In an email Saturday I wrote, “So far only three men have tried to pick me up by shouting, ‘Hey, Fatty, come here,’ but then I haven’t been out much.”
In Jamaica, my size is some kind of wacky lure. Not to all men, but to many. There’s a sexual mystique about fat black women that I have yet to decipher. And, unlike the majority of men at home, Jamaican men have not even the slightest hesitation about telling you exactly what they are thinking about your body when they see you.
I don’t love this.
I’ve gotten used to having men call me “Fatty,” to having men immediately say something about how long they’ve been wanting to meet a woman of my size, how happy they would be ‘accommodate’ me, how much they hope they will be the lucky one chosen when I decide to bestow my riches on some fortunate soul.
I’ve gotten used to it, but I still don’t love it. One obvious reason for my lack of enthusiasm is that all this attention reduces me to a body, not a woman, not me, just some fat female body that reflects back to them all their fantasies about fat female bodies. I’m so not interested. I get that attraction is first physical. But there has to be more. Someone has to express some interest in knowing me, in knowing even the smallest thing about me. And the slavering after my ‘big bumper’ (yes, that means what you think it means) isn’t in any way about Stacie.
Ok, some of it has to do with my body as my body differs from other fat bodies. I know this because I see plenty of other large women around and they aren’t all having to deal with the nonsense that comes my way. But that still isn’t about me. It’s about preference for hourglass over apple, nothing more.
Another reason I don’t love all this attention is that I just don’t like all the attention. I don’t come here to be pursued by men (or boys … especially not by the boys!). I want to be able to walk down the street or ride my bike without having men perk up like hungry dogs who’ve caught the scent of raw meat. There is nothing fun in that for me. Walking home the other night, I was accosted by one particularly aggressive man who felt that the simple fact of his attraction to me meant he should be able to a) join my walk against my wishes, b) stop my walk and detour me to his house, c) put his hands on me, and d) not stop any of these things when I told him to.
That was pretty scary. If it had come to a physical fight, I probably could have held my own. I’m not a fighter, but I’m not a weakling, either, and I would have punched and kicked as hard as the next person if I’d had to. Happily, I didn’t have to. His better angels took over and he backed off. I was pretty shaken up, however. Nothing like that has ever happened to me here. (Things like that haven’t happened to me much at all, thankfully.) I hope it doesn’t happen again. I have to pass that man’s house every time I want to get into town.
This isn’t my real life. This isn’t who I am day to day: some woman so unutterably desirable that men are flinging themselves at her everywhere she goes. That might be someone’s life, but it is most assuredly not mine. And it isn’t a life I want, either.
And so the title of this post. In Jamaica, I magically become the Girl from Ipanema. This has happened in other countries, too, usually based on another set of sexual fantasies — about black women in general, not specifically fat ones. As much as I like that song, I have to say that I don’t love being the Girl from Ipanema. This annoyance gets in my way when I think about moving to Jamaica. I don’t know how happy I would be to deal with the nonsense or the aggression every day for the rest of my life. In New York I get to be almost entirely invisible and anonymous. People tend to look right through fat people, and plenty of others look through black people. I don’t love either of those things, either, but I’m almost missing them right now.