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Big Deal: Agony of overweight women in dating and marriage

 Photo: Courtesy

The politics of body size in as far as relationships and marriage are concerned can be tricky because almost everyone has an opinion on who should date who.

Sadly, the major casualties of ‘mixed-weight’ relationship prejudices and discrimination are always plus-sized women. Things continue to get thick for such women as they suffer in silence.

Luckily for fat men, unlike their female counterparts, they pass off as ‘attractive’ and ‘romantic’ if they happen to be rich, powerful or sole breadwinners to their families. Put differently, a man’s weight is a non-issue, or so it seems!

More women are overweight

Interestingly, Crazy Monday has observed that a good number of Kenyan women are overweight, especially the married ones who live in urban areas, and particularly Nairobi.

One of the people we spoke to while preparing this report said, besides it being a side effect of some of the birth-control contraceptives they use, many women grow fat after getting married because their husbands take good care of them!

“Another reason wives balloon after we marry them is because we take good care of them. When most of us are out there sweating it out, quite literally, in search of daily bread, they are at home, bumming around, eating, watching soap operas on TV or gossiping on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp,” he giggled.

What’s more, despite the fact that some men, too, are overweight, most men are more critical of their women’s weight, unlike vice versa.

Dumped, cheated on for putting on weight

That increase in weight among women (unlike in men) is an emotional grenade that is blowing up relationships, and even marriages is no secret.

It is believed that most men (including the potbellied ones) would dump their girlfriends if they grew fat.

Tales have, for instance, been told of boyfriends who have ditched their girlfriends after they put on weight.

We have also heard of husbands who, despite having taken the famous ‘through thick and thin’ vows to stick by their spouses, start finding them less attractive and begin cheating on them the moment they gain weight.

Others, strange as it may sound, have married second and even third wives after their first spouses fattened out of shape.

How do you tell a partner they’re fat?

However, the million dollar question that many people grapple with is how to tell their partners that they are overweight and need to shed off some weight. And how the ones accused of pilling up kilos handle the criticism.

Harriet, a self-confessed overweight lady, is a haunted individual. Her weight, which hovers between 110 and 130 kilograms despite spirited efforts to shed it off, has been haunting her for close to two decades now.

Harriet has seen it all; from constantly feeling insecure, to people staring and making rude comments about her weight — albeit under their breath, to receiving backhanded compliments such as “umeangukia (you are a very lucky girl)” from her friends whenever she bags a physically fit and handsome boyfriend to strangers shamelessly hitting on her men at events.

Hear her: “One of the most frustrating moments is other women making passes at my man in my presence. A while back while attending a previous chapter of The Koroga music Festival in Nairobi, there was a lady who, without a shred of modesty, began stealing glances at my boyfriend.

“And before I knew it, she had teased him into a ‘bend over jig (a raunchy dance)’, dangerously shoving her posterior in his groin area, of course to my chagrin. I had to quickly intervene by grabbing and flinging her away.”

Men get away with growing fat

It’s amazing how men get away with being overweight. Unlike plus size women, bulky and potbellied men have an easy time getting slender or fit spouses because women have this rare ability to look beyond a man’s weight and focus on the so-called ‘inner qualities’ such as loving, caring, kindness and all that jazz. Meanwhile, among women, being fat is synonymous with being ugly.

Harriet says she has lost most of her boyfriends to slender women, and she suspects her weight has always been her Waterloo.

Harriet is not alone. There are many other plus-size women going through similar tribulations. Take Joy, for instance. She is in her forties and a single mother of one kid, yet no man has found her ideal for marriage, a problem she solely blames on her weight.

“I have been around for a while. But no man has seen me as an ideal woman to settle down with. Most of the men who hit on me are those with short-term fetishes for big women.”

“They always vanish once they have satisfied their curiosity. Even my baby daddy whom I was with in a come-we-stay marriage couldn’t stand me. He eloped with, of course, a smaller woman,” agonises Joy, with renewed anger written all over her face.

Agony of plus-size women

Confessing that, indeed, this is a man’s world, Joy wonders why, unlike portly men, plus size women get judged harshly. She says things get thick for most women once they start gaining weight, despite their efforts to shed off the extra fat.

“Big women go through hell to keep their lovers. Little wonder then, that, most of the fat people you see nowadays sweating it out in gyms or doing morning runs on the roads are women, desperate to save their marriages,” says Joy.

Weight loss is a big battle that women secretly fight tooth and nail, with some going on weird diets, others hitting the gym or some going for surgery. Pressure to look fit is real for women, especially after marriage or child birth that leaves one with massive baby fat.

“Women get judged so harshly when they get out of shape, mostly following the vagaries of child birth. Women get into some strange weight loss regimes such as enduring the pain of walking the whole day with a tight slimming belt on, in their desperate endeavours to get their sexy back,” concludes Joy.

Sex life: First casualty of putting on weight

Unlike big-boned women, bulky men seem to be having it easy in relationships and marriage. It’s unfortunate how skinny men get pitied for dating plus-size girls, with the sex life of such a duo being put to questions. It’s common to hear nosy individuals scoff: “How do they even do ‘it’? Kwani wanawake walikua wameisha (was there a shortage of fit women when he was picking the big girl)?”

Seemingly, the perception that ‘slender women’ are beautiful is still prevalent around here. Perhaps it’s time we threw our weight behind chubby women, in a bid to dispel the notion that fat is ugly.

“The worst bit about it is that we have slender or moderately curvy women, too, who believe that bulky counterparts don’t deserve handsome men with chiseled abs. Such types always scheme to snatch away hunks from the big girls. Unfortunately, the idea that beefy women can still make great lovers is yet to sink in the heads and hearts of many men,” says Gilbert, who confesses that he can’t date or marry a big woman.

Ballooning after marriage, child birth

“The problem with such women is that after the first child, they balloon, so much so that people will start gossiping about you, claiming she looks way older than you or questioning your taste for women. I always want to save myself the trouble of the stigma that comes with that,” says Gilbert.

However, all is not lost for our big sisters. There are men who love such types. Steve, for instance, says a woman’s weight is always the elephant in the room in most relationships and marriages. He says discussing a woman’s weight is always sensitive and, at times, raw rage can boil over while at it.

“In most cases, men are never confident enough to talk to their women about their weight. Most would hint to her to do something about it. But such talk always escalate into full-blown verbal combats, with sex life being the biggest casualty,” says Steve, confessing that he has a fetish for big women.

“The spectrum of beauty among women is varied. And to me, plump women, stand a big chance,” concludes Steve.

Is it perhaps time men became considerate and understanding? Studies show that men, unlike women, possess the so-called ‘skinny genes’. Thus, despite their bad eating habits, they do not grow fat. The story is, however, different for women. A long out-of-town-weekend, characterised with reckless heavy feeding and drinking is enough to make her balloon out of shape by kilograms of fat.

And men being the physical creatures that they are tend to subject women to a precise physical beauty standard.

In a nutshell, women growing fat after getting married or childbirth is probably a reality men must learn to live with.

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