Roe McDer­mott

The Irish Times Magazine - - INSIDE - ROE McDER­MOTT

Dear Roe, Let me preface this by say­ing I know this ques­tion doesn’t make me look great, but I do gen­uinely want to fig­ure out a way to ad­dress this is­sue. I’ve been with my girl­friend for four years, and in the past year and a half she’s put on a lot of weight, about two sizes in clothes. She’s still pretty and isn’t obese or any­thing, but she used to have a mind- blow­ing body and now I’m not nearly as at­tracted to her. Our sex life has been af­fected, as we don’t have sex as fre­quently or as en­thu­si­as­ti­cally – be­cause I’m not as en­thu­si­as­tic, to be hon­est. And our re­la­tion­ship over­all feels bor­ing and stuck be­cause of this. I’m pan­ick­ing, be­cause I gen­uinely saw us be­ing to­gether for the long- haul, and now I feel like we’re dis­tant. But I know it’s ridicu­lous for weight to cause a re­la­tion­ship to end. What do I do here? You came to me with a gen­uine ques­tion, so let me ask you one in re­turn: if you met your part­ner now, and there was no chance of a ro­man­tic or sex­ual con­nec­tion, would you want to be their friend? Would you want to hang out with them and talk to them, are you in­ter­ested in their thoughts and ideas, are you drawn to their charisma?

If you are think­ing about set­tling down long- term with your girl­friend, the an­swer needs to be yes. Be­cause yes, phys­i­cal at­trac­tion is im­por­tant, but in the long- run, ap­pear­ances and bod­ies change. In the short- term, peo­ple get dodgy hair­cuts and grow un­for­tu­nate mous­taches. And over time, peo­ple’s bod­ies change be­cause they put on weight and lose weight, they get preg­nant, and they get sick or suf­fer in­juries. And the in­escapable fact fac­ing all of us is that peo­ple age, and that changes us, too.

Your part­ner has put on weight, and her ap­pear­ance has changed – and yours will too, over time. Or you’ll go through pe­ri­ods of ill­ness, stress, grief, and a myr­iad of other rea­sons that will mean at cer­tain points in your life, you won’t feel sex­u­ally en­gaged or you may not be at your most at­trac­tive. It’s at these points, that gen­uinely lik­ing your part­ner as a per­son, not just a body, is go­ing to see you through. And I don’t mean in some ro­man­tic, but­ter­fly- in- the- stom­ach, breath­less wor­ship sense where you think your part­ner is a mag­i­cal god­dess. I mean, know­ing your part­ner in­ti­mately, know­ing their flaws- and- all self – if sex was off the ta­ble, would they still be the per­son you choose to spend most of your time with?

Re­la­tion­ships go through sex­ual dry spells, and many peo­ple go through pe­ri­ods of not feel­ing crazily at­tracted to their part­ner, and in these times, lov­ing each other as in­di­vid­u­als, not just as sex­ual part­ners, is what’s go­ing to sus­tain you. And I’m con­cerned that if your whole re­la­tion­ship and sex life has be­come stag­nant be­cause some of your phys­i­cal at­trac­tion is less­ened, that con­nec­tion might not be there.

While you’re ex­am­in­ing that con­nec- tion, it’d be worth ex­am­in­ing what ideals of beauty you’re valu­ing, and how nar­row they seem to be. Go­ing up two sizes doesn’t in­di­cate a shock­ing amount of weight gain. If you’re only ever go­ing to be con­tent with “mind- blow­ing” beauty, you’re not just go­ing to hurt your part­ners, you’re go­ing to limit your­self by de­valu­ing great peo­ple.

The beauty, film and pornog­ra­phy in­dus­tries work to­gether to so­cially con­di­tion us with ideals of beauty – but these aren’t in­nate, and can change. We can change them. In the 1990s, we wor­shipped the gaunt skin­ni­ness of “heroin chic” mod­els, now the “on- trend body” for women is one of curves all over ( still unattain­able for many, but now in a dif­fer­ent way, hur­rah!) These shifts hap­pen through ex­po­sure, rep­re­sen­ta­tion and cel­e­bra­tion – and you can shift that your­self. Start look­ing at and read­ing about body pos­i­tiv­ity, and de­lib­er­ately se­lect­ing me­dia that al­lows you to ap­pre­ci­ate other types of beauty – and bring this to your view of your part­ner. What makes her sexy now, and how can you ap­pre­ci­ate it?

Re­gard­ing your girl­friend’s weight gain, it’s worth hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with her about it – one that fo­cuses on her feel­ings, not yours. Trust me, she knows she has put on weight. But a sud­den in­crease in weight could by a side- ef­fect of a few things, in­clud­ing ill­ness, med­i­ca­tion, stress or de­pres­sion, etc. If this is the case, she could wel­come your sup­port in ad­dress­ing the is­sue and she may be plan­ning on los­ing the weight. You could sup­port her by sug­gest­ing ther­apy if nec­es­sary, help­ing her out gen­er­ally so she has time to go to the gym, or ex­er­cis­ing and eat­ing healthily to­gether.

But I will also say, weight gain isn’t al­ways a sign of some­thing neg­a­tive, and when within a healthy range, shouldn’t be viewed as such. Weight gain can be the sign of a med­i­ca­tion do­ing its job to fix a hor­monal im­bal­ance or thy­roid is­sue, for ex­am­ple – or it could just be self- care. Many women feel in­cred­i­ble amounts of pres­sure to achieve and main­tain a “mind- blow­ing body” like your girl­friend had – and it’s not al­ways healthy, phys­i­cally or emo­tion­ally. Over- ex­er­cis­ing and un­der­eat­ing are not healthy. Maybe your girl­friend has repri­ori­tised her con­fi­dence and self- worth so it’s less fo­cused on her body, and so she’s shed some un­healthy prac­tices in or­der to em­brace her­self, even if that also means em­brac­ing a few ex­tra pounds.

If you can’t em­brace that with her, then maybe you shouldn’t be with her. She will find some­one who will love her at this size, and at oth­ers. Ask your­self what you will find, and what you’re re­ally look­ing for.

Roe McDer­mott is a writer and Ful­bright scholar with an MA in sex­u­al­ity stud­ies from San Fran­cisco State Uni­ver­sity. She’s cur­rently un­der­tak­ing a PhD in gen­dered and sex­ual cit­i­zen­ship at the Open Uni­ver­sity and Ox­ford. If you have a prob­lem or query you would like her to an­swer, you can sub­mit it anony­mously at irish­times. com/ dear­roe

re‘ p‘ Maybe your girl­friend has ri­ori­tised her con­fi­dence and self- worth so it’s less fo­cused on her body, and so she’s shed some un­healthy prac­tices in or­der to em­brace her­self

Re­la­tion­ships go through sex­ual dry spells and in these times, lov­ing each other as in­di­vid­u­als, not just as sex­ual part­ners, is what’s go­ing to sus­tain you

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