Tall and tan and young and lovely …

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.

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16 thoughts on “Tall and tan and young and lovely …

  1. molly

    This is very ineresting. I am the blond foreigner here in southern Italy. Things have changed in 30 years, and men behave in a much more civilized way than they used to, and I am older now. They do not follow me in their cars or think I am looking for a companion every time I am alone. I didn’t like being stalked AT ALL. I also get the thing about being visible as opposed to invisible. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I like being foreign, because most of my life I have felt like a foreigner, and now I really am one. I hate it that you were attacked like that. I hope you enjoy your days in your home away from your other home.

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    1. In some ways, I am used to being stared at. My whole experience of foreign travel involves being stared at … and sometimes being accosted because of men’s ideas about my black female-ness, my American woman-ness, my woman alone-ness … or all of these combined. I had thought that here I would be exempt from this foolishness, so my first trip here was a surprise.

      This one bad experience with that guy Monday night is maybe an indication that my little paradise is changing in ways I don’t love, but I came through it alright and now know to be more wary/aware/careful than I have been accustomed to being here. Not a bad thing, being more wary, but still makes me sad.

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  2. Do be careful, and not so much alone at night, if you can help it…some of it might also be that you’re American, and all the preconceived ideas that come with THAT. It amazes me that men can’t see how impersonal and insulting some of their remarks are…there’s this underlying assumption that we should be “grateful” for any sexual attention and respond accordingly. I hope the harassment doesn’t ruin your trip…

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    1. Good advice, of course, about not being alone at night. And I haven’t been since then … but it’s a shame, too. I used to be able to walk out much later than I was on Monday with no problem.

      Men’s behavior amazes me, too. Each of the knuckleheads who’ve come onto me this trip all seem to think I should be throwing myself in their arms at their first mention of attraction. As if!

      The Rough Guide has a great comment about men’s attention: “You’re not that hot,” the guide assures us American women. Being American is what makes us much more attractive than we really are. Ok. I can go with that … except that no one thinks I’m American. Everyone thinks I’m Jamaican until I insist repeatedly that I’m American. I’d think my so-not-Jamaican accent would be the give-away, but it never is.

      I’m really not that hot, however. That’s not false modesty, that’s just the truth. So this excessive attention is just too odd.

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  3. I remember being in Athens on my own years ago. It was my first time there, first time really lost in a place where I couldn’t communicate and first time men were watching me in a strange way. Thank G.d for a cop who became my crusader and eventual tourist guide. But it was scary.
    Stacie, I agree with Zetta, be careful, especially at night.
    And bravo to you- you write with such openness it’s impossible to stop reading once I begin a post.
    Bonnie

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    1. I promise that I am being much more careful now than I was before Monday.

      Thanks for the writing compliment. Someone emailed me after my AC-proposal post to say that she couldn’t believe I just put my business in the street so casually. I guess she has a point, but isn’t that also kind of the point of having a personal blog? This is supposed to be the virtual manifestation of all the chaos that’s swirling around in my head. So the business has to be put in the street or I need to stop writing. It’s not casual, however. I take my writing, even the silly stuff I post here, very seriously, so I’m glad you find it compelling!

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  4. The whole time I’m reading this, I’m thinking ‘Is she kidding?’ I am a very nonviolent person. I even teach nonviolence to others. Still, I was rooting for you to slug that guy. Or maybe walking with a buddy is the safer idea. (It drives me insane that you should have to, though.)

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    1. Yeah, it’s interesting to me how many times I’ve written here about being violent. I’m definitely not a violent person, and I really don’t know the first thing about fighting. But I would absolutely have fought that man if I’d had to and not given it a second thought. Last night, however, I happily over-paid for a taxi ride home so I wouldn’t have to walk past that man’s house … and I’ll do the same if I’m out late again.

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  5. “Hey, Fatty.” Good grief. I like the cab plan. Have you ever done Model Mugging, or some such? I did that once upon a time and learned a few key things that will probably always stay with me, and which may or may not come in handy should the occasion arise. (It hasn’t yet, and I hope it won’t.)

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    1. Hi, Linda– I’ve never heard of Model Mugging. Please explain. I assume this isn’t me either assaulting models or practicing making funny faces for the camera! Seriously though, I’d like to hear more about this.

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  6. Hi! Check out http://www.modelmugging.org. (You’re right–not a single model was harmed during this course.) You basically (at least when I did it) learn useful info about self-defense, learn some basic moves and get to practice them on a very well-padded “assailant.” I did it when I was fairly new out on my own, and I’m sure my parents paid for it, bless their hearts.

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  7. It seems to me I paid $300 for this, or $200? It was 20 or more years ago. I was thinking it would be absolutely astronomical now–but it’s not. That’s heartening. From my brief inspection, it looks like prices now range from $350 to $475. Not nothing, but perhaps doable for many. (I wonder if there are foundations out there that would pay for classes for groups of students, or groups of former crime victims, etc.)

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  9. Pingback: Best of the 2009 Just Posts: The Semifinalists « collecting tokens

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