the chunky/gorgeous woman on the subway

She was gorgeous. A regal profile, dusky skin, round thighs that narrowed into long, graceful legs in black leggings. She was curvy, but she wasn’t the classic hourglass shape. She was something unique. Something captivating. I liked her tight, brave outfit. I liked her confident face and her perfect posture. There was something queenly and dramatic and comfortable about her.

We were on the subway. I elbowed Bear. “That woman is really beautiful.” I had to tell someone!

He glanced around. “Which one?”

“In the leather jacket!” Obviously.

Then I saw that her friend, slender and with hair molded into big, stiff curls, was wearing the same jacket. She was also beautiful. I hadn’t noticed her before.

“Her?” Bear nodded towards the friend.

“Leggings,” I said.

He looked thoughtful for a second. Then he whispered, “Kinda chunky.”

“Excuse me?” I knew I hadn’t misheard, but I hoped for a frantic moment that we could pretend I had misheard and he could say, “Kinda spunky…. and awesome.”

“Chunky.”

The world ended.

 

OK, the world didn’t officially end. I’m typing this. But I was stunned. “Chunky?” I hissed. “What does that mean?”

But the subway doors were opening, and we were pushing our way out onto the platform. Life happened for a few distracted hours, and then I was back on track, in our bedroom:

“Why did you say that, about that woman on the subway?”

“Say what?”

“The thing about her being chunky.”

He looked cornered. “I don’t know. I mean, I guess it was just the way her body was proportioned. How she carried her weight? Her thighs were really big.”

“Oh. So her weight was in the wrong place. Maybe if she’d ‘carried her weight’ in her boobs, that would’ve been better? Would you have liked that better?” (Yes. Full fighting mode, already. It was a little like being inhabited by a really insecure, possibly teenage demon.)

“Come on, Kate. It doesn’t matter. You thought she was pretty. I’m not even saying she’s not pretty. She had a cool face. Why do you care?”

I hate it when people say that. About the face. Well, at least her face was OK. “You ARE saying she’s not pretty! And you’re saying it’s because of her weight. You consider her too heavy, and you think that’s unattractive.”

He got annoyed. “Look, I know you like to point out unconventional looking people. It’s this statement for you. But that doesn’t mean I have to think unconventional looking people are more attractive.”

“You thought she was unconventional? Because she wasn’t a size two? Are you even serious?”

This is war. I grabbed the laptop off the bed, almost crushing it with my superhuman angry hulk strength, and flung it open. I was on Facebook in one second flat, my fingers flying over the keys.

(Actually, I’m pretty sure this is my demon. source)

“Here—” I shoved it at him. “Is she overweight? Would you say she’s fat?” I clicked to another profile. “What about her?” Very dangerous territory.

“I don’t want to do this.” He looked a little abused, and like he wanted to escape.

“Tell me! I want to know! I want to know what you think!”

“I don’t know…She’s not thin…”

“Then I’m not thin! Look at her arms!” I seized one of my arms and waved the fat at him. If I could throw my arm fat in his face, I probably would have. “Her arms are SMALLER THAN MINE. I am not thin, by your standards.”

“You look perfect. And you are thin.”

I laughed gleefully. “Oh! Good! I’m perfect because I’m still somehow thin enough! Thank God. Let’s pray I don’t gain five more pounds and get disproportionate. Let’s take a moment to pray for my thighs.”

I heard that I was out of control. That I was overreacting.  I had become that most humiliating and reviled of things—the crazy woman. The woman no one ever respects. The woman we all try so hard not to be, because no one likes her. She is a stereotype of herself. She is always inappropriate. She is always a failure.

(But at least she’s thin! Source)

I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know why I was so hurt and furious over Bear’s comment about the woman. She was just someone on the subway. Not me. He always says I’m beautiful. He says it every single day. I’m beautiful, I’m sexy, I’m cute, I’m perfect.

“What do you want me to say?” Bear said. He probably looked upset, but I wasn’t looking at him. I was jigging the mouse on my Facebook profile, back and forth, back and forth. I couldn’t look up.

“Everyone is beautiful, OK?” he said, sarcastic. “There. Everyone is beautiful.”

I started crying.

How horribly embarrassing that it isn’t a joke for me. That I am serious about everyone being beautiful. How absurd and oblivious. And I am bad at crying. It always feels like surrender, and I’m never done with the fight.

“Someone out there in this city can say the same thing about me,” I said, in my embarrassing choked crying voice. “Some guy looked at ME on the subway today and thought that I was chunky. He dismissed me with one single word.”

“Even if that’s true, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks,” Bear said. “We don’t all have to agree. And you’re gorgeous.”

“SHE was gorgeous! That woman on the subway was gorgeous. Why is everyone so mean? Why is everyone so quick to judge? Why is it SO HARD to be OK with gaining weight?” I might’ve been yelling.

I thought you liked your body with the weight gain!” He was completely confused. “You seemed happy about it. I thought you felt good about it.”

“I do! I do. It’s just hard. I am a lot heavier now. And the whole world is full of people who say ‘chunky.’ I am chunky. I am chunky and beautiful. And even if you don’t think I’m chunky—I want to be able to be chunky. I want to be able to gain more weight without having to feel ugly. And I don’t want it to be because I have a pretty face. I don’t have a conventional face. And now I don’t have a conventional body. Nothing about me is conventional anymore. It’s all different. It’s all difficult. And I want that to be beautiful.”

Is that impossible? Am I using the wrong words now?

Maybe Bear is right. Maybe beauty can be divided up. It already has been. Maybe it depends on parts and pieces. Maybe beauty is about what most people think, not what I think. But as I sat there on the bed, clutching the laptop and crying stupidly over something I barely understood, when there are so many better things to cry about in the world, all I could think was that I wanted so badly for the statement “Everyone is beautiful” to be serious. I wanted to wear whatever I wanted and look queenly, without worrying.

Bear would say, “So don’t worry! Just wear it, and who cares what anyone thinks?”

Maybe we don’t even know how to have this argument, because we think so differently about it. Of course I care. And he thinks, “Well, that’s the problem.” And I think, “The problem is the way everyone else is thinking about beauty.”

But I can’t stop them from thinking whatever they are thinking.

I can’t even stop my husband from thinking the word “chunky” about a gorgeous, bold woman on the subway.  The truth is, in my worst, most shameful moments, when I am stuck, flicking the cursor endlessly back and forth, unable to look up and confess, I am afraid that he will think this word about me. And I am afraid of what will happen if he does. I am afraid, because of how fragile my own beauty feels sometimes. Of how fragile I am.

(maybe it’s a wormhole, and on the other side there’s an incredible galaxy full of all my favorite Star Trek characters. You never know. source)

*  *  *

Unroast: Today I love the way I look in a peach colored summer dress. Yesterday I wore it, and a woman walking by with her toddler said, “You’re the only one wearing the right outfit today.” Which made me feel like I’d definitely won some sort of prize for awesomeness.

94 Comments »

Kate on March 20th 2012 in beauty, body, relationships, weight

94 Responses to “the chunky/gorgeous woman on the subway”

  1. Anne responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Aww, honey, I’ve been there. I’ve so been there.

  2. rowdygirl responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    I hear you.. and I competely understand and agree. Why can’t we ever be just good enough?

  3. ladykatya responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    Kate….

    I’m speechless.

    You just reached into my heart and wrote what I feel (and much better than I could, mind you).

    *I* am that unconventional girl. Not the one on your subway since I’m in Minneapolis, but I’m that girl. I’m tall. I’m curvy. I’m chunky. I can say it to myself, but I hate it…

    I see everyone as beautiful. I wish I could make everyone agree with me…

    Ah – your post made me sob and speechless all at once, so I hope this post makes sense. It really ripped my heart out and stomped on it like I was right there with you yelling at Bear… poor guy, one woman yelling at him is enough, he doesn’t need one from half-way across the country silently mind screaming at him either…

    I shall stop here and unroast: Today I love the way my hair looks. The little humidity we finally have has made the curls so springy and full of life…

    - lk

  4. Sarah responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    Thank you for this post, Kate. We may not be able to fully accept it in ourselves all of the time (I have one of those teenage demons, too), but I can tell you that UNCONVENTIONAL IS BEAUTIFUL, and you couldn’t be one without the other. I’m in recovery from an eating disorder and sometimes feel that I am inching closer to a relapse daily, but your candid, intelligent posts always snap me back to the truth that true beauty is unforgettable, and the “ideal” is pretty ordinary. We should all just eat the damn cake already, if that’s what we want (or pancakes… mmm…).

  5. d-day responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    I think in this situation I would have the exact same meltdown. and that last line is pretty dead-on about my deepest darkest thoughts, “…I am afraid that he will think this word about me. And I am afraid of what will happen if he does. I am afraid, because of how fragile my own beauty feels sometimes.”

  6. Melanie responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    This post completely hit me in my gut, and made me tear up. I know in my logical brain that it is fine, even normal, for people to find different types of bodies attractive. It is okay for some men to think I’m fat and hideous. It is not necessary for everyone to look at me and see how beautiful a person I am. That is life, and it will probably never change.

    But there’s this other, hopeful side of me. The one that wishes our society would see all types of beauty. The one that will treat me the same as it did when I was STARVING myself to weigh 150 to be an “acceptable” size.

    My boyfriend only dated thin women before me, and he photographs mostly thin models for his portfolio, and this steams me up. But it shouldn’t. I should be able to live and let live. But this issue is one that angers me deep down to my soul. I fear it will never change. But with women like yourself writing about it, I think it will at least progress little by little. Maybe some day little girls won’t think they need to starve or alter their bodies to be beautiful. Dare to dream.

    There is a lady at my work who is stunning and I can tell doesn’t see it. The other day I stopped her in the hall and said, “You are so pretty. I WISH I looked as beautiful as you without make up.” I don’t know if it even mattered to her, but it mattered to me. I needed her to know that at least one person sees her for the gorgeous lady she is. I am making a point to stop mentioning in quiet to my friends, “I love the way she carries herself,” and trying to mention it to the woman herself. Sometimes they look at you like you’re crazy, but that’s okay. :)

  7. lik_11 responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    I’m so thankful that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Not everyone thinks that I am beautiful- but some people do. It’s ok with me that I’m not gorgeous to everyone that I meet, I know my face is interesting. Hopefully, there are some days that I run across a stranger who looks at me from afar and thinks that I am beautiful. If that person had the balls to come up and tell me that I was pretty (whether other people would agree or not)- it would make my day.
    I love to randomly compliment strangers- I know it makes them feel good, which makes me feel good. Perhaps next time you appreciate something about someone- you could tell them… instead of someone who may disagree with you???

  8. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    “And even if you don’t think I’m chunky—I want to be able to be chunky. I want to be able to gain more weight without having to feel ugly. And I don’t want it to be because I have a pretty face.”

    That IS the whole point…girrrlll…I have had this argument with a man before, and the demons that arise in the angry female are even uglier than ugly. Look to comedy…Lisa Lamponelli, in her standup, makes the comment that she dates black guys because she’s too fat for a white boy. The day that happens to me…I say “hello brown sugar…goodbye stupid white boy!” LOL…this was a great post!

  9. Shannoetry responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    Wow.
    This is an amazing post – as they all are – and I echo the others here in saying that I think I absolutely get what you mean, and I feel a little angry on your behalf, and on behalf of the woman on the subway who’s beautiful “in spite of” her size, and on behalf of myself, who is chunky and can’t accept that I’m beautiful, unless I’m in the right outfit, under the right lights, with no cameras around, and forget for just a few moments that I’m as chunky as I am.
    I’ve always been frustrated at the way people see ‘large’ women. Queen Latifa, for instance, and even Christina Hendricks, are stunning, sexy women, but whenever the media talks about them, it’s still with this slight tone of, “Yes, she’s gorgeous, even in spite of her size”. Even Scarlet Johansson, because of her uncommon figure, is considered a beauty because, she’s so volumptuous but “in the right way”. Put 30 pounds on that girl and will they still find her beautiful? I know I will.
    I’m sorry you felt afraid and let down and angry, but at the same time, when we feel that way, we know something’s wrong. So keep screaming.

  10. KP responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    This. It’s so hard, once you slowly, painstakingly shift your own conception of what is beautiful, to realize that you can’t change what anyone else is thinking about you or anyone else. Except, of course, you are contributing to that change by writing here. I bet you’re shaping more people’s conceptions of beauty than you know. :)

    I’m not sure I’m ready to identify as chunky, but there’s too much protective fat on my muscles to be “toned” or “athletic” so I think I generally get classified as “solid” or “thick” or something equally unflattering by random men on the subway. Which I hate and which makes me feel ugly and fat – but! the more I simply focus on MY opinion of my body, the less I care. (Note: this is the perspective-ized version of this situation. In the short term, it totally depends on the day and what I’m wearing and how much self-compassion-energy I have left.)

  11. KP responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    = Also Kate. I would make a terrible spy.

  12. tangeria responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    recently, my poor, sweet, clueless husband told me that the reason we aren’t saving up to go to hawaii, is that i wouldn’t be comfortable in a swimsuit, and he didn’t want to have to sit on the beach with me instead of swimming. in my more rational moments, i choose the believe that he thought he was motivating me, but in truth, i felt destroyed. i have gained over forty pounds since we married, and to hear that he “knew i would be too self-conscious about my fat” was devastating. i love him dearly, but sometimes i want to smack him upside the head. i find it extremely reassuring to find someone else who, despite hearing their partner affirm them daily, still has that seed of fear inside. it makes things a little less lonely. so thank you for your honesty. i, at least, really needed to hear it today.

  13. Chelsea S. responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    Holy shit. This post resonated with me so deeply. As much as I try to walk the walk and talk the talk, my beauty DOES feel so fragile sometimes. Like when the chick I was dating recently was complimenting her teeny friend on how teeny she was. “What must she think of me, then?? If teeny is good, I must seem humongous! And therefore UGLY.” Which is just silly because she thought I was hot shit, but still. Those crushing moments when all my self confidence seems to slip away entirely… they suck, but I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one. We can’t be perfect, even in the way we think of ourselves. Perfection is ALWAYS an illusion! However, reading about these moments… man, it just makes me feel better somehow.

  14. ashley responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    <333333

    i wish i could come up with some smart response to this..but i cant..all i can really think to say is thank you..thank for you being real & kind & for posting this so i know i'm not the only one who feels like this. & i'm not the only one who feels so much for other people too.

    i'm pretty darn fragile myself..but in a way this post kind of made me a little less so..for today at least. we just need to keep "fightin the good fight" & keep our hearts & minds open.

  15. shellymc responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Kate, I totally get why you got upset. It’s not the *word* chunky — my partner calls me chunky all the time, with sex dripping from his voice in a way that construes the term as overwhelmingly positive. He does, however (though I do remind him not to!) say “she’s so thin” in a way that means “You could not pay me to bone that lady”.

    The problem lies when people use “thin” or “chunky” or “fat” to mean “unattractive”. And it’s totally gutting when your partner sees someone that you think is beautiful as ugly; because for (straight) women, noticing another woman’s beauty is less about attraction than it is about admiration.

    It’s all about preference at the end of the day, and really the only way to declare your non-attractedness to someone politely is to say “S/he’s not my type”. Attraction is such a subjective, visceral thing that it’s impossible for any two people to always agree, I think.

    All that to say — I get where you’re coming from. I’d have been upset too, and would have struggled with explaining why!

  16. Kate responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    @shellymc
    You clarified this so perfectly. The part about the word choice and what it meant. The part about an appreciation of beauty rather than a sexual attraction.

    Bear sometimes calls me chubby in a sexy way, and I love it. I really appreciate you pointing all this out.

  17. Kate responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    Can I just say that I really, really love all of these comments? This is one of those days where I can’t even start responding to them all individually, because I literally want to respond to THEM ALL. But I’m reading and appreciating every single word.

  18. Lora Dziemiela responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    “…I am afraid that he will think this word about me. And I am afraid of what will happen if he does. I am afraid, because of how fragile my own beauty feels sometimes.”

    YES. I feel this.

    This hits me in the gut.

  19. Lora Dziemiela responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    And…AND…

    Thank you for being so real, and so vulnerable. It is a gift to me, as a reader, to get to *see* you.

  20. Kate responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    @Lora
    Thank you for letting me be vulnerable and a little out of control. It might be easy to make fun of me here. But you guys are making me feel safe instead.

  21. Sarah responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Add me to the list of people for whom this post resonated deeply. I just started following your writings, Kate, and they are phenomenal – and this one in particular.

    I’ve had this conversation with my husband and I’ve felt the fear you talk about. You articulate so well the way the fear works in the line

    “And even if you don’t think I’m chunky—I want to be able to be chunky. I want to be able to gain more weight without having to feel ugly. And I don’t want it to be because I have a pretty face.”

    Like Bear does for you, my husband reassures me all the time that he thinks I’m beautiful but that doesn’t make the insecurity go away.

  22. Frankie responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    This is a scene from my life! I’ve had similar arguments with my boyfriend, my dad and my brother- all at different times. And it’s the worst to be the crazy woman and realize you’re her but remain unable. to. stop.

    Glad you were complimented on your dress yesterday.

    My unroast: Today I feel beautiful in a polka dot skirt, that fashion editors would say is too long for my height.

  23. Ceci responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    I have to join the chorus because, to me, this post just encapsulates a conversation that I’ve had, over and over again, in my head and out loud.

    I had a similar argument with my little brother once, about an Italian tennis player who almost won the French Open last year. I watched her and thought she was amazing and beautiful–the regal face, the short, badass hair, the strong, shapely arms. I pointed this out to my brother, and he killed it: “uh, no way. Too many muscles.”

    I also had it–that record-stopping sound in my brain. I tried to tell him that she was beautiful. That she was strong, and that equalled beauty. That it was wrong for him, sexist, to find muscles on a woman unattractive. This didn’t compute for him–he insisted that he was allowed to have his own preferences. I insisted that his preferences were shaped by a patriarchal culture that associates strength with masculinity and thus labels strong women as “butch” and unattractive, and that he had to fight it. I got emotional; I took it personally. And he sighed, out loud, because his feminist sister was getting worked up again.

    Unleash the inner harpy, everyone. Keep it there, and please never let it get dampened by fears of being “that woman.” It makes me hopeful. And thank you Kate, for putting it into words, that struggle.

  24. Michi responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    I think everyone is beautiful, but I’ve stopped pointing people out to my boyfriend, because he has a very, very narrow definition of beauty, and he just can’t see it. Even when I can precisely articulate what exactly is beautiful about someone, he can’t see past the other parts. The chunky parts.

    Alone, it’s a fun game though. Whenever I’m in a crowd of people, I look at each and every one of them, and decide how they’re beautiful. It has the side effect of making me feel better about my own appearance at the same time. As long no one is sitting there telling me what’s ugly about them, anyway.

  25. Ash responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    My opinion has generally been that beauty is a spectrum, and like any spectrum, someone is going to have to be on the low end of it. Not necessarily you or the woman on the subway or any particular person you or I know, but somewhere out there is a person who is just straight-up not beautiful. Maybe his/her personality is beautiful, maybe he/she is skilled or smart or whatever, but like any other “natural gift,” some people just aren’t beautiful. Science is even investigating what is naturally considered physically beautiful by humans in general — there are in fact trends (though cultures, including ours, often break them).

    I honestly am not sure why this is a problem. If we managed to shift ourselves away from basing self-esteem on looks (which I have a hard time doing just like lots of others, but I do what I can), and if we start judging other people as attractive not just for looks but for skills and smarts and the way they move and what they say and all of that, suddenly beauty becomes like, say, basketball talent: you either have it, or you don’t, but whether or not you do or don’t isn’t really all that important in the end. Someone out there is going to think I’m not thin, and it’s true, I’m not. Genetics handed me something, and I will never be thin, just like I will never be able to jump like Michael Jordan, no matter how hard I try.

    “Everyone is beautiful” is like saying, “Everyone can play basketball.” Okay, sure, everyone can try, but honestly, it’s just one aspect of you, and it’s not essential to life, and some people are going to be a lot better at it than others, and that’s okay.

    Maybe I agree with Bear or something, but in the end, I’ve always had a hard time believing that everyone is (good thing here).

  26. Emily G responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    I think what is sad is that a beautiful confident woman is thought of as “chunky” and dismissed.

    That real, regular, everyday men even think like that is disheartening. And that it creates an environment for women that we can either a) not care what men think and do as we please or b) care at all and look one specific way.

    Can’t our beauty be appreciated without looking that one specific way? And why can’t I walk out of the house without feeling insecure that someone might think I look “chunky”?

  27. Isadora Vega responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    Perhaps you got so upset because you wouldn’t want him to talk like that in front of a hypothetical daughter? Or at least that’s how I read it.

    Oh, and also I’m de-lurking. Hi.

  28. Kat responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    So, I don’t talk out much on the internet, but I keep thinking about this. Your posts always make me pause and think. This one followed me around after I kept moving.

    I knew what beauty was, when I was younger. It wasn’t that long ago, even, I’m not really that old. Beauty was with the boys that were tall, lanky, with broad awkward shoulders and dark eyes. They were slim and sharp featured, and everyone one else was just normal. Not lacking, just not possessing.

    But I’ve been finding, as I’ve been peeling back my barriers and starting living and loving, that beauty is in damn near everywhere if you care to look. In potbellies, below six foot, around the hips, through gaps in the teeth- but no one wants to see it. They all want to be realistic, but that doesn’t make any sense, because the world is real.

    And real beauty isn’t scarce at all.

    This isn’t what I set out to say, but oh well. I wanted to say something.

  29. Diana responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    That EXACT conversation happened to me last night. A woman, probably a size 6, maybe 135 lbs, bent over in front of me and my husband giving us a full-on butt view covered in work-out spandex (kinda hard to miss) and I whispered to him, “She has a really nice body. She must work out a lot.”

    He whispered back, “Nah. She has a flat ass. Nothing nice about that. She might have had a hot body before she had 3 kids, but not anymore.”

    In my head I said, “EXCUSE ME?!?! OMG! I’m 185 lbs! I’ve had two kids! He thinks SHE doesn’t have a nice body?! I’d kill for her body! What must he think of my chunky body?”

    Only I wasn’t brave enough to speak my thoughts, so I said, “Really? What’s not to like?”

    He said, “I like your round ass.”

    In my head I said, “You’re crazy! She’s the whole package! She’s pretty, confident, perky, tiny and she does that twist-the-hair-around-the-ponytail thing that I’ve never been able to master. You like my ass? What about the rest of my body parts? Too chunky for comment? And why are we talking about body parts when my comment encompassed her entire body?”

    But what I said instead was, “But she’s so beautiful. Why don’t you see what I see in her?”

    And he said, “Because she’s not you,” which was a nice save, but there was so much more to what was being said than what we discussed.

    I appreciate the bravery and fragility of your post. You’re my hero.

  30. Jennifer responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    I saw a guy in the store the other day–a nerdish guy, Harry Potter-like with his polo and glasses. He was shorter than me, hair out of style, body a little underdeveloped. He looked like a scrawnier version of my husband. He was adorable. He was my type.

    It crossed my mind a half second after noticing him that my best friend from college would *never* go for him. She has a thing for muscle-bound, crew cut military types. Her ideal man is jumping out of planes. Mine is watching NOVA with me. Her boyfriends never looked twice at me (I’m probably too tall, not petite, too thick-of-thigh and arm, hair not great, nose quite long).

    My husband never made eyes at my girlfriend (good thing). He doesn’t like trendy pixie-sized girls who love to shop. He likes “earthy-crunchy-tall-and-sturdy.”

    Subway Girl was just not for Bear. She’s for someone, but not for him. You are for him. To assume he is in love with merely your shape is to ignore the evidence: you *have* changed. He loves you. If you continue to change (hopefully staying healthy and happy regardless of form), he’ll still love you. Any man who would dump you for your shape is not a man you want to grow old with…’cause there’s a heap of change with that.

  31. Jenna responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 8:39 pm #

    :( I’ve been in similar situations before. It’s frustrating to find someone attractive and have your partner dismiss it as not true, especially because of weight.

  32. T.K. responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    Thank you for writing this Kate. Things have been tense for my best guy friend and I as of lately and it is exactly over situations like the one you described. It is very upsetting to me to see a woman ANY woman knocked down like that. And when it comes from a boyfriend/husband.trust guy friend it feels like a total betrayal. Like they are suddenly the problem, the exact thing we spend so much energy arguing against and wishing away. The thing we hope to change about the world. And it is lonely when this man you thought you trusted is suddenly not on your side but on the “other” side. And it is always very very very person cause one woman is every woman ( sorry whitney houston).

    The other day my female manager, who is generally a nice and thoughtful person, referred to another female co-worker as “unfortunate looking” in a very matter of fact way. She doesn’t have anything against her. It’s just the way people talk in our culture about the people who don’t fit the mold. It made me very upset.

  33. San D responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    I hope during my years of teaching high school I was able to teach young men and women about the word “beauty”, and the notion of what makes a human beautiful. I like to think I mentored a lot of young women to see that beauty is in how you present yourself, how passionate you are, and how you are able to move through the hoards of “others” as your own person. I know I had many conversations with young men about what they were missing in looking at “covers” only. I also know that in talking about relationships I would say “if I were in high school as someone your age, you wouldn’t have given me the time of day, but I was just as interesting 50 years ago as I am now”. In the years I taught that statement always made them think. I then let them know that I was proposed to 5 times in my lifetime (not with rings mind you, just in the asking), and actually didn’t ever have to settle, because my main goal in life was not to be married, but to lead an interesting life. I say all of this as a chunky, round shaped, short, curly haired, rosacea faced, overbited woman. Who, by the by, knows when I get a bit more round than I should, I see it in my husband’s eyes, and scale back for my health.

    oh, and lest you think…why is she talking about all of these things? I taught art, and well, art is life.

  34. Marisa responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    I’ve observed an interesting semicontradiction in the way I feel about my own beauty: I enjoy dressing up sometimes and feeling stunning and confident inside and out, but I bristle if an acquaintance (especially if it’s a guy) comments that I look nice. “So?” I think. “Is that all you see? That I’m pretty? I am so much more than how I look!”
    I’m only happy with compliments if they’re given by someone who I trust knows about the other good parts of me. Even then, I still sometimes think, at the back of my mind, “And? Does this make your life, or mine, more fulfilling? Does it matter how I look? Would you care if I didn’t look this way?”
    The most special kind of beauty is the kind that you can’t see until you know someone—the way they laugh when you say something funny, or how they look when they’re asleep, or the movement of their hands when they are creating something else beautiful. Everyone has that kind of beauty.

  35. Kay responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    Oooh, I am angry on your/her behalf. I would have reacted the same way, and it is NOT overreacting–not when you’re a woman who has grown up in this culture. Your husband doesn’t get why what he said hit you that way? Doesn’t mean your experience of the world and your feelings are any less valid. I won’t apologize for being “that woman” and I wouldn’t be with my current partner, nor he with me, if he couldn’t handle it.
    Also, I cosign shellymc’s comment: “S/he’s not my type”: if anything negative has to be said at all, that’s the limit.

  36. annabanana responded on 20 Mar 2012 at 11:36 pm #

    It really bothers me that guys never seem to understand why we freak out so much about feeling beautiful and the weight that it carries. To them, it’s just a word. But I don’t know about ya’ll, it can break me when I consider the fact that every day, people can see me on the street and judge my body. And that I find myself doing it. It’s the ultimate invasion of privacy…being judged by people that only see you for an instant and use that to determine your worth. What if strangers don’t think I’m pretty? What if they do?? I don’t know what to think about it…

  37. Val responded on 21 Mar 2012 at 12:17 am #

    There is beauty in everyone–you’ve got that right.

    And nobody wants to be dismissed in a single word: chunky.

    Old.

    “Older.”

    It all hurts. It hurts to be flat chested and skinny.

    It hurts to be balding.

    Or paunchy.

    We’re so mean.

    But Bear is not the problem here. He didn’t create the culture, the expectations, none of it.

    I don’t see changing all of them. The change needs to come internally. If I could turn back time 20 years Kate, I would tell you to stop caring about such things as thighs.

    They’re fine. I have a daughter who hates her thighs–her gorgeous long burnished legs. She cannot hear that she’s stunning.

    Not even with those shoulders, those eyelashes and teeth, and amazing hair.

    No. In her mind, she’s FAT.

    Is it me? The messages I’ve sent about my own insecurities? Or does it come from a messenger far bigger and more nebulous? I’m not sure.

    I’m actually finding turning 50 somewhat freeing, crow’s feet and all.

    All I have to be now is presentable.

    I can handle that.

    Hope you figure it out before 50. love you, Girl. Val

  38. Val responded on 21 Mar 2012 at 12:20 am #

    annabanana, you are right.

    Guys don’t freak out because they don’t care. A cute girl who likes them and they like her?

    They don’t have a scale and tape measure on hand, most of them.

    I honestly believe no men did this to us. We did it to each other, and we must stop.

    love, Val

  39. 20 lb heavier than when we met responded on 21 Mar 2012 at 12:43 am #

    Thanks kate! I hear you. I feel frustrated with you. I needed this validation for my own fear. Due to various issues (both in and out of my control), I’ve gained a lot of weight recently. I think I’m beautiful but I also think I’m fat. I look in the mirror and I feel fear. I fear that when others see me, they don’t see beauty- they see a woman who needs to hit the treadmill. My husband says he loves me… the woman I am… just as I am. He knows that I’m aware of the weight I’ve gained, but he doesn’t really think about it. But I’m still afraid.

    Why does weight have to be linked so much to beauty? Why can’t weight be linked to it’s true indicator– health? How sad…

  40. Aiyesha responded on 21 Mar 2012 at 2:55 am #

    Here’s the thing – maybe we can’t stop our partners and best friends and brothers (and even our girlfriends and sisters and mothers) from thinking things like “chunky” or “great face, shame about the body” or “she’s unfortunate-looking,” but THEY sure as shit can stop themselves from thinking it. They really can, if they wish to. The comprehension of the loveliness of human beings – however it’s perceived and defined – isn’t something that came with the hardware, it’s software and it can be changed. Just open your mind. If you don’t want to, then fine – but own that. Instead of saying “she’s not my type” or “I just didn’t find her beautiful” or anything else, speak the truth – “I’ve been programmed to be prejudiced against people who do not conform to the beauty standard, and I’m happy to continue to let my libido and my desire and my appreciation of beauty stay in those narrow confines.”

    People, all of us, are capable of teaching ourselves to view *everyone* as other human beings, instead of objects to be judged on their physical or functional merits. None of us want to be judged that way, and saying “it doesn’t matter” and “why do you care so much” is disingenuous. Men especially care about things pertaining to themselves that affect their opportunities in life and the way they’re treated; it just so happens that “beauty” isn’t generally one of those things. Men get plenty pissed about other stuff in just the same way, when they’re being judged.

    Of course, because “beauty” is predominantly a “women’s concern,” it’s seen as trivial and vapid and unimportant. But we live in a social order that dictates that for women, beauty is everything – and then we’re surprised we’re a bit touchy about it?

  41. zoe (and the beatles) responded on 21 Mar 2012 at 3:39 am #

    the only reason we react so strongly to words like chunky is because of the negative connotations attached to the word. ultimately, fat means nothing. western society has indoctrinated us into the idea that fat is ugly and makes you unworthy. in reality, fat is just that — excess. so someone is chunky. it means only what you think it means. i personally think ‘chunky’ is beautiful. people can pass judgement all they want. and they will. we all carry personal preferences in terms of attraction. women have this need to be beautiful for everyone, even though we ourselves are not attractive to everyone.what it boils down to (to me anyway) is how you see and value yourself. if you respect and love yourself, you will respect and love all body shapes and sizes.

    body diversity exists for a reason. unfortunately a good amount of people will never see that. it’s their prerogative but i do agree we as women, we as a society, need to speak up whenever fat shaming occurs. it’s not right and needs to be addressed if we ever expect to live in a half-way decent, accepting society.

    furthermore, i think the dialogue between men and women and bodies needs to be open. men carry a lot more opinions about bodies than we give them credit for. without open communication, nothing will change. we can’t keep vilifying men, no matter how bound by laws of “beauty” women are. i hear things like, “cute face, chunky body” about men, too. this is a human issue. we’re all affected. we all have opinions. it’s time we share them freely and start challenging the belief systems we’re trapped in.

  42. zoe (and the beatles) responded on 21 Mar 2012 at 3:48 am #

    (gaaah i meant to say *women have this need to be beautiful for everyone, even though we ourselves are not attractED to everyone. not attractive.)

  43. Lynn responded on 21 Mar 2012 at 7:02 am #

    *hugs* I’ve been there, I’ve had that same argument, and it’s so hard to put it into coherent words why situations like that hurt so much, but you did. THANK YOU. I’d like to write more, much more, but I’m on my work computer (sneaky!), thank you writing a blog that gives voice to so many of the things swirling around in my head!

  44. Lynn responded on 21 Mar 2012 at 7:02 am #

    *for writing

  45. Sarah responded on 21 Mar 2012 at 9:28 am #

    Thank you thank you thank you for this incredible post. Strangely, it made me feel good about the world. I think we should all be (sorry for the pedantic jargon) pluralists about beauty, and just accept that there are a lot of different ways that things in the world can be beautiful. The interesting question, then, is precisely how it is that certain features that are beauty-making in one case might not be so in another–how they might be beauty-making to one person and not to another. This is a topic that comes up in normative ethics a lot, the strangeness of aesthetic reasons, and I’ve always liked to think about it.

  46. Sheryl responded on 21 Mar 2012 at 11:04 am #

    There’s so much I can relate to here, but what’s *really* getting me is the comment about her having a pretty face.

    Why is it that we chop up our own and each others bodies so much? I like my ass but I hate my hands, or she’s got such a gorgeous face but her body is just not all that … I mean really, we don’t come in bits and pieces.

    We are a WHOLE package. We come with faces and hands and asses and thighs and bicepts and bellies and no one part stands separate or alone. We don’t have bits of pretty and bits of ugly, we have a whole body.

  47. Marie responded on 21 Mar 2012 at 11:21 am #

    I’m afraid my post might sound dismissive of this entire conversation, which it isn’t…

    I had similar crazy woman rants at my husband in our first two years of marriage, not necessarily about the same topic, but sometimes. And they stopped when I realized it was more about how I felt about myself than how he felt about me. You depend so much on your soulmate to shape your own self-perception that when they say something that goes against your own beliefs, it feels like a betrayal, or an attack. And then you begin to realize what it is about yourself that they love, and you learn to love yourself a little bit more. Honestly, nothing has done more for my self-image than my marriage, and that includes all the slips my husband ever made that felt critical. It’s a great day when I can go to him and ask “how does this make me look” and he can say “chubby” and I can reply “I was afraid of that.”

  48. T.K. responded on 21 Mar 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    @Aiyesha – loved your comment!

  49. annabanana responded on 21 Mar 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    @Val
    I bet the only reason they care a smidgen is because we do. If women never gave this a thought, I doubt men would really notice if we were “chunky” or not.

  50. Kate responded on 22 Mar 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    @Marie
    You don’t sound dismissive. And I really do think this is about me more than him. But I also wished in that moment that he would be more sensitive.

  51. Sooz responded on 22 Mar 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    I have this conversation with myself all the time. I feel just like you do. my husband likes thin athleticly built women and I am definitely NOT that girl. i always feel super unattractive around him which sucks b/c he’s my husband. and this is a continuation of what I grew up with b/c i was chunky as a kid (especially when puberty hit around 11 years old) and my sister was wicked thin and my mom always told me how fat i was and that i shouldn’t eat. ugh. i never feel beautiful and people always tell me that my FACE is pretty enough so my body doesn’t matter. I HATE that. Oh man. I could go on and on about this subject. But i won’t. Just know KATE that there are other women who totally feel what you said in this post and are with you every step of the way. Love you!

  52. Rapunzel responded on 23 Mar 2012 at 12:47 am #

    I don’t really get my spouse either. I don’t understand THEM. I don’t understand how they can oogle after skinny beautiful women with toned muscles, tall height, flat stomach, and perfect skin, and then be married to someone like me and be happy. I just cannot comprehend how my husband can call me beautiful when I know he finds today’s version of beautiful women beautiful.

    And after I’ve lost 30 pounds (yay me….much more to go though), he says “you look so much better.” Which, I know, is a compliment of course. And I would feel almost offended if he DIDN’T say something like that about it. But, then again….what about before? What if I gain it all back, which statistically could probably happen? It makes me know his potential disappointment. It’s like he can’t say anything with incriminating himself. I almost feel sorry for him. Almost!

  53. Friday Favorites | To Be Frank responded on 23 Mar 2012 at 9:22 am #

    [...] hasn’t had an argument like this with a friend, boyfriend, or family member? I may have related most to the part about being a crazy [...]

  54. melissa responded on 23 Mar 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    I don’t know what to think. Well, I think girls who carry all of their weight in their ass are sexy as all hell!

    But I can’t fault a person for what they personally find attractive. It only angers me when people aren’t honest about it. Say, I have a friend who was married to a very “heavy” girl. He often posted things on facebook to support the idea that heavy was still sexy and beautiful. But in real life, he purrs when a stick-thin actress arrives on screen and comments on how nice her body is.

    It angers me when people only support fat girls for the political advantage of supporting fat girls.

    I kinda wish there would be a balance and peace between these two extremes that are fighting each other for no reason, instead of it always swinging from one polarity to the next ya know?

    I admit that I’m attracted to thin guys. I can’t change that any more than I can change my sexuality. But that doesn’t mean I plan to dump my boyfriend (who will never be thin). Perhaps this is the real basis of why it bothers you so much?

  55. Julie responded on 23 Mar 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    I love this. Thank you for writing it.

  56. waffles responded on 23 Mar 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    Wow! That was a completely unnecessary reaction of you. I understand that he struck a nerve, but don’t you know that everyone has the right to prefer whatever body types they want? By deciding that everyone has to like the same exact type YOU like, you are being just as bad as someone saying everyone has to be thin.

  57. Frances responded on 23 Mar 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    I saw a girl in London today in YOUR rabbit dress. At least that’s the first thing I thought when she walked past. She looked curvy and beautiful.

    As terrible as the body-size-struggle can be, the worry that the whole world is judging you on the metro, sometimes the internet makes it better. Sometimes a stranger, like you, consistently writing about their own fat-thin tug of war can make a little positive difference on the other side of the Atlantic.

    Ta love! Keep being that crazy woman x

  58. Bill responded on 23 Mar 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    Here’s the thing — none of us are consistent — not you, not me, not Bear, not the third person down from you on the subway, not the gorgeous/chunky woman you and Bear were talking about. Yet all of us have the capacity to become better than we are now and to recognize the beauty in us all. The grace in us all. It would be interesting to explore (from a disinterested perspective) the differences in what you and what Bear see as “beauty” — but in the meantime: whoa, my wonderful writer! You’re beautiful, you’re insightful, you’re loved. You could see someone who was REALLY close to the woman here and not be struck by her beauty; and Bear could. Seeing the woman you wrote about a few hours earlier, and you might have missed her beauty, whereas Bear might have been struck by it.

    No worries. Thanks for being a great writer, and I’m sure for being a wonderful person, always trying to grow and learn and be more accepting. You rock.

  59. Alicia Cumming responded on 23 Mar 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    such an illuminating story on how not everyone is beautiful to us and we a) accept it like Bear, or b) we so want everyone to be considered beautiful-because it is sad that heavier people are considered unattractive when there are definite alluring qualities about them, just as there are with women of all sizes. What I took from your description of the “chunky woman on the subway”: you were attracted to her confidence, and this is what often makes people so alluring–the confidence in who they are, to put it in such a trite way.

  60. Kristen responded on 24 Mar 2012 at 12:46 am #

    I had a similar conversation recently with a co-worker. He told me that he would never date someone who looked like Adele. I couldn’t believe it. I know she’s not half-naked and carries a little extra weight and may not fit our culture’s conventional beauty ideal. What he said meant that she was below his minimum attractiveness level. I figured it was because he thinks she’s fat and he didn’t want to say that because I’m heavy as well. It made me feel bad about myself and scared as well. So, I totally know how you feel.

  61. Cindy responded on 24 Mar 2012 at 7:14 am #

    If he says everyone is beautiful (forced to or otherwise), how valuable will it be when he tells you that YOU are beautiful. Everyone is allowed to have their own image of beautiful or attractive, and it’s awesome that your man tells you that he thinks you are beautiful

  62. B responded on 24 Mar 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    I agree with Ash, comment 25. To you, this subject is very important, but maybe a significant other sees the question, “what do you think of that woman?” to be the worst kind of conversational landmine. And my personal opinion is that this question undeniably turned into a landline for Bear. He is your partner, but he is allowed to have his philosophy not exactly lined up with yours–which he pointed out. Why does he have to retract that he thinks the woman is chunky? And if you do become someone’s definition of chunky, that’s not the sole reason Bear married you. In fact, prove me wrong, but some women (including some of those who preach body acceptance) are offended by guys who base all on looks. And yet on the subway, you gave value to a person based on her looks. Maybe your husband thought you wanted validation that you were prettier–I know some women who ask for that reason. I applaud you for putting yourself and your actions out there, ugly and nice, but why couldn’t you give your husband the right to his word choice and the befit of the doubt? Are you never flippant, insensitive, and bluntly honest? If everyone is beautiful no matter how they present themselves, is everyone smart, kind, and nonjudgemental no matter how they act? I’m not on board with that, but I will say that everyone has the potential to ge beautiful, just as most have the potential to be smart.

  63. Zellie responded on 24 Mar 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    I love your homeshooling posts and I like to see what I’ll find here, but I don’t belong here. I know this is your body image blog and I don’t want to spoil it, but imagine following Miss Manners’s rule that it is impolite to talk about others’ appearances–no nice haircut, great dress, you’re beautiful. Just letting people be and relating to them. Just imagine it. People will think what they think, but they won’t be influencing others and hurting their feelings by saying it out loud. Then we have to talk about something else. Putting our attention on something else will improve our thinking.

    I feel sorry for our men. What are they supposed to do? Not everyone is young, thin and beautiful. What do we expect them to say when we’re fat or wrinkled or saggy? Say it anyway? They can always see the beauty in us as people but is that what we’re asking of them?

  64. Lovely Links: 3/23/12 responded on 24 Mar 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    [...] “The whole world is full of people who say ‘chunky.’ I am chunky. I am chunky and beautiful. And even if you don’t think I’m chunky—I want to be able to be chunky. I want to be able to gain more weight without having to feel ugly.” [...]

  65. tirzahrene responded on 25 Mar 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    I wonder if there’s a way – a code phrase, maybe – to communicate when you want him to look for the beauty that you see in someone vs. when you’re more interested in knowing what he sees.

    I tend very much towards seeing the beauty in people, and I think I’d have to come up with some phrasing to share that, something that would say, “Look, I want you to see what I see, look for the beauty here.”

  66. Kate responded on 25 Mar 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    @tirzahrene and a few others
    I guess when I pointed the woman out I really didn’t think anyone would think anything other than “wow! She’s awesome!” when they looked at her. I didn’t feel like I was being especially alternative or subversive or anything. I don’t think there really are hard and fast beauty rules– beauty can look a lot of different ways. That doesn’t mean I find everyone stunning, of course. But I definitely find a lot of different looks attractive. And in this case, I was really unprepared for anyone to disagree with me. I guess it just goes to show that everyone really likes different things. Shocking, right? :-) But I think we can also like different things without completely dismissing or speaking meanly of the things we’re not as into. Not to say that Bear was so incredibly mean. But just to make a point. OK, done :-)

  67. This Week In Fatness II – Axis of Fat responded on 26 Mar 2012 at 10:21 am #

    [...] post about the “chunky” gorgeous woman on the subway stood out to me because I think we can all relate to this experience.It’s hard not to see [...]

  68. Marilyn responded on 26 Mar 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    I remember when I was younger that I would feel ‘fat’. It made me less attractive. When I was over thirty and had my two children, men would compliment me. I would have those glances. I was no thinner than before, but I had an attitude that I thought that I looked good. It showed. I’m now 48 and bus drivers and others will say things like “I only talk to beautiful ladies.” I know that they talk to everyone, but it’s nice to be called beautiful by a stranger.

    It’s nice when men turn to look me over. It’s nice to be appreciated this way although I’m still chunky. I’m about ten pounds heavier than the days when men would shot ‘ugly fat, chick’ at me. Now, I only hear the compliments.

  69. Kate responded on 26 Mar 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    @Marilyn
    I want to get to that point– only hearing the compliments. That’s awesome.

  70. Mandy responded on 26 Mar 2012 at 5:06 pm #

    I’ve had variations of that conversation with men. But I think that they don’t really understand it in their bones the way women do, because in our culture, (as a rule of thumb, there are exceptions) men tend to be valued for what they can DO (make money, solve problems, athletics), whereas women tend to be valued first by how they LOOK. It’s a fundamental difference in philosophy, and I’m sometimes very thankful that they DON’T truly get it…because I think you have to actually go through that kind of insecurity to understand it. And I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

    And, Kate…my immedate reaction to this post was to want to reach through the computer and hug you, sweetie.

  71. sarah responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    “I want to be able to gain more weight without having to feel ugly.”

    I feel you. I so feel you.

    I wanted to chime in, because I have a different story from the ones I’ve read here. My husband actually prefers a curvy hourglass – always has. In fact, I was “too skinny” for him when we first met, and though I fell in love with him within days of meeting him, he was SO NOT INTERESTED in bony, flat-chested, athletic me. This post (and its comments) have me wondering if I am the last woman on earth to have married a man who likes a girl with some curves and body?

    I gained 25 or 30 lbs after we finally got around to getting married. It was very traumatic, because it was a sudden change – and it was a real change. My *shape* changed, and suddenly, I didn’t know myself anymore. But I got over it.

    A couple of things happened that facilitated this. One, I realized that when I talked bad about myself, I sounded like my mother – who, for whatever reason, seems determined to convince herself that she is unattractive. Two, I was reading an article about an up-and-coming new chef who had completed a gorgeous remodel of a midcentury home. The article touted the young woman’s style and creativity, featuring her home, her garden, her fashions, and of course, her FOOD. And I realized, I’ve never really seen a cook who is a size 0 (my husband and I are both talented cooks and throw some seriously sophisticated dinner parties). I thought to myself, I’d rather mellow into middle age as one of those generous, happy people, who welcomes friends and colleagues into her home with incredible food and drink … and maybe I’ll just be comfortably plump. Really, what’s wrong with that? It sounds nice, doesn’t it? I started thinking about all the articles I’d ever read about people who stayed VERY thin – and every one included a list of foods that were “don’ts.” And if I’m honest with myself, I’d really rather have dessert than be a size 2.

    So. I tried on everything I owned, which was sad. I boxed up everything that didn’t fit, which was sad. I gave clothes away to tiny friends, which was a little sad. But more importantly, I bought new clothes, and started experimenting with how best to flatter my new body, which IS fun. (frustrating and a bit awkward at times, but I think of it as an ongoing project and keep at it.) I stuck to thrifts at first, but by this winter I was buying silk velvet palazzos and gorgeous wool trousers in my new size. It was important to me that the new body be treated with as much love and attention as I lavished on my yoga/dance body of old.

    I suspect that Bear will NEVER EVER see you with the eyes you turn on yourself. If it’s any comfort. My husband LOVES the new cuves, which probably made my journey a lot easier than it could have been. Still, I think that in the end, you will only be as happy with your body as you choose to allow yourself to be. Good luck to you – my heart is with you.

  72. Kate responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    @Sarah
    I’m all about cooking great food, and then enjoying it :-)
    I love this comment.
    And the truth is, Bear loves my new curves. Who wouldn’t? OK, maybe plenty of people wouldn’t, as we’re seeing here. But I think that even when people are encouraged by, you know, our entire society to automatically respond negatively to heaviness, I don’t think that necessarily means that they aren’t also attracted to it. People can be attracted to more than one body type at once. I’m glad your husband understands what he likes and that what he likes is something that you like being.

  73. Diane responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    I’m sorry you were hurt by the man in your life. You have shared an experience that so many women have had and it’s an important conversation to have about behaviors that need to be addressed. There is a lot of unchecked privilege in the seemingly simple conversation you had where you felt a betrayal had occurred. It had. You weren’t acting “crazy” (ablest language fail), or being “irrational” in your response. I’d like to share a link to one of the most important pieces of writing I have ever read as it articulates so eloquently and concisely everything I feel about the underlying dynamics of such situations as you found yourself in. It’s a post from Melissa McEwan at her blog Shakesville. It’s rather a long post so I’ll just put the link… http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2012/03/terrible-bargain-we-have-regretfully.html It’s a brilliant piece of writing but it’s more than that… so much more.

    Also for me, I’m uncomfortable with the whole commenting on another woman’s body (or anyone’s body), to begin with–bestowing approval or disapproval on another woman based on her looks. Another commenter in this post also had a similar situation and it began with her commenting on another woman’s body. So there is again some un-checked privilege there to unpack in why a person would feel the need or that they have the right to comment on another person’s looks to begin with reducing that person to an object to be appraised—valued or dismissed and treating it as acceptable much less a topic of conversation. There’s fail there. However it’s the men’s responses that are the biggest problem and again, I feel Melissa’s post (that I linked to above), addresses why in a much better way that I ever could.

    Again, I am sorry that you were hurt and please know that you were not responding in an “out of control” or “irrational” manner. It is actually the man in your life who responded with massive fail.

  74. Kate responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    @Diane
    Thanks for linking to that post. I thought it was extremely well-written/argued.

  75. Julie responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    I love this blog. I’ve been there. I understand this and I’m glad that there are other people tho think this way too.

  76. RRainey responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    As cliche as it sounds, beauty is really the eye of the beholder. First, while I understand your need to feel that everyone is beautiful, the truth is that not everyone can be, otherwise, what is special about being “beautiful.” Besides, while you may seek out people that are beautiful in their own ways, I am also pretty sure that you have seen people who are not, and there is nothing wrong in thinking that.
    And just from my experiences, people, complete strangers, mostly men, have told me I was beautiful all my life. Never had a boyfriend, kissed one guy, never had sex. 26 years old-no sex. So, to me, it proves that “beauty” is simply not enough.

  77. Kylie responded on 29 Mar 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    I feel like crying.

    You talk about what so many of us feel: Why can’t people just be accepted?

    Though I’ve never had a weight issue, I’ve had really terrible skin issues ever since I was about 8 years old. Nothing has ever worked to get rid of my acne, redness, disgusting dry skin. It’s always the first thing to cover up in the morning with the best make up (and even then, I’m not sufficiently “covered”).

    In recent years my skin has cleared, but minimal acne, rough, dry skin, redness and scars are still apparent. My boyfriend is always really good to tell me I’m beautiful, I’m sexy, etc. But then he’ll say that another girl with acne is unattractive because of her blemishes. I relate to your story because it makes me feel like, “Oh, so her and I have the same issue, but she’s ugly and I’m somehow not?” He does the best he can to explain, but at that point I’m already down on myself, unwilling to hear anything positive. I, too, am scared of the one I love coming to think that I am “ugly because of my blemishes.” I then start to worry that he’s lying to me about being beautiful, regardless of the skin issue. It’s terrible to feel so anxious and mistrusting.

    Another issue is that I worry about him seeing the “perfect” girls, with the beautifully tan, glowing, unblemished, powdery soft skin and comparing me to them… Anyone with two eyes is able to tell that they have prettier skin than I. And if everyone thinks what my boyfriend does, than those girls are most definitely more attractive. I understand that there are different levels of attractiveness in this world, but all the insecurity gets to me when I start to think that really, truly, beauty is something I cannot have.

    But I don’t know how to change it. How to change me.

  78. Lily responded on 30 Mar 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    I’m sorry but I think it is pretty unreasonable to dictate to other people what to find attractive, even if you are hurt by what society influences us to think. I don’t find ‘chunky’ men attractive, not that only date guys with ripped muscles or under a certain weight, but I just don’t find chubby guys attractive. Is that society telling me to think so? Probably not. No offense but toughen up.

  79. Kate responded on 30 Mar 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    @Lily
    ARE you sorry? Do you REALLY not intend any offense? Because I sort of suspect otherwise…. :-)

  80. Jgirl responded on 31 Mar 2012 at 7:44 am #

    I just want to join the ranks of people who love this post. You made me tear up with self recognition. Especially your last sentence about being fragile, that is me all over. Thank you for articulating this so well!

  81. Stephanie responded on 31 Mar 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    OK, this is a tricky one, and I’m going to have a tough time putting this in a way that isn’t going to offend. Let me preface this by stating that I know that women who carry extra weight do receive a lot of criticism.

    I feel for your husband on this one. Not everyone finds everyone else to be beautiful. I have what you would describe to be a “conventionally attractive” look – tall, slender/athletic and with relatively big boobs for my frame. I also have a pretty face and nice eyes. I’m saying all of this not to flatter myself, but to tell you how often I’ve been put down by both men AND women, and that it’s only now in my 40s that I actually believe that I am attractive and carry myself as such. I remember being heartbroken in university when, at a campus bar, I overheard two guys behind me evaluating my assets and determining that I had “nice T&A but nothing else.” I could tell you of numerous other examples of being critiqued by men for my imperfections, or being told by an insecure female colleague or acquaintance that I needed to do this or that to improve my appearance, but you get the gist.

    The fact is that we all evaluate each other, and no matter how much we fit what we perceive to be the “conventional,” there are always going to be people who will not find us physically attractive, ignore us, or worse yet put us down. I am a nice, intelligent woman and I always thought “Gee, what do I have to do to be perceived as ‘good enough’.” And then one day I just said “Screw it. I don’t care.” I know it’s easier said than done, but perhaps a better goal than trying to convince others that “everyone is beautiful” might be to focus on loving ourselves without expectation of external validation. I know that’s where I’ve been going in my life in recent years, to much benefit.

    Anyhow…I didn’t mean that to be offensive. I hope I got my point across.

  82. “Unconventionally Chunky”. | Addicted to Food responded on 31 Mar 2012 at 8:32 pm #

  83. Alisha Ria responded on 01 Apr 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    Here’s a harsh one. I live in a racist country and am “colored”. So trust me, if people looked at me and saw “chunky” instead of “black”, I would be happy.

    But moving on. Everyone will not find everyone beautiful because if that was the case, how would you fall in love? I think we should all have different tastes, etc. Yes, women are judged very harshly – and I love reading your blog about being happy rather than beautiful. But that’s the way of the world, you can’t change the world.

  84. Kate responded on 01 Apr 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    @Alisha
    I’m not sure how relevant this actually is, but the woman on the subway was black.

  85. Bullet-Dodging Fat, Cake and the Truth About Donkey Shows | Manolo for the Big Girl responded on 03 Apr 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    [...] read Kate at Eat the Damn Cake’s hackle-raising article  The Chunky/Gorgeous Woman on the Subway and was flooded with borrowed anxiety and personal [...]

  86. Melinda responded on 05 Apr 2012 at 9:14 am #

    Kate, I love your blog and I can definitely relate to your insecurities. Like you, I wish I could change the world and the way people treat one another.

    But from my perspective, this is an unrealistic expectation. We really can’t fix others…we can only try to work on ourselves. We can’t be “beautiful” to everyone. We can’t make everybody agree with us on what beauty is, because everyone defines it differently.

    I appreciate this blog because you bring some very deep conversations to the table. You are beautiful inside and out…you’re smart, caring, and sensitive. Bear loves you. Does it really matter what he thinks about some other woman’s body? And to be fair, you did put him in a tough spot by asking what he thought of her. Sometimes people will be blunt or less than tactful when expressing their opinions, but he was being honest in his view of her.

    He didn’t call her ugly. He simply pointed out that she wasn’t his cup of tea. That’s OK. It is just an opinion. It doesn’t invalidate your beauty or hers.

    This reminds me of women who will ask men things like, “Do you think she’s pretty?” or “Does this skirt make me look fat?” I don’t understand the point of asking questions like that. You are only setting yourself up to be hurt or disappointed when you don’t get the response you hoped to hear.

    My husband tells me I’m beautiful as well, but I’m not always sure he means it. I am the only woman of color he has ever been involved with. I am of mixed race but in some circles I can “pass” for white because of my fair skin. I am short, with dark curly hair and dark eyes. I used to be a size 0 and now I wear a size 10-12. I have small boobs, a soft tummy, big hips, thick thighs, a big behind, and sturdy calves.

    My husband is generally into white women (he is white himself). I know that what attracted him to me initially was not my looks, because there is a certain type of woman he finds physically attractive, although he denies it.
    In the early phases of our relationship, he made some insensitive comments. Once he told me that I was “nothing special” out of the blue. I didn’t ask his opinion of my looks but he would say stuff at times that was hurtful without really meaning to. I guess people don’t always think before they speak.

    I won’t lie, that comment really hurt. But you know what? I have been dealing with criticism since childhood. That comment he made over 3 years ago is just a drop in the ocean compared to what other people have said and done to me. I still have my share of insecurities. I rarely like what I see in the mirror. I had insecurities before I met my husband and maybe I always will (but I hope not!)

    His comment was partly an opinion based on personal preference and partly an unconscious view of what society says is “beautiful”. Like most American men, he has been conditioned to find a certain type of woman appealing and these women are, more often than not, women who look nothing like me.

    I try not to internalize other people’s issues anymore because it will only cause more pain in my life. The truth is that there is both beauty AND ugliness in this world. I don’t believe that everyone is beautiful, but we are all capable of becoming beautiful in different ways. We are all works of progress. We all have potential. We all have different journeys in life. Sure, I wish I had perfect hair and killer curves but for now I have to be content with who I am because I can’t be anybody else. Sometimes I wish I could but I can’t. We all see things differently…you viewed her as “gorgeous”, he viewed her as “chunky”. Chunky doesn’t equate to ugly.

    I’m not happy about my weight gain, but I believe that my face is prettier because of it. If somebody wants to come at me with that line about me having a pretty face (which implies that I’m fat), let them. I might not turn the head of every man walking down the street but I know I’m sexy. Despite my insecurities, I know that contrary to what my husband said over 3 years ago, I am something special. And every woman should feel that she is somebody special too…you, me, the woman on the subway, all of us.

  87. Samantha responded on 10 Apr 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    ^this post.

    I have totallyyyyyy been there, done that. My boyfriend (at the time, now fiance) and I, about two years ago (together for 4, so far) were driving around talking. Randomly, we got on the subject of being chubby.

    Now, I’ll admit the first fault when I made the mistake of asking “do you think I’m chubby?”…and he said yes.

    What was my reaction? Naturally, I flew off the handle. He said that he didn’t know it was a bad thing, but being a “normal,” larger-than-a-stick girl, it just rubbed me completely wrong.

    That was a rough evening…pretty sure we went to bed angry, and yeah, it was totally my fault…but I’m better now. For the most part.

    It’s still impossible to feel completely comfortable in my body 100% of the time, but I certainly appreciate the compliments from my S.O. about being “voluptuous” and “having curves in the right places.”

    It’s hard to accept that everyone can’t appreciate a true, curvy, womanly figure…but, I can at least try to be a bit happier about mine.

  88. Emily responded on 14 Apr 2012 at 12:01 am #

    Oh man I get this. I see so many beautiful people on the subway but I do often wonder what they think about me (hopefully nothing). You totally got me when you talked about how people talk about “chunky” girls looking ok if they have pretty faces. I’ve always worried I had the opposite problem ever since I heard the term “butterface”.

    Ouch. As a skinny girl with a big nose and freckles I worry this could be me. My mom was visiting me the other day and we were getting ready to go out and she was borrowing back a dress
    (still fits her!) that she had given me years ago and she was like “the first time I wore this some mean girl told me it was a shame they had to waste a nose like mine on a body so good.”

    Ouch!

    So yeah I feel like dissing the face hurts even more because that’s the more important part… I just hope people are being nice when they compliment my bone structure :(

    But really… I think everyone has something to appreciate. When I’m having a negative day sometimes I play a game where I try to see something good about every single person on the subway. It’s too easy to get into the mode where you’re always criticizing others… like maybe that lady with the tacky bag did her eye makeup really nice or something

  89. Maya responded on 15 Apr 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    One thing I feel so keenly about this type of situation is that that it brings up a frustration and powerlessness that is hard to identify. It is one thing to want to be thought of as beautiful, and to want to think of oneself as beautiful. Lots of us (maybe all of us) want that. But sometimes it feels like, for women, that’s all there is. To be beautiful is the most important thing (note even those campaigns about “inner beauty” – it’s still beauty that counts, ladies! better have it somewhere!)

    Another thing this situation brings up is the constant judgment that women face about their appearance. Of course, as long as you’re going to be judged you’d like to be judged well – who doesn’t love a compliment? The trouble is that this sort of judgment is so pervasive and so automatic. It’s symptomatic of a kind of power dynamic – it’s always the person doing the judging that has power, not the person who’s being judged. (Sometimes we think that if someone is judged approvingly than she does have power – but I think that’s an illusion. Because whoever has the power to grant her that legitimacy also has the power to take that away.)

    Bear’s remark that he doesn’t like the woman’s body, but “she has a cool face,” makes sense only if there’s a common assumption that, obviously, any woman wants a guy to think she’s attractive. Now, Bear is clearly a nice guy – he wants to be amenable and he wants to think well of people. So, on the assumption that it’s a good thing to assess a woman’s appearance and find something to approve of, Bear naturally compensated for his lack of approval for her body by pointing out that he does approve of her face. See – a positive assessment of her face counteracts the negative assessment of her body!

    But all this did was (1) remind us that *nothing* is off-limits when it comes to judging a woman’s appearance – her body, face, clothing choices, grooming practices – it’s all up for grabs, and (2) reinforce the implicit assumption that Bear had a right to judge at all.

    To be clear – I do not think that any of this is conscious, or that Bear even unconsciously thinks that it’s okay to judge women’s appearance, or anything of the kind. But it *feels* that way – and I think the reason it feels that way is because it’s in the air. Some people, lots of people, actually, do have beliefs like that. A woman’s worth as an object is assessed in ways that, in general, a man’s worth as an object is not. Women are *always* being looked at, assessed, judged, on the image they present, on whether they hold your gaze or not, and on whether they’re worthy of being looked at some more. Both men and women do it, and it happens in a blink of an eye.

    Because it’s so common, because it’s everywhere, and because I think we all do it to some extent, we have to be really proactive about combating it. And when Bear says, “she’s chunky,” but she’s got a “cool face,” it can feel like he’s contributing, not combating. And that can feel like a personal betrayal.

  90. Someone responded on 08 May 2012 at 3:03 am #

    I’m going to be honest and say, my eyes started tearing up when I read this. I hate that being fat is associated with “ugliness”. I’m 5’7 and I am most definitely on the chunky side, and I find it so hard to find myself pretty or feminine in anyway. I even stopped eating for three weeks straight, I just ate a fewbowls of cheerios everyday.I used to be “daddy’s perfect little girl” but I jumped from 65 pounds to 100 lbs the summer I was going to third grade. Of course, my father who comes from parents who care excessively about appearance was not my nicest critic. Even before I gained weight, he’d always have something negative to say about the way I lookes. My lips are too big like my mother’s, I had a gut, my legs weren’t “toned” enough. I mean, who says that to a 6 year old? But anyways, after the 40 lb gain, I really started to become disgusted with myself. He was constanty comparing me to skinny girls, he took me to this clothing store and forced me to try on a pair of pants that we both knew wouldn’t fit. I started to become overly self-concious and did not want to step foot in another mall. But then, I turned 13. All. Hell. Broke. Loose. Now, my breasts, my hips, my thighs, and my stomach were a problem. And you know, a girl can only take so much crap from her own father. I became less social. I wasn’t the silly, happy little girl I used to be. I became this huge, repulsive monster that needed to be locked away. Depression finally snuck its way in and completely smothered the girl that once was. When I look in the mirror, this over powering voice fills my head and says “Look at that piece of worthless crap”. I just want to be the person I was before. When I wasn’t fat. When I wasn’t ugly. Fat, means your ugly. You could have two women who are both thin, but one isn’t exactly considered attractive, and the other is, if both of them were to gain 90 lbs, they’d be lumped into the same category: unattractive. Why? Because they’re fat. It’s the sad and unrelenting truth. And that, is reality.

  91. Stan responded on 10 Jun 2012 at 1:10 am #

    I’m late to the game on this, and you might not even care about this anymore. I just thought I’d add my two bits.

    I need to give you a little background info to make my point.

    When my wife and I started dating, I was average weight. I had a little padding, but not too much. I was “soft.” Over the next 6 years of marriage and parenthood I gained about 40 lbs. I went from average to chunky to fat. After 6 years of marriage, my wife said she wanted to increase the amount of my life insurance, so I would need a new physical. Our payments would be less if I weighed less, so I decided to lose the weight. Over the next year I lost it all and then some. I became fit. I had abs. Then I gained some of the weight back. Then I lost it again. I still struggle to stay at a consistent weight. I’m either gaining or losing it. Right now, I look like an athlete. Three months from now, who knows?

    Through it all, whether I was average, chunky, fat, or fit, my wife has loved me and remained attracted to me.

    My wife no longer has the body she had when we started dating 9 years ago. She was thin and athletic then. She’s “soft” now. For years after giving birth to our son, she was even softer.

    It has never once mattered to me. Not once. I love her with all my heart, and she turns me on now as much as she did in the beginning.

    Now you might think, “Great! Here’s a guy who thinks everyone is beautiful.” You’d be wrong. I work with and interact with women who are more physically beautiful than my wife. My wife works with and interacts with men who are MUCH better looking than I am. I can tell that some women are thin and beautiful. My wife can notice the same thing about the Brad Pitt stand-ins.

    She doesn’t want those guys, and I don’t want the women who have a decent shot at becoming models.

    Here’s my point: I don’t want any other woman, even if she happens to possess more physical beauty than my wife.

    You have equated physical beauty with worthiness for love. I will never look as good as a male model. My wife will never be mistaken for Natalie Portman. Neither of those facts affect how worthy of love we are or say anything at all about what kind of people we are.

    If you’re chunky, you’re chunky. So what? That doesn’t mean your husband would trade you in for a better looking girl.

    People fall in love with people, not bodies.

  92. ellen responded on 22 Jul 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Thanks for posting this Kate! I really related to it. And I’m very familiar with the crazy woman that emerges whenever a man approaches the weight/beauty issue. My boyfriend loves the way I look…..but I hate it. Your last paragraph is exactly how I feel.

  93. Alli responded on 27 Jul 2012 at 11:59 pm #

    I am so so glad that there are other people who get how I feel about the whole fat/chunky/beautiful/not beautiful/relatively -beautiful-all-things-considered/if-that’s-what-he-thinks-when-he-looks-at-her-what’s-he-think-when-he-looks-at-me thing. I don’t want to be the only “crazy woman”!

  94. Dea responded on 11 Feb 2013 at 3:42 am #

    I sometimes feel like a crazy woman, but for the opposite. I am slender with small breasts and my boyfriend likes bigger women. And I often feel not good enough just because I’m not heavier or I don’t have bigger breasts. He says he loves me the way I am and that I am beautiful, but somehow I feel bad for how I look. :(

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