Dan Weiss is 26, stands five-foot-six, weighs about 130 pounds, and has a thin chinstrap beard outlining his jaw—without the scruff, he looks 12. This Tuesday afternoon in March is the first time we’ve ever met, even though he’s a freelance music writer and we’ve been e-mailing each other professionally for years.
I first took an interest in him in September 2009, when he reviewed a live show of the Coathangers, a scrappy all-female grrrl-wave four-piece from Atlanta. In a note that was apropos of nothing really, he mentioned that he had taken out a description of the women in the band as “super-cute,” because, he said, he didn’t want anyone to think he was into “skinny girls.”
His Facebook profile filled in some of the blanks. He wore black-rimmed glasses and uniformly tight band T-shirts. He had shaggy black hair that fell in wiry squiggles. He played guitar and studied English at William Paterson University. There were snapshots of him posed with a beautiful young woman who appeared to be more than twice his size, wearing a French-maid Halloween costume. And there was a link to Ask a Guy Who Likes Fat Chicks, an unsigned advice-column blog “for your plumper-related stumpers.”
Entries happily, ravenously, robustly referenced double bellies, back rolls, and “big old ham thighs.” Feminine body shapes were compared to pears, apples, and one calabash squash; their weights spanned from 180 pounds to over 500. “Big Fat Sexy Kitty,” a young woman who described herself as five feet tall and 260 pounds, wrote in: “I want fat sex. I want my jiggly bits rubbed and squished and fondled sexually.”
In person at the East Village’s Cafe Orlin, Dan explains that, yes, he likes round bellies. He likes double chins. He likes breasts the size of his head. He loves flabby biceps. “Fat upper arms are awesome. I would almost say I’m an arms guy,” he says, not by any means whispering. “I didn’t know that they would be that soft. I, like, fell asleep on a girl’s arm once. I was like, ‘Wow.’ ”
The blog Ask a Guy Who Likes Fat Chicks began on a whim, with Dan posting during his border-crossing bus sojourns to visit his long-distance girlfriend of two years, the smoky-eyed French maid from Toronto. The phrase “Fat Chicks” was meant to be a reversal of the college-humor slogan “No Fat Chicks.” And in the online world of Facebook groups and BBW (Big Beautiful Woman) messageboards that Dan inhabits, “fat” is preferable to “overweight,” which implies a standard, or “hefty,” which belongs to the trash bag, or “heavy,” which sounds like furniture. And “Fat Admirer” is the most frequent shorthand for straight men who prefer fat partners—the better-known term “Chubby Chaser” has become associated with the gay community.
Too lazy to consider himself an activist, but cocky enough to be the mouthy weakling “who would be getting my neck rung by the bully and still saying shit,” Dan is ego-driven enough to envision a greater purpose. “Society sucks, and society says you need male validation. If you’re trying to say fat is attractive, as a lot of women out there are, it helps to find legitimate people who find this attractive.” Or, as he put it more bluntly on his Facebook page, after contributing two pro-fat pieces to lady blog The Hairpin, “I write about my preference for fat women in hopes that other men who share my preference will make themselves known so they’ll stop being little ballsacks and let the millions of fat women in this country find them.”
In other words, Guys Who Like Fat Chicks are not make-believe. “We’re out there.”
Dear Askaguywholikesfatchicks: Why do you like fat chicks? —Sincerely, A Fat Chick
I’m so glad you asked. But the answer is: I don’t know. It’s the same I-don’t-know that pubescent boys will tell you after waking up strangely soaked from a night of dreaming about—I don’t know, Ashley Tisdale. The real question is, why are so many Fat Admirers in denial? I can’t tell you how many guys (or gals) there are like me, and a good portion of them being in the closet makes the numbers even fuzzier. Over half the U.S. is considered—DUN DUN DUN—“overweight.” Someone’s fucking all the fatties.* Be a sport and let them know.
*Contrary to popular belief, it’s not me. [January 7, 2009]
Once upon a time, if a young man wanted to see a fat girl naked, he actually had to woo her. Playboy and Penthouse didn’t publish stretch-mark-mapped centerfolds. BBW nude-model paysites like PlumpPrincess.com and BigCuties.com did not exist. Dan didn’t have that problem. “An early memory was having Entertainment Weekly, cutting out pictures of Anna Nicole Smith in the Guess ads, and just studying her boobs.” But unlike his Fat-Appreciating forebears, he had the Internet. “I was looking for bigger and bigger boobs online, and when you looked at bigger and bigger boobs, you wound up finding bigger girls. And I was like, ‘Oh, wait. I like all of this.’ ”
Kevin N., a marine biology doctoral candidate at the University of Maine, Orono, figured it out on the school bus. “This girl sat next to me, and she was about 300 pounds—she was gorgeous, she was blond,” the class of 2000 high school graduate offers over the phone. That day, everyone had to sit three to a seat. “I was up against the window, she had to push up against me, and the other kid was sitting with one ass cheek hanging off the seat. I’m just sitting there with my backpack on my lap, like, ‘Huhhhh.’ ” That was the first public erection he ever had. “You realize, ‘I think I like this.’ ”
Immediately, that made him different. “In high school, you have your prototypical locker-room discussion, ‘Hey, did you see so-and-so?’ ” says Kevin, who recently got engaged to a 25-year-old Ohio woman he met five years ago in a BBW chat room. “‘You can’t come out and say, ‘Oh, no, not really,’ because you’ll then get, ‘What are you, some sort of fag?’ ”
That’s what everyone assumed about the Red Sox fan anyway. A basketball player with type 1 diabetes, the Rhode Islander was five-foot-10 and 131 pounds at his Coventry high school. Meanwhile, his “pretty” girlfriend was an all-state softball player—size 16, five feet nine inches tall, maybe 200 pounds—but could bench more than her scrawny boyfriend. A rumor spread that he was gay, which he didn’t bother to refute. Liking a fat girl was so much more of a preposterous scenario that he worried the truth would “make it snowball even more.”
Fat Admirers (FA) have historically adopted queer nomenclature for their self-discovery stages and preferences. Men who openly pursue, prefer, and date fat women are “out.” Men who like fat women but more or less hide them from friends and family are “closeted.” Men who say they like both skinny and supersize women ones are “bisizuals,” a controversial term that’s regarded as disingenuous in various online circles.
Keith Ferguson, a 24-year-old FA from Westchester (“We had two African-American kids in our schools and one fat girl”), wonders if he would have been treated better if he’d been gay. “The immediate reception from my friends was, ‘You’re a fetishistic freak, and I can’t believe I hang out with you.’ ” He confided in a friend, who then spilled it to their freshman class. “It’s almost like the same level of stigma that a homosexual would deal with. But in high school, there were two ‘out’ gay kids before I turned 16. People were like, ‘Ah-hahaha, you’re gay.’ They were maybe on the outskirts of the socially accepted circle, at the end of the day, but enough people liked them that it didn’t really matter. For me, I was actually ostracized.”
Even from his family. Keith, a six-foot-one, 180-pound blond smoker who was raised eating “twigs and sticks,” didn’t speak to his mother for years. “She always had a certain mentality. She’d make jokes like, ‘If I got that fat, just smack me.’ The Biggest Loser is her favorite show: She’s like, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe how much weight they lost.’ She’s obsessed with not being fat.” There were other problems at home, but his declaration, at age 12, that he liked fat chicks was the tipping point. “For her son to prefer fat women? That was her biggest nightmare in the world.” He moved out by 15.
“If someone starts talking about guys who like fat women or girls who like fat men, the first reaction is, ‘Ewww,’ ” says Keith, who has just lovingly rubbed the tummy of his 300-pound thirtysomething professor girlfriend in a corner booth at Nolita bar Puck Fair. (“I’m the only fat person in my building, by far,” she admits. “I walk around this area, and I never see fat people.”) “The second is, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you?’ The third is, ‘That is so unhealthy, and you’re killing the person you want to be with.’ It all leads up to: ‘We don’t want to talk to you. Get the fuck away.’ ”
Is it because fat girls are easy?
If only. Try convincing an archetypal “easy” fat girl to do it with the light on, or let you play with her belly, or refer to her as “fat” without sobbing and trying to throw up the nice dinner you bought her. Spend weeks convincing her you’re Not Joking, your buddy’s not gonna jump out of the closet with Tucker Max and a camera. Fat girls are just as complicated and frustrating as any other earthling.
The skinny on Lawrence is that he’s charming, “impossibly smart,” and a “bachelor”—he dates, but he’s keeping his options open. Since, he says, “99 percent of the women you see in magazines, I couldn’t get it up for,” the 28-year-old Upper West Side resident gets lumped into the Fat Admirer catchall, though he winces at the self-help-sounding moniker that has been adopted as an identifier. “Fat Admirer? Do I ever really say that? I just like fat chicks, that’s all.”
By any name, he agrees it’s “a species of questionable existence.” Thin women are especially dubious. “A girl you’re in the office with will be like, ‘I’m so fat, I’m never going to find anyone,’” he offers. “I will say, ‘No, plenty of guys like that—it’s not a negative, it’s a positive. And these women just”—he shakes his head in bemused disbelief—“vehemently deny it: ‘Whatever, no, that’s absolutely not true.’ And it absolutely is.” He hesitates. “I could go the next step and reveal myself,” he admits. “But I don’t want to talk about that at the office.”
Fortunately, we’re a safe distance away from the Theater District, where Lawrence holds a desk job in the “fairly gossipy” performing-arts field and aspires to become a producer. His professional ambitions are one reason the California native asked to be identified under a pseudonym. Another, he explains from the back corner of Malachy’s Pub, a narrow West 72nd drinking trough, is the insidiously growing tentacles of the information era. “I don’t want to be the guy who talks to a reporter about anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s fat chicks or sports or having peanut butter shoved up my ass.” Peanut butter, you say? “I don’t want sexuality to be on my public dossier.”
Lawrence has thick brown hair, a beard that grows like crabgrass, and a toothy smile. He speaks confidently over whiskey, and as he lays out the popular misconceptions of “quote-unquote” Fat Admirers, it’s with the measured air of someone delivering a prepared monologue.
Misconception #1: Loving fat women is a fetish.
“Steve, over there, has a type,” says Lawrence gesturing wanly at a stranger in a hockey jersey probably not named Steve. “I have a type, too. Mine’s just bigger. He may like skinny blondes with bangs and long legs. I like pear shapes with brown hair and green eyes. I have a type—it just happens to be fat.” Besides, people aren’t fetish objects, they’re people. “It’s not like having a thing for leather.”
Misconception #2: Fat Admirers pursue fat women because they are vulnerable prey.
“People seem to think we’re like, ‘I’m going to go after the weak zebra in the herd, the one that’s limping along sad and pathetically in the back, and I’m going to exert one-third of the energy to get what I need. First of all—” Lawrence hesitates. For a while. “I was going to say that it’s not easier for guys. That’s a lie. It is.” It’s a fact that there’s less competition. “That’s unfortunate. But that has nothing to do with the impetus or the attraction.”
Misconception #3: Guys who are sexually attracted to fat chicks are sexually attracted to all fat chicks.
“People often conflate bigness with beauty—being big is not what makes you beautiful, it’s being both simultaneously,” says Lawrence. “All the other normal benchmarks of attractiveness are in place. Proportions, symmetry, everything else, from tone of voice to texture of skin. That is exactly the same. It’s just that you’re talking about a different scale.” (As Janssen McCormick, a twentysomething FA from Massachusetts, puts it, “People send me links to articles about giant toothless women who get arrested for shoplifting turkeys under their boobs and are like, ‘Hey, isn’t that your type of gal?’ ” He sighs. “No, I don’t find giant toothless ladies who steal turkeys under their boobs from Wal-Mart hot.”)
Misconception #4: Sex with a 110-pound woman is preferable to celibacy.
Nope. “It’s like, ‘What, are you just going to go out and have sex with skinny women until you find a bigger one you like?’ No, you’re not. You’re just going to stay home.” (“With a sex life devoid of fat asses, I reckon I’d start coveting everyone I see leaving an Ashley Stewart or Wal-Mart,” Dan wrote on Ask a Guy Who Likes Fat Chicks.)
Misconception #5: It’s easy to pick up a fat chick.
Lawrence shakes his head. “A big girl at a bar tends to feel like there must be some sort of joke going on,” he says. Partly because the double-chinned woman in the hip-hiding shrug is so used to being ignored; partly because the specter of “hogging,” the frat-boy prank practice of nailing a fat chick on a bromo dare, casts a pall even on innocent flirting. “It’s hard to be smooth when you’re trying to convince someone that you’re not playing a trick.” Lawrence says he’s only met women out successfully once or twice. “Generally speaking, the odds are very much against you.” (“You have to be defensive because there are guys who are hogging, there are guys who are going to humiliate you,” counters one 300-pound thirtysomething New Yorker. “Also, it’s internalized self-hatred, because you’re like, ‘If you like me, you must be a freak, because why would you like somebody who is fat?’ ”)
Misconception #6: You’ve got to be kidding, right?
Nope. Lawrence, who sometimes fantasizes about a 550-pound wife, thinks the smallest he could go would be 180 pounds, though that veers into bisizualism. “Ideally, no. But you’d want to meet the girl’s mother. If she’s in her early 20s, and she’s 180 pounds, check out where it’s going. You might be pleasantly surprised. You walk in, and see her [mom] and she’s like, really big, and you’re like, ‘YES!’ You’re stoked. The genes don’t lie.” But she shouldn’t be sloppy. “If the mom is in the muumuu, and just given up in life, you’re like, ‘Oh, shit.’ You don’t want that.”
So where do Guys Who Like Fat Chicks meet them? Online, of course.
“The attention I’ll get online is so much more frequent than what I experience in real life,” says Jennifer K., a 27-year-old 400-pound redhead living in Jacksonville, Florida. The men she’s met and dated haven’t been creeps. “These aren’t weird guys. These aren’t creepy 60-year-old guys with big bellies and fapping away behind their computers. These are totally normal guys.”
“This is a community for people who feel differently,” says Lawrence about FA-friendly forums like Dimensions or Curvage or various size-acceptance Facebook-group spin-offs. “These are communities that have become gathering places for those who have sort of shrugged off the yoke of self-loathing. You have to go to these safe areas where everyone has sort of been checked. ‘Are you OK with yourself?’ ‘Are you OK with yourself?’ OK, come on in.”
Dear Askaguywholikesfatchicks: What is the biggest/heaviest woman you have been with and did you have difficulty making love to her? —Kelly Kyle
She was over 500 pounds and I don’t recall any difficulty. I’ve had difficulty with women smaller than that, though. [June 24, 2010]
If you were at the Times Square Junior’s Cheesecake on the last Friday in March, say between the lunch rush of 1:30 and 3, and you happened to notice the 480-ish-pound woman in a thin cardigan, halter top, and Internet-purchased pants presiding over a plate of corned beef and pastrami on rye with steak fries (which she didn’t finish, but had wrapped), your first thought probably wasn’t, Wow, I bet lots of men are into her. If you later witnessed the bespectacled girl coyly photograph her slice of strawberry-shortcake cheesecake to “make her friend Randy extremely jealous” or coquettishly rate the dessert as “not quite better than sex, but almost,” you probably wouldn’t have thought she’d have the opportunity to compare the two as soon as tonight. If, after the check was paid, you saw her out front, sweetly struggling to climb into the SUV cab, you probably didn’t assume that she was heading back to the hotel to gussy herself up for a man who came from Europe to the United States specifically to be with her. “I just don’t think people look at me at a restaurant and think, ‘That girl has a really awesome dating life.’ ”
Yet that’s the backstory on Charlotte, a 32-year-old from the South introduced as “500 pounds, but walking” who “gets hit on all the time.” (She’s employed by her Southern state government, and asked to be identified under a pseudonym.) In fact, the reason she is in New York for three nights, staying at the Candlewood Suites on West 39th, is a date. Several dates, though primarily ones with a fortysomething immigration lawyer from Spain. But there was also one last night, as it serendipitously turns out, with Lawrence, whom Charlotte has had a bit of a crush on for a while. But she’s looking for a longer-term commitment, Lawrence honestly isn’t, so “for me, he’d just be a really fun weekend.” Nothing transpired last night, though he did ask her to call him tomorrow if things didn’t work out with the lawyer.
That would be Spanish Guy. Charlotte stutters, and certain words make the stammering worse, as does exhaustion, so “Spanish Guy” is easier to enunciate than her paramour’s real name, even though she’s bilingual. They’ve been flirting online regularly for five years. He has professed his love, but she’s understandably wary since they’d never met in person until last night—after she went out with Lawrence. Their first encounter was awkward, she confesses. “He was just very nervous.” The evening ended in her hotel room, but strictly under conversational pretenses; tired, she sent him off. “He starts walking toward the door, and then he turns, and gets bright red and he’s like, ‘You don’t like me as anything more than friends, do you?’ And I just kind of looked at him. He was really serious. So I just yanked him over to me and kissed him.” Then she sent him away. Tonight, they’re going to MOMA (“He’s really into art”) and then a jazz club.
“There aren’t many fat girls in Spain,” reports Charlotte, who spent six months as an exchange student there in 2006. Back then, she weighed 425, and she claims that the department organizers at her Northeastern women’s college tried to dissuade her from going abroad because she was “too big.” She balked and went anyway, though she admits European daily life was far more taxing: The public bathrooms were “itty-bitty,” the online clothes retailers she frequents didn’t service Spain (Lane Bryant’s sizes are too small for her), and walking was the primary method of transportation. “Anytime I would walk down the street, people would stare at me like I was a circus sideshow. Here, people kind of like glance out of their eyes, but there people would stop and stare as I walked by.”
One time in Spain, an old woman spotted Charlotte in public, stopped abruptly, and crossed herself. “Like I was Satan.”
After walking four miles a day overseas, Charlotte lost 75 pounds, which she gained back upon return. And then some. Roller-coaster weight spikes and dips have steered her life since she was a small child. Her folks split when she was a “normal little healthy” two-year-old girl with dimples and Shirley Temple curls; she and her mother moved in with her grandparents. “Grandma always had body issues. She was probably about 225 or so and she always hated herself and was trying to lose weight and gaining it back,” she says, apologizing for drawing the conversation into such solemn territory. “My mom worked really long hours, so grandma was basically raising me. She put me on this diet and made me so small that my pediatrician said something to her. And then she would start feeding me what they ate, which was potatoes and junk food, until I got fat. Then she would put me on a diet again.”
Charlotte is pretty sure that all the yo-yo dieting of her adolescence screwed up her metabolism permanently. Her first long-term boyfriend was a 21-year-old with “a little bit of a potbelly going on” whom she’d met online gaming. But after more than a year of having a 325-pound girlfriend, he caved to frat-boy peer pressure. “His friends couldn’t stand the thought of one of their friends dating someone as fat as me,” she shares matter-of-factly. “Finally, he said, ‘You’re going to have to lose weight, or we’re going to have to break up.’ And I loved him—I really loved him—so I really tried. I tried to lose weight, I tried dieting, I tried, and as with every diet I’ve ever been on, I ended up 75 pounds heavier than when I started. So that took me to 425. And he broke up with me.”
She’s moved on, and in rather spectacular fashion. Scouring the Internet for plus-size clothes, she’d discovered BBW chat rooms when she was 18, and subsequently, a community of Fat Admirers rabidly attracted to her. Naturally, she explored this inverse reality, when it came time. “I had a rep—” she pauses to get the word out, “reputation for a little while. I did! I totally did! As a slut! I’ve been with seven people in my life. I do not feel that’s excessive. I am extraordinarily picky, but I am not one of those women who plays games. If I want to sleep with a guy, I don’t necessarily make him wait until the third date. We’re adults!”
At the moment, she’s not sure if she likes Spanish Guy “like that” or not. He’s already called three times during lunch—his photo pops up when he rings, and the man pictured is a conventionally attractive man—but it was an hour earlier than she told him to call, so she shut off her phone. “What really pisses me off is the attitude that, like, that guy is dating below his league just because the girl he’s dating is fat. And in fact, I may well be above his league,” she laughs. “You can’t know that, unless you know who I am.”
Among the fat community, there’s a particularly infamous CSI episode centered around a fat woman having sex on top and killing her partner. “She was only 250 or 300 pounds or something like that,” says Charlotte. “I have been 500 pounds, and I would like to say that on top is my favorite position! I have not killed anybody yet.” She smirks. “It’s just interesting the way that society sees fat sexuality,” she says. “It doesn’t exist, or it kills you.”
Dear Askaguywholikesfatchicks: Is this because you think you can’t do any better? —BBB
Yes, but not in the way you’re thinking.
“It’s like one big boob.” That’s Dan’s shorthand explanation for what it’s like to be with fat women, what their bodies feel like naked, and the physical attributes he’s found himself attracted to his entire life. If it sounds crass, well, that’s the best way he can explain his fat attraction to other straight guys who express befuddlement and disgust. “It’s the same property: Men like fondling soft breasts, and I don’t get why that doesn’t apply to the whole body.”
It doesn’t in many, many Western minds. Even the author of the 20th century’s big-ass anthem doesn’t like fat chicks. You know, “Baby Got Back,” the 1992 Sir Mix-a-Lot hip-hop classic that blasts, proudly, defiantly, ravenously: I Like. Big. Butts! And I cannot lie! Sure, the Seattle rapper’s anthem is technically one with an “itty-bitty” waist planted atop a “real thick and juicy” backside, the provenance of Shakira wannabes and King magazine. But many Fat Admirers have adopted it as their own. A rap-metal cover of the track appears, as nether-region salute with a version of Ted Nugent’s “Thunder Thighs,” on last year’s BBW-friendly compilation WHOLE LOTTA LOVE: An All-Star Salute to Fat Chicks.
According to the man born Anthony Ray, that’s not at all what he meant. “I’m talking about the dumbbell shape. The coke bottle,” he clarifies over the phone from Atlanta. “I’ve seen girls that look like me and been like, ‘Ohhhhh, I’m Baby’s got Back!’ And I’m like, ‘No, no, no, no.’ It wasn’t ‘Baby Got Back and Center, and Middle, and Front.’ ” He does understand, though, why some of these FA fellows might get confused. “Obviously, more white people like the song than black. Black people kind of view ‘Baby Got Back’ as like, ‘Oh, yeah, we already knew that.’ It’s not even an issue to them. They wouldn’t even think to sing about it. Whereas white guys are kind of like, ‘Yeah, finally!’ ” (See the full Sir Mix-a-Lot interview here.)
Maybe so. Yet the cultural stigma of fat is spreading globally. Rapidly. Arizona State University researchers asked residents with an average BMI of 25 from 10 places like American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and Mexico—places where both fat and thin bodies were traditionally attractive—to assign true or false beliefs to cultural statements like, “People should be proud of their big bodies” (false in every country surveyed but Tanzania) and “A big woman is a beautiful woman.” The latter was, in every country, deemed false. “Fifteen years ago in American Samoa, fat bodies didn’t have a negative salience, and that’s shifted,” says Alexandra Brewis, executive director of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University, who oversaw the April 2011 study. She fingers the spread of American media and the moral implications of the War of Obesity. “There’s a lot of people who didn’t realize that they should be ashamed of their bodies are now probably learning to be.”
“Fat is a risk factor,” argues one thirty-something New York–based physician who is African-American and also identifies as a Fat Admirer. “It’s also a proxy, but also an inaccurate proxy. Some people work out every day and are still fat; some people don’t work out at all and are fat; some people don’t work out at all and are skinny; some people work out a lot and are skinny. It’s very individual. You can’t be so declarative about it.” (The standard medical response is that nearly all people with a BMI over 30 would be healthier at a lower weight.)
“One statistic I’d really like to know is how many people have banged a fat person,” wonders Dan. “I’ve heard guys I know say, ‘I wanna see what it’s like to sleep with a 500-pound woman.’ There has to be some idea that it might feel good, or that it could be interesting to say that—you’re not going to say, ‘I’m going to sleep with a porcupine just to see what it’s like.’ It’s not that I defend closet FAs, I’m just very interested in not dismissing them. Let’s say half or more than half of our population is dormant and nothing is being done with them.”
Dan likes to imagine a Guys Who Likes Fat Chicks census. “So many girls end up entering the community just because of one guy,” he says. “Just discovering ‘Wow, I can be attractive!’ And that changes your life. It just never occurred to you before, which is so weird,” he pauses. “That’s why I’m willing to put my life—if you want to call it that—on the line for this.”