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Do weight issues matter in relationships? One woman shares how a romantic relationship destroyed her body image and self-esteem.
By Aditi Bose
I saw his picture on Facebook today. Smiling. Wearing a t-shirt and a faded pair of jeans – his favourite attire. He looked the same. Only, a dozen pounds more than what he used to be twelve years back. A small smile escaped my lips. Life seemed to have come a full circle. Memories came flooding back. Lots of them. I let them enjoy themselves in my mind. My heart remained silent.
I had met him when I was twenty three. Our first communication had been through Yahoo! Messenger. After months of chatting when I realized that my ‘chat friend’ was not a stalker, or a friend pulling my leg or a girl who was impersonating my ‘dream guy’ just for the fun of it, I gave him my number. Thus began our endless phone conversations.
Talking to him felt good. Almost perfect. Not once did it seem like I was talking to someone whom I had never met, never seen. We decided to take our relationship one step ahead and exchanged our photographs. Reality struck the first hard blow.
“You look so different than what I had expected you to be.” That was it. I knew that he was just being polite when what he really wanted to say was that I was fat! Because I was. Not grotesquely. Just a little plump. Well, if I were to be completely honest, a little more than plump. But weight issues were such a silly thing to get judgmental about. After all such trivialities should not matter when two people have spent so much time talking about how many kids they wanted or what they would name their future pet goldfish.
…for me, looks had never been so dramatically important. However now, suddenly, I felt the crazy urge to look perfect for him.
Nevertheless, I decided to lock up my opinions and instead begin doing what I had never before felt the need to – getting up from the cozy confines of my bed at the break of dawn for a jog while stifling the incessant yawns. Not to forget, counting the calories for every morsel that went into my mouth as well. I had to resolve my weight issues soon. After all he was flying all the way from Bangalore to visit me in Delhi for a day a couple of months later.
Meanwhile, although our conversations continued, I could sense a distance in his voice. It sounded remote – almost like an echo – as if his mind was somewhere else; his laughter a little forced. Soon, for the first time in the past one year, many of my calls began to turn into ‘missed calls’. I decided to ignore it and wait till we got to meet face to face. I was sure that things would change. After all we really liked each other. I know I did. He did too. He had said so. So he must, right? Then why had my weight suddenly become so important? Or had it always been important? To him at least. As for me, looks had never been so dramatically important. However now, suddenly, I felt the crazy urge to look perfect for him.
Finally the day came. I had my fingers crossed. I decided to take off from work early and go to the airport to receive him. When we first met he was civilized. I don’t really know what other word could be used to describe a greeting that was anything but warm. Even his smile was a little unnatural. It had a sort of hollowness to it. Yet I did not uncross my fingers. Not even when his visit was coming to an end. “So, what’s next?” I asked him when he sat in the cab. This is what he said before the cab drove off leaving behind a swirl of dust and a lone teardrop. “I’m sorry. This thing between us has been so childish. You are not good looking enough to take to my mother. She would never approve of you as my wife.”
I don’t exactly remember what I did in the minutes that followed, except walking into my room and shutting the doors behind me – very quietly.
I gave him a couple of days to ‘settle down’. I gave my nerves a couple of days to ‘settle down’. Or maybe it was my heart. Then I called him. I was sure that with reason and the promise that I would become ‘better looking’ (how that would happen, however, I had no clue about) I would be able to win him back. But my call was not answered. I tried many more times. I tried emails and even letters written on perfumed sheets of paper. I knew things could be sorted if only I could get him to speak to me – once. I refused to accept that a few extra pounds could bring love to an end. I began drinking as I endlessly dissected my relationship with him. If only I had been a couple of sizes less – maybe that would have saved ‘us’?
I refused to accept that a few extra pounds could bring love to an end.
It was exactly two months and nine days later when he called. Only to tell me that although he was sorry, nothing could be done about ‘us’. The closure had happened long back when he had first seen my picture. I should have understood. Maybe I had, but only did not accept it. I had been stupid. My body image and self-esteem lay shattered. And every time I stood in front of the mirror I cursed the person standing in front.
That was the first time I called Asitava Bose. He had been an acquaintance, but we had never really been friends. Although he had shared his number with me I had never called him up. I don’t know why I did that day. I guess it was destiny. What followed in the days to come, post an hour long tearful talk with him on that day, was the gradual fading away of my cynicism towards men and my looks. And lots of conversations over cups of black coffee about our ‘failed dates’, reassurances that it was not always about looks and learning new abusive words to hurl at those who had left us in the past. And somewhere, as the months passed, and as we continued to try and make sense out of people and relationships and evaluate our desirability quotient, I fell in love with my friend.
But I could not tell him. Not yet. My heart feared another rejection. I knew I had to lose those kilos and fit into a sexy black cocktail dress before I could tell him what I felt. After all looks were so important. Or so I had learnt. And that, despite my dieting and running, still seemed to be quite a dismal possibility.
The ghosts of an ‘overly chubby me’ had finally left. I knew I had found my man.
Six months later he asked me out. My size had not altered one bit. So cocktail dress was out. I was in my usual – a pair of jeans and a top. Something funny happened that evening. I drank a glass of chilled soft drink and ate a cheese and chicken Mc. Donald burger and then a huge banana split ice-cream. The food tasted divine after months of sugarless, sour lemon juice and boiled vegetables. I did not feel guilty or any less lady-like when he looked at me eating. This man had taught me to love myself again just by loving me. The ghosts of an ‘overly chubby me’ had finally left. I knew I had found my man.
Today when I have already celebrated more than 8 years of a happy marriage (touchwood!) with Asitava, I am glad that my ‘Yahoo! Messenger friend’ had unapproved of my looks. I am glad that when I saw his picture on Facebook today, I felt nothing. And when I logged off, I think something inside me finally forgave him. Life had blessed me with so much more. And the ‘weights’ had definitely changed hands in the past twelve years.
*Photo credit: Ashley Webb (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
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