After the assault by my neighbor and the disastrous encounter with Libertarian Yoga Instructor, I took about a month off from dating. The next guy was very sweet and easy to talk to, but I wasn’t attracted to him. I tried to be, but I wasn’t.
Hefty positioned himself on Tinder as a well-traveled photojournalist, with a sweaty but sexy profile picture that I quickly identified as having been taken in Vietnam. We chatted about travel, taking pictures, and I’m sure other stuff that I can’t remember, and then he asked me to meet him for a drink. Just as with Tom Tiny Horse, Hefty sent me a picture en route to the date, in this case a selfie he took in the car. He was much heavier than his profile pictures, his hair was thinner, and he was older that I was expecting. I think the Vietnam photo was about five years out of date.
We met at a busy restaurant, ordered drinks, and eventually settled in for dinner at the bar. It was pretty uneventful. I learned that photojournalism was long in the past for him. At present, he managed a hotel restaurant for a nationwide chain, he was starting an import business and had several hundred bottles of fancy olive oil in his living room, and there was a lovely story about a painting his parents had bought that turned out to be valuable. When the check came, he offered to pay it, but I suggested we go Dutch, and he didn’t give me any grief about that. It was clear that he was a nice man.
The thing that made the greatest impression on me was the end of the evening. The most awkward part of a first date is the goodbye. Some people never kiss on first dates, some people do, some people hug, some people want no physical contact, and of course someone has to initiate, but no one wants to get the Heisman. I’m up for pretty much anything if the chemistry is there, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. Plus, I was still squicky about strangers touching me in the wake of the thing with my neighbor. I was apprehensive that Hefty might make a move in the parking lot, and I would have to rebuff him. Instead, he walked with me until we got to his car, where he said, “This is me.” He did not offer to walk me to my car, which was a relief. And, he found a charming way to call attention to the awkwardness of first date goodnights, then he concluded by saying something like, “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable by going in for a hug, so I just want you to know that I had a great time and would like to see you again.” I thanked him and offered him a fist bump.
There was a second date a few weeks later, not so much because I was eager to see him again, but because I liked him well enough and wanted to see if I could be attracted to him. On the first date, we had met in a dimly lit restaurant bar and immediately sat down. He kept his leather jacket on the whole time, so I couldn’t tell how big a person he was. I don’t demand absolute fitness in a partner, and am rather zaftig myself. But I am not attracted to very heavy men, and an inability to do fun, outdoorsy things is a real turnoff for me. In retrospect, the second date was kind of a fitness test, and Hefty didn’t do so well.
He told me he liked to hike, and he said he did it often in our area, so we agreed to meet up at a nearby park. Hefty showed up wearing a billowing t-shirt and enormous cargo shorts, which is often the uniform of people who are uncomfortable with their bodies. He was a much bigger guy than I remembered, and it seemed like he might have gained twenty pounds since we first met. He was also wearing hiking boots that looked fresh out of the box. There’s no need for a serious boot like that on local trails, and I was in tennis shoes. I got the impression he had never been hiking before. I also realized, with genuine concern, that I was about to take an obese man on a four-mile walk.
It took a long time. A trail that I usually finish in about an hour took almost three. There was a steep climb down some stairs to the river at the start, but the rest of it was flat–an easy out-and-back. Even so, Hefty struggled the whole time and got very winded. Despite temperatures in the 60s, he was soaked with sweat. I felt bad for him. I worried about him. At the end of the hike, you have to climb back up the stairs, and I was concerned he wouldn’t make it. We had to stop and rest twice. It was nice talking with him during those interludes, and I remember that he was especially kind when I told him about my mom’s illness. But it was also clear that we enjoyed very different levels of activity, that an unhealthy combo of rich food and sedentary dates were in store for me if I continued to see him. There was also the not-small matter of sexual attraction. I could tell he was into me, but I… well, I walked behind him most of the way, and I can still picture his massive calves tapering into those brand new hiking boots. So much person balanced atop those poor little feet!
Hefty was a nice man, and even today I feel bad that basically I didn’t go out with him a third time because of his weight and degree of fitness. I recognize the irony, that I struggle with shame and low self-esteem due to my own weight, yet I pathologize fatness in other people. But I wasn’t physically attracted to him, and I can’t change that. On the other hand, it’s not as though I felt a strong connection with him either, so my reticence wasn’t just due to his size.
Still, I liked him well enough. He was nice to me. And at that time, I really needed someone to be nice to me.
I considered getting in touch with him after a few months, thinking, “Maybe the hike woke him up and he’s lost a bunch of weight since then.” But meeting him on that basis would have been selfish and cruel. I did the fade away instead.