In regards to a previous post, Peter commented:

Getting back to the original issue, one thing to keep in mind is that changing your behavior/appearance/whatever to eliminate undesirable characteristics might not do much in terms of attracting women so long as you’re in the same social environment. For example, if an overweight guy manages to lose a lot of weight his dating prospects may not really improve among the women who knew him when he was fat, as they’ll still think of him as the fat guy.

It can actually be more complicated than that sometimes.

One thing that heavy guys see a fair amount of that gives them hope is older married couples with a heavy guy and a slender wife. What they often don’t realize is that when they first got married, it’s often the case that he was in better shape. Whenever that’s not the case, though, in almost every single instance that I’ve known it to occur, the guy was at least in better shape before they met. That’s the kind of thing that when you think about it shouldn’t matter, yet it seems to and when you think about it, it makes a certain amount of sense.

Take a guy that was morbidly obese from ages 5 to 25 but lost it all by 30, more often than not you’re looking at a guy that is less successful with women than a guy that was in good shape from 5-25 that let himself go and became overweight by 30.

A guy that has been overweight for most of his life will often think of himself as such after he’s lost the weight. Even if he notices some improvement, instinctually he will think that women see him as they have seen him for most of his life. He’s less likely to ask girls out and even when he does, he is up against a pretty big learning curve never having been successful before. Once I learned to shower regularly and lost 70 pounds or so (and gained two inches in height) in high school, I was still way behind a whole lot of my peers. I didn’t know how to talk to girls, didn’t know how to ask them out, and didn’t know the 100,000 ways I could accidentally repel them.

That’s not to say that losing the weight didn’t make a difference. It did. But it didn’t make as much difference as one might expect. I was still the same awkward kid, just in a smaller frame. Eventually I got caught up somewhat on the socialities of girls and women and I began to improve considerably… though I was still behind a whole lot of my peers. Then, even when a fair amount of the weight came back on, the improvements actually stuck regardless of the fact that I was heavier than I needed to be.

It’s kind of depressing to think about it. It’s actually something of a demotivator when it comes to trying to get into shape a little later in life. If I were told at 15 that losing the weight would still leave me behind my peers, I might not have lost it. I’m certainly glad that I did, of course, but sometimes to lose weight you’ll have to think that it’ll make all the difference in the world. Particularly if you’re losing it for social rather than health reasons.

The same is often true for women. The one formerly fat girl that I dated was half-crazy with insecurity. I know a couple guys that managed to marry quite well for themselves (in the appearance department) because the girl they married used to have a serious weight problem.

And as mentioned at the top of this post, the inverse is also often in effect. Girls I know that started gaining weight well after college often project a confidence and social adeptness that helps guys overlook the excess baggage. The fat former frat boys that I know managed to marry some real hot women.

My family is close to another family named the Lamonts that was raised in a quite healthy household. No soft drinks around, little or no chocolate, all four food groups at every meal, no fast food, and so on. Once the girls left the house, though, they all started putting on the Freshman Fifteen and beyond. Some lost the weight, one didn’t until very recently. I remember thinking to myself that one can really go overboard with raising health-conscious kids because they can rebel as soon as they leave the house. As I get older, I see that to matter less and less. The fact that they were thin and attractive in high school mattered more than I would have expected.


Category: Coffeehouse, School

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9 Responses to The Everlasting Trauma of Young Chub

  1. Peter says:

    Much of what you described applied to me too. It wasn’t so much that I was grossly fat, at 5’10” and weighing around 245 (though Spungen disagrees), but it certainly was enough to make dating more difficult. Another thing is that I was far too out of shape to participate in sports or some other recreational activities in high school or college. My college had a very active outdoors club, lots of social activities, but after a disastrous attempt at day hiking on what I now realize was only a moderately steep trail I was too reluctant to participate any further. There also was a very active rowing team, which was one of the few sports you could take up at the college level with no prior experience. The RA freshman year tried to get me to lose weight and try out for the

  2. Peter says:

    [that got cut off, so here’s the rest]

    … under 200-lb. squad, pointing out that I’d get in great shape and would enjoy the social aspects of the close-knit team, but of course I didn’t listen.

    Don’t get me wrong, weighing so much less today and being in FAR better shape is good in some respects, but as you point out changing one’s essential character is not easy. And of course the fact that there are very few participatory team sports opportunities for adults makes things worse.

  3. Spungen says:

    Will, this is a very insightful post and I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve said it before: Age matters. The age at which you had something, or didn’t have it, matters to what you get later. Half Sigma expresses a similar sentiment with his “tracks” theory.

    Although I looked fine in high school, I can totally relate to the lasting damage of being disfavored. So I wonder, is it confidence? Is it skills a person is able to build when young? Or is it some sort of actual status independent of behavior — ie, a person has the right friends in high school, and that helps him later when he goes to college with some of those friends (like you did), meets other good friends through those friends, attracts desirable girlfriends through his network, gets good job offers, etc.

    It’s too bad Peter refuses, or is unable, to recognize the insight here, because he seems like such a very good example of your point. Being overweight at a young age does seem to have damaged his personality in certain ways well into middle age. Or perhaps the overweight was a symptom rather than a cause.

    (And Peter, it’s not I who “disagrees” with your assessment, it’s every weight table I’ve ever seen that says someone of your weight and height was obese.)

  4. trumwill says:

    Peter, it’s unfortunate (in this way at least) that you live in the region that you do. Out west there are a lot more social activities involving physical activity. Clancy and I weren’t able to do some of the things we wanted because we were out of shape (and busy) that would have been very social. Hiking groups, mountain photography, and stuff like that.

    Also, like I’ve mention before, being able to play sports in school is no cure-all even if one isn’t bad. It certainly didn’t provide me the boon I would have liked. I was good at basketball because I was tall, but I was still too hefty and awkward in junior high, so instead of being picked on from the jocks outside in, I got it intra-athlete rejection. Had I been a spectacular player it might have made a difference, but short of that it was maybe helpful in junior high, but not as helpful as one might imagine.

  5. trumwill says:

    Spungen, the idea was first put into my head by Evangeline. She was for a time dating a guy that was (for reasons we can’t determine) very popular in high school and though he’d become something of a loser since (he was 27 and working as a clerk in a toy store and wasn’t particularly charismatic or attractive) he was still solid socially and had a sort of attitude that only someone that was popular in K-12 could… that people that are unpopular are so because of lack of effort and not because the game is rigged. She commented that it seems uncommon that people that were popular in high school and people that were unpopular ever actually get together romantically later in life because they tend to come from such different places. Haven’t decided how right she was, but remembering what she said a little while ago got me thinking of the everlasting effects of high school.

    I’m inclined to attribute it to behavior in one form or another. I think because I want the world to be a more just place and partly because the idea of high school connections guiding one through life doesn’t seem correct to me. On the other hand, at the handful of state universities in Delosa, it was quite common for people to start off in little groups that all came from the same high school. It’s possible that through those networks they met people in college through which they met people and more people and more people. Tracking, as Half Sigma would suggest. I do think that behavior does account for a lot of it. If I were to become an accomplished, wealthy Hollywood director I’m not sure that I would completely get over the default belief that beautiful and popular people won’t take a real liking to me and that would probably have an effect. I also see a whole lot of social opportunities back in college that I didn’t take advantage of because I didn’t really know how because of the lack of high school training. So I guess it’s probably some combination of the two.

  6. Peter says:

    The age at which you had something, or didn’t have it, matters to what you get later. Half Sigma expresses a similar sentiment with his “tracks” theory.

    Half Sigma’s mostly right with that theory, but not 100% right. In some instances it is possible to “re-invent” oneself through certain choices past the traditional age. “Some” is the key word. For instance, if you’re 30 years old and working in a boring office job you’ll probably never be able to become a BIGLAW partner or I-banker. On the other hand, given some ambition and talent you can become, for example, an engineer or pharmacist (to name a couple well-paid careers). A 30-year-old couch potato who never played sports in school will never be a professional athlete or play team sports on anything but the most informal pick-up level. With enough dedication, however, he or she might very well be able to compete in a marathon or triathalon.

    As for the dating and relationships field, well yes, a person who was unsuccessful during his or her school days, whether due to overweight or introversion or something else, is likely to be at some level of permanent disadvantage. But that does not mean that having a stable marriage is out of the question, as Trumwill and I (though not Beemis) have shown.

    Peter, it’s unfortunate (in this way at least) that you live in the region that you do. Out west there are a lot more social activities involving physical activity. Clancy and I weren’t able to do some of the things we wanted because we were out of shape (and busy) that would have been very social. Hiking groups, mountain photography, and stuff like that.

    Oh, I wish. For me to get to anything remotely resembling hike-able terrain requires a drive of at least two to three hours each way, not to mention payment of extortionate bridge tolls.

  7. logtar says:

    Peter Wrote
    “And of course the fact that there are very few participatory team sports opportunities for adults makes things worse.”

    ???

    I have lived in 3 different areas of this country and let me tell you, there are plenty of opportunities for adults participating on team sports.

    I started playing soccer outdoors last year, but pick up games are easy to find. Same with basketball. There are kickball, dodge ball and softball leagues that are easy to join.

    All it takes it to sign up and they will find you a team, trust me after playing for a season you can find a team to play with.

  8. Peter says:

    Logtar –

    For one thing, the main adult basketball league in my area had to discontinue its Over 30 division due to lack of interest. From what I’ve heard, most of the league’s players are no more than a few years past college age. There are some – not many – adult softball leagues, but once again most of them are aimed at a younger set and have little or no place for men over 30 or 35.

    I don’t know about kickball or dodgeball leagues. Although those sports seem rather too junior high-ish to appeal to me.

  9. trumwill says:

    My brother managed to completely reinvent himself in college. He wasn’t in a really bad place in high school like I was, but he was sorta nerdy and you would never know that meeting him today (save for the fact that he’s an engineer). It’s definitely possible, but it requires some favorable circumstances. He’s more the all-American guy than my brother is! I also had the fortune of finding BBSes and learning to be social using those training wheels, though I never caught up like my brother did (I had more ground to make up).

    I think that the northeast is fundamentally different from other areas of the country, so I believe that it’s more difficult than in the midwest or south. Another factor at play is that a lot of these activities are set up through work and through existing social networks. In other words, you join the company softball team or get together with some friends. If you don’t have an existing team, it’s harder to get onto one. In some leagues you can put your name in and be assigned a team, but you’ll be the only person on the team that doesn’t work at a particular place or go to a particular bar or church or are otherwise not a part of the overall group.

    There are opportunities, but they’re daunting for people that are already socially challenged.

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