Social Minefields

Being fat, I don’t really have a social life. It’s more like a social minefield. It’s hard to be spontaneous and fun when you’re a Type-A personality who’s also toting around an extra 100+lbs.  Socializing usually means dressing in something other than your go-to fat girl wardrobe (L to XL men’s tee and mom jeans). It also usually means going to different, mostly unknown locations that are well out of both your neighborhood and comfort zone. When you develop somewhat of a socialization phobia (some due to your anxiety but mostly due to your fatness), you spend so much time trying to exert as much control over the wheres and hows of any given social scenario. You also spend a lot of that time worrying about said upcoming social events.

I’m a fairly solitary person by nature, and I’m happiest when I’m doing limited social things, such as dinner with close friends or a movie with my husband (and maybe 1 or 2 other friends). Parties, “going clubbing” and bar hopping are about as exciting an idea to me as my annual OB/GYN checkup. (Read: NOT AT ALL EXCITING!).  When I do socialize outside of my preferred social scenarios, I’m usually stressed out about it for at least a week prior. What can I wear? How long will it take to get there? Will there be drunk people? *What will the ‘away toilet’ situation be? (This doesn’t only apply when you’re fat).

To quote Liz Lemon in the 30 Rock episode, Gavin Volure:

“I’m in Connecticut, I haven’t eaten and I’m stressed about an “away toilet” situation.”

(*I guarantee at least one of your regular or thin sized female friends worries about this issue, too. Guys never worry about the bathroom because they CAN PEE ANYWHERE!)

Other issues and concerns include:

  • How formal/trendy is said event? Will I have something I can wear that isn’t totally uncomfortable, doesn’t drive me nuts or look too out of place?
  • How late does this event run? There’s only so much socializing I can do, especially when I’m already super uncomfortable because I’m A) fat and B) being forced to socialize C) Stressed about an “away toilet” situation and D) being judged by your bitchier, more judgmental friends who will be fake nice to me (and think I can’t tell they’re being a pack of assholes). I’ve been dealing with people like this for far longer than I’ve been fat – I’m pretty good at picking out phony bitches when I come across them. I expect this skill will come in handy even when I’m no longer fat. ;)
  • Will there be stairs? Will there be a lot of stairs? If I start turning red and/or purple due to  one too many flights of stairs, do I have enough medicine in my asthma inhaler? Could there maybe be a nice little alcove or an out-of-the-way-restroom-for-one where I could step inside for a few minutes and compose myself before joining everyone else?
  • Will there be chairs? Preferably comfortable ones I can sit on without worrying my fat ass will go through them? God knows I can’t stand for more than an hour without my ankles swelling up. (“Bad seating” includes almost all kinds of folding chairs, some bar stools and the seating nemesis of all short, fat people – the beanbag chair).
  • Is there a readily accessible, CLEAN bathroom with a functioning lock on the stall and wealth of toilet paper? (This is almost always a “No” when visiting shady little rock clubs and/or bars. Happens more than you’d expect, especially when some of your closest friends are working musicians. This point ties in nicely with the earlier discussion about “away toilet situation(s)”).

For the most part, I know regular and thin sized folks don’t worry about this sort of thing. The stress of socializing as a fat person is EXHAUSTING. So many possibilities, so many variables, so many chances things could go horribly, embarrassingly wrong. It must be nice to be invited to a social event and the only things you really have to worry about are A) what you’ll wear B) remembering cab fare and your cell phone. I am looking forward to socializing as a regular-to-thin-sized person immensely.

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47 thoughts on “Social Minefields

  1. Having recently had a hip replaced (and I am not 80), the stairs issue was huge for me for 3 years, as every single step on flat ground hurt and stairs were agony. People have no idea.

  2. Up front: I do NOT want to be mean or anything. But I do feel I need to comment on your post here.

    Now I have been a very introvert type of person. I found it very difficult to make friends, to go out or even take the initiative. Notice the word found there. I worried about a lot of things. I recognize the away toilet behavior (I was so uncomfortable around “other” toilets, I didn’t even went for a number two while I was teeneger for a whole two weeks when I was on a vacation once, or held up everything on a transatalatic flight because it was too awkward to go past other people!). But I found only one remedy for it, and that was to make myself uncomfortable and work in an optometrist store. There you HAD to interact with people beyond the hello and goodbye. You had to socialize with unknown people to make a sale. And it made me realize a couple of things:
    - You are more critical of your own appaerance. Most people don’t give a crap.
    - Never find excuses, always push yourself to go the extra mile
    -Wherever you go, that toilet seat is always the cleanest thing you will find (because your not alone in wanting to sit clean!)
    - Hiding behind facts like fat, overweight, glasses, not up to gym specs is just a way of excusing yourself to avoid growing and keeping everything the same.

    You want to be like the skinny people. But what you want is to be yourself and be comfortable. It won’t happen today or tomorrow, but realize you CAN be like that by just going out and not caring about the rest, but enjoying yourself. Trust me, no-one cares and no-one will remember, the only thing they will remember is if your being bubbly because all you cared about was enjoying and havin fun, not worrying about the things you cannot change overnight.

    • I have to go with Ordos20 on this one. Having been overweight my entire life (both slightly and not-so-slightly), I can tell you that while it maybe DIFFICULT, being outgoing and fashionable are not impossible. Check out some of the “Curvy girl” boards on Pinterest for fashion ideas. You do not HAVE to wear mom jeans and boy tees. And, believe it or not, it IS possible to feel good about yourself while being overweight. Looking at those before-mentioned Pinterest boards can help show you that there’s a whole culture out there for curvy girls who love their bodies and are unashamed. Don’t use it as an excuse to be bitter and unhappy, because it just makes the rest of us look bad. Happiness comes from within, regardless of what’s on the outside.

    • ordos20 – when you started off your reply with the statement – I don’t want to offend you, I was prepared for you to be highly offensive. So glad it was not. I appreciate what you have said here because it is thoughtful, empowering, and most of all, true. Thank you for this post.

      2F4F – Being overweight is so hard, I totally relate to the anxiety over socializing. My biggest fear is sitting in a chair and it breaking. While the chair may not have broken specifically due to my weight (maybe the chair is old, loose, or just crummy), other people don’t see those reasons, they see a fat person sitting in a chair and it breaking. At least that was what I thought. Until this past summer. I was working at a camp and I had to sit in this rusty folding chair. I turned slightly to say something to someone when the chair crumpled under me. I was HORRIFIED. How embarrassing! The worst part was that it happened in front of a bunch of high schoolers – they can be pretty rough on you when something like that happens. But they didn’t laugh. Not one of them. They did jump up and come to my rescue. You’d think that would be horrible enough, but the very next day, I had to sit in this plastic chair that had been sitting out in the sun for years. I knew before I sat down that I shouldn’t, but I did. I was okay at first, but then I noticed a teen doing something they shouldn’t have been doing, and I leaned forward quickly. I heard this loud crack and the thing just shattered. I was MORTIFIED! Along with hurting myself pretty badly, my ego was just shot. I mean seriously – 2 chairs in 2 days!!!! To shorten this little story a bit, I avoided the guy that helped me for 3 days after that happened. As I was leaving the camp, I sheepishly thanked him for his help, and admitted that I felt foolish and embarrassed, but he floored me with his response. He gave me a big hug and said the chair broke because it was old and that I should NEVER be embarrassed. Stuff happens.

      I can relate to the anxiety, the stress, but here’s the thing. The person that posted before me is right. We are so much harder on ourselves. Yes there are total jerks out there, I’ve run into a few, but 95% of the people out there are compassionate, loving, people that just want to know who YOU are. When we truly love someone, we love them as they are, not for who we wish they would become. I hate looking in the mirror, I feel horrible about my weight, I know I have diabetes because I let myself get out of control. But I also know that part of the reason I am so overweight is because I had started avoiding social settings. When we give into the anxiety, the solitude, we only feel worse, and we do what we hate, which is feed our emotions. Maybe you do not do that, but many people do.

      Go play. Forget about what the world “might” be thinking, and if they are, who gives a flip! We are all beautifully made and we are all important to the world around us. If you stay away from social settings, you deprive the world of your humor, your love, your compassion, your passion, and your amazing ability to connect with others through your words. Go out there and make a difference. Take care of other people. Before you realize it, you’ll have forgotten about your worries and anxiety and you’ll be laughing and having fun.

      That same week that I broke 2 chairs – I spent the entire week walking around wearing sheep ears, cracking jokes, listening to teens talk about the stresses in their lives, and just enjoying everyone tell me their stories. I gave everything I had in me to them, and what they remember is that I listened, that I cared. No one cares about the size of my pants, well, no one but maybe a fashion designer and Hollywood. You should check out my blog – Diary of a Fat Loser. It’s about trying to lose the fat (hence the play on words) and commenting on how others help or don’t help me achieve that goal. It’s something new I’m trying :-)

      Thanks for sharing. I very much appreciated it!

    • oh yeah, kris – or “being single” – do you know how stressful socialising can be for a 30 year old girl (sorry, but I’m not feeling old enough to use the word “woman” here *lol*) – and many times I find myself in situations with only couples! and BABIES!!! hell, it hurts…

  3. Thanks for the perspective. I hope you find the solution. In the meantime, you better fill in your “about” page, because you’re about to be bombarded by hundreds (maybe thousands) of new readers who saw your Freshly Pressed post, and want to connect. Congratulations.

    • Honestly, I think I’ll socialize just fine. My anxiety about socializing now is explicitly tied to my being overweight. I think I’ll always be nervous/anxious about certain things (“away toilets” for example), but being overweight magnifies my anxiety about socializing to crazy degrees. Previously, when I was a normal weight (around 117lbs), I had no problems socializing.

  4. Wow, I am so thankful that I live in smallville and never have to go out and socialize! I HATE socializing with a passion! I have honestly never thought of an away toilet situation. The fact that you write about it so well speaks of your ability to handle it well or at least appear like you are handling it well. I wish you much luck and good toilets for all your social events the rest of the year!

  5. I am 30# overweight, which I have never been in my life except when pregnant, and I look like crap. Actually, I look pregnant. Every time someone suggests visiting someone who used to be a big part of my life, I am filled with dread because I know they will be looking at me and thinking (quite pleased with themselves because they haven’t blown up like balloons) “Geez, has she ever put on a ton of weight!” I feel almost hopeless at the thought of losing all that weight and I hate the clothes I have to wear and how I look. It ruins every social occasion.

  6. I hate socializing, too. It took me years (decades) to stop forcing it and accept that I’m an introvert. I wonder if you’ll find that, when your world is different, you still hate socializing? Lots of things have fluctuated for me, but small talk is small talk, and I’ll never be any good at it lol! Best of luck to you. Great post.

  7. This is a great post, and after a mere four days you are freshly pressed, which is something a lot of us have been wanting for months, make that years. You are very candid and write very well, I enjoyed it a lot. I, too, am an introvert and don’t like chit-chat and social interaction with people I don’t know so I can relate. How can I follow your blog though, I didn’t see the button to enter my email address? You might want to add that widget, I’m sure there are lots of people who want to follow your progress.

    • Hi Lynn, thanks so much for your kind comments. I didn’t even realize I hadn’t added a follow button. I’ve added one now, it should appear in the right sidebar. Thanks so much for pointing that out!

  8. If it helps, I think a lot of this might be the Type-A, introvert thing, because I have a lot of the same concerns.

    Here’s my usual barrage of questions for my partner, during which his eyes glaze over and he responds, “I don’t know. Like last time?”

    How long is this event?
    Who will be there? Have I met them before? What’s their story? I don’t want to seem like I’ve forgotten them (which I probably have if I’ve met them less than 3 times)
    How long will we have to stay?
    Can I leave separate from you?
    What’s the furniture like? Bar stools? Couches only (personal space, strangers, bad mix)?
    I’m tired, angry, grumpy, want to be left alone, enjoying the quiet. Do I have to go?
    What is the dress code? What will other people be wearing?
    Do they have cats? (allergies)
    What food will be served? Should I eat beforehand? You know how I get if I get too hungry.
    Should we take alcohol?
    Do they prefer we take our shoes off? Because, it’s going to effect the socks I wear.
    How far away is this? How long will I have to sit in the car, on the bus, on the train, or walk?

    It’s rather exhausting being me :)

  9. This is great and it brings up the weird fact that although I’m in good shape and very gregarious, I too get anxious before social events. I think it could be from years of being blind-sided. I think because I’m extroverted, people just let crazy comments fly thinking that it means I’m Teflon coated too!
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  10. Great post! I have the same sort of pre social event anxiety. I need to know exactly how I’ll get there, how many people will be there, who will be there, what other people will be wearing, what I’ll be wearing, will there be anything I can safely eat, will I have to TALK to people about whether or not I can eat stuff. I too can only tolerate socializing in limited quantities even with people I adore and I don’t even consider myself an introvert (though… maybe I should re-think that!)

  11. Beautiful post! It is so touching and moving when people open up without being cheesy or corny. I know what you mean about feeling selfconscious about your apearence; I’m a little overweight now although most of my life I’ve been thin, but try to imagine not having an ear. That’s right, one ear, simply not there, not even a hole so this means you can’t hear propperly from that side. (search for microtia in wikipedia). Now imagine going through 4 plastic surgeries (while being a teenager) and still not looking quite right. I can’t diet or excercise this condition away, its there and people can tell. But f**k it! This is who I am and some people do like me.
    From my pov you could look like Megan Fox and still a lot of people won’t like you. I know this is cliche but we should stick to those who like us just the way we are and not stress about it. I don’t know how old you are but these things seem less important over the years. BTW my current girlfriend is a fat girl and I’ve found the best sex life ever with her :) not because she is fat but because we are very much in love and she is simply a tigress in bed, ok too much info here!

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressesd, you have a great blog, keep it up!

  12. From experience of being thin and extremely over weight, social events will still leave you anxious. Unless you decide for YOURSELF that what other people think is not relevant to being YOU. Being thin does not guarantee having a changed life. Only you can do that for yourself. People will like you or not, thin or fat. Trust me, I’m a lot older then you and been there. Hope you get to the point where you like yourself more then you wish to please others.

  13. I agree with ordos too. It sucks that people can be judgmental and mean, but often times those of us with heightened anxiety read into things to much. I don’t think people are actually as rude and nasty as we sometimes expect them to be. Just take a “screw them” attitude and you will feel much better. Trust me!

  14. Having been 120 pounds heavier, I totally understand what you’re talking about. I remember just not wanting to be inside myself and not wanting to inflict myself on the world.

    The final joke is, even as a size zero, I would feel awful if I was up 1 pounds and ugly and I wouldn’t want to inflict myself on the world.

    My point is: Comfort comes from within. But clothes shopping gets easeir with weightloss, I’ll admit. ;)

    • Agreed about the clothes shopping. When I was 110-117lbs, clothes shopping was a like a professional sport to me. I’m looking forward to competing in that event again soon. ;)

  15. If you’re self-esteem is floor-level, then it won’t really matter what your weight is. Social situations will always be difficult for you, if that’s the case. I’ve had “larger” friends be the life of the party and able to walk into a new social setting and be perfectly fine. It’s all in how you see yourself. I say this because while I may not be overweight, I’m not the greatest when it comes to new social situations. I tend to be very quiet and keep to myself when I’m around people I don’t know. And, yes, I also worry about things like how I’m dressed and how long I might have to be there for. It’s just the way I’ve always been (I’m 38) and I’m okay with it. I mean, I have to be, it’s who I am. And I don’t think that if I miraculously woke up as a super-model-thin-size-2-with-the-matching-super-model-looks tomorrow I would be any different. If you want to feel better about leaving your comfort zones, it will require work on your end, and I’m not just talking about losing the weight. The weight may eventually come off, but if you don’t feel good about who you are on the inside, the weight loss won’t matter.

  16. You’re an accomplished conversational writer.

    You’ve also hit a topic head-on that many would wish to forget about and pretend did not exist.

    So many have asked, “What do I do with this fat?” It seems overwhelming when, for example, metabolism, post-child bearing, overwork, or other challenging factors seem to conspire against you. And of course, who has not lapsed into emotional eating at one time or another?

    How do we deal with it? What do we do? That is the purpose of my work and my blog. You are welcome over at my blog anytime. I hope you find it useful.

  17. This was a very brave post. Having social anxiety is serious, whatever the cause. Like depression (and closely related thereto) it is not something you can just “will” yourself out of. Talking about it, starting small and sharing may help. I just wanted to say thank you for being so honest, I get it. It’s a process. I wish you well.

    There was a great short story in the fiction section of http://www.TheIndieChicks.com — It was I think 3rd place in the fiction writing contest called “The Office Party.” I didn’t write it, but I think you’ll enjoy it.
    Be well.

  18. I really do think being fat is just a hard way to live, on many levels; you have pretty much shown this. People are judgmental by nature, they do it without thinking. A lot of people can hide their shame, not so the fat person. No wonder you hate socializing. I consider myself average weight, and I hate socializing. Socializing is a competitive activity by nature. Anytime you are in a room with basic strangers, you’re going to be summed up by your appearance. Knowing what I know, it’s amazing I can walk out the door in the morning. To overcome the innate shallowness of humanity, I try and realize that while people do make snap judgements, they can also work past them. I’ve come to realize that I really do not care what other people think of me, I’m just not interested. At the end of the day, its my own face I must contend with in the mirror.

  19. Poor girl, you need some new friends. Ones that are fun enough to be around at any place and any time that you need not worry about stupid biatiches. I have always been a 98 pound weakling. After I had four children, I’m short and just about 20 pounds over weight. I hate it. But all my life I’ve had friends from the plus section. I’ve pointed out how I long for their flawless skin, gorgeous eyes, cute laugh, clever wit… blah, blah, blah. But all they ever reply with is, “I wish I had your skinny body!” The last time I saw my best friend she told me she was glad I plumped up a bit to understand a bit of her dilemma… I explained it had been too long since we had the chance to hang out… she forgot how beautiful she really is, and needed some reminding. And trust me, no skinny girl is ever comfortable and trying to look good at the same time. No girl doesn’t freak for weeks what she might wear that won’t make her look “fat” or out of place, and no girl that has a real soul, skinny or large and in charge can enjoy a bunch of fake biatches.
    Let Your Light Shine, Lovely Lady, and let it be with people you enjoy in places you WANT to be. Then let the outings begin!!!! Best Chica ~kl

  20. I know EXACTLY how you feel. I used to be fat and then damn near had a mental breakdown and decided to lose the weight; not so society would accept me, but so that I WOULD accept me and feel acceptable. I didn’t feel pretty, I didn’t feel desired and more importantly, I didn’t like myself very much. It was like I was not me and after I dropped the pounds I was free to be me.

    I started working out, but losing the weight was mostly due to a diet change. I monitored every calorie that I took in. Although I did not restrict what types of foods I ate, I mostly paid close attention to HOW MUCH I ate. I went online, calculated my suggested daily caloric intake for extreme weight loss and stuck to that number. So no matter what I ate, I made sure not to go over my daily caloric intake and it worked! Turns out it’s pure mathematics! As a result, I do eat a lot more healthy these days because healthier foods tend to be lower in calories and I’ve started trying things I never thought to eat before.

    I’m sure that you are a wonderful person no matter what, but if you’re anything like I was, I encourage you to embark upon a path where you are free to be you without all of the self judgement. ;)

  21. First congratulations on FB and for having the courage to post this!

    This could have come from me. The weight, being an introvert, the clothing, stairs, seating. All of it. Even the same level of fascination with the clubbing/partying/bar scene though I compare my enthusiasm for such to getting my teeth drilled. I avoid them all like plague.

    Of course, I despised and avoided them even even when I was 21 and a healthy weight. The more drunk people, the farther away I want to go. I’ve always disliked groups beyond a certain size (even if it’s all people I’m friendly with) and crowds are worse. That is completely non-dependent on my weight, but weighing as twice as much as my ‘ideal’ is an additional stress on it.

    It’s hard being a solitary sort. People can be nasty about it. Adding it with a weight issue and it becomes even more exhausting.

  22. This is a really interesting post- and very thought-provoking, thank you for sharing.
    Anxiety isn’t always about one thing, but being percieved as different (or perceiving oneself as different) only makes it worse. Personally, my biggest problem is if there’s a change in plans at the last minute- I basically have little mini-panic attacks. The biggest issue is if someone I don’t know gets added in and I havn’t had a week to psych myself up to it. It isn’t something that I can fix, it isn’t something that will go away- I just have to make sure that plans stay the same when approaching the one-week-to-disaster mark.

    • How I wish I could be apathetic, or at least be less tightly-wound. I think I’m too conscientious to be truly apathetic. It would probably take a decade of concerted effort, but then that’s the opposite of apathy, isn’t it? :D

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