Baxil (baxil) wrote,

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Weighty matters

I have a shameful, guilty secret to admit to:

Along with a small and decreasing number of the population, I find overweight people unattractive*.

Intellectually, this is a frustrating thing to me, because that's stupid and shallow. Politically, this is a frustrating thing to me, because I am a Good Liberal -- and besides, I am mired too deeply in my own alternative lifestyle choices to be judgmental of others' personal characteristics without making myself into a hypocrite. Emotionally, this is a frustrating thing to me, because people I am very close to -- and, yes, attracted to -- are overweight, and I just know that no matter how well I explain myself here someone I love is going to walk away feeling like I've just told them they're ugly. But viscerally ... it's just part of me, not something I want to believe. It's not something I have conscious control over, any more than I have control over finding women sexier than men*; being turned on by furry porn; preferring carob to chocolate; or any of a thousand other little subconscious preferences, sexual or otherwise, mainstream or freaky.

(At this point, I will stop to allow those of you who were derailed by "prefer carob to chocolate" to pick your brains up from the floor.)

And I just have to say that I find it bizarre -- but heartening! -- that less than a quarter of Americans share my bias, according to the poll linked above. This is down from over half in the 1980s, which is even more bizarre, because that's quite a swing in just 20 years.

I grew up in the eighties. I remember the days of supermodels who could slip through shower drains. I remember the days of endless agonizing over fad diets (well, to the extent that those days have gone away, which doesn't seem to be much) and of salad bars in fast food restaurants. I was as repulsed by it and cynical about it as anyone ... but apparently at least some of it managed to rub off on me. (And that's really saying something, for a guy as out of the mainstream as I am.) Aside from the cultural programming, there are some personal factors, too: I find people sexier who share my interests. The simple fact is that I'm a reasonably fit guy that enjoys outdoor activities in the time I can tear myself away from a computer; slogging through the woods with heavy backpacks tends to require physical fitness.

I'm conscious of these things, though, and am alert to not let them color my opinions. I ignore people's weight and evaluate them on their brain and spirit, what's important. Sometimes, to my regret, it has to be accompanied by a mental slap on my wrist. That's the guilty secret: I have to work at this. Doing what's right doesn't come naturally sometimes.

(Fortunately, fat jokes aren't a guilty pleasure. They're still not funny. Even when they take on people that deserve mockery on their merits -- like Rush Limbaugh -- I still can't do anything other than roll my eyes and sigh at the cheap shot. I'm not that much of a neanderthal.)

And it's not like it's something that's a major factor in my perceptions of potential partners**, either. I cultivate friends for their intellect and empathy, period, and I am incapable of wanting to be intimate with anyone who I don't already respect as a friend, so by the time I get around to considering their physical attributes, the truly important things have already appropriately weighted the decision.

But back to the survey.

Like most people who happen to hold a taste perceived as mainstream, I never really considered that it was different for anyone else. We've been fed images of skinny sex symbols from birth; where exactly would people have gotten the message that overweight is attractive too? So even the fact that half of Americans said that wasn't the case in 1980 was rather an eye-opener.

Of course, the possibility suggests itself that people are lying about their own preferences in the poll because of concerns about being perceived as bigoted. I'm not sure what would explain the constant, steady drop over the years, though. The days where Political Correctness was being bashed over people's heads sure seem to me like they've trailed off, and given that you'd think that the reverse would be the case.

One way or another, it's good to see attitudes are changing. The simple fact is that what's important about people is who they are, not the shape of their forms. The hormonal center of my subconscious disagrees with me on this one, but the vast majority of me knows the truth. And it's good to see that it's an idea the rest of the world is picking up, too.

* As a general, though reliable, guideline. Not as an absolute.
** Yes, I know, I'm married already. But this preference is something I've had all my adult life and I've had plenty of perceptions from which to base this assessment. (Not to mention, I'm poly even if not currently seeking.)
*** And now I'm wondering what the hell category to tag this post in.

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