Welcome to a new series where I, TalksTooMuch (TTM) explore themes about shows without doing a full recap. I'm starting with the series Dietland on AMC, based on the phenomenal book by Sarai Walker. I have a hard time writing recaps on this series because the subject matter is so personal to me, so instead, I thought I would write a bunch of personal essays on the show. Because it's not oversharing if I haven't sold it as a recap, AMIRITE?? RIGHT?? Let's begin:
**warning: this is mostly personal, any comments like "STICK TO THE SHOW" can be directed to your closest recycle bin. Fanks in advance**
I've already recapped the first four episodes, you can find them here:
So I'm going to do a post on episode 5 (Plum Tuckered) to start. This is when Plum Kettle (Joy Nash) has begun the dating phase of the New Baptist Plan under the guidance of her therapist / guru Verena Baptist (Robin Weigert).
The first date shows up, looks at Plum in her beautiful red dress, hands over flowers and beats it. Unfortunately, he's the nicest of her four dates because he's honest plus flowers. Imagine if your dating life consisted solely of choosing which asshole who walked out on you was the LEAST BAD asshole depending on how long they stayed before bailing. Now stay in that headspace and imagine that you aren't being forced to do this for a magical $20,000 gastric bypass cheque, but just for some form of romantic human contact.
I would guess that a lot of people think that Plum's experiences of dating are exaggerated for effect or completely fabricated, but I personally can vouch for their validity. Let's talk about dating while fat!
Jes Baker of The Militant Baker has been very vocal about her romantic success once she started posting full length pictures of herself on dating websites and calling herself SexyAndFat (her book Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls is great too!) but Imma go ahead and guess that's not the common experience.
It certainly wasn't mine, I remember just starting out in the online dating world almost 20 years ago and connecting really well with someone. Multiple emails, messages, several a day. This was in the days before cell phones were quite as advanced (THANK THE GODS AND THE WEE BOARLETS) and forget about picture quality, so I didn't have a picture on my profile. I did explain that I was round, I figured that was sufficient, right? He kept asking more and more for pictures, so I borrowed a camera from work and asked one of the guys to take a picture (of me literally standing in a field of grass) so I could send it.
I was 300+ pounds at this point and while I knew it would be a problem, I still couldn't help but hope that maybe THIS time, THIS guy wouldn't care and hey, he knew I was round, right?
I was ghosted before ghosting was.even.cool.
That's probably one of the nicer stories I could tell about online dating but there was a singlemindedness about it that I didn't understand at all. Men just wanted to know if I was fat, they didn't even care if I was smart or interesting or could make one hell of a cinnamon bun: they just needed to tick that box before they would even unleash their boring chitchat and (mostly) overweight pictures. I mean: look how funny I clearly was??
We see this with Plum's dates: Aidan, the civil rights activist clearly was doing what he thought of as a personal growth lesson by being seen in a romantic setting with a fat person. Then he couldn't take the scrutiny any more and bailed. On the other side of the coin is Jack (Drew Gehling) who only wanted to date Plum because she's fat. Or rather, watch her consume food truck offerings for a set period of time. Neither one of these men cared who Plum is, how funny and smart she is, what she has to say. It's either a hard no or a hard hellz yeah with no regard to who Plum is.
The interesting part about my experience is when I did lose weight and became "conventionally attractive"; all of a sudden I got to be the moron! I didn't have to do anything interesting, hold a conversation, bake not one divine cookie, I was good enough because I was small enough. Good news about conversation skills, I could barely string two words together given how little nutrition I was imbibing at that time. My hair was falling out in clumps, I exercised hours upon hours every day, and planned and wrote down everything I ate (drank) except for the chocolate bars I binged on after drinking all my calories. But I looked GOOD!
People don't understand what it's like to be fat for a lifetime then suddenly "normal" sized. It's like being undercover. When you're fat, people barely even notice you, except to make comments. Comments as "help", comments as aggression, but still, mostly unnoticed. I felt completely invisible to men, unless they were trying to meet one of my friends, so I saw everything. I saw how they treated women they liked as opposed to anyone they didn't think mattered or women they were repulsed by, people who've only been one or the other don't understand how valuable that is. I saw it ALL.
It reminds me of when #MeToo broke this year and suddenly men were looking around at all these angry women trying to figure out where the hell we came from. Who were these angry people with thoughts and feelings very different from their own? We were always there and always mad, they just didn't have to pay any attention. People in the majority never do.
Just like fat people! WE CAN HEAR YOU. It's just not always comfortable or even safe for us to respond.
So. Back to Dietland. Just when we think Plum might actually have a nice date after all, he bails while she's in the bathroom RIGHT AFTER she backed up some shitty, shitty women for shittalking.
Side note if you've ever been one of those women who openly and loudly workshops the question But Why Is He With Her? with your friends when you see a woman of size with a "normal" sized dude: shut it. In fact,
and think about your life choices. It doesn't make you cool to point out a social incongruity, it doesn't make you hilariously mean, it makes you look pathetic to punch down at someone who's just trying to get a little D. Or V.
IN CONCLUSION: dating while fat is fraught. And it only gets fraught-er (but not frotteur, gross) as it goes, but that's not the most important part of Dietland, thank the gods. Let's find out what else is in store for us! Cheers!