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blubbershield: the advantages of navigating the world as a hefty lass

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I’m a hefty lass, which has some unexpected advantages. Granted, there are some sizable (hehe) negatives as well – very serious ones. We’re all familiar with the various problems that a larger dress size brings. What I never would have thought, as a young and slim 20-year-old, is that being bigger would make me a good deal happier about venturing outside.

Any woman reading this will recognise the wariness that being alone in public brings, from taking sizeable detours around groups of young men to flinching when someone hollers to a friend nearby. It’s ingrained. In many cases it’s saddled alongside the general uncertainty of late teen/new adulthood, where despite whatever attempts you make at being Adult, you still look like a teetering baby giraffe and not a sleek mature gazelle. Sadly, there are dudes out there who can smell that uncertainty a mile away. She’s unlikely to cause a fuss, unlikely to turn around and scream back at him, unlikely to call the police, and therefore, easy pickings.

I’m not talking about people intent on attacking young women, though they’d fall somewhere in this category as well. This is the construction workers whistling at teenagers in school uniforms, the young guy continually badgering a girl on the train to take out her headphones and have a conversation with him and doesn’t understand why she ‘has to be so rude.’ It’s the shifty characters who zone in on young women and corner them before asking for money, or (ah, flashbacks) just telling her she’s gorgeous for no apparent reason, thereby completely rattling her. As bewildering as these interactions are to the viewer (what exactly is being gained from this?), they are common enough that a teenaged me avoided going into the city completely. And no, I wasn’t a raging beauty; I was just young and little.

Fast forward five years and 35 kilos, and while I retain the general awareness of my surroundings that women learn along with how to do up a bra, I am far more comfortable with the general public. I don’t get hollered at by drunk dudes in a pub – sunglasses and a scowl keep away vagrants – and I don’t get a sudden burst of panic when someone knocks at the front door. And why? I’m fat. In the eyes of the general male population, I am no longer a sexual object.

This is both saddening and liberating, depending on what my hormones are doing. I love that I’m invisible to men. Love it. I can chat to a guy idly without feeling like he’s coming on to me, which I never could do as a young’un. Despite my deep desire for male friendship through my teens, it’s still something that sort of eludes me. Probably from that period of life where talking to a guy at all communicated some form of attraction. I can wander past a construction site without a touch of trepidation. I can weave through a crowd in a pub without tensing and hunching inwards.

The saddening aspect is mostly to do with the fact that I have a partner, who I’ve been with a fairly long time. I’m not single, and comfortably so. If I was single, would I be this happy about my blubbershield? I don’t know. I’ve been non-single so long that I don’t think I could guess how single Me would operate. Perhaps it’s the Solitude versus Loneliness thing. In my domestic nest of long-term relationshipping, I imagine that a single Me would be equally content, probably owning more cats and enjoying my solitude. I think it’s more likely that single Me would actually be seized with self loathing regarding the correlation between my weight and my inability to gather male attention. It’s unflattering, but fairly true to myself.

I try not to contemplate my level of attractiveness too much because I can’t imagine it’d end well, but I still get infuriated when I think that it took a big layer of fat to make me feel comfortable with wandering in public. It’s also enjoyably ironic that being a big’un makes me less of a target. I’m really too big to be able to leave my weight alone, but at the same time the prospect of being smaller makes me uneasy. I highly doubt I’d even get back to thin thin, or even standard weight, but some of it is going to have to shift before I start having to improvise a fat sling in order to inspect my toes. For the sake of not sabotaging my own health, something’s gotta give. But I look at girls my age (though smaller), still running that daily gauntlet of male attention, and I can’t bring myself to look forward to it.

4 thoughts on “blubbershield: the advantages of navigating the world as a hefty lass

  1. this is a really interesting piece for me personally, suzanne. i’ve often tried to unpack my thoughts and feelings about this very thing, as i’ve never been ‘small’, a fact that used to make me feel like a failure, honestly… although i wouldn’t quite call myself ‘big’ either. i often used to wonder how people who knew me would describe me to someone else: “you know, the chubby one with glasses?’ was about what i would have expected.

    i veer from avoiding the word ‘fat’ as a descriptor to championing the fat-activism use of the word, which gives me a strange thrill of joy, to use the word fat and not be tearing someone up for it.

    what i wonder about though, is do fat women get street harassment of a different sort? i’ve heard plenty of testimony to fat harassment on some of the blogs i read on the regular. i personally find that i’m an in-between body size, where i don’t get a lot of sexualised comments (that may also be because i wear a lot of vintage dresses and live in a country town, so they don’t know how to take me) but i also don’t get called fat.

    thanks for making me think about this again, and thanks for the very conversational tone of your piece which doesn’t encourage any sort of body shame, and which normalises many women’s experience with their bodies at different points of their lives! we need more writing like this.

    • Thanks Helen! I had a moment of crippling self doubt after I sent this off since I was worried it might read like I was trivializing the hassle that a lot of overweight ladies get. It’s something I didn’t go into here because I’ve never really experienced it. I imagine it’s mostly chance and no real skill on my part.

  2. I really liked this, Suzanne. I can totally understand that ‘ weird ‘ desire to not be oggled or hassled by men. I personally find it annoying when i get checked out or approached.

  3. Though I’ve never been overweight, I am feeling the liberation that ageing brings, I really feel like men don’t look at me anymore (apart from my husband I guess). My hair is going grey and I’m kind of really excited about it.

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