I am so damned skittish about dating, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. History Lessons is my occasional series looking at my past experiences with dating in general – and dating as a fat girl in particular.
My first boyfriend was named Rob. He was good looking, older, exciting. I was fat, insecure, a loner. Meeting him made me realize that I wasn’t totally unlovable, and for that I give him a lot of credit.
But all in all? He was not a good guy. I’m a bit ashamed that I stayed with him for nearly a year – but deeply proud of myself for leaving him when I did.
This is what happened.
It was August 7, 1994. We’d spent the day looking at car for sale – I was about to buy my first, an orange VW Beetle – and had come back to my parents’ house. He was in a foul mood for one reason or another, and we spent the afternoon at opposite ends of my bedroom; he was doing something on the computer and I was reading the local feminist newspaper.
“Hey,” I said, reading the ridiculous classified ads at the back of the paper. “There’s a therapy group for messy people. It’s, like, ‘Messy People Anonymous.’ You should totally go!”
I can’t remember if I was trying to be hurtful. I wouldn’t put it past self, for sure. Anyway, if I thought he would laugh with me, I was sorely mistaken.
“Fuck you! You should go to fucking Overeater’s Anonymous.”
Our fight escalated from there. He threw something at me. I threatened to call the police. He blocked the door when I tried to leave the room. I ran for the phone, but he pulled it out of the wall. I convinced him to leave, and as I was closing the back door he turned around and punched through one of the window panes. The ambulance came, and the police, and my mother drove him to the hospital while my father stayed at home with me.
I never saw him after that day, but for years I was embarrassed by this story. I thought that it exposed something terrible about me: that I was so desperate for affection, so pathetic that I was willing to be with someone like Rob. Actually, that’s not quite right: What I was afraid of was that people would think that I was too fat to have a normal boyfriend.
Even today, it’s his crack about Overeater’s Anonymous that stops me in my tracks. It wasn’t the worst thing he did. Hell, it probably wasn’t even the worst thing that he said. But it’s the part of the story that I still leave out when I tell people about him. It cuts too close to the quick.