The day my boyfriend called me fat…
To quote the great philosopher Sir Mix-a-Lot, “I ain’t down with that!”
I’m generally someone who avoids awkward conversations. For example, the day my son asked me “How do babies get in your tummy and how do they get out?” — I said in response, “Bellybutton” and promptly left the room.
I tend to take a wide berth from personal interactions that are uncomfortable or potentially confrontational — I’m just not one of those people who gets off on getting up in someone else’s grill. I instead often opt to seeth in silence; because I find it’s incredibly healthy to bottle up resentment and maintain a steady base level of rage at all times…
Here’s the curious thing though — I am very happy to speak up, object and act on behalf of others when I see an injustice, or something that’s just plain f*cked up, occurring. I can get my angry pants on and join the picket with the best of them. But when it comes to me, myself and I, I tend to be far more permissive of poor behaviour. Some “therapists”, “psychologists” and “brain doctors” would argue this stems from a lack of ‘self love’ (buzzword alert) and respect — but what would a bunch of so-called “experts” know…?
Well, quite a lot probably. In my classic self-deprecating and vulnerable style, I’ll use an humiliating personal anecdote to illustrate my point. I recently got out of a relationship with a man who had been running hot and cold from the very moment we met. One minute he was totally in love and besotted with me; the next he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted, but suspected it might not be me. This pattern of on again off again had repeated itself countless times throughout the relationship. And here I was, giving away all of my power by waiting — in the hope I could convince him to choose me. The whole time forgetting I had just as much choice in the matter. I was operating from a place of fear — scared that if I didn’t make it work with him I would end up like Bridget Jones; singing ‘All by Myself” on the couch, deep throating a bottle of pinot and waiting for the Alsatians to move in and clean up my utterly unloveable carcass.
I would end up like Bridget Jones; singing ‘All by Myself” on the couch, deep throating a bottle of pinot and waiting for the Alsatians to move in.
But what makes this situation — though not entirely uncommon — worse, is that merely a week after we met each other he confided, after a few wines, that I was “larger than all the women he had ever been with” and that he was used to dating women he could “throw around a bit”. Seriously, bring in Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem; we’ve got a page one rewrite over here.
I’ll wait while you pick your jaw up off the ground… Are you back? Ready to continue into the personal abyss I like to call my ‘Black Hole of Self Respect’? Great. Grab a daypack and a waterbottle, because it’s a bit of trek.
I was definitely “thrown around a bit” in that moment (what with being an Australian size 10 and all…), but sadly I couldn’t even come up with a quick-witted and cutting response. Something that would have ordinarily rolled off the tongue had I been defending a friend in the same moment.
“Run for the hills!” I hear all the feminists (and anyone with a shred of self respect) screaming. But I didn’t. In fact, I continued to engage with this man for a further nine months! And that wasn’t the last of the highly insensitive and unnecessary comments to come from his mouth. But did I call him on it at any stage? No, not really. I simply dug my heels, my feels and my heart in further — hoping he would eventually recognise what a catch I was. Spoiler alert: that never happened. And do you know what? Someone who condones that kind of smack talk about themselves probably isn’t actually ‘a great catch’ in that moment. There was work to do. (And Tim Tams to eat).
No one wants tepid tea, room temp relations, slightly warm sexy time or lukewarm love.
But back to the bellybutton… That seemingly innocent question from my son set off a bit of a John Farnham moment (that’s a Chain Reaction for those of you playing at home). That sweet little inquiry made me question my ability to have tough conversations. ‘Project Bellybutton’, as it will now forever be known, was a true turning point; showing me the error of my ways. And the next time Mr Lukewarm went cold, I pulled the pin. And I pulled it hard, and for good.
Because the only thing that should ever be hot and cold in this life is your bathroom plumbing. No one wants tepid tea, room temp relations, slightly warm sexy time or lukewarm love.
My learning — in order to have the hard conversations with others, or to call them out when they’re doing something in conflict with my values, I needed to first have the hard conversation with myself. Because that’s where true power comes from.
And the next time my son asks me where babies come from, I’ll be prepared with a truly grown-up and well considered response: “Ask your father”.