96. The Look

96. The Look

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

The Look

Taking joy in living is a woman’s best cosmetic.

~Rosalind Russell

“Good evening,” the baritone voice behind me boomed. I set the eggs down on the conveyor belt and slowly turned to identify the source of the voice. It was the handsome gentleman I had noticed earlier while I raced through the store. He stood about 6’3” and wore a Cleveland Cavaliers shirt, required attire in my city following the team’s first NBA finals win.

“Hello, how are you?” I said with a grin. He smiled back and gave me “the look.”

My girlfriends are skinny and drop-dead gorgeous, so guys always gave them “the look” when we were out. It was the special way a man looked deeply into a woman’s eyes and grinned. Usually it was my friends getting “the look,” but today it was me. Size 18 me.

Workout clothes. Hair in a ponytail. No make-up. Possible stench coming from my underarms after a four-mile power walk.

Five years ago my first reaction would have been to curse myself for stopping by the store while looking so shabby. But five years ago my workout clothes would have consisted of super-sized jogging pants from the men’s department and an old family reunion T-shirt.

Today, I had on a bright orange V-neck — fitted enough that it didn’t look like the tents I used to wear, loose enough that my rolls of fat weren’t waving at passersby. The black workout capris stopped mid-calf, highlighting my best feature if I do say so myself. My sisterlocks were pulled into a ponytail that cascaded down my back. I had grown more comfortable with leaving the house without make-up since my daily four-mile walks in the sunshine had given my caramel skin a deep mocha glow. Even after working out, I looked cute!

“I’m doing well. It’s a beautiful day out, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Yes, not too hot. It was a great day for a walk.” Yep, he was definitely giving me “the look.” I turned back to unloading my cart so he wouldn’t see me blush. I was so proud of myself for even responding. I used to dismiss any attention I received from men because I assumed there was no way a man could be attracted to a plus-size woman like me.

My journey to self-confidence had begun a few years earlier.

At the encouragement of my friend, Maria, I had joined an online dating site, indicating on my profile that I was plus-sized and posting a full-body photo. I was convinced no one would respond. My past experience with boys and men taught me that they were not attracted to large women, and specifically not me. I was convinced that as long as I was overweight, I was perpetually unattractive.

But I did get some responses, and when it came time to meet one of my potential suitors for a date, Maria took me shopping for an outfit. One by one, I rejected every item of clothing she suggested, and she finally said what she must have been thinking for years: “You dress like an old church lady, and you are only in your thirties!”

She was right about how I dressed, and I knew it. I hesitantly agreed to her choice — a bright blue sweater and multi-colored leggings.

When I walked into the coffee shop to meet my date for the first time, he stood as I approached and you guessed it — he gave me “the look.” He continued to gaze at me intently throughout the evening, and on every date we had after that. Each time I saw him he’d greet me with that pleased look on his face and compliment me.

We didn’t end up being a match, but at thirty-seven I was happy to have had my first adult dating experience with a good guy who liked size 18 me enough to give me the you-know-what.

Each man since then who has given me “the look” or has taken the time to tell me that I was beautiful has helped me reconstruct a counter narrative to the one I had developed over the years about my so-called non-attractiveness. I always knew that God said I was fearfully and wonderfully made, and now I understand that others see that beauty as well.

Now, when a man gives me “the look”—I believe it.

And now when the voice of doubt tries to tell me that all men are disgusted by my appearance, I argue back and say, “I have evidence to the contrary!”

Now, I can rock a bright orange top when I work out. Now, when a man gives me “the look” — I believe it.

I paid the cashier and loaded the bags in my cart.

On my way out I turned back to the tall Cavaliers fan, who smiled and said, “You have a good evening now.”

I would.

~J. Renee

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