but I think everyone could try harder." He recently lost 20% of his body weight, works hard to keep it off, and expects everyone to do the same. I explained that not everyone wants to be hungry all the time, forever, and he said that it comes down to self respect.
Being fat isn't a problem for me, either physically or interpersonally. I don't receive weight-critical comments. When I told my doctor I was thinking of losing weight to help an old back injury, she told me that it's not a concern for someone my size. I've never had to hunt for a plus size store or section. I teach swim lessons and am perfectly comfortable in my suit (well, for the first three hours). I think if I came out of the obesity closet to Jake, there would be some boring food policing, or maybe a fight.
I have accused him of hating fat people, and he says that he just feels sorry for them. But I think disgust counts as a kind of hate. I'm sure his disgust is visual, but since he says it's concern for "their" health, I suggested he think of everyone he sees as on their way down in weight. Just as a little coping trick so he won't have to feel so "sad" for everyone, i.e., the two in three Americans who are overweight or obese.
I haven't told Jake that I am obese, and he doesn't seem to know. I tested the waters once by pointing out that his mentor, who he very much admires, is obese.
"Him? It's just that photo. He's in great shape." Yeah, like a ton of obese people.
I don't feel personally hurt by Jake's comments. I just don't think they make sense. Meeting someone who sincerely believes in the fat hate tropes I've encountered online just feel ridiculous. But Jake has so many good qualities. (And it's not just that he's so good-looking it still sometimes surprises me when I see him.) So far, my feelings for Jake have been stronger than my discomfort with this issue.
As I've started to care for him, I feel a little embarrassed for him, like I would if he had a hard time with table manners. The sizeism really seems unsustainable, since Jake obviously and erroneously doesn't count me among the people he's complaining about. It seems like something he'll grow out of as he gets to know more awesome fat people.
At least that's what I'm hoping for. Because despite Jake's ignorance on this issue, I want this relationship to work out.