“I will always love you. Even if…”

I would like to put out there that I absolutely adore the movie Away We Go.  It was the one that came out this past summer with John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph who play Burt and Verona, a couple expecting a baby and looking for a place to live where they would like to raise their child.  I will admit that my original interest in the movie had something to do with an infatuation I have with John Krasinski as Jim on The Office, but I ended up loving the entire thing– especially the relationship between Krasinski and Rudolph’s characters and their feelings about building a family.  It has some really hilarious moments too.

There is one especially nice scene that sticks out to me where Burt and Verona are lying on a trampoline, making vows to each other centered around their child.  One of the things Burt says is “Would you promise to let our daughter be fat or skinny or any weight at all…because we want her to be happy no matter what?  Being obsessed with weight is just too cliche for our daughter.”  And Verona replies “yes I do.”  That warmed my heart a whole lot.

There is just one part in the movie that does not quite sit well with me.  Burt and Verona are in laying in bunks on a train and pregnant Verona is feeling tired of being big and saying that she feels ugly.  Burt is sweet and tries to comfort her in a funny and kind of ridiculous way (because that’s his character).  He says “Don’t be sad! You’re not that big!  You’re still super sexy…hot even.”  and then goes on to say “I’ll always love you.  Even if you’re enormous.  Even if it takes you months to lose this weight…a year.  Even if you gain weight after having the baby.  Even if you gain so much weight that I can’t find your vagina.”  I hate to admit that I did laugh when I first watched this scene, just because of the way Krasinski delivers his lines.

Insulting vagina joke aside…Burt’s promises of “even if” have very telling implications about women, fat, and desirability.  The way he says it implies that there would be reasons for a man not to love his girlfriend or wife if they were fat.  His professions of love make him look that much sweeter to us as a character because he is willing to love a fat Verona.  In my opinion, if someone really loves their partner, then the “even if”s would already be understood in saying “I will always love you.”  Maybe this is an idealistic notion because I do understand that sexual attraction is a big part of relationships and a change in someone’s body could realistically change that level of sexual attraction.  But I’d like to think that if you really and truly love someone, they are attractive to you no matter how their body changes.

Speaking as a heterosexual fat college student with very little relationship experience, this brings up a whole slew of questions I have for my new fat-accepting self.  As I was growing up and had Cinderella-story fantasies of love and romance, I always envisioned someone loving me in spite of my size.  Loving me for my “inner beauty” or loving me for “who I am on the inside”.  I have since matured from that, realizing that “who I am on the inside” is fat too and that “inner beauty” is such a bullshit concept (how can you even judge ‘inner beauty?’ and who is to say what is beautiful whether inside or out?  It was probably a concept created as a backhanded compliment to people who don’t meet society’s beauty standards).

Now, I know that I want to be with someone who will want me as I am, size included.  But I don’t think I want someone to be interested in me for my size (someone who is interested in women because they are fat).  I want someone to like my body, but if I lost weight for whatever reason at some point I would not want their interest in me to diminish.  And I also don’t want to run the risk of being objectified, even if it is in a fat-positive way.

But at the same time, I support people who are primarily interested in fat people and I don’t consider them fetishists.  After all, we don’t consider people who are only interested in skinny people fetishists.

I feel like it’s a confusing area to navigate, understanding what role the body plays in love and relationships.  I think being fat complicates the role attraction plays in love because it is a marginal body type and confronts us with certain questions.  As fat people, do we want to be loved in spite of our size?  Do we want to be loved for our size?  I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts. experiences, and opinions.

*In other news…I got my Fat Studies Reader in the mail today!! I’m super pumped!

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Miriam Heddy on November 10, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    As someone who was fat to start and has been with the same guy for two decades now, and who has, having had three kids, gotten fatter over time, I can say that the whole, “in spite of” versus “because of” is sort of missing the reality of life.

    Over time, if you’re lucky enough to find someone you want to spend time with, you and your partner’s body changes. It changes because life happens. And if you love them, your love changes with them–and as you change.

    You end up loving different things about them, and being attracted to different things. Sex changes as your bodies change, too! Over time, you’re likely to try new things and discover new ways your bodies work together.

    I don’t have much more advice than that, but I’d say that if love and attraction weren’t malleable things, long-term relationships would be impossible. And it is impossible to maintain a long-term relationship with someone if you desire only a single human being. Whitman was right. We are large. We contain multitudes.

    Reply

    • Thanks for your dose of reality! It’s hard not to think of the body and attraction in a static way when we hear stories of people being dumped because they “let themselves go.” I like the way you describe love and attraction as malleable. What you are saying about your relationship is what I’d hoped to hear– changing together. I guess I’m still wondering about how initial attraction factors in with conversations about the body, though.

      Reply

  2. I think Burt was only using that to tease her because it was HER fear and he was trying to make light of it by saying it like look, do you hear how ridiculous these things sound? How stupid these worries are? At face value it looks a little insulting to fat women, but I think if you really look at how the characters relate to each other it’s more about her beliefs and insecurities about being fat than how he perceives fat women.

    Reply

    • That’s a really good point. I agree with you a lot, but I still think the way it is stated is significant. Not as a reflection on Burt, but as a reflection on how we talk about fat and attraction. Saying “I’ll love you even if you’re fat” sounds different to me than “I’ll love you if you’re fat or if you’re skinny”. I feel like like the word “even” is significant. Whether they are his opinions, or commenting on her fears, it still says something about how fat is talked about in a way that we think it is undesirable. The scene doesn’t make me love Burt any less.

      And the “can’t find your vagina” part just struck a chord with me because I feel like it’s a joke a lot of d-bags makes about having sex with fat women and I have never liked it.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Anna on November 10, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    This is a great post, and I’m super tired so I have nothing insightful. I was just thinking about how to judge inner beauty. For instance, a racist dudes idea of inner beauty would include someone who is also racist, but most of us wouldn’t consider prejudice as a beautiful trait.

    Just thinking.

    Reply

  4. Posted by nycivan on November 10, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    i am a really big guy. I have come to the conclusion that in order to find my partner, I will have to let her see me. the part of me that needs to be seen has nothing to do with the eyes. In fact, at my extreme weight, I don’t get opportunities to date unless I get an opportunity to show a gal what is not visible to the eye. I used to hang my head and lament that no girl would ever want to be with me. Thanks to Fat Acceptance, I am reconnecting with my own sense of worthiness and I can own the reality that here in New York City, where I live, I am not looked upon at first glance as a potential mate, not even a potential date. I do now have faith that i will meet my queen, again, a belief that i am finally embracing thanks to the fat acceptance movement. I can only be who and what i am. Now when I think about romance, I consider myself a contender, however, I recognize that it is not going to happen at a club or a crowded loud bar. And now that is fine with me. I can’t hear anything in those places anyway.

    Reply

  5. I’m with fatfaceindy. I don’t think it implies that a man who loves a fat woman is a freak. I think that dialogue is written as a guy trying really hard to comfort his wife without dismissing her insecurities.

    Sometimes, I’m the opposite of Verona. I’m fat and I identify as fat. My boyfriend loves my body and prefers chubbier women. I genuinely think my body looks better with fat on it. I’ve got a body acceptance blog, a body acceptance tumblr and I read the fat feeds everyday. Sometimes, it feels like I have a lot invested in being fat and I worry what I would do if I lost weight. It’s crazy, but insecurities usually are.

    I know my boyfriend loves me and will love me no matter what. He tells me so every day. But when I’m being irrational, that argument isn’t going to work. He needs to acknowledge my fears, so he tells me that he will love me even if I’m skinny. He tells me that I will still be sexy if I am skinny. Then I calm down and forget about the whole thing.

    I haven’t seen ‘Away We Go’ but going by your post I honestly think Burt’s “even if…” is absolutely harmless. The dialogue about their soon-to-be-born daughter shows that the two of them have a great attitude towards health and body image. Verona having insecurities and Burt doing his best to dismiss them without dismissing her feelings seems like a realistic portrayal of a relationship.

    Reply

  6. Posted by sleepydumpling on November 11, 2009 at 6:18 am

    Neither. I want someone who finds my body irrelevant to who I am, who finds me desirable for who I am, not what shape I am. Of course, I don’t expect them to be completely oblivious to my body, or not desire me physically, but that’s just the peripherals, if you get what I mean.

    When I fall in love with someone, it’s not because they are tall or thin or broad shouldered or fat or green eyed or blonde or whatever. I fall in love with them because they are beautiful to me through their intellect, their humour, their kindness, their style, their heart. The bits I like about their bodies are secondary and I often only notice those AFTER I’ve fallen in love with who they are as human beings.

    That is what I wish for in return.

    Reply

  7. Posted by lifeswayz on November 11, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Loves sees past all the faults anyone has whether you are fat, thin, bald, tall, short, or whatever. Viz the saying love is blnd. There is a lid for every pot as the saying goes as well.

    If you find someone that truly loves you how you are, then you are in a precious relationship with someone that may be your true soulmate.

    If you look hard enough you will find that special someone if you have not already.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Mally on July 28, 2010 at 2:19 am

    I don’t really find the “even if” comment that insulting because if he had just said “I will always love you” she might then go on to say “even if I never lose the weight?”. The fact of the matter is she was concerned of her bigness (and if you’ve ever been pregnant you truly do feel over stuffed and enormous) and that’s why his comment was centered around her weight.

    It will take generations to undue the terrible standards society has created.

    Just my thought on the matter.

    (Love your blog!)

    ~M

    Reply

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