My Lover is Fat

Seeing big people as beautiful

| March/April 1998

My lover is fat.

It upsets some people to hear me state this so baldly. 'Doesn't it hurt her feelings?' they ask, as if the polite thing were to act as if I hadn't noticed that she weighs nearly 300 pounds. Perhaps they think she hasn't noticed, either.

'You are the only person in my life who hasn't discouraged me or made fun of me,' she tells me one morning over breakfast, crying. She's listening to musica de trios, traditional Puerto Rican ballads, and it's making her nostalgic. She remembers how her mother used to dance to this music, spinning with the broom through their little house. She remembers island breakfasts with cafe termino medio—half strong coffee, half warmed milk—French bread, and omelets filled with fried plantains. Then her face darkens as she also remembers how she was friendless throughout her childhood. 'I weighed 180 pounds at age 12,' she confesses, as if this were an explanation. She tried to kill herself at 16.

There are few things harder than growing up fat.

What about growing up with a disability? you might ask. What about growing up neglected, or on the streets? True, these conditions are enormously difficult, but they are not seen as the child's fault. Fatness is always the fat person's fault. As everyone knows, fat people eat like pigs. They smell bad. They don't bathe. They lack that revered American attribute: willpower. They are, quite simply, disgusting.

My lover showers every day. She has a closet full of stylish clothes in a wide range of sizes, reflecting her lifelong battle with the scale. But she grew up fat, and she is fat still. Not in a wheelchair, not on the streets, but the pariah of an entire culture.

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