[image: 11th grade me on a mission trip in London, where I saw God in the smells and bells of St. Paul’s Cathedral and heard a whisper that I must learn to look in unfamiliar-to-me places]
Here are some things I remember knowing to be true as a teenager:
- Males are hard-wired to think about sex when they think someone is attractive
- Christian men should strive to see character, not appearance
- As girls, there were ways we could de-emphasize our appearance and emphasize our character
- A woman’s inner beauty is what would matter to godly men
That’s what purity culture taught me.
Culture taught me:
- Fatness is not attractive
When I put all this together in my head, I reached the seemingly logical conclusion that only godly men would be attracted to me because they were the only ones who would have the self-control and discipline needed to see my inner beauty. I remember, as an 11th or 12th grader, opting out of the “Someday, a Marriage Without Regrets” class offered to the teens at my church because surely, I reasoned, I did not need to worry about avoiding bad relationships because only a truly godly man would ever entertain the idea of thinking about me romantically. It would take someone very close to God to get past the fat and see my heart. Men without God were incapable of finding me desirable. I’d never be faced with having to turn down the attentions of a man who wasn’t following God. I didn’t think my “character” and “inner beauty” was perfect or anything – but I did believe I was worthy of love and that I would make a great Christian wife.
So when a man came along who was interested, it took me four seconds to assume he was the one one.
I dove in head first and came out with a battered and scarred faith and I am still discovering the rippling implications that unhealthy relationship had on how I think and act. My personality, purity culture, and the way I understood how “fatness” worked in regards to relationships were the perfect storm to set me up for this damaging relationship.
As the years went by I began to notice a trend. While I was taught that a godly man would see my beauty, it seems that the boys who were taught to “look for the inner beauty and she will be beautiful” were still just looking for beautiful. As if they all seemed to think that a godly woman would be a “righteous fox.” (Raise your hand if you heard a youth pastor/speaker or two say that about his wife from the pulpit.) I have a pretty high self-confidence. I have moments of extreme vanity, moments where I catch myself in the mirror and gasp because I just really think I am physically beautiful. (And I have the other moments too.) This is not about me thinking I’m ugly, but even with my high self-confidence I can logically deduce the general perception of my appearance, and based on my completely anecdotal, biased from-my-perspective, sample-size-of-one study – – it has been the non-Christian men, or those who are “culturally Christian,” who ever express any interest in me beyond friendship.
I’ve found it to be almost 100% true that if a guy is genuinely attracted to my personality and my character and my appearance – the entirety of me, he is not a Christian.
This has spanned my life from when I had a very conservative, women-against-feminism, I-just-want-to-be-a-housewife standpoint to who I am now – – left of center politically, feminist, who still really enjoys domestic things. I recognize that my singleness has not a single-reason cause and that “fat people” are not the only people who experience stories like this,, but from my experience, the intersection of my fatness with my Christianity seems to make dating near impossible.
The only conclusions I can draw are from my own experience – but if other girls grew up “fat” or “overweight” in a conservative Christian / “purity culture” environment – I’d love to hear what your experience was like. If there are any guys out there who grew up in purity culture and have input on what “type” of girl you were looking for as a result – I’d love to hear about that too.
This is a type of entry I’m hesitant to post, because one thing I loathe is a “poor pitiful me” attitude. So I hope that tone is not what you found here. I am talking about the subject because even though I am generally confident that my life has taken a course that has provided me with numerous blessings – there is still part of me that mourns the “married young with children early” life I’ll never have, and that part of me intersects with my interest about fatness in the Christian church and wants to know if it’s connected on a broader scale than just my story and perceptions.