Once, my husband, Aham, and I were sitting at a bar, holding hands, and a woman recognised me. She was a fan of my writing, so she came up to introduce herself, and we shambled through a few minutes of pleasant chit-chat. Sensing the conversation was running out of steam, she asked me one of the questions that people always ask me in those awkward, floundering moments: “So, what’s it like to work from home? Aren’t you lonely?”
“Not really,” I said. I gestured to Aham. “He works from home, too. It’s hard to feel alone when there’s a guy constantly playing the trumpet in your face.”
She laughed and turned to him. “So, you two are roommates?”
Yes, lady. We are platonic adult roommates who hold hands at bars. This is, clearly, the only logical explanation. Actually, since you asked, I recently sustained a pulsing gash to the palm and he’s just holding the wound closed until paramedics arrive. Also, every night before bed, a rattlesnake bites me on the mouth and he has to suck out the poison. It’s the weirdest thing. We should probably move.
It is women’s job to be decorative (within a very narrow set of parameters) and it is men’s job to collect them. My relationship throws off both sides of that equation
I wasn’t surprised that this woman took so many wilful leaps past “couple” and landed on “roommates” in her split-second sussing-out of our relationship – it happens all the time. But it was a disheartening reminder of an assumption that has circumscribed my life: Couples ought to “match”; Aham and I do not. I am fat and he is not. He is conventionally desirable and I am a “before” picture in an ad for liquefied bee eggs that you spray on your food to “tell cravings to buzz off”! (COPYRIGHTED. SEND ME ALL THE MONEY.) It is considered highly unlikely – borderline inconceivable – that he would choose to be with me in a culture where men are urged to perpetually “upgrade” to the “hottest” woman within reach, not only for their own supposed gratification but also to impress and compete with other men. It is women’s job to be decorative (within a very narrow set of parameters) and it is men’s job to collect them. My relationship throws off both sides of that equation, and a lot of people find it bewildering at best, enraging at worst.
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There are long, manic messageboard threads devoted to comparing photos of me with photos of Aham’s thin, conventionally pretty second ex-wife (number one is blessedly absent from the old MySpace page he doesn’t know how to take down; number two is not so lucky), and dissecting what personality disorder could possibly have caused him to downgrade so egregiously. Waiters always assume we want to split the bill. Women hit on him right in front of me – and the late-night Facebook messages are a constant – as though they could just “have” him and he would say, “Oh, thank God you finally showed up,” and leave me, and some dire cosmic imbalance would be corrected. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that they “match”. They can talk about hot-people problems together – like “too many clothing options” and “haters”. I wouldn’t understand.
It’s not that I’m not attracted to fat men – I’ve dated men of all sizes – but the assumption that fat people should only be with fat people is dehumanising. It assumes that we are nothing but bodies. Well, sorry. I am a human and I would like to be with the human I like the best. He happens to not be fat, but if he were, I would love him just the same. Isn’t that the whole point? To be more than just bodies?