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 my fat aphrodite: a love story

by Raphael Altman

From Radiance Summer 1999

she is five-feet-six-inches and weighs 220 pounds. I call her Fat Aphrodite and adore her as she is. But not always has it been thus. Let me start at the beginning.

She came from New York, I from Cape Town, South Africa. We met somewhere in the middle. She’d had the typical fat kid experience: ridicule, bullying, and shame. I had the typical macho heritage: fatties were out. She was thoroughly artistic by nature: talented and temperamental. I was intellectually inclined: thoughtful and analytical. She’d cultivated an assertive, compensating front and appeared in her towering, indomitable persona wherever she went. We first met at a folk evening in a club. She was singing. I was playing a tea chest bass. Later, we danced and I was amazed at how she moved. We became friendly: we moved in and out of each other’s compass, we passed through our separate relationships with others. Then, five years later, through various chains of events, we became a couple.

We both had healthy sexual appetites. Our very first time together was a perfect, albeit simple, symphony. I was taken aback at, but gradually became accustomed to, her mass. From the outset, I did assume that she would lose weight. (Just a matter of time.) She herself wanted to lose weight. My attitude toward her flesh was ambivalent. I was getting used to it and indeed getting to like it, but I never veered from the view that of course she needed to lose weight and that it was possible. In the meantime, we went through all manner of adventures and trips, both inner and outer, raised children (both adults now), and pair-bonded.

We went through all the diets together; the whole yo-yo experience. The most drastic was her HCG treatment, in our fifth year together. (She got down to about 140 pounds.) Throughout it all, we always had a very good sex life: caring, mutually pleasurable, exploratory, adventurous, romantic, rapturous—virtually without a break. She had, however, been deeply wounded as a fat child, and on one or two particular occasions during our life together she was wounded again. After a good, open start together, which included three years on a Mediterranean island with lots of nudity, she reverted and retracted into herself. Now she was up for anything, except open nudity! So there we were, pushing back all the frontiers, but always vision-impaired: overly dim lighting, not too much vertical posturing. I struggled with my own sense of frustration and gave her all the encouragement I could, but her emergence from this new shell was slow.

We’d already been together for about twenty years when overt ideas of size acceptance first entered our world. She happened upon Shelly Bovey’s book Being Fat Is Not a Sin (as it was known then; later it was titled The Forbidden Body). We read it and I went through a sea change in my thinking. At one point, I’d been getting more and more into the way she was physically, but felt a constraint not to voice this lest it undermine my encouragement to her to lose weight. Reading Bovey marked a turning point, a liberation from my inherited, misinformed, prejudiced attitude into a world of understanding, sympathy, and relaxation of my uptightness about the pursuit of weight loss. In Bovey’s book we read about Radiance, in Radiance we first read about NAAFA and then about Dimensions. Each new fat appreciation encounter rolled back the horizon. In the next couple of years, we experienced an explosion of contacts with people and phenomena with a radically different approach to one of the central issues of our lives.

I had always felt affection for her body, and even during the dieting projects, I made tender references to her shape. I even collected various snippets of "fatabilia" as I came across them: drawings, pictures, photographs, and the like. But I’d never seen a glam representation of a fat woman until I saw Dimensions in July 1995, featuring model "Deb". Wow! Nor had I seen an assembly of fat women naked until I saw the book Women en Large (Radiance Summer 1994 feature). Gradually, our maturing views of her body size and shape and its utter compatibility with being sexy, combined with our exposure to more and more images of other fat women and my constant encouragement helped her take steps, one after another, to emerge from her cocoon of uncharacteristic and un-omfortableinhibition. Indeed, we emerged together, smiling and blinking in some sun-filled new space where we have been frolicking and cavorting ever since.

f.gif (1034 bytes)reed from the fetters of societal indoctrination and grown accustomed to the abundance of a fat female form, for me, as a man, the peculiar pleasures of a fat partner became unparalleled. All this I discovered privately. But increasingly I have read of the similar experiences of others who have been either in the closet or simply isolated. Like any other red-blooded late-twentieth-century Western male, I’ve seen acres of images and print, but the first time I read something like, "She went down on all fours, and her belly reached down to the bed," not as a put-down but a turn-on, it was eye-popping stuff. Of course, society’s portrayal of sexiness as appearance is a limited view, whatever a person’s shape or size. Sexiness has to do with appetite, capacity, enjoyment quotient, imagination, inventiveness, sensuality, freedom. And, in our experience, love.

I suppose there is an issue of personal taste and preference for particular types. The taste for lovemaking with a fat partner, whether by spontaneous inclination or cultivation, opens up a world of (apparently) unending delights. The special sensual allure, feel, texture, and fascination of a fat lover, together with the myriad of physical possibilities unavailable to thinner types, makes for voluminous, voluptuous feasting.

So if you fancy a large woman, or, better still, if you’re already with one, step out of your acculturation and dive on in your diva on her soft divan. The water is warm and wonderful.


RAPHAEL ALTMAN and Tamar Altman have been married for thirty-one years and have two adult children. Travel, education, and music have been vital parts of their lives. They spent three years living the good life on a small Mediterranean island, and thirteen years in a spiritual study program in the U.K. Currently, they’re winding up a glass painting business they’ve run for the past ten years. They live in the countryside near Oxford, England, and can be reached via e-mail at arty@aranti.freeserve.co.uk.

This essay has been adapted with permission from the author. It was first published in Freesize, a size-acceptance publication in Great Britain.

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