Here are two articles from our Spring 2000 issue on Finding Love.
One article follows right after the other, so keep on reading and
enjoying! --- Alice
--- by VICTORIA
the third day of my new job, I met the man who would become my husband.
As I walked away from an introductory meeting in his office, my
intuitive mind quietly and calmly stated, You came here to meet Carl. My
rational mind, laughing in embarrassment, set about keeping me from the
truth for almost a year.
why shouldn’t that practical guardian of my life doubt such a rash
assertion from my subconscious? I was thirty-seven at the time—fast
approaching the age when some statistics keepers said I had a greater
chance of being struck by lightning than by Cupid’s arrow. And I
weighed more than 300 pounds, which I had learned to believe excluded me
from the group of women labeled attractive and desirable.
As a fat woman and the child of an
abusive father, my relationships with men hadn’t given me much reason
to believe that a loving, supportive partnership was in my future. My
trust shattered by those who should have been most trustworthy, I didn’t
know how to build a relationship, how to determine when to trust, and
when to walk away. At the time that I met Carl, I hadn’t dated
seriously in four years.
Carl must have had his own resistance to
overcome. After our first meeting, he dashed into my boss’s office,
thanking her for hiring such a funny and delightful woman. Then it took
him eleven months to ask me out on a date!
I’m sure that many fat women can relate
to my relationship history. As an overweight teen, I was everyone’s
pal but nobody’s choice as a girlfriend. I didn’t go to my high
school prom. I didn’t even date until I was in college, and then only
occasionally. An engagement in my mid-twenties was broken by a fiancé
who explained that, for a wife, he wanted someone with a “more
athletic body.” A series of less than desirable short-term
relationships followed, always with men who had problems: some with
alcohol and some with responsibility. All had trouble with
communication, commitment, or showing up. Finally, I resolved to take a
break from men, ending a long-term relationship that seemed to be more
about me supporting him than him caring for me.
It might be easy to blame a culture that
measures feminine worth by beauty and figure or to blame the men for
lack of maturity and a shallow interest in appearances. But the truth is
also that their problems were a reflection of my own. I needed to
discover some truths about myself before I was fully ready to trust
myself, trust someone else, and be a partner and wife. I needed to
confront my image of myself as a woman and as a fat woman. Looking back,
there were definite lessons that I learned and corners that I turned as
I traveled toward the love of my life. Sometimes the road to love is
winding and blocked by detours. Sometimes you have to make your own map.
Getting a Map
it was scorchingly painful at the time, I came to see the dissolution of
my engagement as a great opportunity for growth. I began to awaken to
some harsh and crucial realities.
My relationship with my fiancé followed
a pattern, one I’d learned in my family. My father was mentally
unstable, and I’d learned to cope by squelching my own needs and
feelings. I was exquisitely skilled at sensing his moods and doing
whatever I could to keep him happy, in the hope that his anger wouldn’t
erupt. To calm my anxiety, I ate. I matured as an overweight woman, out
of touch with herself.
I carried these coping strategies over to
my relationships with young men. I was to put them first. I desperately
wanted to be loved, especially because I didn’t know, accept, or love
myself. As my awareness grew, I realized that for me, getting married
would be a sign that I was acceptable. I thought of my fat self as lucky
to have a man in my life. When things were going well, he was romantic
and sent flowers. I tried to make sure that things went well, even
though it was hard to predict what would make him happy.
When he asked me to marry him, I ignored
my doubts and plunged ahead. When he wanted out, of the reasons that he
gave, I remembered only the one about my less-than-athletic body. His
words echoed in my head for months, taunting me that my fat body meant
that I wasn’t worthy. I did feel worthless and depressed. Finally, I
sought the help of a counselor.
As I worked with this supportive and wise
woman, it seemed as though I were, at twenty-six, waking up for the
first time. I began to see how the dynamics in my family of origin were
playing themselves out in other parts of my life. I recognized the
connections between how I felt about myself and the choices I made in
relationships. I didn’t understand the implications of all I was
discovering, but I moved from depression to experiencing more of myself.
I now had a map, and I knew that if love came my way again, I’d see
the landscape (my patterns) differently than I had before.
What You’re Looking for You’ll Find
Seeing your patterns and changing them
are two separate things. Shortly after my engagement ended, I met a man
whom I would be with, off and on, for eleven years. Because I was
feeling particularly vulnerable, I appreciated having someone pay
attention to me. Always lots of fun, Tom constantly pulled practical
jokes and was willing to laugh. He was a large, heavy man, and around
him, I didn’t feel uncomfortable or self-conscious about my fat body.
But because I still didn’t trust
myself, I never trusted Tom. It created a great deal of drama in our
relationship. I was different with this man than I’d been with
previous ones. Instead of ignoring my needs, I demanded that they be
immediately and completely gratified. I questioned Tom’s actions and
words, accusing him of motives that he hadn’t even considered. I found
it difficult to believe that someone could love me, fat and imperfect as
I was. Suspicious and often argumentative, I carried into our
relationship the baggage of my past, throwing it up in Tom’s face at
almost every opportunity, virtually begging him to leave and prove me
My actions tried his patience and often
were beyond his understanding, but he stayed with me a long time.
Fortunately, I continued in therapy, and I started to see that I was
indiscriminately projecting my past experiences, hurts, and traumas onto
Tom. As I felt better about myself, I eased up my pressure on him. It
became easier to believe that he loved me as my own self-love grew. I
finally came to see that not every action of Tom’s was a reflection of
things done to me by my father or anyone else, and I stopped projecting
my demons onto him. I began to see Tom for who he really was.
Eventually, I realized that our
relationship wasn’t truly meeting my needs. When we broke up, I told
him how much I appreciated his patience and love. My second lesson was
learning to see people for who they truly are. I’d developed many
valuable skills for growing and maintaining a relationship, but I needed
to spend some time on my own. I decided to take a break from partnering,
to find out more about myself and try life on my own terms.
Seeing a Clear Direction
A couple of years later, a coworker
encouraged me to accept a blind date with a friend of hers. She felt
that our similar senses of humor would make us a
great match, and she assured me that he was “understanding”
about fat women. After much prodding, I said yes, and the date was
arranged. We did hit it off and had a wonderful time together. We talked
by phone regularly and dated for about a month. Then he initiated an
One evening, out of the blue, he said
that he couldn’t understand why fat women were
always coming on to him. Further, he stated that he didn’t really want
to be with a fat woman. I was a bit surprised by this conversation,
because I weighed the same that day (more than 300 pounds) as I’d
weighed the evening of our first date. It wasn’t as though I’d been
“sucking it in” for a few weeks until I thought we had a chance
together. What was this about? Soon the answer came.
If I lost weight, he said, he’d treat
me “like a queen.” I’d have everything that I wanted: money, cars,
houses, status, trips, clothes, and, of course, him. If I didn’t,
well, he was sorry, but he’d have to move on. I had to make a choice.
It was time for my next turning point. It
was time to trust myself. As I listened to this man spin his tale of
future possibilities, I suddenly began to see how my life would really
be with him: a series of compromises, a lot of uncertainty about the
veracity of his “love,” and a constant battle over who would control
my body. I realized that no relationship, no fantasy about being with
someone, was worth abandoning my soul. It was a pattern that I now
recognized as old and familiar, and one that I no longer wanted to
follow. I told him, “No, thank you,” and I told him why. He was
flabbergasted. He couldn’t believe that I’d declined his “generous”
offer. As much as six months later, he continued to marvel that I’d
What I knew at that point was that my
partner in life would have to accept me for who I am, not who he
thought I could be. I needed a partner who would encourage me to be my
own best self, on my own terms and in my own ways. By saying no, I was
clearly establishing some boundaries. For the first time, I carefully
thought about what it was that I wanted in a relationship and I started
defining my parameters and my preferences. I trusted that acting on what
I knew was best for me would help me to create a happy life, with or
without a partner by my side.
Throughout the next eight months, I dated
occasionally, but didn’t meet anyone who really interested me. Each
day I saw Carl at work. I observed him interact with other people, and
he collaborated with me on projects. I was impressed with his respectful
approach to people, his humor, and the quality of his mind. He got to
know me, too. He’s told me since that he listened to me talk with
clients and wondered what it would be like to be with someone so warm
and nice all the time. Finally, early in August, he asked me to attend
an art gallery opening. I already had plans for that evening, but his
invitation opened the door of possibility. We went to dinner the
following week on our first date.
As our relationship blossomed, I
discovered the joy of being with a true partner, someone who loved and
accepted the person I am, including my fat body. We found a great
delight in being together, which helped during those times when we
struggled to support and understand each other. We needed to invest in
communication in order to clear up misunderstanding, to explore what was
behind feelings, and to find a common ground that would work for us. I
came to know that Carl is worthy of my trust: that I can be my best with
him or my worst, and he’s still there.
Comfort, safety, encouragement, and
respect are powerful attractors. As Carl and I grew closer, I found that
I wanted to be with this man forever, and he felt the same way about me.
We exchanged our vows in front of delighted family and friends on March
What I learned as I traveled the long
road to love helped to create this solid, supportive partnership. The
first turning point was awareness: finding out what’s important for
building a trusting relationship. The second was learning: pulling my
own projections back and then developing and practicing the skills that
create and maintain a good partnership. The third turning point was
self-respect: setting boundaries and standing up for what I knew was
right for me. From where I stand now I know that all of my relationships
had something to teach me. After all those miles on the road to love,
after all the twists and turns, detours and roadblocks, this marriage is
a happy and fulfilling final destination. I’m glad I made the trip. ©
VICTORIA INGRAM, Ed. M.,
teaches, consults, and maintains a private practice in career and life
coaching. She partners with her husband Carl in WayFinders Group, an
executive coaching and organizational development consulting firm in
Oakland, CA. Victoria is the coauthor of Imagine Loving Your Work,
Childhood Dreams Career Answers and Executive Coaching: Resource Book
2000. She and Carl enjoy traveling, gardening, and finding new
ways to play and have fun. You can reach her at email@example.com.
--- by MINDY BELLER
somewhere once, “If you think that you are not in a relationship
because you are fat, you are wrong. Look around. There are all kinds of
fat people in relationships.”
is a love story. We met more than ten years ago, when I was in my
twenties, slender (after losing thirty pounds one more time), pretty,
just finished with graduate school, and new in town. He was tall and
thin, with carpenter’s muscles and playful eyes. On opposite sides of
a room full of people, our gazes randomly connected, and ka-bloom!
Nothing happened at all, though the
stories and the movies and the diet commercials insist that’s how it’s
supposed to happen. You are thin and you are cute (and, after all, what
else did you starve yourself for, if not to be loved?), and in that
moment, your beautiful future begins.
In this case, however, nothing happened.
Life went on, and he slipped handily from
Years later, my thirty-two-year-old body
had ripened to the size and shape of a fertility goddess. I was trying
to love myself, and was succeeding, most of the time, except when I
would accidentally fall in among a group of skinny women going on about
how fat they were, or when I’d hear a report promising that ten pounds
of excess fat would kill you (and probably all your neighbors, too), or,
worst of all, when I was longing to be in a relationship.
I had had some serious boyfriends in my
twenties. The last relationship had ended a few years before, when we’d
looked deeply into each other’s eyes and said, “I love you but I
want a completely different future from the one you describe.” My
description included a family, children, and a house: a “til-death-do-us-part”
kind of situation. His, in short, did not.
Toward the end of that relationship, my
body began to blossom into its current goddess like state. At
thirty-two, I found myself full of life and truly happy in many ways—with
close friendships, a lucrative career, a growing sense of spirituality,
and some ability to have fun. But now I was fat and plagued by doubts
about ever finding someone to love me at this size.
What was I to do? Years of dieting,
following food plans, and embracing restrictive “cures” for
compulsive eating had served only to make me fatter in the long run. My
efforts to lose weight, though sometimes “successful” for a while,
always finished with me heavier than I’d started out. In exhaustion, I
had turned my back on dieting and eating restrictions. I was also
disturbed by a growing sense that trying to lose weight mainly to “get
a man” was a kind of a lie, little more than a form of
self-merchandising. Even if I could, losing weight for the purposes of
partnership would be a sorrowful unkindness to myself.
seemed, if not the answer, an answer. My mind opening, I found myself
encountering new ideas: notions such as women of all shapes and sizes
can be lovable. Perhaps my belief that a large body stood in the way of
my sharing love was a falsehood. Could I hope to imagine that the kind
of quality person I would like to get to know would give me a chance in
the dating game, roundness and all?
Intellectually, I understood. I saw that
the diet and fashion industries were advertising starvation. Get
thinner! they told you. The thinnest one gets all the love, so buy our
products, get thinner, and get love. I understood that skinny mania was
a very recent U.S. phenomenon, that at no other time in the history of
humans had humans hated girth so much. I understood the connection
between U.S. women growing in power during the twentieth century and the
pressure on us to obsess relentlessly that we were too “big.”
In my mind it was all very clear, but in
my heart I struggled to hold onto my sense of lovableness. I tried to
stay on the path of self-acceptance, but it was slippery. I would
determine not to let shame and skinny mania rule me, and I’d go along
all right for a while. Then, before I knew it, I would lose my footing,
and the next thing I knew, I would be splashing around in the dirty
river of self-hatred again. Friends tried to be encouraging: “The best
guys don’t care about weight anyway,” said one happily married
medium-size chum. “Believe me.”
Believe her? I wanted to, but how? The
lie had a hold on me, and it wasn’t letting go, no matter what I did.
the following summer, something changed. The turning point came when I
found myself in a support group for people afraid of relationships. That’s
right: afraid of relationships. Not “too fat for relationships.” Not
“unworthy of relationships.” But simply down-to-my-toes terrified of
ever letting another person really close in. It wasn’t a complete
shock to me that I might have some resistance to intimacy, because I’d
been raised in a highly controlling and uncommunicative family. I had
been to therapy and had worked through a lot already. But now I was
starting to feel just how petrified I truly was to open my heart and to
Yes, I was afraid of being rejected for
my size. I knew that if it happened, it would hurt. Yet I found that
deeper inside, below the fear of rejection for appearances and body
size, was fear of another kind: fear of rejection for who I am. That
kind of rejection, I worried, would cut to the bone, cut to the soul.
That kind of rejection, I thought, would crush me. Unconsciously, I
found it easier to obsess about my size, to decide for sure that my
weight was going to be an obstacle to relationships and that there was
no point in even trying.
Deeper inside still, I encountered
something I’d never imagined: the fear of not being rejected at all,
but of being loved. This was a tremendous surprise to me! I had always
wanted love, had always hoped for it, fantasized about it, and sometimes
even chased after it. But what I discovered, hiding out beneath the
conviction that no one could truly love me, was the desperate hope that
nobody actually would. I shook as I began to feel the terror in my body.
What could be so scary about being loved?
The impatience inside me demanded an answer. I’ll tell you, answered
the quiet, quivering part of me that understood. When somebody loves me,
he gets in close. Close enough to love means close enough to injure.
Furthermore, if somebody loves me, then he might need too much or want
too much. He could overpower me with his personality and desires, and I
could lose track of mine in the process. Everything could go all wrong.
Intimacy could be overwhelming, and I’d rather just find ways to avoid
As I began to hear the quiet voice and
feel the emotions, something inside of me shifted minutely. Though I had
been in plenty of situations with interesting and available men, I had
been keeping a big, heavy door in front of my heart. Now I was starting
to find a little bit of courage to crack open the door just a teensy bit
and see what would happen.
What happened was that he, Mr.
Playful Eyes, Mr. Carpenter’s Muscles, suddenly resurfaced in my life.
Truth is, our paths had crossed a number of times throughout the years,
but I had barely noticed. Now, all at once, just weeks after I’d
uncovered the terror that had been driving me and had begun the process
of making peace with myself, he knocked on my big, heavy door, and I
peeked around it quickly to see who was there.
I saw was someone that I wanted to know better. As we began to speak on
a regular basis, I saw myself liking him a lot. Then he asked me to go
to church with him. I knew he liked me; we had become friends. But was
it a date? I couldn’t be sure. After all, I was still fat, and the
body hatred was ever ready to spring into action when I needed it to
keep me from feeling too exposed. I wanted it to be a date, but he hadn’t
let on whether he was interested in me romantically. The next day we got
together again, and when he reached out to take my hand in his, he told
me that he’d wanted to for a very long time.
the weeks that followed, a relationship was born, and I was indeed
afraid. A wonderful person was loving me, wishing to be close to me, and
I felt so deeply vulnerable. I was also immensely happy. And, because I
understood the meaning of my fear, I could tolerate my fear enough to
continue dating him.
We courted and we fell in love. Then we
became engaged. When we moved in together, it was very sweet. I had
never lived with a cherished other before. Fear and delight were my twin
companions as we grew closer and began to make a life together.
Then, while planning our wedding, we hit
some rough spots in the relationship. I was devastated. This was my
reward for facing all that fear and taking such enormous risks? I shook
my fist at the powers that be. How could this be happening? The powers
that be, however, were busy seeing to it that the wonderful man, who
loved me for who I was rather than my dress size, was hanging in there.
They helped me hang in there, too, and with a little support and some
very hard work, we navigated our way through the challenges. On the
other side was more love and intimacy than ever.
On May 23, 1998, we married. Our
commitment was rock solid, because we had already weathered a storm
together and had grown in the process. The wedding was divine, held
outdoors in a grove of redwood trees. Guests told us that it was the
most beautiful that they had ever attended. And there I was, a fat
bride, happy and beloved—and knowing something about how to love as
MINDY BELLER is a technical
editor, freelance writer, and poet living in Fremont, California. She
and her husband are now the proud parents of a beautiful baby daughter,
another dream come true.
this is only a taste of what's inside the
printed version of the magazine!