When you are a fat follow you have this amazing superpower. You can be both visible and invisible at the same time. People can see you, but pretend not to see you because they don’t want to dance with you. It does not matter how good you are. It does not matter if you have great musicality. It doesn’t even matter if you put on a nice outfit hoping that it would attract people to dance with you. You will need to put in double the effort to get half the attention of your slight and wispy counterparts.
This is a lesson I learned long ago, but had forgotten. Until, I went salsa dancing in New York. I have partner danced for two years in Houston. It has been amazing. I can now go most places and am recognized by several leads and follows. I am not the best follow in the world, but I am fun. I try to make every dance a great experience for the leads. I smile. I twirl. I work to connect with the leads and communicate to them no matter the skill level that I enjoyed dancing with them. In Houston though, I have noticed there are particular leads who seem to dance with women who are at a not very good (but very attractive) simply because they are slim. I have disregarded this most of the time because most leads in Houston are so lovely and I am kept so entertained by conversations and dance that it does not even register that men don’t want to dance with me. New York was not the case.
Wednesday night, I’m sitting at a salsa social. I am already aware that I have several factors working against me: I’m new, I’m fat, and I’m not wearing anything to make me stand out. An hour passes by and only two people ask me to dance. I mustered up the courage to ask a lead, I had watched for the past hour. He looked very friendly and was highly skilled in salsa, cha-cha, and bachata. His follows always seemed to enjoy themselves. I walked to him and asked if he wanted to dance. His mouth said yes, but he face was unenthused. As we danced, he put no effort into leading me well or sending clear signals of what he wanted me to do. In the middle of the song he says to me, “You know this song is just to fast for me to dance to”. I wish he was truthful. He was done with me. I freed him from the torment of dancing with me by saying, “Oh, it’s fine. I need a drink of water anyway.” I escorted myself off the dance floor and into the woman’s restroom. I cried.
Eventually, we left.
I don’t have a nice resolution for this post. I refuse to camp out in the fat acceptance movement. My personal experience is not a testimony for a well-intentioned, but silly movement. I agree with you on the my weight does not determine my value, but weight does decide health. I will not condemn the leads who prefer to dance with normal sized follows. I also don’t want to alleviate them from recognizing that we notice.
Because this issue is not just one that surrounds be a fat follow. It is one that surrounds just being fat. Period. When you are fat you there is this silent pressure that you have to be funnier, smarter, and kinder if you are going to survive alongside your skinny counterparts. It sucks, and I think most people who are fat would agree with me.
The obvious solution is to lose weight. Believe me, I’m working on it and have been for years. Let me propose to you a less obvious solution: take away my superpower.