As told to "The Observer"
[With all the fantasies being shared recently on this board it seems time for another slice of real life, as shared by the interviewee. Names have been changed as always. Comments and sharing of similar experiences are, as always, welcome]
Twenty years ago I arrived at college. My goal was to learn what I needed to get a degree, then build a career. A secondary goal was to perhaps find a man to build a life with, but that was not at the top of my agenda. Neither was worrying about my weight --- which was, depending on how you look at it, either my downfall or the secret that opened the door. But I was there on a scholarship and subsequent years depended on my grades in the current one.
The "freshman fifteen" was not a popular term then, but the availability of food certainly was, and I nibbled and snacked along with everyone else. These fantasies about multiple banana splits, a dozen pieces of bacon, and drinking cream straight aren't needed to gain fifteen pounds one's first semester. Just try a Danish roll with eggs for breakfast, pizza at lunch, whatever is available for supper and some snacks while you are studying. Most everyone in our dorm added a few ounces those first four months --- for me it was twenty pounds before I ventured onto a scale to see what had really been happening. It read 163 and I was shocked.
Shocked, but not unhappy. And that is what surprised me. I felt healthy and energetic. My grades were fine, as was my social life, and so I just accepted the number and went on with my life. In fact, around the dorm a number of us were developing various styles of cooking it and I was enjoying the variety too much to care about the quantity. Rick, then as now my main squeeze, who would if pinned down today probably admit to being an FA, didn't care either. When we weren't enjoying the dormitory diner's cuisine he was squiring me to various eateries in the area about once a week.
We did it all --- Japanese meals cooked with a grill and flashing knives at our table, fish chosen from a tank, all you can eat buffets, candlelight dinners overlooking the harbor and from the top of skyscrapers. Invariably he linked these evenings with some other activity so that the emphasis would not exclusively be on food --- but the calories were there aplenty.
By June it was time to get on the scales again before I went home for two weeks during the summer. The number was now 180 --- 37 pounds in eight months! I was definitely what people now would call a plumper. But with the exception of one B I had a straight A report card and that is what was important to me. Still, I wondered what my family would say about their blossoming Barbie Doll (my father's nickname for me --- my real name is Melanie); it was with an inner appreciation that I accepted Rick's offer to drive me home so he could meet them.
I had advised them on the phone and by mail that college life had been agreeing with me and that I had been "gaining some weight." I knew that they would not be caught totally offguard. But I guess they must have picked up on my apprehensions, because they did something that I was totally unprepared
for. They prepared a "welcome home" dinner that was equivalent to a thanksgiving feast! And they seemed more interested in getting to know Rick than commenting on my growing waistline. Nor did they lecture me after he left. If anything, they tried to be sure there was enough food available so that I would feel at home should I want a snack. Rather self consciously I tried to be moderate during my stay with them.
Back at college I had managed to snag a part-time job in the student bookstore for the balance of the summer and into the fall. It wound up being semi- permanent and gave me the money I needed for an improved wardrobe.
Others who had been gaining in our dorm were not so fortunate. Susan Blaine in particular was lectured by her mother and sister for having "blowin up into a blimp" even though her gain was fifteen pounds less than mine. She felt ashamed --- Rick and I had thought she looked vibrant. Michelle Barret had gotten flack as well --- and her gain was less than twenty pounds.
Rick took a stand on the matter, even though it was "technically none of his business," stating that so far as he was concerned there was nothing wrong with either of them --- and backed it up by finding other junior men who agreed with him. Within a month both Susan and Michelle had regular boy friends and frequently we functioned as a sixsome.
One of the reasons the group held together is that Rick, for his own reasons, was as focused on academics as I was --- and this emphasis carried over. He felt that there was "so little time" for socializing that time spent together should be memorable --- and he somehow seemed to know how to find out the unusual and different. We were a group of large young people, to be sure, but also a group learning about life.
My 5" 6' frame continued to expand during my Sophomore year, but more slowly --- only 27 pounds. I mentioned to Rick that I had passed the 200 lb mark and his only response was to smile and say something like "so that's why I keep seeing you as more beautiful every day!" The next week he bought me my first box of candy! It was large and I shared much of it with the girls.
In my Junior year it was obvious to the newer Freshmen (women? persons?) that their by now size 20 dorm monitor and her two chubby friends were strangely unconcerned about their growing girth. A couple were bold enough to ask why, since they (naturally) had been led to believe that life beyond size 8 was impossible for normal people. We laughed at that, introduced them to our boy friends, and soon donuts and pizzas were standard fare for most everyone. I was so busy myself, however, that I must have missed out on most of the munching --- gaining only 15 lbs that year.
Rick and I got married that summer and I completed my graduation requirements living off campus. My weight seemed to stabilize and over the next three years I only gained eight more pounds, for a total of 230. Rick and I were happy building a career together, and the arrival of two kids took me to my top weight of 287. Since then things have settled down into the boring 250-260 range, which is where things were when I discovered the size acceptance movement about five years ago.
Incidentally, I have kept in occasional touch with Susan and Michelle. They both wound up marrying other men than the gang we ran with in college, but both are happy in their relationships and certainly a little larger than they were then. And their FA hubbies are quite content to have them stay that way.
Why do I bother sharing all this?
Because recently there has been quite a discussion over whether FAs who seek out and admire BBWs are "normal." The answer is, from my experience, yes --- at least some of them. Rick likes me large and lovely, and tells me literally every day how happy he is to have me. It utterly destroys any romantic inclination to diet. And, as I now know, because I have never dieted in twenty years is probably why I am as healthy as I am today. Our family has all the usual problems to deal with and might be considered by some "boring." Maybe so, but we have gone places and done things together that exceed the experiences of many of our more slender counterparts (oh yes, Rick has become a Big Handsome Man to complement his BBW).
Do we still enjoy eating out together? Yes, but I love to cook and so we do it in balance. I never count calories but I do try to avoid excess sugar and fat --- in fact, this month I am making everyone play vegetarian. We take a walk each morning before breakfast and excursus besides as we can. Rick turns 40 this year and I will next --- we are told by others that we look like we are in our early thirties. We feel the same way.
The years have been good to us --- when our kids go off to college one of them will likely be a BBW --- she is already closing in on 150 at age 14. The other may or may not choose to date people of size, but certainly will treat them with the respect which should be accorded everyone. Both of them have been active in school affairs, have excellent grades and have no problems dealing with people --- and that is what is important.
Life is indeed what you make it --- and this goes for people of size as well.