Dan Savage has long been called out for his fatphobia. But the, ah, fat hits the fire in this week's installment of Savage's sex column, Savage Love.
Generally I adore Savage's writing. He's blunt, deft with language, and funny as hell. His column creates a dialogue, a space for people to talk openly about sex. Most of the time it makes me laugh out loud. But other times, I cringe.
This week brings us "Almost Twice the Wife," who asks:
Is it better to stay with your overweight wife--who happens to be the mother of your infant daughter--and cheat on her to get sexual gratification (and be a shit of a husband) or leave her (and be a shit of a father)?
Frankly, the guy already sounds like a shit. To me this is a rubber-stamp DTMFA (in Savage-land, Dump the MF Already). See ya.
At first, Savage's response is spot-on. He adroitly reminds the letter-writer of options beyond "cheating" or "leaving": "You could go without for six months or a year--you know, like most new parents." Savage also calls him out for contributing to his wife's weight gain, imagining her perspective: "She may not be feeling it for the husband who doesn't find her attractive in her current state--a state he put her in."
But Savage never questions the assumption that newly overweight equals unattractive. He tells the writer to "take a little responsibility" - not for sharing childcare, but rather for "knowing that pregnancy and its tragic aftermath, aka 'parenting,' leave new moms with very little time for the gym." Furthermore, Savage posits that if the woman seems more concerned with the baby than with her weight, then she deserves whatever she gets.
For all I know, your wife is one of those lousy spouses who abandon routine physical maintenance once the first kid arrives.... Forgoing routine physical maintenance is the mother of all take-you-for-granted moves, one that quickly kills desire and slowly smothers love, and it can constitute grounds for cheating and/or leaving.
Alternatively, "forgoing routine physical maintenance" can be a sign of depression, because here you are with this squalling infant, up to your ears in baby bodily fluids, and your husband is off talking to Dan Savage about how you're too fat to fuck!
By the way, let's do some math. The letter-writer signs himself "Almost Twice the Wife." A woman gains an average of 25-35 pounds in a pregnancy. Even if we double that (to, um, pad the argument), and assume that a weight gain of 70 pounds makes her "almost twice" her previous size, then she used to be a 90-pound weakling and is now about a size 12. This guy needs to meet some women besides Twiggy and Courteney Cox (who, by the way, was still hot in a fatsuit).
But seriously, both the letter and its response gave me pause. When I desire someone, I'm attracted to the whole package; a little weight gain (even a lot) doesn't turn me off. Yet it seems genuinely beyond the worldview of both Savage and Almost Twice the Asshole to understand that lovers can desire each other even as bodies change, as bodies inevitably do over the course of a life. If lovers are going to pledge fidelity to one another - particularly the lifelong promise of marriage - then they need to stay true to each other not just in sickness and in health, but literally through thick and thin.