It was a perfectly imperfect day.
I forgot my wedding ring; a friend had to rush back to our house to grab it before the ceremony started. The weather was cold and crisp that day in March, and the wind was blowing; a few guests couldn’t stand the cold and watched our ceremony from the heated reception area. I stumbled during our first dance. I almost knocked over a table scurrying to grab some food during cocktail hour, and then, knocked over a bucket of champagne on a stand when I hadn’t realized our wedding coordinator placed it behind my chair.
But it was perfect. I never thought I’d get married. I never thought I’d wear the white dress, or walk down an aisle, or find someone to commit to me for a lifetime. I had been made to believe that none of things were available to me because of my weight. But it happened, and it felt like an act of rebellion.
Greg and I met when I was in my mid-twenties, in 2008. I was underemployed, struggling to pay rent on a tiny room in someone else’s house, trying to be an adult for the first time during a recession. He was on a different path, but was also struggling. He had been studying to be an engineer and made it two years before realizing that, although he could do the math, he hated every minute of it. Neither of us knew what we were going to do with our lives, and we forged a tight Hansel-and-Gretel companionship, following breadcrumbs on a wayward quest to become adults.
Our relationship was different than any others I’d been in. When I was with him, I forgot about my weight. A lifetime of desperate dieting, restricting, counting Points, walking on the treadmill until my calves burned and my lungs gasped for air telling myself that if I didn’t keep going I would never be worthy of love, melted away when I was with him. He loved me. Not in spite of my weight, or pretending he didn’t see it, but embracing it. I was soft, he said adoringly. I hid my belly from him and he insisted it was cute, that he loved it. He made me feel like I didn’t have to hide myself or shrink, for the first time in my whole life. I felt comfortable. He loved me for exactly the person I was — moody, opinionated, generous, idealistic, self-doubting, smart, anxious. He didn’t pick and choose which parts to love. He loved all of me.
I had been loudly insisting that I was never going to get married since I was a teenager. Part of it was that I protested the patriarchal, heteronormative institution of marriage. But part of it was self-protection. Reject marriage before you have a chance to be rejected. That way, when I was a spinster, no one would feel sorry for me. It was a choice, not a tragedy.
I was preparing myself for a lifetime of solitude, because I had been taught that love and marriage was for thin people. And if I wanted to gain entry to the promised land, the price to pay was shrinking myself. I could never quite get there. My belly, my fat arms arms, my wide hips, held tight no matter how much I starved them. So I didn’t qualify. I hadn’t earned my way in, and never would.
So I rejected it outright. Marriage wasn’t for me, I said.
I inherited my grandmother’s engagement ring when she passed away. I kept it in its box on my vanity for years, convinced I would never be able to wear it. It was too small. It didn’t even fit on my pinky finger. I kept it there as a reminder of my grandmother. I’d open the box, admire the small gold ring with a few small diamonds in a vintage setting. I loved it, but I’d never wear it.
Greg and I had been living together for a year when I realized that perhaps I could get married after all. It hit me like a freight train: Why wasn’t I allowed to get married? I was in a relationship with a man who loved me, fiercely. We had an apartment, a cat, dishes, shared bills. Why couldn’t we get married? The thought hadn’t even occurred to me before.
I gave the ring to Greg. I told him he could give it back to me if he ever wanted to marry me. But if he didn’t, that was fine, too. The decision was his.
A year later, we owned a house together. We adopted a dog. We had even more dishes and bills and things we shared. On our ninth anniversary, on the Fourth of July, I thought he might propose. It had been nine years, after all. He had dropped a few hints. We had planned to see some fireworks, but they had been cancelled due to rain. 11 p.m. rolled around. It was close to midnight. I sat in our living room watching “The Twilight Zone” marathon on TV. Oh well, I thought. How silly of me to think it would happen. I sunk into the couch.
Then he walked downstairs, with a cupcake lit with candles and my grandmother’s ring in the frosting. He got down on one knee, and asked me if I would marry him.
We got married on March 25, 2018. It was a great wedding — family and friends traveled in from all over to see us get married. It was small, about 38 people, but it was exactly what we wanted. We kept the traditions that we important to us. Take what you need, and leave the rest. We walked down the aisle together. We danced to Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” a song Greg chose. He had tears in his eyes as we danced. We filled our playlist with songs we loved and hung out with our friends and ate brunch, drank mimosas, posed for photos and had a fantastic time.
I was fatter than I have ever been on my wedding day. My fat, tattooed arms were on full display in my cap sleeve dress. And I was so radically happy. I didn’t think of my weight once. It occurred to me how silly is was, to think that this happy event, this celebration of love, was not something I was allowed to want or experience.
Fat women are raised to believe that there are certain experiences that just aren’t for them. Simple things like wearing a swimsuit to the beach and enjoying the sun, sand and warm water. We decide we don’t like water anyway, and the sand is dirty and hard to walk in. We may grudgingly go out with a t-shirt or cover-up on, aware of how many eyes are there to see us. Enjoying a decadent meal at a restaurant, dipping our forks into a rich dessert. We’ll just have a salad, thanks. And we don’t get to have the full bridal experience. We get engaged quietly. We don’t get the dramatic proposal. As Lindy West wrote, “Thin girls get public proposals, like those dudes are winning a fucking prize.” Fat women get married in jeans or a nice pantsuit at the courthouse after we’ve already had a few kids with our partners. We become wives quietly, without any fanfare, without ever seeming to be a bride.
Fat women are constantly performing, trying to be the “good fatty.” No, we aren’t hungry. No, we don’t want to go swimming. We didn’t really want that raise or promotion anyway, it’s fine that we were passed over and our hard work taken for granted. No, we don’t want to find love or be treated like a prize or have someone write in the sky that they love us. We don’t want the attention. Living quietly is the price we pay for our fatness.
And that was why I had a wedding. I wore the dress, I was “announced” and everyone stood when I entered the room, I danced the first dance with everyone staring at me, I cut the cake (and ate plenty of it, without shame). I showed off the parts of my body I had always been most self-conscious about, my arms and my legs. I considered it a rebellion. I had silently accepted my fate as a spinster for so long, had been treated like a dirty little secret by so many guys, that not having a wedding was not an option for me. I was going to be looked at. I was going to be heard. Sure, weddings can be problematic in many ways. They are still steeped in patriarchal tradition. But for me, a fat woman who spends her days policing herself and her desires in so many way, it felt like a radical act. It’s easy to call wedding problematic when they’re still an option for you, when you’re allowed to want one.
We have been happy together for nearly a decade, and we are happily married now. Not much has changed. I can be on Greg’s health insurance now. We can have joint bank accounts. Our lives have gone back to normal. We sit on the couch and watch “Game of Thrones,” we eat dinner at our favorite restaurants (and always enjoy dessert), I cook and he does the dishes, we walk the dog and pet the cat. But being a fat bride taught me that it’s okay to want things, to ditch the “good fatty” performance, that I can do anything I want to do, up to and including wearing a pretty white dress and having a killer wedding. Life is too short to wonder whether you’re “allowed” to want something or do something. You and I can chip away at the barriers in the world that tell us fat people can’t do, wear, experience or want by just fucking doing it. Do it loudly, do it imperfectly, and do it the way you want.