I was standing in the parking lot of Target when my phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognize, but I was 17 so that was more thrilling than it is now.
“CeCe?” the phone cracked in my ear “its me… Daniel!” He spoke again, “DBoone81?” I knew exactly who we was… my jaw dropped.
I met Daniel in a chat room on AIM one night with my best friend, Holly. Somehow, Daniel and I had formed a tight friendship. We lived in different cities, but we’d spoken weekly via instant messenger and sometimes on the phone since my Sophomore year of high school.
Based on the crackled phone connection, I knew where he was but I asked anyway.
“I’m in Iraq,” Daniel said. When Daniel enlisted, I was one of the first people he called. “I’ve been thinking about you a lot, I miss our chats…”
Suddenly I was a ball of nerves. Even though I was 17, I knew what it meant when I guy used a precious phone call from Iraq to call you and tell you he missed talking to you. This was a big deal, an honor even… and a gesture that could transition our relationship into something more.
I liked Daniel, but he and I had never exchanged photos. I knew that he was 6’1 with blond hair, he knew that I was 5’10 and Nigerian, but I never mentioned my size during our talks. “plus size”, “fat”, “big girl”, I wasn’t comfortable with those words yet and it always seemed like they would ruin the moment, so had I never uttered/typed them.
But as I stood in the Target parking lot, chatting with Daniel, my size was all I could think about. Did he know he was using his international minutes on a big girl? I could see the romantic moves he was working to create… but I knew that the 5’10 Nigerian girl he was imagining at the other end of the line didn’t look like me.
Standing on the axis of “my size shouldn’t matter” and “but I know it does” was too much for my 17 year old self esteem to handle. I toyed with the idea that maybe I could lose a whole bunch of weight before he got back from Iraq and actually BE the fantasy in Daniel’s head, but I knew better…
I made an excuse to rush off the phone. I started letting days/weeks pass before I’d reply to his emails. Eventually, we stopped speaking. I had let Daniel down gently, “saved” him from falling in love with a fat girl, stayed true to myself and kept the fantasy he had of me squarely in tact.
Fast forward a few years, I’m 23. I log into my newly acquired facebook account and there’s Daniel name in my friend requests tab. I guess the pull of fantasy CeCe was too strong and he had looked me up. I was 5’10, Nigerian and plus size… turns out he was 6’1, blond and lanky/awkward.
He ruined it… I thought to myself, as I clicked “accept”.
I get so frustrated with the constant parade of plus size people misrepresenting themselves with skinny photos online, but in some ways I understand it. “My size shouldn’t matter, but I know it does” is a hard pill to swallow. “What if they see me and they’re disappointed?” is a tough question to ask. For me, it was better to find someone who liked me for the totality of who I was are than to let someone project their idea of a physical perfection onto my personality.
Other than the friend request, Daniel and I never communicated on facebook. No messages, no “liked” statuses. The lack of communication was a subtle version of the rejection I was trying to avoid. When Daniel saw what I looked like, he didn’t even want to rekindle our friendship, but that’s more of a reflection of him than me.
I’ll be live tweeting Catfish this week, follow me on twitter @CeCeOlisa!