In this week’s Hola Papi!, the advice column by writer, Twitterer, and prolific Grindr user John Paul Brammer, a reader writes in asking for help with the fact that he keeps losing weight, but men keep expressing dissatisfaction.
And while we all have a body type we find most sexy, his question helps our dear columnist launch into a larger discussion on body image and love for queer people everywhere.
If you want his advice, just email him at [email protected] with your question. Just be sure to include SPECIFICS, and don’t forget to start out your letter with Hola Papi!
I live in Germany, I’m 28, and I’m tall and chubby. In January this year, I started to work out, change my eating habits, and lose weight so that I could feel better about myself and be healthier. I already lost a big chunk of the pounds I wanted to lose, and a while ago when I hit my intermediate goal, I pulled myself up by my wig straps and got back into the game of dating.
But here’s the thing: Every single guy I went on a date with, no matter if he was big or thin or muscular, told me to either lose or gain more weight, and that we can’t date until I did so.
Here’s my question: What the F am I supposed to do? I really would like to have a new boyfriend. As I said I’m 28 now, but feel like I’ll never find one, and I really don’t know how to handle this shit anymore. I get that we’re all shallow c u next Tuesdays, but come on.
Guten Tag, Body! It’s always a treat when I get to go international in these columns. It gives me the illusion of being abroad, despite having not left my home in weeks. But it’s okay. There are stray cats who keep me company from outside my window. I have named them all. They have distinct personalities. They think I am their mother.
Anyway, I don’t know what has changed since I last set foot in your country, but scheisse! (I will stop now, I promise) Since when do people ask you to lose or gain weight on the first date?
That’s the easy part of your problem: If someone says they don’t want to see you until you’ve changed your body, then they don’t deserve to see you at all. They don’t deserve to see anyone for that matter. They should be put in time out from seeing people until they stop that. They are rude and should be punished.
But now comes the hard part we have to reckon with: It’s not so easy to dismiss body issues in the gay community. They are all over the place, and they influence pretty much everything.
If I were more of a hack, I would tell you it all comes down to self-love, or that you just need to be confident. Perhaps I would hit you over the head with a platitude, something like “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” or “it’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
But for now, screw that. As a body dysmorphic and a sufferer of an eating disorder, I know what it’s like to navigate gay spaces in both a thin and a husky body (though, certainly, I haven’t experienced it all!) and I know what it’s like to feel less-than because of my looks. And, Body, it does not feel good!
You and I are not alone in that sentiment. Did you know that gay men are way more likely than straight men to develop eating disorders? Did you know that gay men are also more likely to report feeling inadequate about their bodies? Something is going on here, and it seems we’re struggling to address it as a community.
Body, I swear, sometimes being a gay man feels like a competition. It’s like we’re constantly comparing ourselves to the next guy: how many people we’ve hooked up with, how many likes we got on our selfies, how many hot friends we can recruit into our squad. If you get caught up in that mindset, it can make you feel constantly inadequate. It can make you feel like you’ll never be enough.
But the thing is, you are enough. And not every gay man is going to make you feel like you need to gain or lose something before you’re worth it. I don’t just mean in the context of potential boyfriends, either. I mean the guys you surround yourself with, even the ones you don’t talk to.
Think about this: If you actually followed through with one of these assholes and lost the weight they asked you to, do you really think they’d hold up their end of the bargain and start dating you? And if they did, wouldn’t that be even more of a nightmare? You’d be with a guy who only valued you because you changed yourself to accommodate him. Doesn’t sound healthy! Some red flags are going up here!
The same principle applies to the people you associate with, the bars you go to, and the company you keep. It can take a lot of willpower, and it’s not always going to be pleasant, but if you can figure out how to stop seeking the approval of people who absolutely don’t have your best interests in mind, you will be a whole lot better off.
Meanwhile, try seeking out spaces where a wider variety of body types are affirmed. Find some friends you can openly speak to about your struggles with your body. Mental health and body anxiety are taboo topics to some folks, but keeping quiet about it is partly why we’re in such a bad place with eating disorders as a community.
And while it might sound a bit cheesy, I wanted to finish up by giving you a secret weapon. It’s a little something I tell myself that genuinely helps me whenever I start to fall into the trap of comparing myself to others or feeling like I hate my body.
I think about something I like about myself. Maybe it’s my intelligence, or maybe it’s that I care about my friends, or maybe it’s that dogs seem to want my company. Then I think about how that trait that I like, whatever it is, is a part of me. It’s a tangible, physical part of me, no less real than my arms or my stomach or my eyes.
I don’t need to separate myself into “good” and “bad” parts. I am a complete whole, and my body, even if someone judges it just by looking at it, is good enough to contain and conduct all these wonderful things I like about myself. So how bad can it be, really? Not bad at all.