This article originally ran in July 2013.
It’s not every day that you see a fit guy dating a bigger girl.
So when my girlfriend Gloria Shuri Nava wrote an essay about being overweight and dating a fit guy for Yahoo, I expected some controversy. What I didn’t expect were people talking about our relationship all over the world — even the ladies on The View had an opinion!
Living in Scotland, I saw the story before Gloria — it went live while she was still asleep in San Fransisco. In just a few hours, it got a crazy number of comments (today, there are almost 12,000) and shares on Facebook (3,000 and counting).
Gloria and I deal with prejudice on a daily basis, so we had braced ourselves for an onslaught of harsh comments. But surprisingly, the first batch was overwhelmingly positive. There were notes of encouragement from other plus-sized women and thinner men who said they found nothing odd about us as a couple.
Then the negative comments started piling up: “She is a pig.” “[Together] They look like a number 10” and “I guess her guy is into BBWs-Big, beached whales.”
My knee-jerk reaction was to protect Gloria. It’s funny: When someone says something disparaging about me — about my ginger hair or pale skin or Glaswegian accent — it doesn’t bother me. But when I read cruel comments about Gloria, they get under my skin. I hated the idea of her excitedly waking up to read the article and then reading the mean comments. But that girl has thick skin. She realizes that those comments say more about the people making them than they do about her. Instead, she focuses on the fact that, in going public with our story, she’s hopefully making things better not just for us, but for other couples who feel ostracized.
I’ve always dated bigger women. They’re who I find attractive, the same as some prefer blondes or women who are petite. Yet society says this is strange — well, I think that’s strange. I remember back in 2010 when I told a friend I was falling for Gloria and she replied, “You can’t say that, Ali — that’s mean. Don’t joke about that.” When I said I was serious, she said, “I just never expected it, because you’re so into going to the gym everyday, and what you find attractive is the opposite of you.” Why do people say, “Opposites attract” when a couple has different personalities, but in regard to physical differences, it’s considered unusual?
The fact is Gloria and I have so much in common. We feel the same way about our families — they are the most important people in our lives. Our parents taught us the value of hard work and good morals, and how we should conduct ourselves and treat other people. We also share an idiosyncratic sense of humor — we find things funny that other people don’t. But whereas Gloria can be controversial in her humor and get away with it (anyone who’s watched her videos on her YouTube channel Glowpinkstah, knows what I’m talking about), I can’t. I’m awkward in that sense.
While I fell hard for Gloria after getting to know her, I’m not going to lie: I was initially attracted to her because of how she looks. When I came across her picture on Twitter, I was drawn to the shape of her face and her smile — she has such a captivating smile! And her eyes have this amazing sparkle to them. She is just so incredibly beautiful. When people say Gloria’s lucky, I say, “I’m the luckier one.”
After I saw her photo, I started reading her Tumblr posts. In one, she wrote that she longed to meet someone with whom she could have a friendship with first, then hopefully that would blossom into love. That intrigued me, because I’d always wanted the same thing.
Still, I never thought we’d fall in love. People may say, “You can’t fall in love over the Internet,” and I probably felt the same way before it happened to me. For a while, I second-guessed my feelings. I’ve not met her, so I don’t know what she’s like in person — can this really be love? But when you’re with someone who understands you in every way possible, you know it’s real.
That first time we met was when I came to visit Gloria in San Francisco, two and a half years after we began talking. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I felt like I was arriving home. I was so nervous — not scared, but anxious with anticipation. I had wanted for so long to feel her in my arms, to give her a hug. It was even better than I’d expected. As soon as I hugged her, I felt completely safe, relaxed. It didn’t feel like I was meeting her for the first time — it felt like we had been apart for a really long while, and we were finally being reunited.
Now I’m counting the days until I move to California to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology. Gloria also decided to lose weight and I support her because she wants to and in the long run, it’s a good thing for her health. But in terms of our relationship, there’s no need for Gloria to become skinny.
People ask if Gloria and I are going to get married. I will say this: I’ve always felt that the best marriages are between people who are best friends. Having that foundation is everything. The advice I give to others is that you should always look for your best friend, because things could flourish and lead to something you might have never expected. It may actually take you by surprise that what you’ve always looked for might be right in front of you.”