Today's post is by guest blogger Russ Lane of Second Helping, a website about life after weight loss. It is unusual to address dating in Assume Love, but what Russ experienced affects us married folks, too, when our fears get in the way of seeing what is really going on.
I never dated before I lost 200 pounds and transformed from wallflower to Mr. Adventure. Back then, I blamed this and every other failure on my weight. Now that I'm in relationships, I found I still play that same game, just now it's with loose skin. And here I thought I broke my broken record.
Understand that years of food contortionism, weight lifting, and running doesn't create a Charles Atlas body out of the obese. I carry loose skin on my legs and abdomen that can't adjust to smaller me. Normally it's no big deal: 23 years of being obese certainly teaches you how to dress to minimize.
But meeting a man with whom there's great chemistry, all the time knowing what they see isn't what they'll get, provokes nothing short of loose-skin-shuddering terror.
I recently met the man of my dreams shortly before I moved from my hometown in North Carolina to New Orleans. He was handsome, shy, strong. Those were just perks: his integrity humbled me, and his spirit enchanted me.
And I was in the best shape of my life, longing for a fresh start after returning home for my mother's death two years prior. This goal didn't cooperate with a long distance relationship, but this man was worth considering a change in plans. I'd even move back to a city that just reminds me of ghosts: both my mother's and my own. I was awestruck by him.
Yet for all his truly exceptional qualities, our interactions followed the nasty pattern of all my previous relationships:
1. He asked "Why have we never seen each other before?"
I don't remember my reply; I only remember what I didn't say. What I didn't say is how many times I've seen him in the past. Often. For him, I conveniently appeared in view after I lost the weight I had put on after mom's death.
And I looked at this strong, sincere, genuine man and resented him a little. And then I was disgusted with myself. Were our perspectives flipped, wouldn't I have done the same?
2. Meaningful Silence.
The sense of intimacy built the more we talked. That kind of intimacy I adore, the talking. Noise I can handle.
But I can't tolerate the silence. Usually the meaningful silence strikes when I first take off a shirt and the skin appears. This time, I weaved in and out of consciousness one hazy morning and felt a strong hand closely examining my loose skin. I let him investigate in silence. Deer don't talk when they're in front of a car.
I immediately began rejection preparations the second he began his search. Usually the meaningful silence turns into permanent silence, but this one bucked the trend and called back a few days later.
3. "You're great, and goodbye."
We continued talking even after I left for New Orleans, and, at first opportunity, I raced back to North Carolina to see him for two weeks. I parked at his house and when I reached for him, he jerked back, tucked those investigatory hands of his under his legs. With the this-is-how-it-is certainty an employer speaks to his employees, he explained that I was "cool" but we were done before we got started. He didn't want a partner, even a potential one, out of reach.
Reeling, I caused much drama in the week following: chance meetings turning sour, leaving long voice messages, resulting apologies, even a genuine attempt to "let bygones be bygones" inadvertently making more of a mess. I was as ill-equipped for our ending as I was for our meeting. And I'm not proud of this. It was so 200 pounds ago; I didn't push myself to improve mind and body for years to leave the broken record intact.
So I had to face it: I wasn't ready for him, or even worthy. Nearing 30, I had the relationship experience of a middle-schooler and the conduct to match. Just because I missed out on all the pre-teen melodrama doesn't mean I still don't have to go through it, albeit later than most.
And I also had to face that the only one calling my loose skin into question was me. My highly-evidenced loose skin relationship pattern was of my own creation. Just the fat pants coming back to haunt me with the same tired excuses.
And I can't blame him for any of that. He can't be blamed for my loneliness and fear propelling a desire to make a distance relationship work; I can't blame him for his loneliness and fear forecasting worst-case distance relationship scenarios. And now I can't blame the skin either.
My pre-weight actions have consequences on my body, and my post-weight treatment of men has consequences too. I have to live with both.
Russ Lane lost more than 200 pounds while working as a food writer. From that experience he created Second Helping, a Web site featuring a variety of news, cooking and first-person columns examining the new opportunities and challenges of life after weight loss. He writes in New Orleans and studies for his personal trainer certification. E-mail him at email@example.com, or visit Second Helping at www.secondhelpingonline.com.