One morning after a fairly tense Thanksgiving dinner with my family, and I was sitting on my bed with my then-boyfriend Neal. He didn’t know it yet, but we were about to break up. I’d known for days that this was something I needed to do. I had just spent two weeks in Europe, which helped me realized that I was done with his overbearing and sometimes creepy behaviour. (He once let himself into my best friend’s house unannounced, when I wasn’t even there, and just… sat down on her couch.) But even though I’d put a pillow in between us the night before, he was still caught off-guard when I told him we needed to go our separate ways. “Can we take a break instead?” he asked. It had only been three months, so… no. Finally, after an awkward goodbye, it was done.
At least I thought it was.
That night, he started firing texts my way. His hurt had clearly turned to rage and it wasn’t long before he started with the insults. “You made my car bottom out!!!!” said one message. The lowered and suped-up-yet-shitty Honda Civic he treated better than me sat about an inch off the ground but sure, yes, it was my ass that caused it to scrape over speed bumps.
Neal wasn’t the first guy I dated who made critical comments about my weight, but he would be the last. His pathetic pleading followed by an actual tantrum finally made me realize that when he talked about my body, it was a sign of how insecure he was. It wasn’t about about me at all. And that made me realize that was probably true of my previous relationships, too.
Like my first boyfriend, Zach. I was 16 and chatting on the phone with him while eating microwave popcorn when he said, “Popcorn? That’s junk food.” “So?” I asked. I didn’t like where this was going; I stopped eating. “Yeah, you look good, so it doesn’t really matter.” A sigh of relief. Then came the blow: “But, you know, you could look a lot better.” I immediately teared up. At 16, I was intensely insecure about my body and a comment like that made me want to curl up into a ball and hide myself from the world.
Fast forward to my second year of university. I was 19, living in downtown Toronto with roommates and totally in lust with Michael, a fitness trainer and model, whose jobs absolutely intimidated the hell out of me. We were snuggling on the couch and I was watching him eat pizza. (He didn’t offer me any—massive red flag.) “You’re beautiful,” he told me. It was a nice moment—I felt comfortable, cute and relaxed. “But you could be so much more beautiful if you lost some weight. Then, you’d be a 10.” He nodded to himself. Boom. Right in the heart. I tensed up and all over again, wanted to hide from him and the rest of the world that made me feel not good enough.
All three of those asinine comments broke my heart a little bit. But that text from Neal about his car sent me over the edge. I’d officially had enough of the bullshit and was tired of feeling less than. Not long after I ditched him, I discovered the body positive community on social media. I started seeing images and reading stories of women who unabashedly wore what they wanted and who were outspoken about being deserving. Slowly, I unlearned a lot of toxic tendencies.
I used to think I had to settle for someone; that if I raised my standards too high, I’d end up alone forever. But facing my insecurities meant understanding that it is actually so much better to be on my own than to be with a partner who makes me feel worthless. My personhood and my self-esteem have to come first. I realized how lucky I was to ditch those dudes sooner rather than later.
Now, at 31, I’m single and pretty damn happy. I’ve developed healthier boundaries and higher standards with guys and I’ve adopted a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to negative or unwanted comments about my body—from dates or anyone. I’ve also learned that there are, in fact, some men out there for whom I wouldn’t have to settle to be with. But until one of them comes along, I’m happy to be in a committed, loving relationship with my own damn self. Alexa, play Soulmate by Lizzo.