I am the quintessential late-blooming fat girl chronicled in all those cringeworthy books and movies about fatness and dating. Unlike most of my peers, I didn't begin dating until college. Agoraphobia coupled with shyness and hulking insecurities about my plus-size body hindered me from seeking intimate relationships — even when high school-aged boys showed interest.

College, however, proved to be a different experience altogether. Befriending fellow fat girls who were confident about their bodies, well-versed in sex, and committed to ushering me into their fold gave me the courage to pursue romantic relationships. Yet, at 18, I didn't recognize how rampant fatphobia is in dating. I quickly learned that hatred of fat bodies is one of the hallmarks of traditional dating, especially in college.

Dating has been full of trial-and-error for me. Multiple missteps in dating, including falling for the wrong men, settling for men unworthy of my time, and misreading signals, taught me many lessons — including the importance of loving myself.

Here's what I've learned about self-love through dating as a fat woman:

1

Being kinder to myself is the best path to confidence.

Evette Dionne
photo: Evette Dionne

Street harassment is an issue that plagues all women. However, up until I began college, it seemed like a routine part of my life. In fact, I often felt flattered by it. Being catcalled — or having unsolicited comments made about my body — made me feel good.

However, dating throughout the years showed me that only I am in possession of my body. Men making lewd comments about my body is not a sign of attraction or love — it's disrespectful and sexist.

It also helped me speak more kindly about myself and my body. Rather than picking apart my flaws, rejecting street harassment also helped me reject negative self-talk.

2

Only I get to decide what I eat, when I exercise, or what I wear.

Evette Dionne
photo: Evette Dionne

There's nothing worse than dating a person who thinks it's loving and acceptable to control how much you exercise, what you eat, and what you wear. Though I'm a larger woman, assuming that my mission is to lose weight is fat-phobic as fuck. Yet, it's an obstacle that I've encountered time and time and time again.

Asking me if I "need" seconds used to make me shrivel and hide. Now, I recognize that I should eat until I'm full, and it is unloving for someone else to decide when that it is.

My new motto, courtesy of Joanne the Scammer: Worry about yourself. I've got this.

3

I am beautiful — period.

Evette Dionne
photo: Evette Dionne

I've often encountered potential partners who've put a modifier on my ability to be beautiful. "You have a beautiful face, but..." or "You'd be so much more gorgeous if you lost 40 pounds."

There's nothing wrong with how I look, no matter what size I am or how much I weigh. Dating multiple men who've said these kinds of hurtful things helped me realize how wrong they are. Only I get to dictate what makes me beautiful — and right now, it's everything.

4

I am deserving of love without conditions.

Evette Dionne
photo: Evette Dionne

Mixed-size couples encounter so much hate. Smaller men who date larger women are often treated like anomalies who are fetishizing fatness. That's not the case. Recognizing that I can be fat and loved helped me fall further in love with myself.

5

I am the rule, not the exception.

Evette Dionne
photo: Evette Dionne

All fat women deserve platonic and romantic love. While it's easy to see romantic comedies and think the fat woman never snags her love interest, that's simply untrue. Fat women around the world are having their own "happily ever after" endings.

I am the rule, not the exception.