When I read the summary of what Louis CK’s episode, “So Did the Fat Lady” was about before it aired, I was quite curious to see just what he’d wind up doing. I have a very, very sadly small pantheon of white male comedians who actually seem to “get it”, or at least, appear to make an effort to “get it” when it comes to issues of sexism, racism, misogyny, and the like. Louis CK is a member, along with Paul F. Tompkins, and…well, there’s plenty room for more. So come on, fellas, the snacks are top-notch.
I am a fat lady, the kind of fat that makes people really angry. It’s my body type that’s more likely to be used in one of those “headless fatty” montages used on the news when they decide it’s time for the quarterly report about how awful fat people are. I did my due diligence in my younger days of dieting, losing some weight, gaining it (and more) back, dieting, losing some weight, gaining it (and more) back. I removed myself completely from the world when it came to romance and dating. I believed 100 percent that a woman that looked like me had absolutely no shot at finding a fellow that would love me unconditionally, that wouldn’t see me as a make-skinny project, that wouldn’t keep my existence a secret because he wouldn’t want the world to know he stooped so low as to fuck a fat woman. A part of my pain-in-the-ass brain understood that I actually did deserve love and was someone who was entertaining and festive and decent, but as long as I had an ass the size of Madagascar, it was simply pointless to make an effort. So I didn’t. Well, I wouldn’t until I’d reached some sort of “acceptable” size.
In my earlyish 30s, I discovered fat acceptance and began a lengthy re-acquaintance with feminism and figured out “holy fucking shit, I have wasted SO MUCH TIME hating myself”. I got my head right and even though I still wasn’t terribly keen on venturing into romantic waters, I wound up the happiest, the most confident, the most comfortable and content I had been in a long time. I finally understood that a goodly amount of the noise my head was filled with regarding the pursuit of the opposite sex was self-generated – maybe the reason why I never had a boyfriend wasn’t because I was fat, but because I’d bought the shit that was being sold to me and it turned into one of those handy self-fulfilling prophecies. However, since I’d never actually participated in the rigmarole of dating, I couldn’t speak to whether or not my fat was truly an impediment. I’d certainly had my stomach-churning crushes and felt like I had “loved” someone (though he didn’t love me back), and all the experiences had all ended with me feeling humiliated and worthless because the affection wasn’t returned. But these were experiences I had had between the ages of, say, 14 and 20. The one blind date I went on thanks to the personals section in the Chicago Reader went from gross (he interrupted me while I was talking and said “let’s cut the small talk and get to the sex”) to hilariously cataclysmic (he presented me with photographs of himself posing on a rug, wearing just a Speedo, then followed his disturbing presentation with a story about getting a handjob from a lesbian on a gay bar dance floor – oh, and he was wearing a wrestling singlet, as you do). So I was a bit at sea as to how to go about pursuing a potential suitor…if I even wanted one at that point.
Long story short, the internet – the blessed, infuriating, bullshitty, wondrous internet – would eventually deliver a stone fox to me, and we’ve been friends for almost seven years, together for almost five, and married for just a smidge over two. I never “dated” until I met my husband. Oh, I made a halfhearted attempt at online dating and quickly realized it just wasn’t for me despite my having done a goodly amount of socializing online since the late 90s. I had two things that were important to me, things I wasn’t willing to compromise on – I wasn’t interested in dating someone who was religious, and I wasn’t interested in dating someone who had children. It would also be helpful if someone was feminist or feminist-friendly. The suggestions provided to me by the service I used inevitably consisted of men with children, and those who didn’t have children were quite keen to have women with “weight proportionate to height” which I definitely am not. I checked out free sites, pay sites, and at the end of it all, I couldn’t conjure up the energy or interest that was required to “date”. Then I was resolute – if I was going to be single until my dying day, then for fuck’s sake I was going to make my life as entertaining as possible. That resolution has had some revisions since then.
So I couldn’t necessarily identify with what Vanessa said during her speech about dating and flirting since I didn’t endure years of fruitless dating and I suspect I’ve flirted over the years, but I really can’t be sure. But mercy, mercy me, I felt it, I completely understood when she said, “You know, if you were standing over there looking at us, you know what you'd see? That we totally match. We're actually a great couple together.” I felt it when she presented Louie with those fucking hockey tickets that she insisted wasn’t some sort of demand for reciprocity in the form of a date or just a kind word or some affectionate attention, because God almighty, how often did I do that over the years. There’s a certain hustle that goes into being a fat girl – my hustle consisted of having a sense of humor that was beyond, a personality that was funny and loud and funnyloud, doing whatever I had to do in order to make the life of the object of my affection wonderful and joyous and oh he’s asking out someone else and now they’re getting married and oh. My hustle should have taken me into comedy or performing or acting, but good ole insecurity/my being chickenshit took me out, and if there’s a regret I cling to to this day, it’s that I didn’t take the best compliment I ever received from a teacher of mine – “You have a knack for making an unfunny scene funny again” – and run the shit out of it.
I’ve read a few thinkpieces (let’s have that word destroyed, shall we?) about “So Did the Fat Lady” and they interpret Louie grabbing Vanessa’s hand as a sign that he just wanted her to stop talking and be quiet, or to end the awkwardness, or any number of things that would point to him not having had a moment of clarity. To me, it was a moment – and maybe it wouldn’t stick with him, maybe that moment of courage would only be just that, a moment – where Louie decided to flout conventions, give the middle finger to all the guys who would give him shit for being seen with a fat girl in a romantic way, and hold the hand of this woman who was “very really beautiful”.
Maybe I’m being optimistic. I probably am – shit, I’m in the midst of writing a novel about a fat girl in her late 30s getting her shit together and finding love for the first time in her life which, if you know me personally, IS BASICALLY MY FUCKING STORY. But it’s not hard for me to see it being dismissed as fantasy, wish fulfillment, complete bunk – once again, EVEN THOUGH IT ACTUALLY SERIOUSLY HAPPENED TO ME. And fucking forget it ever being made into a movie, since romcoms are only allowed to feature thin women who have a tendency to be a wee bit clumsy because isn’t that just ADORABLE. I couldn’t bear seeing someone who wasn’t me, frankly, playing the lead role. After all, I spent so much time as a supporting player in my own life – I’m not giving up the spotlight ever again.