Big Happy Girl

Francesca loves the Dear Abby, who recently fielded this question (warning: Mother-related Triggers ahead):

* DEAR ABBY: I’m 32 and a “large girl.” I am also intelligent, witty and fun to be around. I make friends wherever I go. The problem is my mother — who is also big — keeps telling me that heavy women are not desirable and we must “settle” when it comes to choosing a mate.

My mother has had two long, unhappy marriages. She’s always saying I think too highly of myself and my standards for men are out of my reach.

Abby, I would rather remain single than marry someone I’m not happy with just to have a man. I’m not looking for a movie star; I just want to find someone I’m attracted to and who has the same values and ideals that I have.

Is Mother right? Am I setting my sights too high? — HAPPY BEING ME IN MASSACHUSETTS

Francesca, of course, answers: Keep looking for someone who makes you really happy, and if that never happens, then meanwhile be happy being with yourself. The mother’s self-loathing attitude of “fat people do not deserve to be happy” is poppycock, and anyway is based on the old-fashioned assumption that being married is necessary, that it is better to be married than to be happy. Poppycock, says the single Francesca once again.

What say you, dear readers? And just how badly do you wish to smack this mother into her senses, on a scale of 1-10?

*Image by FatGirlArt.com

15 Responses to “Big Happy Girl”

  1. Mrs. Hendricks November 23, 2009 at 1:17 pm #

    On a scale of one to ten, I’d have to say fifty-six. Francesca is right: better to be happy single than miserable married. Not that I’m prescribing it, but I waited until I was well into middle age to marry. I’m still surprised how happy I am, because I was happy being single, too. It’s sad when a mother thinks a daughter “thinks too highly” of herself. Maybe the daughter has to think highly of herself because of the lack of familial support. Just sayin’.

  2. Candice November 23, 2009 at 1:24 pm #

    My mother is in a very happy marriage (with my father, 36 yrs and going) and she *still* told me things like this when I was little – that if I didn’t lose weight, I would have to settle in some way. Not settle totally – I should hold out for someone who was a nice person and who I loved, but that I couldn’t get hung up on looks – the implication being that it wasn’t fair to want someone good-looking when I was fat b/c I couldn’t return the favor and be good-looking for them.

    I blame total society/media indoctrination for this one, in my mother’s case. It really never occurred to her that someone wouldn’t be settling for me if I was fat – and there was no one around to tell her differently.

    I feel for the person who wrote in; it’s remarkably tough to have your own mother critique your life in such a painful way. I have sympathy for her mother; I don’t doubt that it was her own negative viewpoint on herself that caused her to enter into these unhappy relationships (or help them to turn unhappy as she continued to be dissatisfied with herself).

  3. cedar November 23, 2009 at 1:37 pm #

    Obviously the woman’s mother is being a putz. And the woman herself sounds very sensible. Now, if the woman’s mother had said: “sweetie, you’ve been single a long time, and if that’s how you want to be, great! But if you don’t want to be, you might consider if the vision you have in your head for what your perfect guy would be like is making it hard for you to see the good in the guys you meet.” That would be a different story. I think it happens even to very sensible people, and IF the mom had that in mind, then maybe, maybe her daughter should listen a tiny bit. Lorna Landvik described one of her characters’ suitors as “the man her dreams had never dared conjecture.” Having standards = good. Having preconceived notions = limiting.

  4. g-dog November 23, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    I think it is amazing that this woman has such good self-esteem if this is the message she’s been getting from her mom. I cannot believe that this negativity was not part & parcel of her life with mom. As an armchair psychologist – I think mom is miserable – and wants others at her pity party, including her daughter.

  5. Constance November 23, 2009 at 3:00 pm #

    I grew up getting the same message: that being fat meant I was worthless on the marriage market. This was back in the day when marriage was still seen as a woman’s meal ticket. At a certain point I just reconciled myself to never getting married and frankly, I am now glad I did, because it freed me to pursue other interests and define myself differently than merely as someone’s wife. I never saw myself as a “trophy” so I learned to see myself as a person. And I am now in a happy committed relationship while many of my peers are on their second or third divorce, so…

  6. Cat November 23, 2009 at 3:41 pm #

    I experienced the same thing – but not from my mother. I got it from my father. So, I don’t think it is a generational thing about being female, I think it is a generational thing about being fat.

    You see, my mother grew up thin, while my father – like me – grew up fat.

    And particularly through my teens, he would basically tell me that unless I lost weight, “no man would ever love me.” It’s not just about marriage – but about love too. I fid this hilarious, since he and my mother have been married almost 50 years now – if that’s not love, what is it?

    Thankfully, he was proven wrong in 1993, when I met my beloved Mr. Cat. We got married in 1994, and we’re still going strong. In fact, it was my sister (who grew up thin) who ended up being the one who got cheated on and got divorced.

    I sincerely hope that Happy Being Me shuts her mother out on this subject. It’s insane. It screwed me up for a long time – and I still have some issues about it. But my loving husband helps.

    It’s sick. It’s not like fat people don’t have enough to deal with emotionally with the crap that gets loaded on us by society. We shouldn’t have to deal with the emotional issues of our parents as well. But unfortunately, it’s life. Parents are human too – and sometimes screw up in how they deal with us.

  7. PhilBee November 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm #

    Your mother deserves to be smacked mercilessly!
    Big girls are GORGEOUS and SEXY!
    Stay strong and true to yourself – not your mother’s or anyone else’s criteria for happiness. Believe me, there’re many guys who find BBWs very attractive indeed. He’s out there looking for you right now…

  8. Margo November 23, 2009 at 5:50 pm #

    Dear Francesca,

    That would be a 12.

    Love, your fan Margo.

  9. Twistie November 23, 2009 at 5:50 pm #

    You know, I never thought like this woman’s mother. Why? Well, it could have something to do with the fact that my fat mother had a long and happy partnership with my father. I grew up witnessing how great teamwork is in action, and have much the same sort of teamwork in my marriage to Mr. Twistie. It never once occurred to me that finding a lifemate and being happy had anything to do with the measure of my waistline.

    Lo and behold, I am fat. I am happily married (sixteen years and counting).

    I think much of the key is the fact that I’m good company for me. It’s hard to be good company to someone else if I’m not even interesting to myself. I love my husband, I love my marriage, and I’m delighted that I have such wonderful companionship in my life. OTOH, I think I could be quite content on my own if I had never met Mr. Twistie.

    Love is a wonderful thing. And yes, Virginia, it comes to fat girls just as (un)reliably as it does to thin girls. Some people find the right person early, some search unsuccessfully all their lives. See, while love is wonderful, it’s also a bit of a crap shoot.

    Part of me would love to drop-kick the mom to the moon and back again, but the rest of me is too busy pitying anyone who chooses to blame her lack of success in romance on her weight.

    A quick look around any neighborhood gives the lie to the mom’s insistence on eternal misery for the fat. Everywhere you look there are fat women happily mated to men and women of all sizes. There’s no reason to assume that your fat somehow keeps you from being one of them.

    My advice? Be a person you like, be good company for yourself, keep your eyes and ears and heart open, be a part of your larger community, and then accept what happens with every bit of grace you can muster.

  10. Cat November 23, 2009 at 8:47 pm #

    The mother’s self-loathing attitude of “fat people do not deserve to be happy” is poppycock, and anyway is based on the old-fashioned assumption that being married is necessary, that it is better to be married than to be happy.

    Amen. And, for women of any size, it cannot be said enough, so I’ll repeat it: It is better to be happy and single than to be married and miserable. If you can manage to be happy and married, great! But marriage is not a necessity, nor does marriage automatically equal happiness. It is possible to be single for the long-term and be very, very happy. No woman should ever “settle.”

  11. Melissa November 23, 2009 at 9:05 pm #

    I am the largest girl in my generation of my family. I am the only person of my generation of my family to have never been married. I found out last year that all the other women of my generation of my family (9 not including me) were dealing with cheating spouses, in counciling, or in the middle of a divorce. Whoa. And these are all genuinely beautiful Italian women – very classic beauty.

    We had a big family dinner one night last year and more than one of them came up to me and told me they wished they’d gotten better educations and built careers for themselves and lives that they loved before they got married – because apparently now they feel like their lives with these men has been fake.

    So – keep your head about you and understand your own value as a woman. When you find someone who also understands your value then you’ve met your match.

  12. Lisa November 24, 2009 at 2:53 am #

    My aunt Phyllis was round as can be and beloved by all, including her rail-thin husband, Conner. Phillie and Connie, as they were known by their 7 children and 21 grandchildren, were married for 57 years and her name was on his lips the day he died. Phillie always had a jar full of cookies and soft shoulder to cry on and was the most honestly beautiful woman I have ever met. Connie died square dancing with her, at age 80; she died a year later, I swear of a broken heart.

    And even if some marriages do end in divorce, sometimes they were still good for a number of years; divorce isn’t necessarily a “failure”; it’s just an ending. Real relationships are complicated.

    I have been married for 20 years to an independently wealthy skinny man who chases me around the house and thinks I’m the cutest and smartest thing in world. I have no explanation for this. I don’t need one. Ca, C’est l’amour.

  13. MissPrism November 24, 2009 at 10:34 am #

    A commenter at Shapely Prose pointed out the other day that as well as being bad for you, “settling” is a huge insult to the guy you “settle” for. He deserves someone who finds him wonderful and irresistible, just as much as you deserve someone you find wonderful and irresistible.

  14. amber November 24, 2009 at 1:37 pm #

    The mother’s attitude reminds me of the attitude cultures sometimes have when they get colonized. They grow up hating themselves for being different than the colonizers, and want nothing more than to become the very people who are holding them down.

    Which means (to me), often, fat people are the meanest about being fat. They see it as a box enclosing them and cutting off their chances to do, say, wear, and live the way they choose. But then they see other people who should have the same box being happy and they get jealous, and therefore, mean.

    Can’t say I’ve never done it. My hubbie’s just obnoxious and bullheaded enough to show me that that’s what I was doing at the time. Thank God I’m not a mom yet. I’d never be able to forgive myself!

  15. Kimks November 26, 2009 at 11:21 am #

    On a scale of 1-10, I’d like to smack the mother at about 110- but then again she would think we were ganging up on her and continue her martyrdom and self loathing.

    I am married to my most wonderful man for me- he is thin and athletic and I am not. We have a great marriage, lots of love, laughter, happieness and sex- not saying we don’t have our bad days and everything is Hollywood perfect all the time, We do, and it isn’t. Real relationships are complicated. It took me many years to be happy with me- all of me- and it wasn’t until I was someone I could love that I was able to be loved by someone else.