How/when/should I tell a potential new beau that I used to be obese?
February 26, 2013 6:35 AM   Subscribe

I used to weigh 150 lbs more than I do now. My body looks like I used to weigh 150 lbs more than I do right now; when is the appropriate time to discuss this with someone I just started dating? Is it necessary to discuss? How do I bring it up?

My body is a masterpiece of stretch marks, some sag and some extra/wrinkly skin. All things considered, it could probably be worse. I lost the weight about eight years ago, so this isn't a new thing. I've dated people before but it has never lasted long-term. Most of the time, I haven't had a discussion with people about how my body might not be what they are expecting, but I have been thinking it might be good to give the new guy I just met a "heads' up." Do you think this is a good idea? When (after how many dates - we have only met up once so far, but it seemed promising; figured I would ask for future reference if this one doesn't work out) and how do you think is a good way to broach the topic?

It just feels like kind of a private thing to discuss; I have never been one of those people who likes to tell everyone about their amazing weight loss story and it happened so long ago now it is only a part of my life story. And even if I do tell him about the weight loss, I don't think it would be immediately obvious that one of the things that follows from that is that my body might be different from others. I feel like I would have to spell it out for him, and that feels even more private than just telling him that I lost all of that weight. 

Have you had to tell someone you started dating something that felt private and might be 'disqualifying' from further dates (or the same situation if you have been in it)? When in the course of getting to know them did you tell them? How did they take it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Really, don't. Getting naked with someone isn't something you buy and then get pissed off about when it's not as advertised. There is no advertisement! It is what it is. Everyone's body has something weird and there's just no need to exchange baseball cards about it before gettin' frisky. I guess the exception here would be, like, "I have a highly communicable disease that is acquired through simple skin contact" or "one's gaze falling upon my bare right hip causes glaucoma."

I think this is self-sabotage. It feels less vulnerable to help someone reject you before even seeing you, but it's also not good for you. It sounds trite, but if someone gets into bed with you and is all "not what I ordered!", you're better off without them.
posted by threeants at 6:44 AM on February 26, 2013 [38 favorites]

Nobody's body is what you're expecting, once you get the wrapper off.

You don't have to tell anyone. I used to self harm - cutting, burns, that sort of thing. I don't bring it up. I have a fair few scars. It's not been something that's ever been questioned once we get down to business.

I've slept with people with odd physical features - strange scars, odd body hair, stretch marks, flabby patches. I had a girlfriend who was an easy 140 kilos and who was a masterpiece of stretch marks herself. They were beautiful on her, like tiger stripes.

You're right, you know, when you say that. Your body is a masterpiece.

Tell people what you want. You aren't obligated to. If it would make you more comfortable, than sure. Bring it up as a sort of aside - "I really got into jogging/home cooking/whatever and lost a lot of weight" - but really you don't have to justify your flesh. It's your body. You can be in it, and enjoy sex and intimacy, no matter what it looks like. Anyone worth keeping around isn't going to give a care what you used to look like.
posted by Jilder at 6:47 AM on February 26, 2013 [16 favorites]

I actually think this may be less impactful than you'd think.

My "battle scars" are not quite as extensive, but I do have an obvious 4-inch horizontal scar just under my bikini line, from some emergency surgery I had when I was 26. It is indeed visible when I am completely nude. Also, my back has some "icepick" scars as a result of lifelong issues with cystic acne; that's all visible when I'm only partially nude.

None of this has made the least whit of difference to any of my partners. The only thing I even comment on is the surgical scar, and I only bring that up when it makes its first grand appearance, and even then I only offer an explanation ("oh, yeah, that - that's from some surgery I had years ago,") and the reaction has always been "oh, okay."

Similarly, I've seen other anotomical or "private" quirks on partner I've had - port-wine stains at the hip, a two-tone penis, a vaguely religious mediallion, and a couple other things. Most of the time when I noticed it the guy just said "oh yeah, that, it's always been like that." I did have one guy tell me right before he took his pants off that "oh yeah, by the way, I'm uncircumcised," and my reaction was just the same ("oh, okay"). Moreover, I've actually gone on to appreciate each and every one of the weird little quirks that they've had, because I have the mindset that "there is only one guy in the whole wide world that has that brown splotch right in that specific spot, and that is MY guy. And the fact that I'm seeing my guy's brown splotch means he's naked and we're about to have sex and that's AWESOME."

I think if you choose your partner right, and you've gotten to the point that you're finally about to have sex (yay), then the guy is going to be so psyched that "yay we're finally having sex" that he's not going to care about any physical quirks on you. If you want to tell them when your marks first become visible, then that's fine, but you don't need much song-and-dance - just like my own "oh, yeah, I had surgery years ago and that's from that", just a "oh, yeah, I lost a crapton of weight years ago" would probably suffice.

You're beautiful, and any guy worth his salt will also think that this is a beautiful thing about you. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:54 AM on February 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

You say you think it "might be good" to tell, but that could mean a couple of different things, and my answer is different depending on what you meant. Do tell if you want to, to make yourself feel happier or more confident, or because you want to share this part of your life with someone you're getting closer to. Don't say anything if the reason you would be telling is because you think he deserves to know or is entitled to a chance to veto you for it. In other words, do it because you want to and because it makes you feel more comfortable or uninhibited or relaxed. But if you're doing it because you think he might be an asshole and reject you for it, not only should you not tell, you shouldn't sleep with him until you're sure he's not an asshole.
posted by decathecting at 6:55 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree that there's no need for a discussion beforehand, but also remember Beau doesn't need to see you naked until you are ready and comfortable with it. Nudity is not required for messing around. Neither is great lighting. If you're dressing for a potential occasion o' intimacy, think about clothing that provides access but still covers the bits of flesh you are least comfortable sharing. As the relationship grows, emotionally and physically, more and more exposure will happen naturally and it will be fine, I assure you. You'll both probably be regularly running around the house carelessly nekkid in 3 months.
posted by 0 at 7:01 AM on February 26, 2013

I have been thinking it might be good to give the new guy I just met a "heads' up."

If it were herpes, a criminal past, even strongly held political beliefs, then yes, letting people make informed decisions is a good, ethical idea. The fact that your body isn't perfect is not in that category, or anywhere near it.
posted by headnsouth at 7:08 AM on February 26, 2013 [11 favorites]

IME, by the time people get to naked time, no one's too picky about the details. Be kind to yourself and reverse the roles -- would you run screaming from the room and block his calls if he had stretch marks? Nope, because by the time you're there, you're there because you like HIM and not your imaginary idea of what his body might look like. And when you see that it's less than perfect (which it will be), you're not going to regret being there if your heart's in the right place.

And if he does ask, or if it does come up, frame it kindly to yourself. Your stretch marks are trophies that prove you are strong and determined, which is way sexier than being born with a great metabolism.
posted by mibo at 7:16 AM on February 26, 2013

This sounds really difficult for you. You want to do the right thing, yes, but it sounds like you're probably also hoping to avoid rejection post-sex. That is completely understandable, and as someone with random body quirks, I completely understand that slightly sick feeling you get when you think "if they really knew, they'd never be laughing and joking and flirting with me!" That is partly shame talking, though, and I don't think you necessarily need to feel shame about your body. Easier said than done, but maybe something to work on. I have had great luck spending a minimum of time consuming visual media (including magazines, porn, etc) depicting "attractive" women. I've also had luck with talking with other women about our common body "imperfections". Lots and lots of women have these kinds of issues. At this point I sort of miss the redder stretch marks I used to have, and think that I'm fine as hell. But start watching a bunch of stuff that primarily values women for their looks and bluh, I start thinking I look like crap and barely want to leave the house in the morning. That is not a great way to live.

As far as I know, you are valuable, lovable, and sex-able despite (or possibly because!) of the stretch marks and such. You didn't do anything wrong or anything you need to disclose. If you'd murdered someone or pulled an Enron or something, then yeah, maybe say that up front. But you have nothing to be ashamed of. Not being standard-issue Hot Woman With Perfect Measurements and Skin is not a crime or a sin. It's part of being human and having lived a life that's worth talking about.

I personally find things like this to be extremely admirable and, in fact, sexy in their own way--even if you might not feel like this, it's a really interesting thing that happened to you and I respect that a lot, and respect people with non-standard bodies who are sexually open anyway. I've found that some men feel similarly and would be really happy to get to know you (and your body).

So yeah, you might want to tell them, but not in a "here is this horrible thing you are going to dump me for" way, but in a "here is a thing about me you might find interesting, that is related to the topic of conversation" way. Of course, if we're getting strategic, things that sound like dealbreakers often aren't once the clothes come off. If you asked me in advance if I'd sleep with someone with a certain issue, maybe I'd say no, but once we know each other and I see what it's like to be reciprocally sexual with them I have no problem with that issue. It's just part of what makes them who they are.

Good luck!
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:19 AM on February 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Only do it if you feel that it will benefit you. If you consider it a private and/or embarassing thing to you, then do it during a time where you both have undivided attention and do it seriously, quietly, honestly, and without any distractions and/or alcohol.

I did this when my boyfriend and I started dating - I have two dental implants that I've had since I was 18 and find it a private and embarassing thing about me. It's no big deal to others, but to me it's a thing. He was patient and listened and hugged me after. It's no longer a thing.

If they are unwilling to listen/take it seriously, then DTMFA, because it will only get worse when Big Important Relationship Things eventually happen down the road. Shallow people won't treat this sensitive issue to you with respect that you deserve, no matter how silly they might think you're being.

Related: My boyfriend lost over 100 pounds before we started dating and felt the same way that you did. He also has all sorts of crazy stretch marks, etc. etc. so I know EXACTLY what you're talking about. You know what? I don't care. In fact, I think it makes him sexier to me, knowing how ridiculously motivated he is and takes charge of his health. YMMV.
posted by floweredfish at 7:20 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I also lost a similar, very large amount of weight and went through very similar scenarios when dating (with the exception that I'm a guy who was dating women). I too dislike defining myself by my weight or the weight loss, so it's not something that would come up immediately.

That said, unlike the other responders here, I always did discuss my weight loss briefly before going into the bedroom. There is a matter of degree here. While quirks like scars or birthmarks or some stretch marks are usually self-explanatory, at my level of weight loss, I was left with enough sagginess and enough wrinkling that even the most open-minded person would reasonably wonder what had happened - or worse, the person might wonder why it hadn't been brought up. The appropriate moment for that type of thought (or even any concern for what the other person is thinking), in my opinion, isn't during foreplay.

Choosing the right moment to do so can be hard, but a quick "I lost a lot of weight a long time ago, so my skin's not so great" - which will almost invariably be followed by an "I'm sure it's fine" from your partner - can remove any weirdness either you or your partner may potentially have at a delicate moment.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 7:24 AM on February 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

I'm with threeants and headnsouth. This is not, like, a big 'thing' that requires full disclosure prior to sexytimes. Jeez, if we go down that road, where does it end?

Have you had to tell someone you started dating something that felt private and might be 'disqualifying' from further dates (or the same situation if you have been in it)? When in the course of getting to know them did you tell them? How did they take it?

Okay, well, when I first started dating my ex-BF, who I ended up in a serious LTR with, he did this. We'd been seeing each other for about...a few weeks? He flew home early from a work trip because he was beside himself with worry, and couldn't rest until he got his 'confession' off his chest. He proceeded to lay out three things that he thought might 'disqualify' him: he had herpes, he was on antidepressants, and he had a hairy back (yeah, really).

These weren't even close to being dealbreakers for me. I 'took it' by giving him a kiss and buying the poor dude another beer.
posted by Salamander at 7:25 AM on February 26, 2013

Gotta agree with all the above posters: it's not really a Big Deal, and by the time you get to where a partner is actually seeing those "imperfections"? He ain't gonna care.

But if it makes you feel better to give him a gentle heads up, maybe you could frame an older photo and set it in a somewhat visible spot in your living room? "Um, yeah: that's my mom and dad and Granny and Uncle George, and I'm on the right".
posted by easily confused at 7:57 AM on February 26, 2013

I’ve lost 160lbs, have the same wonderful scars you no doubt have, but the other thing I Have is a little paragraph about body confidence I pull out every time I am feeling nervous about Body hang-ups:

"Everyone’s body is different, don’t distort reality. If you are not feeling sexy, make a list of reasons you are awesome that have absolutely nothing to do with physical exterior. Know that People will want to have a sexual relationship with you regardless of any physical descriptors. Be objective about your attractiveness, ignore previous shitty treatment and focus on previous positivity. Realize that there are a million reasons to have sex with you that you can believe in even when you're feeling down with your body:

“Reasons Men Would Think They Died And Went To Heaven If They Were Lucky Enough To Have Sex With Me”:
E.g. I am good at communicating what I like and don't like in bed. I am passionate and caring about pleasing others. I have a high sex drive and can orgasm multiple times. I am not uptight or boringly "vanilla" and love light bondage, toys and experimenting."

Likewise, if you have a partner who is engaging in and actively comparing you to pornography, then you have an unrealistic partner who is living in a fantasy world and needs to get over it before they destroy the relationship. Sex is not just physical, the majority of our pleasure comes from the brain. Someone who only gets off watching porn is someone unable to connect emotionally.

I have had partners with insecurities, thing is I liked them enough to make them feel secure about it i.e. a fair haired guy with lots of freckles I used to call my Tiger and make it a non issue. Don’t reach a point in a new relationship where there is too much emphasis on the physical piece of it and not enough on the relating and feeling parts. Put more emphasis on the positive relating part, less on the sex. If it’s still not working, and this is the case dump him and find someone who is super enthusiastic about how sexy you are and realize that your problem isn't you, it is that guy, and also society… Bodys and all manner of things e.g. penis size are not issues. Things can sometimes be logistically a bit different, and new experiences can take adjusting, but if someone is into you, they’re into you! They will think more along the lines of “This person is new, different, interesting, unique” and when it comes down to it, most won’t give a shit.

Are there men out there who care about your body, YES! Are there men who don’t, YES! Just be confident, it really does help. Being comfortable in your own skin, at whatever stage in your evolution, is part of what makes one naturally exude confidence and appeal. Obviously your body won’t work for every guy; fortunately you don't need it to work for EVERY guy. The guy you want is confident enough in himself to not care at all about it or what other people might think of him. Be comfortable. Effective communication is key for good sex. If you find communication lacking, work to fix it or bail. It's not uncommon for young men to adopt these ugly attitudes about looks/sexual behavior. These attitudes are a result of their own insecurities about partners. They fear rejection so much that they create a situation where it is impossible. It's basically pre-emptive sour grapes. It's pretty pathetic when you understand it...The good news is that most guys outgrow this as they become more confident and mature. Don’t try to change them for the bette, just find someone who thinks you’re beautiful inside and out ;) good luck friend xx
posted by krisb1701d at 8:19 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you think this is a good idea?

Nope, don't bring it up! What does it gain you? How does it help you? Dude is going to like your body or not and no amount of pre-emptive apologies is going to make him like it more. I know how nerve-wracking this must be for you. But it is far less attractive to hear "Oh god okay here's something you need to know in advance about my bodily insecurities" and far more attractive to hear "'sup. Let's get rutty."

Best of luck, and may you get tons of mad hot play.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:57 AM on February 26, 2013

Man, I hate the break the unanimity but I cannot be the only person who's had their body or appearance judged in a nasty way by someone they had slept with. I know it's a trope that all hetero guys are just thinking "YAY NAKED BODY!!!" once they see someone naked but that is not actually true at all. I also think for many women there are benefits to cutting down on consumption of media that promotes unrealistic physical expectations for women... It would be great if men would do that too - but by and large their consumption only continues to increase. Why is it so hard to believe that if women take on negative ideas about their appearances from viewing that media, that men frequently do as well?

You could say someone who would make this kind of a judgment is a jerk and the obvious answer is "just don't sleep with jerks," but it's not always possible to tell that someone is a jerk when you haven't known them for that long or seen them in the scenarios when it comes out.

I think saying something could be good for your own self-protection and to weed out these people. I was thinking of ways to discuss it and one thing that occurs to me is... do you ever show photo albums to guys you are dating? I feel like that was something I last did back in college before everyone and their photos were all on Facebook, as an excuse to get physically close to someone (you have to sit close toether on the couch) but I think it's something you could still do. Or you could have a couple old photos up around the apartment. Maybe if you have any of you in a bathing suit, that could be a good way to do it?
posted by cairdeas at 9:17 AM on February 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

I just think the frequently stated idea that women who don't meet the American physical perfection ideal in one way or another just need to work on it mentally and get over their shame, is ignoring reality. As if the shame is just a product of their own neurosis that they made up in their heads for some reason and it is all just something they are imagining. Actually I think the shame is there by and large because of how people in very real life treat you if you don't meet that ideal. It is not just in the heads of these women who have shame about it. It is great to be confident and it is obviously a good thing not to be crippled by the negative opinions of others, but none of us are emotionless robots and I don't think it helps entirely to put one's head in the sand and act like there is no chance people will ever be cruel, or if they are cruel it will just be a personal failing to be upset by it. I think self-protection has a place here.
posted by cairdeas at 9:23 AM on February 26, 2013 [19 favorites]

Man, I hate the break the unanimity but I cannot be the only person who's had their body or appearance judged in a nasty way by someone they had slept with.

You're not. I once slept with a guy who judged me on baby-stretch-marks that weren't even that extensive. People are sometimes awful human beings.
posted by corb at 9:25 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Allow me to be the divergent voice here. Sure I have the normal female stretch marks and sag, but I also have keloid scarring from a road traffic accident, and am also more fuzzy than your average woman due to the (totally useless) steroids injections to treat the scarring, which were ill-timed precisely as I was going through puberty.

I always told partners this in advance because the totally universal reassurance that it was no big thing was reassurance I wanted before I took my clothes off; by the time naked time happened, this was not what I wanted to be thinking about. I had this chat at the same time as the standard STI conversation and it slotted into that very well - it's basically "here si teh history of my body as it will shortly become relevant to you."

The reassurance came from people whom I went on to have long term relationships with and with whom I had extremely transitory encounters. It was self-protective and a good screening mechanism; if any of these people had been less than totally chilled about this, I would have pulled my dance card.

Long story short: there is not a right answer to your question, and you should do what makes you comfortable. Which sounds pat, but really isn't.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:27 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh wait, I actually just remembered that I once had a (welcome) move made on me by a sexy Italian guy who was showing me his photos, and this was after the advent of the Facebook era. He was showing them to me on his laptop, so we had to sit even more close together than we would have to look at a photo album. The photos were really boring actually (lots of vacation photos of landscapes and that is not really my bag) but we were drinking wine, and it went on for a while so we ended up drinking a lot of wine, and then there is all that "accidental" hand/arm bumping...
posted by cairdeas at 9:28 AM on February 26, 2013

One other thing - do you wear foundational garments normally because of the extra skin? If you do, it might help to go on a couple dates without wearing them. That way it might seem less like going from "wrapped under several layers" to "here I am naked."
posted by cairdeas at 9:47 AM on February 26, 2013

but I cannot be the only person who's had their body or appearance judged in a nasty way

You're not; but a pre-emptive "warning" won't prevent it.
posted by spaltavian at 10:45 AM on February 26, 2013

People are sometimes awful human beings.

Yes, but being more selective before you get to the point that you're getting naked could also be a good way to lessen the chance of dealing with one of them.

That's another thing I do (she said, turning back to the OP) -- I get pretty picky about guys early on. So he's already passed a fairly rigorous "asshole or not" mental prescreening process by the time we even get to the point that clothes are coming off, so I'm already confident there's a large chance he won't be freaked out by how I look. Yeah, it takes a little longer, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:14 AM on February 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

To be clear, it's sensible to feel anxiety about sleeping with someone new. They could be a total assface. That's not weird or self-generated here. What I was getting from your post, though, and I could be wrong, is a sense that you're ashamed of your body. If not, great! Woo!

If so, yes, it can be worked on. Despite the fact that it's not your fault or "all in your head", there are things that you can do that really help with that feeling. If you're feeling like you don't deserve to get to have sex, or that you should feel bad about pursuing sex, or that someone who is having sex with you is doing you a huge favor, or that you should hide your body as much as possible because being visible is an imposition--those feelings can get better. Avoiding media is an enormous step towards that. No, it doesn't fix the fucked up beauty standards themselves or shitty male attitudes due to their exposure to that same media, but you might be interested in trying it anyway.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:28 AM on February 26, 2013

I lost about a hundred pounds. I have some weird marks and some sag. I am all coupled up now, but I kinda tore it up when I was single and had recently lost the weight. I never bothered to warn anyone mostly because I was too busy being hot.

No one gets a pass out of insecurities- not you and not the person you are with. You can wait until you're basking in the afterglow to explain- if they even bother to ask cause I think they'll also be a little busy basking.
posted by Blisterlips at 2:56 PM on February 26, 2013

Oh- Not that your insecurites are unwarented. I don't want to trivialize them at all.

I will also mention that one dude did dump me for it, but not for THAT. He didn't want to date anymore because he was afraid I wouldn't keep the wait off forever. It's really hard to completely avoid jerks. But I left that tiny little relationship pretty secure in the fact that he was the one being the massive tool.
posted by Blisterlips at 3:00 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been pretty insecure with my body throughout the years... and through some unfortunate experiences with men I came to decide that if I felt bad about myself- I was going to zip my lips... that it would be ridiculous for me to supply other people with reasons not to like me... and now the most that I will do is say "hey dude- I'm not keen on my stomach" AND THAT IS IT. No more. I do that little bit just to know that I put it out there. But no more, he doesn't need to know my reason for having x scar, or y stretch marks...
posted by misspony at 7:45 AM on March 2, 2013

It's fat, not a secret love child.

It's something you can shyly disclose as you move towards sexy times, if you want to hint he should treat you like a delicate flower and cosset you. Which is, incidentally, not exactly a bad experience to get sometimes.

He may actually find the body you have inherently hot though. I mean not just in a "won't kick you out of bed" tolerance, I mean that not only does having your brain bathed in bonding hormones tend to shift your sense of attractive to whomever the person is, but also 'real' and 'natural' women is a thriving category in porn, so much so that truckloads of fake amateur stuff is being produced.
posted by Phalene at 6:20 AM on March 28, 2013

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