First-Date Friday: Hefty Hiker

10556537_10152652162147915_3422040435065309706_n

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 I think the Vietnam photo was about five years out of date.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.

120210-heisman
The Heisman Trophy

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.

Et Tu, A&P Textbook??

Five days until the start of the new semester, when I will begin Human Anatomy & Physiology I. I am terrified! And a little mad.

My new $200 textbook arrived in the mail yesterday, and I eagerly started flipping through. My initial reaction was horror: HOW WILL I EVER LEARN ALL OF THIS.

And then I calmed down and started to skim the introductory chapter. The first thing that really caught my attention was the concept of the  “reference man” and the “reference woman”–the prototypical humans to which the book will refer in all the lessons.

He weighs 155 pounds. She weighs 125.

What. The. Fuck.

According to the Washington Post, the average American woman currently weighs over 166 pounds, and the average American man tops 195.

I get it, WE ARE TOO FAT. But it seems to me, there’s no reason to low-ball the weight of a prototypical human by that much. How is 155 an easier number to work with than, say, 175 for a man or 150 for a woman?

Seeing the number 125, in particular, stung a little bit, because for some reason that is the number that has hung in my head my entire life as “the ideal weight” for a woman. I suspect that I heard it in health class when we talked about nutrition, and again in gym class when we got weighed (in front of other girls, no less), and that I read it in 1980s fashion magazines. 125 pounds is actually fairly robust on a woman of average height (5’5″), compared to the size-zero ethos of today’s fashion industry. But I’m tall–5’8″–and somehow no one ever pointed out to me when I was a kid that it was normal for me to weigh more than the average girl. I constantly felt–and was made to feel–like I was a fucking monster.

125 pounds on a woman 5’8″ is Scary Skinny. I know, because I once weighed 128 pounds. I looked like a bobblehead.

But somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I can’t shake this idea, that a “normal” woman weighs 125 pounds. Unfortunately, my mother encouraged this thinking.

Here’s an example that is not going to make you like my mom, so just trust me, she’s a lovely person in other contexts.

The summer between freshman and sophomore year–perhaps not coincidentally, the summer that my mother’s father died and that my sister left for college–my mother got it in her head once again that I was too fat. Other moms might think, “My kid is going through puberty, and being a teenager is hard enough. I’ll set a good example, provide healthy options, and let it ride.” But not my mom!

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 10.37.06 PM
Trust me, this was a sick look in 1987!

Nope. My mom coerced me into joining Weight Watchers for teens. When I say coerced, I mean that she shamed me for being too fat, she normalized the idea of dieting, she incentivized my participation by offering that it would be a bonding experience between the two of us, and she said I had to do it. Oh, and she bribed me by offering to buy me a chambray denim jumper that cost $55 (about $115 in today’s money), if I made my “goal weight.”

I kept that jumper until about 10 years ago–changed the buttons out, wore it as a skirt, hung onto it well into my thirties. Why? Because I fucking earned that jumper. I suffered for that jumper. Fuck that jumper.

When I started Weight Watchers at age 15, I was 5’8″ and weighed 144 pounds. That’s a BMI of 21.9, smack in the middle of the normal range.

Going to those meetings was awful, because all the other kids in there were genuinely obese. ENORMOUS. And they looked at me suspiciously, probably enviously, because I had the body they wished for. I still can’t believe that a second “responsible adult”–the teacher of the class–allowed me to enroll, essentially legitimizing my mother’s project of giving me an eating disorder. Fuck that lady.

After a couple of months, I reached my goal weight, and I got the jumper. I weighed 136 pounds, which is on the low end of normal.

Eh, what’s the harm?

In between, I was taught to obsessively measure servings of ketchup. I weighed bananas. I weighed myself, as I still do, every day, naked, preferably after I’ve emptied my bladder and colon. I ate dry rice cakes. In anticipation of the weekly weigh-ins, I ate NOTHING. That summer, I denied myself any pleasure from food, all so I could look “trim” (to use the preferred term of the WW “teacher”) in a medium-sized jumper with a sweetheart waist.

By that point in my life, it was clear that I was never going to weigh 125 pounds, so even getting down to 136 felt like failure.

At present, my weight fluctuates between 160 and 165. I am ambivalent about losing weight, because I like to eat and because I have shockingly nice breasts, and I don’t want them to disappear. Many people in my life think it is weird that I fixate on my boobs so much. Part of it is that they are the one feature on which I have gotten consistently positive male feedback. And part of it is that in jokingly appreciating my girls, I am also speaking to a 144 pound, 15 year old kid with freckles and braces and a mom who found a million tiny ways to say she wasn’t pretty enough, and I’m telling her, “It’s ok that you’re tall and you have curves. It might even be a good thing.”

Because when you marinate in a sick culture like ours your whole life, and the people who are supposed to raise you to be strong instead train you to be weak, then you kinda can’t hear it often enough.

So, fuck you too, A&P textbook. Your Reference Woman is too small.

But I know a jumper that would look great on her!