Recently, one of my beta readers demanded to know how my book’s protagonist, Kate Gallagher, can attract men so easily, even though she is—to quote Beta—“stout.”

As described in the books, Kate is five foot five and a hundred and fifty-five pounds. Is she trying to lose weight? Yes. Is she unattractive? Not in the least. In fact, she’s a traditional Irish beauty, with wavy auburn hair, sculptured cheekbones, and an hourglass figure. But Beta kept complaining about how “portly” she is. He had trouble believing that she could attract a high-powered boyfriend.

After several go-rounds, I finally told Beta—who is an older gentleman—that it is quite possible for someone of Kate’s height and weight to attract a desirable partner. “I speak from personal experience,” I told him.

“But you’re thin,” he said to me. “That doesn’t count.”

I stared at him, then burst into laughter. “I’m the same height as Kate, and I weigh more than she does,” I said.

Beta was genuinely shocked. “I had no idea,” he whispered, as if I’d just revealed that I was harboring the Ebola virus.

The whole discussion got me wondering—is this gentleman just exceptionally uninformed about what women-of-a-certain weight actually look like, or is there something else going on? As a society, perhaps we’re simply not used to seeing average-weight women—women who are not obese, but who are definitely not thin—presented as sexual beings. In films, literature and the media, there don’t seem to be very many examples to choose from.

One heavy woman character (if you can call her “heavy”) who was also sexual, was Bridget Jones. She was wildly popular—especially with women readers.

Back when the movie came out, I recall attending a screening in Hollywood. When Renee Zellweger, who played Bridget Jones, first appeared onscreen, there was an audible gasp from the audience. The Hollywood wives and moguls recoiled as they got their first glimpse of the actress, who’d gained weight for the role. Like my gentleman reader, they were shocked. And disgusted.

That gasp notwithstanding, I think that there are many heavier women out there who are gorgeous, and who know it. They have no problem attracting men. But they don’t see themselves accurately reflected in popular media. And they’d like to.

Hmmm….do I hear “target audience”?

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Comment by Kathryn Lilley on September 9, 2007 at 5:10am
I'll take looking "fat" like Marilyn, any day!
Comment by Cormac Brown on September 8, 2007 at 12:12pm
I've said it often on boards and blogs; two of most well-known female of the icons of the 50's, Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page were size 14 and 12, respectively. The standards for beauty have become so skewed that if they were working in this day and age, they'd have to get jobs as plus-sized models now or play wacky second bananas on TV.
Comment by Kathryn Lilley on August 18, 2007 at 8:48am
Right you are, Jack! It's a "vast, right-weight conspiracy," lol! And you're a doll for not liking the skinny-minnies...
Comment by Jack Getze on August 18, 2007 at 5:10am
I've been married to the same woman for 27 years yet I have no clue what she weighs. She won't tell me, even jumps off the scale if I run in and try to catch her. (I only did that once due the resulting punishment). I think that's why men have no clue when it comes to women's weight. Nobody's talking!
And personally, skinny girls are not attractive to me. I figure they have no appetite.
Comment by Kathryn Lilley on August 17, 2007 at 11:42pm
Hi Joyce! You are so right about the "if they knew" thing. One time my husband picked up my weight Watchers booklet and started to open it. Chairs went flying as I dove to grab it! Glad you stopped by!

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