I went on my first date here, and is that something I should be embarrassed by, that I didn’t start dating until I was thirty? You say, No, without stopping to think about it, but then you pause, say, Wait, you’re not thinking about that date now, though, right. Is there something I need to know?
I laugh, say, No, I’m just saying. It’s how I learned about this place.
It’s true, though — that I didn’t start dating until I was thirty, that I didn’t have it in me to put myself out there and try to meet people for the purpose of dating until I was thirty. I was body-shamed for much of my life, starting my freshman year in high school, and that meant I cut myself off from my body, wished it didn’t exist, wished I didn’t exist in all my grotesque, oversized monstrousness.
That meant I cut myself off from desire because I didn’t see the point in desiring people who wouldn’t want me back, who would never see me and my overweight body as anything worth wanting. I didn’t bother trying to date; what was the point in making the effort to put myself out there when I believed that people would be repulsed by me? Rejection felt so inevitable, so it felt masochistic even to try — why should I bring that pain and hurt upon myself?
And, so, instead, I hid myself away, telling myself that I wasn’t interested in dating or marriage or relationships. I told myself I was a misanthrope, an introvert, that I was fine with growing old on my own because that’s what I was — a misanthrope, an introvert, a loner. I didn’t need a lover or a partner or a spouse. Hell, I didn’t even need friends. I could go to movies alone, eat meals alone, live life alone, me and my oversized body that I thought no one would ever want. I would be fine alone.
As it turns out, tell yourself a lie often enough with enough force, and you’ll start believing it, even as the lie tears you apart inside. I told myself I was fine — I was fine alone, god damn it, I was, I was, I was — when, in truth, I was miserable and hurting and so fucking lonely inside — and we’ve talked about this before. You were surprised and almost couldn’t believe it, saying, But you’re so social! You’re great with people.
I shrugged then, as I shrug now because I don’t know what to say, wish I hadn’t brought it up now. Maybe it is weird that I’ve never really dated, never had a serious relationship — maybe it is weird even given my reasons. Maybe it is, though I hate myself for thinking that because I’m tired of shame, of being made to feel shame for things that ultimately don’t bother me and don’t affect who I am as a human being. I’m tired of being held up against these arbitrary standards that try to tell me I’m not good enough, I don’t measure, I’m not — but, then, you shrug, too, reach across the table for my hand.
I’m sorry you were put through that, you say softly, pausing before twitching your eyebrow and smiling. And I’m glad I’m here with you, not whatever stupid someone you came here with that first time.
Do you know how embarrassed I was that first time we had sex? I ask, tearing a croissant in half. I felt so … lumpy — I mean, you’re, like, half my size.
You blink at me across the table like you don’t know what to say or how to respond because you can’t refute that — you are thinner than I am.
It’s funny, you finally say, taking the other half of the croissant. I was afraid you’d think I was too bony and … not sexy. There’s nothing … soft about my body, and sex is about tenderness and … god, I don’t fucking know. It’s always weird getting naked with someone the first time, though, isn’t it?