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Why I Love Large Men


I was with a few single friends at a packed bar on a Saturday night when one of them poked me in the ribs. "There's your boyfriend for the evening," she said, gesturing toward a tall, chubby guy perched on a corner bar stool, a bright-yellow shirt stretched taut over his belly. "He looks like Big Bird," she said. He sort of did. And I sort of liked it.

Until recently, my dating history looked like an open casting for a Judd Apatow film. I lost my virginity in college to a guy who had trouble wedging himself into a movie theater seat. When I was 22, my Jack Black look-alike boyfriend considered the half-mile walk to Jamba Juice a workout. The guys were "larger than life" in every sense. Still, I wasn't drawn to them for their kick-ass sense of humor or their laid-back attitude. I liked them because they made me feel better about myself.

I was the tallest person in my elementary school and was overweight in high school. I lost 30 pounds in college — but not my water-polo shoulders or the enduring sense that I didn't quite fit in, especially when it came to dating. So after a few humbling misadventures with skinny suitors, I started to seek out larger guys. I'd feel a tiny thrill when one would call me petite, or when I'd notice how much bigger his forearm was than mine. Curling up with a big boy made me feel delicate, sexy, small.

Eventually, I began seeing a heavyset grad student who was all wrong for me but looked the part, so I persevered. One night after our eighth or ninth date, he ran his hands down my back and murmured about how strong I felt. I cried, assuming he meant I was fat. The next day, I got an e-mail: I think you're an attractive person. But I am unwilling to play psychotherapist and to help you work through your insecurities.

After that, I got an actual therapist and began addressing my body issues. I also started flirting with the lanky runners at my triathlon training sessions and the skinny hipsters I met in sticky-floored dive bars — guys whom I'd always rejected preemptively. And they flirted back. Then, during a long run with a cute jogging buddy, I confessed that I used to be overweight and was still hung up about it. He responded that he got his back waxed every six weeks and had to make sure the salon was empty before he'd go in. I melted a little bit. Romantic? Maybe not. But I realized that all of us, men included, have our issues. Even better, I was finally learning to stop fixating on guys' guts and start listening to my own.

Anna Davies is a magazine editor based in New York City. She has written for The New York Times and nerve.com.

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