I'm Overweight and My Boyfriend's Not. Big Freaking Deal

Gloria Shuri Nava

My boyfriend Ali is 5'10" with friendly blue eyes, a dimpled smile and a fit, muscular body. He's someone you'd expect to see with a really hot, thin woman...not an overweight girl like me.

We've been dating for 18 months, and, wherever we go - whether we're walking hand-in-hand through the mall, airport or down the street in his hometown (Glasgow, Scotland) or mine (San Jose, Calif.) - we get confused looks that say, He can do better than her!

When people say things out loud, their comments range from cruel ("Is he blind?" "He's only with you to get a green card") to awkward quips such as, "It's great he can see past your looks" or "He's so nice for being with you," they say. I usually respond, "He's not doing me a favor - he's my boyfriend!"

Now and then, even people close to me made unkind remarks. Once, when I confided to a friend, "I can't believe he likes me!" he answered, "Yeah, I know!"

But the worst reactions are from anonymous people online. I have a YouTube channel, Glowpinkstah, with more than 250,000 subscribers, and, as a comedienne, I review beauty products, answer fan mail, share my edgy brand of humor and details about my life, so they know all about Ali and me. While most are supportive, there are a fair number of bullies:

"She must be brilliant at blow jobs."

"She has a boyfriend? WTF is wrong with the world?"

"These two had sex?! Oh god, why?"

Some have gone so far as to ask how we have sex. I feel like saying, "If you have to ask, clearly you missed an important class back in the fifth grade."

I'm 25 years old, and I've been overweight my whole life. I was chubby kid, but I wasn't big like I am now. (And, no, I won't disclose my weight.) I just really liked food, and I didn't think about consequences. Also, I didn't care that much about the way I looked - but other people did. In middle school, one guy imitated the way my thighs rubbed together when I walked. While it made me upset, I realized that it was more his problem than mine.

I met Ali online in late 2009. Liv Tyler's sister Mia tweeted a link to one of my videos; Ali followed it to my Twitter feed. He says he saw my picture and thought, "She's cute." Then he caught my show on the now-defunct Blog TV, which allowed subscribers to talk to me live via webcam. While I was talking about my dreams, he volunteered to decode them. "I study psychology," he explained. So I gave him my Instant Messenger screenname.

Two-and-a-half years later, the miles and time zones between us hardly mattered. We were spending a hours a week talking online. I thought Ali was cute too, but I figured someone like him wouldn't have feelings for me. And he was three years younger - I had dated so many immature guys and I wanted someone older. Meanwhile, Ali had just gotten out of a relationship, and did I really want to fall for someone who lived in Scotland?

Yet I didn't feel complete if hours passed without a text from him, and he said he couldn't start his day without us video-Skyping. I knew he was into big girls - his exes were chubby. That's one reason people assume that Ali has a "BBW" fetish. Sorry to disappoint, but it's like having a thing for blondes: It's just a preference. And ours wasn't a Catfish situation, either: We knew what each other looked like, and we included other's friends and families in our online chats. We didn't keep secrets - except for the fact that we were falling in love.

Finally, in December 2011, I blurted out "I have feelings for you!" over Skype...then instantly regretted it. We were best friends - had I ruined things? But Ali looked right into the webcam and said, "I've been waiting to hear you say that for a long time." And that he had feelings for me, too.

Not long after, Ali - who I was now seeing exclusively - told me he loved me. We had yet to meet in person.

On May 15, 2012, Ali flew 5000 miles to be with me. He stayed in my family's home, which my parents were fine with, having spent the last six months getting to know him online. When Ali landed at San Francisco airport, he called my cell phone. "Where are you?" he asked. I was outside baggage claim, nervously looking for his ginger hair. "Hold on," he said, then hung up. I turned around and saw him walking toward me with a huge smile on his face. He gave me a hug, and kissed me on the lips. I thought to myself, He's my boyfriend, and he's here!

Seven months later, I visited Ali in Glasgow. I had talked to his family on Skype, but I was nervous to meet them because none of my exes' parents had approved of me. One guy's mother noticed he kept a picture of me as a child in his wallet and said, "She doesn't give you a current picture because she's ugly and fat now." Another told me, with sincerity: "Maybe if you lost weight, my parents would accept you, and we could be together again."

Happily, Ali's parents were as welcoming as mine were to him. I never really talked about the guys I dated to my parents before. But they love Ali and the feeling is mutual. That's a good thing, because later this summer, he's moving to California to get his PhD in clinical psychology.

Ali is the best thing that's ever happened to me. He makes me feel like I'm good enough all of the time. I have days when I say, "Why do you like me?" He says, "Because you're beautiful and for the person you are." And he's been good for my health. I was at my heaviest when we met, and I've lost 40 pounds since. My goal is lose 80 pounds total, and he's very supportive - which he wouldn't be if he had a BBW fetish. (I actually get online messages suggesting that he's only with me because watching me eat turns him on) Before Ali, I never showed any skin whatsoever, but he makes me feel confident going out in a cute little dress that doesn't cover me head-to-toe. I can wear a sleeveless dress, shorts - things that typically people don't want to see me wearing -and not care.

My YouTube videos are changing too. I realized there was more to comedy than making lewd jokes. My audience is growing up with me, and there are younger kids watching. Shouldn't I be a better example?

So, with Ali's support, I started The Beauty Adjustment, a collaborative video project in which my subscribers help me spread the word that there is no one "normal" way to look or love. Beauty and relationships come in all shapes and sides: brown, yellow, short, tall, thin, fat - and one partner doesn't have to mirror the other. Love is love. That's a lesson that Ali taught me, and now I want to teach it to the rest of the world.