My relationship with the term “playing hard to get” changed the moment that I gained weight. Until then, I viewed it as an act of arrogance. Now I see it as an act of rebellion. People assume those who play hard to get crave the rush of being chased or are avoidant of building relationships. To me, it’s a blend of things — but most importantly, it is my way of saying “fuck you” to a fatphobic world and dismissing people who feel entitled to date those with larger bodies. 

Less than a year ago, I had a negative experience on Grindr. I matched with a man, and we spoke for three days before he even started proposing the idea of meeting up, which is a pretty long time considering the lack of patience people generally demonstrate with us fat folk. At that point, he started giving me “compliments” with fatphobic undertones such as “your body is not sloppy fat like most people.” Understandably, I was put off and politely told him that I was ready to stop communicating. He was not.

When I turned him down, I went from having a body that he desired to becoming an “ugly, obese piece of shit” in a matter of minutes. “I bet all you do is sit around and eat,” he said. “I hope you have a heart attack and die.” Before I could even respond, he blocked me.

“It was my expression of agency: I’m black, fat, and queer. My very existence spits in the face of what our society deems worthy of love, respect, and sometimes, decency.”

Apparently, people with marginalized bodies — that includes me after my 150-pound weight gain over less than two years — should never say “no.” 

After that, I spent days reflecting on the situation. I wondered how and why someone would become so enraged by a single word. Then I realized that the word “no” wasn’t what offended him. It was who the “no” was coming from. It was my expression of agency: I’m black, fat, and queer. My very existence spits in the face of what our society deems worthy of love, respect and, sometimes, decency. But before I’d give a thirsty stranger the satisfaction of allowing me to feel unworthy, I became hell-bent on making people work for my interest. If they don’t believe that I’m valuable enough to pursue at the pace I wish to go, why keep them around in the first place? 

I am not interested in being anyone’s fetish or last-minute hookup. Knowing this makes it easy for me to build behaviors that force people to make their intentions clear. I make a habit of saying no at least three times, which, admittedly, often angers people. And it always makes them reveal their true colors; if they aren’t truly interested in me, in who I am beneath my appearance, they back-pedal. Sometimes it ends with me being called a “disgusting pig.” But I’m OK with, maybe I even enjoy making people mad, if it gives me the means to assert my worth. The fatphobic insults don’t hurt anymore because playing hard to get helps me understand my body — and the people around me — more.

“You run the risk of dying single,” a friend of mine says. “You should be more receptive to people and more understanding.”

I could never be receptive to someone who doesn’t feel like I should be treated with basic respect. I would much prefer to be single, happy, and surrounded by people I love (albeit perhaps not romantically) than I would give a chance to people whose ignorance I am expected to accommodate and who make me feel like shit.

My fat, black, and queer experience has taught me that there’s only one way to be treated with respect: by showing confidence, even when that confidence is forced. Playing hard to get isn’t just about wanting people to chase me. It’s more about knowing that I deserve to be chased, just like anyone else who is conventionally attractive. And believe me, everyone is worthy of being chased.