Back on that muggy April evening in 2006, I wasn’t the fierce fatty that I am now. This was the “Before Time,” before my fat era, before I knew that calling myself fat could be a great thing, before I heard of Kate Harding or Paul Campos, before I devoted my life to being a Health At Every Size counselor. I was just a “plus-sized” late-twenties lawyer who was looking for a few good men to date. And so I found myself at a non-descript Soho bar at a Speed Dating For Young Professionals event.
I got there just as the event was about to start and took a quick scan of the room. There were the usual speed dating suspects — men in suits looking bored, women with impossibly flat-ironed hair wearing the latest Banana Republic offerings. No one other than me was wearing the latest Lane Bryant dress, and I had a feeling that most of these women wouldn’t know what Lane Bryant was if you asked. I caught a glimpse of a tall, broad-shouldered guy in a really well-made suit, who my brain registered as “hot,” but I soon shifted my attention to the event organizer, a compact, blond young man with thespian mannerisms who was motioning to me to get signed in and take a seat.
The first round of speed dating went by in a blur. Apparently, the event was overbooked, so we only had three minutes to talk with each guy before he was off to the next table. Three minutes is absolutely no time to get to know anyone, but it’s also the perfect amount of time to get to know someone when you realize that you instantly dislike him. Most of the guys were friendly but sort of non-descript. I was supposed to be taking notes on each of them so I would know which ones to check off at the end of the night, but I started losing track after Dude #4.
Then something started to shift for me. I still hadn't heard of fat acceptance or body acceptance, so, instead of starting to accept my body for its own sake, I made a different sort of crazy decision (or what seemed crazy to me at the time). I decided that I was going to focus on having fun. I was going to seek out fun in every aspect of my life. I was going to seek out the fun in different experiences. I felt that if I could focus on fun, I would attract more fun, and I’d be happier.
The amazing thing is that it actually worked. I started to have more fun dating (and trying on clothes, and looking at myself in the mirror). When I went on a date with someone new, I decided to have fun with that person. If they wanted to have fun with me, the date went well. If the dude wasn’t feeling it, that was his problem. It’s an incredibly healing thing to come home from a date that didn’t go so well and not feel like your prodigious belly was the cause.
So, as a result, I was actually enjoying speed dating, and the first round flew by. After I'd met ten guys in about thirty minutes, the organizer called time and told us we’d have a ten minute break. Knowing that there would be a rush on the ladies’ room, I said a quick goodbye to my last date and made a run for it.
The truth was I didn’t really need to use the bathroom. It’s probably a sign that I have undiagnosed social anxiety disorder, but I sort of like going to the bathroom and “getting away from it all.” I like the privacy, the moment alone to think my own thoughts. I often let my mind wander, and forget that I'm actually supposed to be somewhere. So I was sitting in the stall, pondering away, when a group of women walked in.
“Did you meet that guy, Bill, yet?” the woman in the red heels said.
“Which one is he?” the woman in the black heels (I think?) said.
“The big one in the suit? The cute one? He works in television,” Red Heels said, as if she learned it from pillow talk.
“Oh, yeah! He was hot!” Black Heels agreed.
“I hope he checks me off,” Peep Toes chimed in.
“I hope he does more than that!” Black Heels whispered.
I felt like a fly on the wall in that ladies’ room (even though there were actual flies who might have disagreed with that assessment). It seemed that Bill was the guy they were all after. Bill was the guy that everyone wanted to be checked off by. Bill was the tallest monkey, and we were all hungry for impossible-to-reach bananas.
When round two started, Bill was the first one to sit down at my table. He smiled and I smiled back. You could tell he was tall and big—he seemed almost unwieldy behind that tiny little bar table. He was wearing a really nice suit, and his dark blond hair was straight and cut pretty short. His shoulders were hunched in a little, in a shy, almost protective way.
He seemed like a man of few words, so I started the conversation with the only thing I could think of to say. “I was in the ladies’ room earlier and everyone was talking about how they want you to pick them,” I said, instantly regretting it. I get three minutes with a guy and I’m going to talk about the bathroom?
“Oh, really?” he said, leaning back a bit. “I’m probably not going to pick any of them.”
I was kind of surprised. A lot of the women in the first round seemed like the kind of women every straight guy seemed to like. And if online personal ads were to be believed, didn’t every straight guy want a petite, athletic woman with straight hair who is as comfortable wearing jeans to a Yankee game as she is wearing a ball gown? I could imagine Black Heels, Red Heels, and Peep Toes meeting these important criteria. “Why not?”
“They’re not really my type,” he said, with a smile.
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