Why Is My Father Staring Back in the Mirror?
From a conversation with a dear friend, I had decided this is how I would start writing. This isn’t an introduction to me, but sharing a journey I suspect isn’t so uncommon. This is also updated, with a full year’s added perspective.
A few years back I went in for surgery, Roux-en-Y laparoscopic gastric bypass. It was truly one of the most life altering events in my life.
For some background, I was heavy all my life. By heavy, I mean a definitively morbidly obese man. Being in my mid-40’s, I was 5’10” tall (177.8 cm) I tipped the scales at 479 lbs (217.3 kg) and in very poor health. Hypertension, pre-diabetes, in pain all the time and starting to experience heart issues. I needed to make a change and I did. I was married, but only going through the motions. I will not say anything negatively about my former wife as this is my story, not hers. She is a good person and that is all I will share about her. Divorce rates from gastric bypass surgery are very high so I knew divorce was inevitable as a result of this choice.
For a gastric bypass recipient I was a bit of a poster child for its success. I was consistently active, exercising daily and eating the correct way as indicated by my surgeon and nutritionist. I did not experience some of the rougher complications that many who undergo weight loss surgery have. I reached my intended goal weight roughly a year later and felt great. No longer did restaurant booths give me anxiety, plane seats seemed luxuriously large and I’d began to bike and had taken up a number of much more active hobbies. A life life long dream of kayaking was also realized at last.
As an obese man, I had tremendous difficulty dating. Often, as an extension of my poor self-esteem, I was attracted to women that overlooked my appearance for other things that I could offer, often selfishly ans with predatory intent. This opened me up for many one-sided and abusive relationships. I place the blame entirely upon myself as I allowed these relationships to continue despite the obvious warning signs, often thinking I could do no better. Besides, who could love a fat, ugly man?
About six months later, my self-image had changed. People who hadn’t seen me since prior to my weight loss simply didn’t recognize me at first. I no longer stood out as a huge figure moving among smaller-framed people. People were thrilled with my weight loss, and newer people I met couldn’t imagine me any other way. But when I looked in the mirror, my face had thinned out and I only saw my father looking back. This was unbelievably disconcerting as I had a painfully dysfunctional and abusive relationship with my father growing up, and he had passed away a few years prior effectively disowning me. Seeing this thinner man in my reflection caused a lot of conflict in my feeling as a person, and I was navigating the turbulent waters of self-identity. A sort of body dysphoria not unlike that experienced by trans people was occurring within me, but rather than gender, I had size dysphoria.
One day during this initial period of realization, I remember being in a local drug store buying sundries on my lunch hour walk, and I overheard a conversation about a particular product the store didn’t carrying but that I was completely familiar with. I politely mentioned that I knew about it and offered my recommendations, just to be helpful. The woman asking for the product was a rather attractive woman, relatively close in age to me, and began to have a rather animated and friendly conversation with me. I then noticed her toss her hair with her hand in an obviously flirting gesture. This moment took me completely by surprise. I was not used to have anyone flirt with me, much less a beautiful woman. I almost wanted to look over my shoulder to verify it was me she was indeed talking to. It took me a while to process this entirely alien and novel experience in my new life. As I was married, I never acted on it.
A few months after that, I was newly single and dating for the first time as a thin man. I resorted to online dating, picked a particular service with a lot of options for question based matching and detailed profile creation, took the ubiquitous bathroom selfie and posted up my profile not knowing what to expect. Within an hour the first likes starting coming in.
It was a completely different experience. I began chatting with, texting and calling, and very quickly meeting a good number of new women. I was actually having second, third and additional dates with different women, rather than only awkward first ones, and they were genuinely attracted to me physically. The first time I held a woman’s hand felt electric. I developed new self-confidence in the obvious attraction expressed toward me, and making the move for those first sweet kisses was so delicious and intoxicating. I felt like a 16 year old, in a way I never had as an overweight and awkward 16 year old who was terrified of girls.
One thing I realized very quickly was that my type of woman was extremely fluid. I found thinner women attractive, but in addition I found much more fuller-figured woman amazingly beautiful. I realized that a woman’s size had no sway in whether I was drawn to her, and found that physical aspects of a woman played a substantially lower impact in how I felt about them. Simply put, I was finding the beauty intrinsic in each and every woman I met, because it was so clearly there to see if only you looked. That beautiful smile, the twinkle in her eyes, the little dimples that appeared when you first touched her was simply stunning to behold. It wasn’t that I was overlooking their appearance, as I had felt so diminished by as a heavier person, but that I genuinely found them beautiful physically. In time I realized my own demisexual nature (to be shared in full in a later article), but I could readily see each woman for who she was, and it was quite breathtaking.
How I navigated these initial meetings and dates was, in retrospect, quite enlightening. I found I wanted to slide into narrow restaurant booths together so we could hold each other. The prospect of long walks simply holding hands was inviting as I knew I wouldn’t be sweating or achy. Ducking off into darkened store doorways to sneak a moment of playful kissing was exhilarating beyond compare.
And then there was sex. Sex had always been a uncomfortable matter for me as a morbidly obese man. It was difficult, tiring and thoroughly complicated, matters to discuss in future articles. Additionally, my weight loss produced a fairly significant amount of loose skin around my torso, and upper arms and legs. This produced a bit of insecurity whenever my shirt would initially come off, but I found what helped is nearly every woman had something that made them insecure about their own bodies. I was finding myself often dropping to my knees to tenderly kiss that little bit of extra curve, that scar that caused her so much anguish or those stretch marks incurred from becoming a loving mother. My insecurity would lessen by these little moments, and when I saw no judgement but arousal or vulnerability in her eyes. I will share no more about what came next, as it’s between those women and I with whom I shared these beautiful intimate moments. It felt so wonderful and fulfilling in ways I never imagined as a bigger man.
I’ve had a lot of experiences dating now as a thin man. I’ve met many amazing women. I’ve made mistakes, definitely broken a heart or two completely unintentionally, and always tried to be genuine about who I am as a person. My journey has brought me back to explore ethical non-monogamy, kink, sex-positivity and many other things in ways I was never able to experience before, that I will share about in a more philosophical way in future articles.
I still feel like a bigger man inside, and I suspect it will be years before that completely subsides. I no longer actively date online, preferring connections from real life and via emotionally intimate friendships. I focus on other things such as being a father, dancing with friends, artistic endeavors, and yes, writing. The person I am now, nearly a year from when I first wrote this article, has been colored by many amazing, and some traumatic experiences. But at least when I look in the mirror, I finally see the real me, and not the ugly enormity that I was once trapped in.