I called David on Sunday evening needing to know for certain if we were done. It had been over a week since I'd seen him, but he'd been sick. Sick or not, it was a long time to go with no contact. I needed to know what the story was.
The reason…the reason really surprised me. After we got through all the bullshit about how he's been sick and busy (moving, starting new job, ETC.) it came down to how I looked without my clothing.
I'd reluctantly gotten on board with the fling, but once there, I was ready to go where it took me. I thought it might be fun. I thought, why not try something new? I thought, why not release myself from the grip of the crazy judgmental stance that I don't impose on anyone but myself?
Before I talked to David, I was disappointed, a little sad and very curious. We were on the phone for probably 40 minutes. A legendarily long call. After the heys and hellos and are you feeling better, I said, "So, I haven't heard from you…what's going on?"
"Are you upset? Did I hurt your feelings?"
"Well…yes. I guess you did. I do feel bad that I haven't heard from you. It's not what I had in mind."
"I'm sorry. I guess…I just…my feelings changed. I don't know what I want. I get distant sometimes."*
"I'll say. I mean, that's, whatever. But I'm not happy about it. I wanted a little more."
"Well, I'm the fickle one this time."
"This time? What does that mean? I'm not fickle."
"No, you're not…but usually, women are fickle…"
"Really? That's ridiculous…I don't truck in those gender role stereotypes. I'm probably the least fickle person you'll ever meet."
"Ok, fine. I'm fickle then."
And then I heard mumbling about how he didn't find me attractive. That stung. I held the phone away from my ear. I wanted to hang up. He kept talking.
"Hello? Are you there?" David asked.
"Yes. I'm here." But I didn't want to be.
He kept on, "The attraction just wasn't there."
And then I did hang up. He called back. "Did you hang up on me?"
I considered lying, this being the days of dropped cell phone calls, but instead I said, "Yes."
David kept talking, "I think it's important that we be open and talk about our feelings. I don't want you to be angry."
"Too bad. I'm angry. I get to be angry. That's how I feel."
"I hate that I made you feel bad."
"You have to take your lumps. I'm taking mine by listening to you. You have to take yours by letting me be angry. I'll get over it. It won't last. But right now, I'm angry. Take your lumps."
"Ok, I guess you're right. But I don't want to make you feel bad."
I couldn't believe he didn't find me attractive. It seemed so odd, given the ardor with which he pursued me. How could he not find me attractive anymore? Either you find someone attractive or you don't. You can't force it. Sometimes, people can grow on you, but I've never found someone attractive after a date and then changed my mind. I railed a bit, "I thought, for once, I was in a situation where no one was lying."
"I wasn't lying…that's what I believed at the time. I meant everything I said."
"Ok, deluding then. Oh, I'm so tired of this! I can't even do a fling right. I give up. I give up...."
He said, "Look, do you…do you want me to give you some advice?"
"What? Advice? You know what my problem is?"
Then it came out. I was too overweight and it was a problem. It was a turn off. (Note: I am aware that I'm overweight. And if you meet me, in person, then you are too. So what's going on here? Are my clothes performing some kind of miraculous camouflage? If so, I have to give myself big props for dressing so incredibly well.)
I said, "But…you found me attractive...before?"
So, clothes on, good. Clothes off, not so good. Oy.
I pointed out that I'm very active. In fact, I don't have time to be more active. I row three or four times a week. When I don't row, I go to the gym. While I row because I love it, losing weight and getting in better condition is part of my motivation. On the weekends, I do yoga, go for a long walk or play softball (last game of the season was yesterday)—or all three. While I haven't miraculously shed pounds since I started rowing, I am in much better shape than I was when I started. I'm working on it. I want to lose weight, but I'm actually pretty happy with how I look.
David, however, was not impressed with my efforts. "You've got to make losing weight the center of your life. It is the most important thing you can do!"**
Huh? I said, "No. Not gonna happen. I can't do it that way." And if I did, what kind of life would that be?
He said, "I just lost a lot of weight. I was 20 pounds heavier in January." (In my opinion, he is too thin.) "Since I lost the weight and started taking care of myself…going to the gym…tanning…people treat me completely differently." Ahem, tanning? TANNING?
I said, "I promise you, the reasons for my relationship problems have nothing to do with my weight. No one has ever complained."
He suggested that a lot more men would approach me if I were thinner. I told him that plenty of men approach me. He said, "I get much more high quality women coming up to me now."
"So they're prettier, but are they better people?"
"Well, no, no, not necessarily…but they care about themselves…"
While he had already lost me, I started laughing when he suggested that, "If you don't take care of yourself, it means you don't respect yourself and that's not attractive."
That statement has nothing to do with me. Even before I started rowing again, I was going to the gym about three times a week. My diet is decent, though I have a weakness for candy. Just because someone is overweight doesn't mean they don't take care of themselves. And respect myself? Please.
He said, "That feeling you have, after you come home from rowing and you eat a healthy, moderate meal…and you are still hungry? You have to learn to LOVE that feeling. Because when you wake up in the morning and you look in the mirror, you will LOVE what you see."
Are you shitting me? I'm sorry, I'm never going to embrace hunger. I'm not saying that a little hunger can't accompany losing weight. Of course it can--it probably will. But to love being hungry? That has eating disorder written all over it.
I said, "You have to at least give me the pretty face."
"Oh, yes. You are very pretty, you have great bones. Great hair. You are really smart, good to talk to and you make great drinks."
Beyond getting him to say I was pretty, I didn't argue with him about my appearance. I did try and convince him that I am quite healthy, since being overweight ALONE is not enough to put you at risk for long term problems. He didn't want to hear that and kept telling me how dangerous it was and how important it was that I lose weight. Because he'd lost weight and it changed his life! I gave up on making my case, but I told him that I actually am losing weight (albeit slowly) because of all the exercising I do. He said, "That's good, but you have to do more."
Fine, he doesn't find me attractive. Could he not have figured it out earlier and spared me this ridiculous conversation? Personally, I don't cross the line with someone whom I don't find attractive. It's not that hard to tell. Then again, I find a lot of different body types attractive and I know I'm interacting with the whole person, mind AND body. I liked talking to David. I had fun with him. AND I found him attractive. My willingness to engage with him wasn't based solely on his looks.
I wish I could simply brush this off and not care one bit. Sunday evening, I was laughing. On Sunday, I called Pele and she reassured me. I laughed many times when I told her what David had said. She pointed out that most of David's rant had to do with his issues, not mine. Next she said, "But, Jamy, you look great! I was just noticing the other day." Thanks for that, because I feel good about how I look and it's nice to have some confirmation.
I said, "He lost a lot of weight recently. Does he think it's catching?"
Pele said, "Maybe."
And it didn't provide me with the most restful sleep Sunday night. It niggled at me and I had an odd dream:
A deaf man asked me if I knew sign language. I made the sign for "thank you" but said "no" and he seemed to understand me. I was stopped at a drive-in restaurant (the kind where you eat outside and they bring the food to your car) in Arlington, apparently on my bike. I was studying a large map and needed a place to spread it out. A waitress came by and asked for my order. I got something so small (fries with sour cream—the other choice was with gravy) that she told me she would just add it on someone else's tab and we could work it out. A couple of women also standing at the drive-in said, "It's with us. Just tell us what you got." I worried about the tax…how would we figure out the tax on my fries in Virginia? How much is tax in Virginia? It's not the easy ten percent like in DC… ***What a boring dream!
I'll give David this, he never once used the word, "fat." And the fact that he actually told me the truth, while it was a truth I would rather not have known, was refreshing. However, it was still cruel. The non-cruel motivation was that he didn't want to leave me hanging, wondering, puzzling about what went wrong. He said, "If you want to call me, to talk , we can. I'll answer any questions you have. If you want any dieting tips, I can help you with that too."
Um, yeah, thanks for the offer, but you won't be hearing from me again. No matter how thin I get.
*I've softened the language--our talk was more detailed and graphic.
**I couldn't fit in the part where he told me he was obsessed with food, "…from the farm to my asshole. I go to farmers' markets and ask them all kinds of questions about the cows what the cows eat…everything." I said, "I thought you didn't eat cow." He said, "No. I don't. I mean the dairy." He said he's obsessed with cooking, but he doesn't eat too much. And that I should not eliminate fat from my diet. Yes, apparently, he knows everything.
***Most of this dream has something to do with my trip to Montreal. In Montreal, there is a dish called "poutine," which is fries with gravy and cheese (I tried it once). And I shared a hotel room with Karen and Pam (two women). Also, I just sent a check to Pam for my share of the room. Maybe the deaf man was David, busy not hearing a thing I had to say?
Grateful for: a sense of humor.
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