Being a fat Black woman hasn’t ruined my love life – it's saved it

Romantic love has always come with its challenges for me.

Whether meeting people organically or online, I always felt that I was on the outside looking in. Like I was watching other people have seemingly successful, fruitful and fun relationships, while I sat at home swiping the night away. And as a fat, Black woman, I often felt that my physicality was the culprit.

I am statistically at a disadvantage when it comes to being successful on dating apps. Black women are considered the least sought after on these platforms, and my weight only makes me less of a candidate: according to a 2016 survey by plus-size dating app WooPlus, 71 per cent of its female users had been ‘fat-shamed’ on other apps. 

I noticed that a lot of my smaller, caucasian and/or more socially acceptable friends found it easier to find dates, and that bothered me.

To make matters worse, the times that I have matched and connected with potential partners, it’s always riddled with inappropriate comments about my body or blatant fetishisation of my skin.

I grew tired of being referred to as a ‘beautiful, chocolate goddess’ or being reminded that a guy ‘loves BBWs’ (also known as big, beautiful women) followed by several crude and sexual comments and epithets, bestowed on me without my consent.

Many may feel that taking offence to being related to a food item or being called certain terms may be excessive, but let me be clear: There is a difference between being complimented and being dehumanised and hypersexualised for someone else’s pleasure and consumption.

This, unfortunately, comes with the territory for me and other individuals who share the same identity.

After reading all the statistics and growing tired of the inappropriate comments, I felt that it was time to start from scratch and rebrand myself.

Full disclosure: this wasn’t fuelled by feeling unattractive. Although I have struggled with my identity – particularly my weight – in the past, I feel empowered, beautiful and desirable when I look in the mirror.

I wanted a change because I knew the way I looked was holding me back.

I set aside time to take more conservative pictures in clothing that was less revealing for my profiles, hoping to come across as more accomplished and stave off those crude messages. But they would flood in all over again, followed by self-doubt.

I would remove myself from apps for a period of time before slowly rebuilding a new profile with the false hope that creating a new persona would bring on positive responses. Wash, rinse, repeat.

With it always came the familiar feelings of being unwanted and incapable of being in love. I didn’t realise how toxic ‘making myself palatable for others’ was. I spent a lot of time reading online dating tips and tricks, trying to find new ways to manifest my desire for a serious relationship.

Hell, I even hired a plus-size dating coach to assist me in my quest for love, who felt that my image was too casual and recommended some clothing pieces that I would never wear. Despite disagreeing with her tastes, having this ‘professional opinion’ only fuelled my desire to change my virtual image.

When I truly sit back and think about it, I haven’t really been in a relationship. It’s still unclear to me why. Situations I enter with prospective partners always start off as promising but go nowhere fast, and end with me being ghosted after a few casual encounters.

In a recent ‘situationship’, however, the solution suddenly dawned on me.

My partner had his own insecurities with his weight and manhood, and this manifested in him trying to get me to lose weight with him and hold myself accountable by sending him pictures of every meal that I ate.

I pumped the brakes and stopped him dead in his tracks. Enough was enough.

I was tired of dealing with dating toxicity, and moreover, I was tired of feeling unwanted and being the saviour of my partners.

Lots of them always seemed to have an excuse, or be apprehensive, when it came to scheduling an actual date. This idea of ‘I only deal with you in the sheets and never in the streets’ had caused a lot of discomfort and confusion for a long time: Why was I only good enough to sleep with? Why wasn’t I being taken seriously?

I continued to entertain a cycle of putting my pseudo best self forward, only to experience those same situations that I was trying to avoid.

Fed up with the lack of inclusivity on dating apps that compounded this, I wanted to save myself, heal from past wounds and take on a new attitude on love. So today, I choose myself.

In the beginning, prioritising me was a very scary process. Loneliness and insecurity crept in, and I continuously questioned how my love life would be different if I were a different size.

But I have turned my situation around by returning to my creative roots. I traded swipes for writing screenplays and Tinder for therapy. I found myself in graphic design and editorial writing, spaces where I could freely and express myself.

I have learned to accept my needs and put them first, realising that my fatness and Blackness aren’t my failure, but at the very core of who I am as a person and what I stand for.

The onus isn’t on me. The issue is bigger than my size itself – it’s societal. Realising this has shown me that the love I seek and deserve starts with me first, and that while working through my own pain, I don’t have to feel hopeless about the process.

My love life isn’t where I want it to be, but I still am a firm believer in romantic love and am hopeful of experiencing it someday.

In the meantime, I have decided to focus on myself and make lasting connections that are healthy and meaningful. I joined LVRSNFRNDS (pronounced lovers and friends), a diverse community that hosts virtual social events and open discussions surrounding love, sex and dating. Through our discussions I have met several people that share the same sentiments as I do.

I also used my frustration with dating to create a podcast where I not only give myself the space to talk about my struggles as a fat, Black woman, but also a safe communal platform for other fat-identifying folx to speak freely about topics surrounding their representation – or misrepresentation.

At the end of the day, my identity as a fat and Black woman hasn’t ruined my love life – it has saved it.

I spent so much time attaching my worth to virtual strangers’ perceptions of me, and so little to owning my beauty and being the bad bitch that I truly am.

Fatness and Blackness are beautiful, period. Whoever chooses not to see that is truly at a loss.

I’m watching my love life simmer on the back burner, but for now I am working on creating healthier dynamics with myself and others, remaining hopeful for and excited about what my connections will blossom into.

Cheyenne is the creator of the award-winning Weighted Words Podcast.

Last week on Love, Or Something Like It: Why I’ve stopped holding out for The One

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Love, Or Something Like It is a regular series for Metro.co.uk, covering everything from mating and dating to lust and loss, to find out what love is and how to find it in the present day. If you have a love story to share, email [email protected]

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