Cat Person Could Have Been Called Fat Person
“Looking at him like that, so awkwardly bent, his belly thick and soft and covered with hair, Margot recoiled.”
Cat Person is uncomfortable, as I assume the writer intended, but when I got to this line, my stomach sank. My hand on my own soft, thick belly. This was the tipping point for Margo. Robert’s fatness was the thing she couldn’t skip past. He was much older, awkward, scraggly, moody, oh, but this thing, his body shape, that was it. She would have extricated herself if she could have done so without a mountain of emotional labor.
Is this what people think of my body? Do they look past my flaws, my overeager chattiness, my loud laugh, the way I’m forward, and then they see my belly, soft and thick and, they see my thighs not compressed by my expensive leggings, is that it? The moment they’re repulsed?
When my long term partner left, I was shocked. There are all kinds of issues and things to parse out but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t spend plenty of time (then and now) thinking it’s my body. He can walk away so easily because I’m not attractive anymore. When we got together years ago, I was thinner. Not Kate Moss thin, but thinner. My arms didn’t sag and my butt was rounder, my jeans didn’t need to be midrise to suck in my stretched gut from having a couple of kids.
I tried a dating app. Just to get back out there. I needed a rebound. My ex wasn’t a particularly good kisser and I missed that aspect of intimacy. I deserved a good makeout for all the emotional trauma I’d been through. But very quickly, I got cold feet. The men on the app would see my carefully curated selfies that showed my good angles, not my body. I’m gorgeous, the kind of gorgeous where old ladies in the grocery store say, “if you just lost some weight, you’d be a knockout.” (I’m a knockout now, thanks, but no thanks.)
But still, no matter how comfortable I am with my body, would these men who were only shown my good angles still want to kiss my lips when they saw my belly or my arms or my thighs?
Instead, I started flirting with a guy I ran into frequently. He’s cute. A little chubby like me, funny, with a megawatt smile, brown skin, and he always joked with me. It took several Sundays before I thought he might be flirting with me, the frazzled lady, tired, and most days no makeup, (and fat.)
But I worked up the courage and gave him my number. He smiled wide when I handed it to him. He said later, “Your cheeks were so pink, I didn’t know that cheeks could do that.”
Almost immediately, he sent me three gym selfies. I haven’t dated in over a decade, so that felt like overkill. But it was clear very soon that he was uncomfortable with his appearance. He told me how he used to be much larger but now he runs at 5am and lifts weights daily. (He does have really nice arms.) “You know women don’t actually care about that, right? At least, I don’t.”
“It’s okay for you to be thick. You look good. Don’t ever lose any weight, you’re perfect. But dudes can’t be fat.”
Every sitcom on TV with a funny man begs to differ, but this is what society is telling everyone. Fatness is a personal flaw. A moral failing. Disgusting.
Fast forward to the first time we have sex. He doesn’t seem at all bothered by my fatness, even lists off the parts of my body that have him excited. My thighs, my ass, my skin is so smooth, he says.
But he’s terrified of his own. “Are you okay? I’m not crushing you, am I? Don’t touch my stomach like that,” he said, moving my hands up his chest to where he was more defined.
It was a constant concern of his, making me feel so sorry for him. If he can revel in my body, why can’t I enjoy his? I like his shape. I feel comfortable with him. His skin is soft, there’s a comfort in finding the indentations of stretch marks on his body that feel like mine, a shared stripe.
But the Cat Person story comes along to remind me that both our bodies aren’t worthy of love or even basic decency. The plot twist to the idealizing of a person is fatness. That’s the end. The shelf breaks. All the little things ignored or rationalized are too heavy under the literal weight of his body.
I know, I get it. It’s about women’s socialization to be people pleasers. It’s about the very real fear that a man you don’t know could hurt you so…just have that sex. And then move on. Get out of there and feel dirty and sick with yourself but you saved his feelings enough.
I just wish something else was the tipping point. I wish his feet smelled or his cats interrupted, or his stupid high pitched moan was the thing that made her recoil. Then I wouldn’t feel bad about my body. I wouldn’t feel sad for my rebound partner’s cute donut middle.
Cat Person is an act in discomfort and it did it’s job. I’ll be thinking about my soft, round belly all day.