Smorgasburg, Brooklyn’s beloved outdoor food market, begins this year’s season on Saturday, April 4th. Here at the most exciting additions to this year’s line-up of delicious vendors.

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1. DcMondalds

The brainchild of cuisine entrepreneur Scatman Crothers, DcMondalds is NYC’s hottest new burger joint, featuring burgers grilled in the shapes of emojis. But DcMondalds isn’t just burgers: it also serves a classic BLT*, and it’s the one-and-only home of the Coors Light salad. Deviled Egg Power Hours begin every hour, on the hour.

* bird licorice tobacco

2. Jackie Chan Outtakes

This hot new Asian-fusion eatery earned its name when patrons described its menu, much like the outtakes included at the end of every Jackie Chan film, as “the painful mistake of well-intentioned people.” Outtakes will serve their staple dishes, like Sriracha-on-a-stick, Paxil dumplings, Paul Reiser egg rolls, and their unique spin on fortune cookies – a stale Hydrox cookie stuffed with a cruel insult tailored to your physical appearance.

3. You’re F#&king Next, Brownsville!!

You’re F#&king Next, Brownsville!! is one of the most exciting new players on Brooklyn’s gentrification-via-restaurant scene. Offering a menu full of items that would sound horrible if they were fairly priced, but which you can kind of talk yourself into because they’re so expensive that you assume they must be good, including: A.B.C. gum, malt liquor served in a hat previously worn by Pharrell, playing cards of the 1997 Toronto Maple Leafs drenched in maple syrup, and pork belly that somebody spilled Sprite on. All your food has a Popsicle stick joke written directly on it in magic marker by Chef Neckbeard and every order comes with a complimentary dose of gluten-free Molly.

4. Superfund Site No. 827

The first NYC restaurant to get an “F minus” on their health inspection, Superfund Site No. 827 offers a variety of dishes banned by the FDA and rumored to cause health complications ranging from gigantism to buckteeth: Gowanus Canal oysters, the cremated remains of a pig, hot dogs made from jackals imported from Chernobyl, or their one-of-a-kind dolphin nuggets. Highest recommendation to avoid. And for the love of God, please, please DO NOT order the butt chowder.

5. Chef Boyardizzle

The famed East Village experimental Italian eatery comes to Smorgasburg, offering their trademark items: deep-dish Communion wafers; meatballs injected with gravy, ranch, and vintage Hi-C Ecto Cooler; and Rasta pasta (pasta that’s been strained through a Jamaican’s dreads and topped with blunt ashes).

6. ToeJam and Earl’s 16-Bit Bistro

The product of an extended acid binge that originated in 1992 and has somehow continued to the present day, this location-less bad idea has won countless awards despite existing solely in the mind of a former Pratt freshman who now runs a bed bug removal service that has a negative rating on Yelp. Rumored to serve items ranging from Herbal Essence tea to imaginary donuts to the Mr. Feeny panini (a thick slab of mustache trimmings and latent homosexual longings served between two pieces of ciabatta).

7. If It Ain’t Broke

A trendsetting LES favorite, If It Ain’t Broke’s trademark is to take a perfectly good dish and then ruin it by putting some dumb, asinine shit on it. Examples include sirloin steak crusted with pistachio shells, deep-fried chicken served with a thick layer of Fiber One, and eggs*.

*Eggs are served uncooked, in the shell (the shell is also served inside a live chicken)

8. Edible Build-A-Bear

Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Lots of sad kids who didn’t fully understand what they were getting themselves into at this one.

9. Burrito Burrito Tito Tuxedo

Smorgasburg’s newest Mexican-inspired vendor, Burrito Burrito Tito Tuxedo offers a variety of regional burritos: Sacramento-style burritos (filled with Tums and house paint), El Paso-style burritos (filled with paranoid whispers and the anecdote to rattlesnake venom), and Milwaukee-style burritos (just a cheeseburger). You also have the option of ordering marked-up Taco Bell.

10. Scavengers

Scavengers, an exciting new Brooklyn-based vendor where everything is made with literal elbow grease, took the idea of “food truck” and replaced the truck with a dumpster and the food with garbage. It offers everything from expired Lunchables to reverse-engineered Slim Jims and packets of ramen noodles that somebody had in their pocket during an MRI. Chef Wet Eddie is also credited with inventing Scavengers’ trademark beer-battered beer. For your convenience, your receipt has been cooked into your order. TC mark









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Good Will Hunting
Good Will Hunting

When most of us think of a rejection, we think of a terrifying, awkward, and embarrassing event that we would rather forget. However, this perception is based on idealized beliefs and fantasies rather than real life. In reality, a rejection is a process that enables us to see the truth in ourselves and others and can ultimately allow for true and compatible human connections to take place.

Below are 10 reasons on why and how you can use rejections to improve yourself and your relationships. Realizing these reasons will allow you to not only brush off rejections, but also to actually actively seek them out.

The only caveat in their underlying assumption is that the rejection is real. Real rejections come from you showing your real desire to become intimate with people you want in your life, and not try to play games or manipulate their perception of you. If you try to manipulate their perception of you by acting nice or as someone you are not, then no rejection will help you, and you might experience them time after time without any real personal and emotional development.

Without further ado:

1. When Done Properly, Repeated and Escalating Levels of Rejections Will Build Your Mental Resiliency.

Shaolin Monks seem to be impervious to pain due to a lifetime of repetitive training. Through gradual and escalating force, their bodies learn to adapt to pain. So is the mind when it is faced with repeated adversity.

The key to developing this mental resiliency is having the right mindset and also enduring the gradual exposure to greater and greater pain.

The right mindset means to establish a long-term objective that allows you to look beyond any temporary fear or pain of the moment. A gradual escalation of pain levels means that you start with the appropriate tolerable level of pain and slowly push yourself to experience more fear and pain.

Without a long-term objective, you will forever live from one terrifying moment to the next, forgetting why you are experiencing rejection in the first place. If you take on too much pain too fast, your mind will go into emergency mode and shut down critical thinking capabilities.

2. With the Right Amount of Personal and Environment Awareness, You Start to Gain the Right Perspective of Reality.

Cargo cults were isolated Pacific island tribes that received airdropped cargo by mistake. They turned to worship cargo planes and their operators thinking they were gods who brought them goods and technology from above. This is a classic case of “correlation does not mean causation.” Although this is comical in history, most of us subscribe to the same template of forming beliefs in our everyday lives.

If we experienced rejections early on in life, we tend to attribute that rejection as a reflection of ourselves.

It’s perfectly natural to do this, since our parents most likely used the threat of rejection to make us behave better. However, in real life rejections do not happen because we are “not good enough.” They happen because we are not compatible with others at that particular time.

This fact only starts to become more apparent to us as we collect more data by experiencing more and more rejections. Apart from that, we need to have the right level of awareness of ourselves and others to see how and why those rejections took place. Then and only then we will realize that it had very little to do with how we stack up, and more with random variables like timing, moods, and social settings.

3. Facing Rejection, or Just the Fear of It, Allows You to Start Delving in Reality.

Gaining the right perspective in reality is only the first step to accepting it. You need to fully embrace it and delve in its facts and consequences. Not everybody will want to be with you all the time. All things change. But at a slight moment in time, you may find somebody who is fully compatible with you.

The fear of rejection represents a fog that covers your vision of this reality. As long as you try to avoid it, you will always look for connections that shouldn’t exist. This will make you pursue unsustainable or outright bad relationships.

The simple reality is that you must filter through a crowd of people to find someone who you really want to be with, and wants to be with you. Facing rejections head-on will allow you to work through this task more efficiently.

4. A Rejection Represents Your Moment of Truth, of Which You Have Nothing to Hide.

What are your needs and what are the other person’s needs? Can you meet each other’s needs? These are the questions that you will need to answer when you are interacting with someone.

The more you suppress these needs in order to gain any validation, acceptance, attention, or affection, the more needy you will become in the long run.

Conversely, if you seek and accept the answers to those questions, you will not be needy, naturally. If you don’t meet the other person’s needs and that person doesn’t meet yours, move on. You have faced your moment of truth, and you will handle it with grace. You will not need to hide your flaws and insecurities. You will not need to hide your desires and needs.

5. Use Rejections to Learn about How You Can Do It Better next Time (You Learn More from Failures than from Successes).

Sometimes rejections do not happen to us due to an incompatibility, but due to our own incongruence in how we represent ourselves. We act incongruently when we don’t know (or forget) what we stand for. During these times, we appear confusing to others.

Confused by the major inconsistencies of the image we project, people will not accept us. This is a rejection no matter how you slice it. The important thing to do here is to learn from this experience so we can align ourselves and calibrate to the social environments better in the future.

Along the theme of “correlation does not mean causation,” a successful interaction may excite us, but it will also give us the false impression of our congruence. However, a rejection is always true. You will learn more from it than the temporary successes.

6. Real Rejections Take Real Personal Initiative and Ownership. Use This Personal Initiative as a Launching Pad.

Not many people, certainly not a majority, have enough personal initiative to experience a real rejection. Often, to gain attention from the people they are interested in, they will act nice, act like someone they are not, or just act plain weird. In turn, others will either become simple acquaintances or avoid them. They will not become intimate or reject (which is also an intimate experience) them outright.

However, you should be a person of truth and personal initiative. You seek to find intimacy, compatibility, and the necessary amount of rejections that come with the territory.

When you experience a real rejection, you know you have been true to your desires and impulses.

These impulses are encouraging signs of the fire of life within you that cannot be distinguished. Fanned on by the winds of rejection, that fire will grow stronger and launch you to ever bolder actions with greater intensity and focus.

7. Rejections Allow You to Confront Your Ugly Emotional Baggage Hidden underneath and Resolve Them.

You are a collection of needs and life experiences that formed beliefs. Some of those beliefs are harmful and hold you back from becoming the person that you want to be. They tend to be so deep-seated in your psyche that sitting around thinking and talking about them most likely won’t bring them to the surface.

Think about it, how would you know you were afraid of height until you climb a tree?

Rejection allows you to re-experience those childhood fears and beliefs that shackle you. However, with the power of rationality, you will begin to resolve those irrational fears and put those ghosts in their places. Without resorting to blaming, you will start to see the root cause of your self-limiting beliefs and make them melt away in your mind.

8. Use It to Filter out Those Who Are Not Hell-Yes.

Just as you are willing to face rejections as they are, you must also be willing to reject those who are not compatible, or whom you cannot decide if they want to be with you. The filter works both ways, and you must remember that.

9. Rejections Make the Hell-Yes Much Much Sweeter.

Not much needs to be said here. Your favorite food will taste much better if you don’t eat it every day, but after you haven’t had it in a while. Relish in this phenomenon.

10. Accepting Rejections Nonchalantly and Gracefully Creates Attraction, Even for the People Who Reject You.

This one seems counter-intuitive, but the reality about attraction is that it is not persistent. This means that a person can create it and destroy it. When you initiate and pursue, the other person might not be attracted or interested to start out with. Because of this, the other person might reject you, even if ever so politely.

Once you accept this rejection and brush it off, however, you show a lack of neediness. This lack of neediness, combined with the perceived “opportunity lost” phenomenon, will create an attraction in the other person that wasn’t there before. Most times, the other person will not act on this attraction. However, there’s been more than a few times that other people would change their mind on me. TC mark

 This article originally appeared at www.thequintessentialman.com.









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YouTube / NSYNCVEVO
YouTube / NSYNCVEVO

The music scene during the late 1990s and into the early 2000s was truly a blessing upon our generation. Thanks to the Spice Girls, girls were confident that every problem could be solved by the use of ‘girl power,’ and if it weren’t for *NSYNC, boys may have never gotten over the most heinous trend of the 1990s, otherwise known as frosted tips.

Up until the mid 2000s, music was more of a pleasure to listen to. I’m not saying that there isn’t great music today, because there is. It’s just that ten years ago things were different in the music industry. We rarely heard auto tuned voices and most of the songs we danced to actually had lyrics. For those of us still struggling with the fear of getting older, only to be asked, “Who is Blink 182?” by someone five years younger is a scary, scary thought. It’s time for our favorite artists and bands to redeem themselves and make us feel young again.

So, for all you millennials out there, here is a list of ten musical artists who need to dust off their guitars and dig up their old shell necklaces, and make one last (hopefully not last) epic comeback.

1. Shaggy

In 2001, Shaggy made every girl feel like an Angel. Even though nobody could understand what the hell he was saying, his unique reggae style had everyone singing along. Shaggy’s classic line, “Life is one big party when you’re still young but who’s gonna have your back when it’s all done” is still a line that holds true to us today. Let’s face it. Shaggy knew the deal. He sang to all the beautiful girls around the world and taught us a lesson or two on how to master the art of cheating in his hit, It Wasn’t Me. Please come back, Shaggy. We all miss you terribly.

2. Smash Mouth

The members of Smash Mouth were the real All Stars in the late 90s. Whoever didn’t know all the words to their hit, “All Star,” was clearly living under a rock. I am sure of this, and quite certain that there is a substantial amount of evidence to back up this theory. If you don’t miss Smash Mouth and agree that a comeback in the near future is necessary, then you might as well be walking on the sun.

3. R. Kelly

Now, um, usually I don’t do this but uh….i’mma go head’ on and tell you why R. Kelly needs to make a serious comeback. In 1996, Space Jam introduced us to our favorite soul searching single, I Believe I Can Fly. This song led every kid to believe that he or she could achieve his or her dreams even if that dream did not involve becoming a professional basketball player. We haven’t really heard a song this encouraging in a long time, and I think it’s time we bring that energy back. So, please R. Kelly, we are begging you to give us something fresh out the kitchen because we need a new tune to Bump n’ Grind to.

4. S Club 7

If you remember racing home after school to catch the newest episode of S Club 7 then you probably agree that it’s time for S Club 7 to bring it all back to you. This British pop group was all the rage of the early 2000s. You watched them make their claim to fame from Miami to L.A., and you even stuck around to see what would happen in Barcelona. While S Club 7 did give us a false sense of hope for how easy it is to become famous at seventeen, we still remember them for their upbeat music and inspiring lyrics. Please, give us some fresh beats to drunkenly sing to at the top of our lungs because if there is one thing we all know for sure, it’s that there ain’t no party like an S Club party.

5. Outkast

Outkast was truly one of a kind. The electrifying chemistry between group members André 3000 and Big Boi was infectious, and is reason enough for why an epic comeback is crucial. While the rumors that Outkast said farewell to their fans in 2014 may be true, it shouldn’t stop these two from reuniting to bring us a new so fresh and so clean hit. Regardless, we will forever be grateful to this hip-hop duo for showing us how to shake it like a Polaroid picture in 2003. So if you can, Outkast, lend us some sugar and we promise not to make you apologize for it a trillion times.

6. Ying Yang Twins

The Ying Yang Twins had absolutely no filter when it came to their lyrics, and your middle school self loved every minute of it. They are most likely to blame for the majority of inappropriate terminology we hear in music today but we had to hear it from somebody, right? The Ying Yang Twins gave you the confidence to grind up on your ninth grade crush because nothing was more awkward than standing by yourself in a corner while the DJ blasted “Get Low” at your high school dance. It’s possible that the Ying Yang Twins have yet to make an awesome comeback because they feel a bit threatened by all the vulgarity that we hear in hip hop music today. We understand, Ying Yang Twins, so just think about it, and let us know What’s Happenin!

7. Missy Elliott

Everyone can agree that Missy Elliott’s guest appearance at this year’s Super bowl was the best thing that could have, and will have ever happened in 2015. But what a tease! We have gone almost ten years without a new hit from Missy and we are starting to Lose Control. As the first original female artist with swag, Missy Elliott absolutely killed it in the late 90s and into the early 2000s. Without Missy, you would have never learned how to get your freak on, and that my friends, is incredibly sad to think about.

8. Savage Garden

I think it’s safe to say that Savage Garden left us way too soon. This Australian Pop duo sang to your soul and they meant every word. For those of you who may have forgotten who Savage Garden was, I should mention that their hit song, I Want You was number two behind the dance craze, Macarena in 1996. NUMBER TWO behind the MACARENA. Just let that sink in. While the group did split in 2001, I think fifteen years is enough time for them to get over their differences and get it together. Everyone misses you, Savage Garden, Truly Madly Deeply.

9. Destiny’s Child

Everyone knows that if you ever get the chance to be yourself or be Beyoncé, you would most likely choose to be Beyoncé. Beyoncé is amazing and that is just a fact of life, but she wouldn’t be where she is today if it weren’t for Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. The trifecta that was Destiny’s Child set the stage for most female R&B groups in the late 90s. Releasing one hit after the other, these ladies were truly unstoppable. They coined the term ‘Bootylicious,’ which made its way into Webster’s Dictionary and they gave you advice on how to deal with your man. While we did see a cameo by the three at the Super bowl in 2013, it wasn’t enough to fully feed our fix. We get it, Beyoncé, you want to be on your own and you kill it either way, but it was Destiny’s Child who taught you how to become the Independent Woman you are now. Don’t you think they deserve a little more than a 10-minute Super bowl performance? We certainly think so.

10. Nickleback

I am totally kidding, Nickleback. Please stay where you are, wherever that may be. Thanks. TC mark









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Flickr / Katie Tegtmeyer
Flickr / Katie Tegtmeyer

1. “To pill or not to pill.”

2. “When is it ok to invade his bathroom with literally the entire likes of the personal care aisle at Target?”

3. “For the love of God do not scroll too far back in my Facebook photos. There’s a blatant awkward phase and I’m not sure if unconditional love is possible after that”

4. “Please understand that Netflix was my last and longest relationship and it takes time to open up to a physical being.”

5. *Inserts one too many kiss face emojis* “This is borderline preteen girl communication. I should do better.” 

6. “Decipher my passive aggression? No shit Sherlock, I’m a woman.”

7. “Tinder, it’s been entertaining. But only entertaining.” 

8. “Instagram official? Facebook official? Snapchat this love story? Stream live on Meerkat? To hell with this digital validation.“

9. “His tolerance to my time at Sephora is surely an accurate measure to how much he likes me.”

10. “Removing all makeup in his presence will, MUST, be a strategic gradual process. Only the Lord knows what I look like Monday morning and he has not yet reached divine status.”

11. “Cooking real food may win me some ultimate gf points but take out pizza speaks to me on a spiritual level.” 

12. “What affectionate nickname will not come off as disgustingly cute in public?” 

13. “How do I tell him his go-to cuddling position is draining all my blood from my right arm. But I mean, it’s so cute he hugs me to sleep. How important is blood flow anyways?!?”

14. “Crying while neck deep through this Shailene Woodley movie will result in mascara madness. I repeat, you will semi resemble a Japanese horror movie extra. Too early for that, woman.”

15. *When you first miss him BAD* “I just want to hold him and hug him sooooooooo tight until we morph into one strange entity and then he can never leave” 

16. “I can’t believe we like the same *insert hipster band from the early 2000s*. HE MUST BE THE ONE. REPRODUCE RIGHT NOW. Jk, I need to like, get my shits together first.”

17. “He’s seen my entire rotation of bras and underwear twice. Time to hit up Victoria’s Secret to soak in inspiration (but actually proceed to the sale section of whatever lingerie store closest that does not charge for a mechanism that hold your girls together).”

18. *Asks questions about his exes which provokes inquiries into your sudden curiosity*  “How else can I aggressively creep them? C’mon, it’s 2015. Google searches under Boolean context is a qualified endorsed skill in my LinkedIn.” TC mark









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Όλοι ψυχολογικά baby ...
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yakub88 / Shutterstock.com

When I was planning my wedding, I got a lot of advice. Everyone I knew had an opinion on what and who needed to be included on our big day. It can be an overwhelming time, and I do my best not to give brides advice until I’m asked. But on this one, I’ve got to speak out.

It was a rainy evening in late September. The cake had been cut, the toasts had been given, and there was but one thing left for us to do: party. Then, IT came on. The DJ put on Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer. All the wedding guests ran out onto the dance floor.  EVERYONE danced. Even my husband’s 90 year old grandparents sat and clapped from their chairs, looking on and smiling. Bon Jovi was a hit. People dig 80s rock. But that’s not why this song is must at a wedding.

People who have been married for more than 20 or so years are often asked a question by those who have been married for less time: “What’s the secret?”. I’ve heard a variety of answers, everything from “honesty” to “laughter”. One person I asked recently gave the best answer I’d ever heard  ”What’s the secret?” I asked. “Don’t get divorced.” He answered. I personally find this to be brilliant advice. Because the question wasn’t “How do you stay in love?” or “How to you stay happy with the same partner?” but “How do you stay married?” and that really is the true secret to staying married: not getting a divorce.

Now, I’m not insinuating that every couple is meant to be together forever. In many cases, abuse, neglect, and simply growing apart cause people to lose the luster of what brought them together. And that’s ok. In some cases it’s great. But it is true that while we glamorize the idea of having grown old together, we rarely glamorize the actual concept of growing together. Perhaps these older couples we admire for being “so in love” for many years, had years that didn’t feel like love at all. They most likely had years of struggle, and strife, and fighting, or even not speaking. Women of our recent past and even now often lack the resources to free themselves of these difficult relationships. This lack of choices can lead to what we often covet- a long lasting marriage. So the question must be asked: what is the key to a long lasting and HAPPY marriage? Besides not getting divorced, the answer is obvious: Love.

But what is love? I would argue that when we first say “I love you” to someone in a romantic relationship we rarely mean it. Because love isn’t based on attraction, or fate, or sex, or even compatibility. When we first say “I love you” to someone we are saying that we can see a future with them. That we are psyched that the basic foundation for love is in place, and that IS rare. It should be celebrated. With a romantic proposal, a diamond ring, or a wedding, we celebrate. But we aren’t celebrating love. We are celebrating potential. We are celebrating faith. When two people pledge their lives to one another, it’s no different than going all-in at a poker table. It’s the biggest bet you’ll ever make. And you make it with the person you marry in front of all of your friends and family. But there will be a time when you regret placing that bet, throwing all your chips down, and risking it all. This is normal. All love really is, is having a connection with someone SO deep, that you can’t walk away in a time of crisis. Love is going through it with someone. Love isn’t strengthened in times of trial, it is created there. So, it’s actually impossible to be in love with someone you haven’t been through it with. Whether it’s your best friend, your parent or sibling, wife, or husband, Love only shows itself when it’s called to endure. And when you’ve endured together, you begin to truly love.

Which brings me back to Jon Bon Jovi, who obviously knows the secret to lasting marriage because he married his high-school sweetheart in 1989 and they are still going strong, which is impressive under any circumstance, but remarkable considering he is a rock star celebrity. So you know that you can trust him when he says “you’ve got to hold on to what you got”, and that “it doesn’t really matter if you make it or not”. He’s singing about crisis in a relationship between two people who refuse to give up on their situation, and each other. And that may not be the case for everyone. But it is for Tommy and Gina, who have it tough (so tough). Listening to this song as a younger woman, I felt bad for Tommy and Gina. What a crap situation they have! But as a married woman, I now realize, there isn’t a couple alive that doesn’t have it tough. This is a song about love. Not crisis. This is a song about marriage. So when you play this song at your wedding, you are solidifying a commitment to love, REAL love. The kind of love that endures. And you are welcoming crisis. Because you won’t be able to avoid it, no matter who you marry. There will be arguments about money, and tears and blame to share. There will be resentment and hurt feelings, and taking turns pulling an unbearable weight. There will be heart-bursting days of overwhelming love, and the kind of tragedy that tears people apart. There will be nights of Netflix, pillow talk, and laughter, and days of sorrow and aches of heart and head. What is important to remember is that for love, you should give it a shot.

As the dance floor swelled on my wedding night, Bon Jovi declared the ultimate statement. “You live for the fight when that’s all that you got.” Then, the bad ass key change happened. Key changes are often used to enhance the feel of a song. They increase a sense of climax and usher in a surge of optimism, which is exactly what you will need at some point in your marriage.  Whether it’s a career that you love, a family member, friend, or spouse, you won’t know your capacity to love until you’re living on a prayer. So on your wedding, make sure you get blessed by Bon Jovi. Look at the person you’re thinking of marrying. If you’d work at a diner for them or hock your favorite guitar, take their hand. You’ll make it. I swear. TC mark









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Shutterstock / Litvintsev Ihor
Shutterstock / Litvintsev Ihor

As an obese woman, I’m used to being the butt of jokes. “Nice ass!” I’ll hear walking down the street in my neighborhood, but when I turn around , I see a saucy teenager, surrounded by his guffawing friends, pointing to my posterior.

In college, frat boys asked for my phone number as their friends roared with laughter in the corner. Once, some kids even shot me with a pellet gun, right in the rear — and drew blood. After every one of these verbal or physical assaults, I’d shrink a little inside (if not on the outside).

Most people get to escape the torments of middle school once they outgrow it. For those of us who are heavy, the torments continue, often for life. Which is why, when the compliments finally started coming, I couldn’t quite believe them.

“I think you are beautiful. You are not too fat.”

I replayed the breathy voicemail, not sure whether to be flattered — or appalled.

It was from a man who said his name was Stephane, and apparently, he’d come across my YouTube series with videos of me training for a Kilimanjaro trek  — and liked what he saw. “Fly with me to Gabon and be my wife,” he said in another. “My girlfriend won’t mind.”

And the simple: “You’re a big woman. I love that.”

“Just stop calling,” I said, finally, swiping my screen to turn off my phone, wishing I had been more careful about posting my number (meant for people to reach me about speaking engagements) on my website. In addition to Stephane’s calls, there were emails and comments from several other men wanting some big love.

These men had seen enough to know they wanted to meet me — all 300 pounds of me.

Maybe it was my fault.

I’d produced a series of YouTube videos meant to get other plus-sized people to be more physically active. But my inspirational spots had seemingly found another following: a group known as Chubby Chasers, men who prefer their women big, and for whom the sight of my butt, as wide as a redwood, was a major turn-on.

My clips are not what you’d call sexy. In every one, I’m dressed in a t-shirt that barely fits over my hips and XXXL sweatpants that nevertheless tug at my thighs, my hair pulled back in a messy ponytail. Typically, I’m sweating through burpees and bench dips, my excess folds flopping all the way.

But to this group of flab aficionados, I was just the right size.

For the first time in my life, people wanted me for my body, and I wanted to crawl out of my skin.

I never set out to attract men who like big women. I’m happily married (to a normal-sized guy) for one thing. But somehow, a link to my videos ended up on a sex website for Chubby Chasers and suddenly, dozens of guys of that persuasion were mine for the choosing. To keep my YouTube channel clean, I had to scour the comments, deleting the perverse, though I’ll admit, I was tempted to keep “I’d like to offer you in marriage to my brother,” and “I love your booty.”

Love my booty? My booty is so big that I sometimes worry that if I sit too hard, I’ll smash a chair. Fittingly, “Amazing ass” was the first comment on my website.

When I noticed it, I got giddy, the same way I might have if a cute guy had a crush on me in high school. Except no one did. I was the fattest kid in my class. So I had to conclude that the complimentary comment — and the others that followed — were just another in a long line of jokes about my body.

But the comments, kept coming, telling me how beautiful I was, how desirable. I wanted to be delighted with them, to think I was all that, but my mind wouldn’t let me. Instead, I worried that my husband, a fit marathon-runner, walk one day walk out on me because of my weight, despite the fact that when we met, 15 years earlier, I weighed 360 pounds.

Despite his love, I assumed men would despise my body.

Now, apparently, I am a fetish. How can it be possible that people desire me?

My body is the shape of a bottom-heavy pear. From the waist up, it’s hard to tell that I’m plus-sized. My rump and hips, on the other hand, barely fit in the largest plus-size clothing. On airplanes and trains, I take up a seat and a half.

It’s true that asses of my size have been mythologized in our culture — Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” and Queen’s “Fat Bottom Girls” come to mind — but I’ve never managed to muster up the same appreciation for my girth. I’ve been trying my best not to be sexy, one bite at a time, since I was 12 years old. That’s when my brother’s nearly adult friend sexually assaulted me. He did this three times before I mustered the guts to tell my mother, who called the police. He went on to a juvenile center; I went on to gain 40 pounds that summer.

By the end of high school, I weighed more than 200 pounds; in college, I topped out at 300. Over the ensuing years, I gained and lost as many as 120 pounds, my mounds and ripples of cellulite compounded by birthing two beautiful daughters.

For me, food — and the extra layer of fat it created  offered protection against unwanted advances of men, as well as comfort in good times and bad.

Yet with each pound I gained, I loved myself less. The ironic thing is that I’d found a partner who really did love me  — who even seemed to appreciate my body — and not because he had a fetish.

Chris’ love surprised and delighted me. We started out as friends, but after several years of being there for each other, we realized that we were in love. When I was on the brink of moving to California for my first job as a newspaper reporter, we kissed at my going away party. He stayed over that night, along with a few other straggling guests, and in the morning, he serenaded me with The Cars’ “Who’s Going to Drive You Home?” on the karaoke machine I had rented for the occasion. His voice was beautiful coming out of the scratchy speaker, but I couldn’t help thinking, “I can’t believe he’s singing to me in front of all these people — even my brother.”

After I left, he sent mix tapes — Van Morrison, REM, Enigma, Dave Matthews. Each track made me long for him. Within a year (and thousands of frequent flyer miles), I moved back.

Despite the tapes and the serenade, my husband isn’t one to dote.

He doesn’t bring home flowers for no reason, but he does clip newspaper stories he thinks I’ll like and never fails to bring me a cup of coffee when I wake up. And when the calls started coming, he was as concerned as I was. As we contemplated calling the Consulate of Gabon to stop Stephane from contacting me, I asked Chris if my size was a turn on for him, or just a matter of fact.

“Let me put it this way,” he replied. “Before I met you, I didn’t go visiting websites for guys who like fat girls and I still don’t.”

His answer didn’t surprise me. I’d always assumed that Chris loved me in spite of my too-ample body, not because of it.

Still, I had to ask the question: “How could you love me when I’m so fat?”

“I love all of you,” he said, snuggling me in to safety.

I appreciated the reassuring words, but it’s tough to believe that he loves my ripples and curves and cellulite and arm flab. When we make love, or whenever I’m naked, I insist on lights off. And yet, he keeps coming back for more.

All my life, I’ve dreamed of dropping pounds, signing up for one diet program after another, from delivered meals to Weight Watchers. Usually, I’d end up choosing the sweets instead of following the regimen, which made me feel like a failure in life, despite my success as a writer, a speaker, a friend, wife and mother.

Perhaps for a moment, in Chris’ embrace, I could finally feel grateful for all my body had done for me.

I hiked Kilimanjaro three times.

I birthed two children.

Each day, I am able to walk with strength and power.

For a moment, I could close my eyes and believe that I was an attractive woman, that I was loved fully, a love as full as my round, yet strong, supple body, for the woman I am.

I decided I would turn off the comments from the YouTube channel. The comments were not helping me in my quest for self-love. They just freaked me out.

Just then, my phone buzzed again.

“Is that your stalker?” Chris asked.

“You better watch out,” I said. “I’m a hot mama.” TC mark

This post originally appeared at YourTango.

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