Love in the time of body dysmorphia

My 8th date with Whippersnapper got rescheduled twice, for reasons that deserve their own post.

Ages ago, on my third date with him, he told me that he used to be overweight, when he was a teenager. He said he doesn’t normally tell anyone this.

I did initially mention it in my post about our third date, but then, I deleted that bit. My logic was that it seemed very personal, and I went on to write loads about his herpes, so I thought I’d at least respect his privacy about his body image.

To be honest, I don’t think my logic added up. I think it makes more sense to either write about everything or nothing.

Even though 100% of what I’ve written about him is gushingly complimentary, if he found out about this blog, it’s safe to say I’d have a bit of a problem. I doubt he’d say “I don’t mind you writing thousands of words about my diseased penis for strangers on the internet, because at least you did cut out that one sentence about how I used to be fat.”

So here we are. When I said “he used to be very insecure about his appearance, for various reasons”, this was what I meant. It came up when we were talking about him having lots of one night stands.

He said after losing the weight (5 stone apparently) when he was about 18, it was like ‘waking up on Christmas morning with no presents, because all my insecurities were still there’. Girls started to take an interest, and he started sleeping with them, but he said as soon as he got validation from one girl, he’d need it from the next one, in case the previous one was an anomaly.

I assumed he’d always been slim. How he now feels about his body didn’t really come up that much until Christmas. Although, when I look back, I think his body image might’ve played a role in a lot of the cancellations that I didn’t understand at the time.

In between our 7th and 8th dates, I went away for a week for Christmas. We were in touch a lot over WhatsApp.

The night I arrived at my parents’ house, he drunkenly messaged me saying “I’ve fell for you. Rather deeply.”

On Boxing Day, we had a WhatsApp conversation until about 2am. He was quite tipsy. We were talking about all kinds of things, like how we feel about life. He said “thank you for making me feel alive.”

Then he said “can I show you a photo?”

“Is it of your penis?” I replied.

I regret saying that now, as the picture turned out to be of him when he was overweight.

It’s hard to know the best way to react to that. It’s clearly a big deal, so it doesn’t seem very validating to minimise it, and say “oh, it’s not that bad, you weren’t that fat”.

On the other hand, even if it would be validating, it doesn’t seem very reassuring to say “Jesus, you’re right, you were enormous!” either.

I said “I’m so pleased you showed me. I wish you went to my school and we could’ve been friends back then. It doesn’t seem like either of us had the best time at school.”

He said “I think that’s why I get weirded out when someone fancies me. I still think in my mind I’m that same kid in year 10.”

I think it was playing on his mind that I’d said I’d like to see him more, because he added “this explains why I’m not too good at seeing you often.”

He told me how much his body image problems affect him, day to day; every car window or shop front he passes, he checks his reflection to see if his body looks fat. He said “sometimes it just gets too much and I need to be in my own zone, in baggy clothes, not worrying about looking slim.”

I tried to simultaneously reassure him that he looks amazing, empathise with how bad it feel, but also to reiterate that I still want to see him a bit more.

We agreed it was something we’d work on together, and he said “we will overcome this, hand in hand.”

I should probably also say that I felt really down that week. Christmas can feel like a barometer for how your life is going, and I had too much time to reflect on things not being as I hoped.

It was also going to be my first New Year’s Eve, as a (kind of) single person in years. It was too soon to suggest to WS that we spend it together, but all my friends are in couples and were just staying in together (what pricks). It was giving me flashbacks to Millennium New Year’s Eve, when I was 15 and my gang of girlfriends ditched me and I had to go home and play scrabble with my parents.

I told WS I was feeling down and he was absolutely lovely and really cheered me up.

We were due to see each other next on 30th Dec, the day I got back to London. On the 29th, we were messaging each other in the morning, and I said “we’re seeing each other tomorrow, right?” He immediately went offline, and I knew he was going to cancel again.

I felt really miserable and stressed. I went swimming. When I was on my way home, he replied, suggesting we met on New Year’s Day instead. Something about how he’d been out every night for the last few nights. I thought this was really piss poor, since he’d postponed our 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th dates.

I texted him saying “I like you so much, and I’ve fallen for you, but I think this is never going to work out because I can’t rely on you. You’ve cancelled so many times, and last time I told you how much it bothers me, and the very next time we make plans you’re trying to fob me off with some alternative date.”

He replied with a pissed off message saying I was “breaking his balls” and that he only cancels because of having three separate conditions affecting his cock, and that he always suggests an alternative date – “it’s not like I leave you standing in the rain with a bunch of wet roses.”

Although I was hoping he’d be apologetic rather than pissed off, I kind of weirdly loved his reaction, even though I thought he was being silly.

I had said it was never going to work, which I meant at the time – I wasn’t bluffing, but I was relieved he didn’t just say “OK, goodbye then”, and had a strong reaction.

Also, after my last relationship, I loved that he managed to be pissed off with me, without terrifying me, ripping my personality to shreds or calling me horrible names. He even made me laugh with the image of ‘standing in the rain with a bunch of wet roses’.

A few messages went back and forth, and he ended up saying “I’m so sorry for being a cunt. You know I adore you. It’s just weird for me to be in a monogamous situation after such a long time being a rogue, it’s like I don’t know how to act.”

We agreed we would see each other on New Year’s Day and went back to nice texts. I think I gave in slightly too easily, but planned to talk properly about it in person.

I got back to London and spent New Year’s Eve with my friend and her boyfriend. We drank a lot of Prosecco and watched Clueless.

Around midnight WS sent me a couple of messages saying “Happy New Year baby” (normally I don’t really like ‘babe’ or ‘baby’ but I loved this).

I remember sending him one saying “you are one of the best things in my 3016” and another one saying “Happy” (I was going for ‘Happy New Year’ but was too drunk to write the whole thing).

Then, at 6am on New Year’s Day, I woke up, fully clothed, in my friend’s bed, with a full glass of Prosecco next to me and a very dry mouth.

I picked up my phone.

Oh great, I’ve got 4 messages from WS!

He had messaged me at about 1.30am.

As I opened the messages, my smile turned to shock:

“I’m such a loser lol”
“Just a fat prick loser.”
“Fuck this. I like you so much, but I can’t pretend. I’m a waster. You deserve better than this.”
“I’m sorry. Just forget me, please. I feel bad and it won’t work. Just fuck this.”

Happy New Year.

I sent him some seriously gentle tough love back, saying things like “Don’t be so fucking ridiculous. Let me be the judge of who I want and whether they’re good enough, you bloody mentalist” and “you’re not fat, you’re gorgeous, you’re not a loser, you’re wonderful”.

I dozed fitfully until 10am, when he started replying. He still seemed very depressed and hopeless. I thought he’d say “God, I can’t believe those messages last night, ignore that!” but he kind of picked up where he’d left off. He said he couldn’t understand why I like him.

I drove back to my flat and got into bed with a cup of tea, still in my sequinned top from the night before.

I watched all the New Year’s TV from the night before on my laptop, and WS and I texted each other all day. He went from being a cute, depressed Dementor (“Nothing ever works. It’s all fucked. All of it. I just wanna lay in bed and make this feeling pass.”) to this “you’ve perked me up.” 

We went back to the messages he’d sent in the night. I said “I’m surprised I’m not feeling insecure, because you kind of suggested ending things, when you said to forget you. But I know you like me and you’re right to, and you’d be an idiot to let me go.”

He said “I definitely, definitely don’t want to let you go. I have no idea why I said that.”

He cancelled our New Year’s Day plans because of feeling depressed. I thought he shouldn’t have, but we met up on 2nd January and I felt like we got a lot closer on that New Year’s Day of texting.

I tried to gently suggest how CBT might be able to help with his body image, without making him feel like a patient. He told me he was going to refer himself to his local NHS service, but I don’t think he ever did.

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4 thoughts on “Love in the time of body dysmorphia

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