Adventures in (Not) Dating
I’ve written about being fat, rape, resigning from my professional ministry career, my family, a broken heart, my anxiety disorder… and yet, this post seems really scary, and incredibly personal. Like the rest of those posts, though, the words demand to be written, and so I find myself sitting at the computer, asking the universe to be kind.
In high school, when everyone else was dating, I had a weird, intimate relationship with a guy for three and a half years, so I didn’t date anyone else. In college, I was working and taking too many credit hours, so I didn’t have time to date, though my insecurities and anxiety kept me under the radar most of the time anyways. Then, for years, I was in seminary and a full-time minister, and I don’t think that there is better man-repellent than being a fat, nerdy minister. A little more than a year ago, something weird started with someone, and after about a year, I found myself brokenhearted, stuck in Iowa where I knew no one outside of coworkers and clients, and I gave in to peer pressure from my dearest friends and decided to try online dating. It had worked for Ange and James, Jerry and Jessica, Brandon and Nick, so why shouldn’t I give it a shot? After all, it’s not like I was likely to meet men anywhere else in that tiny little town.
It has been two and a half months, and oh my God has it been everything I feared it would be.
First, there’s the weird job of setting up your own profile, trying to answer questions honestly, even if none of the options really fit, and even if you aren’t sure how to do it, you have to write something in a few hundred characters that will catch someone’s attention. I’m a whole person, not just a few pithy lines about how I like football, sparkles, and and thunderstorms. What if one word, or one line is included or excluded and that makes all the difference in my impression and I don’t know that? I’m supposed to put pictures, but since all my friends live forever away, all I have are recent selfies and old pictures from when I was much fatter. How many selfies can I post before I just look lonely and bored (no matter how lonely and bored I actually may be here in another town where the only people I know are my parents).
Then, there’s the even weirder job of sorting through others’ profiles. Do I have a height range? What about eye color or income? Excuse me, am I looking for a person or sorting through possible specs on an automobile? If I have no parameters, I look too desperate and have to sort through too many people who really don’t fit the bill. I’ve noticed I have weird trends, a “type” that I didn’t really think about before. I usually skip over blonds, and short men (anyone under 5’10”) seem to get a “meh” from me. I’m OK with men six or seven years older, but more than two years younger and I feel like Mrs. Robinson. Little things in their descriptions can make me cringe and are sometimes speedbumps that I have to think twice about (passed one up because he’s a Packers stakeholder: gag). I skipped one profile completely because he looks too much like a friend’s brother-in-law whom we all dislike. This guy might be perfectly delightful, but I could only think “eeeek! NOOOO!”
But beyond that, I hate, hate, hate the weird, fake, uncomfortable way that communication happens, or doesn’t happen, and how it makes me feel about myself. Online not-dating has been hell on my anxiety, complicated by my stupidly romantic heart. I am never comfortable making the first move. I do it because as much as it terrifies me, if I want something – or think I want something – I have to give it a shot, because otherwise, I will be haunted by what might have been. So I look through profile after profile, trying to figure out if it’s worth the risk, and I’ve decided to take the risk more often than I would have thought I would. And it has fallen flat every time. Most of the time, I’m ignored. Sometimes, I’ll have a few exchanges with a guy and then he just stops talking. Mid conversation, never says another word. Sometimes, it seems like less of a risk: there was one guy who stalked my profile for two weeks, “winked” at me, and then when I said hi, there was no response and he never looked at my profile again. Another guy looked over and over, liked every photo, favorited me, and then again, as soon as I said hi, he disappeared.
The few who have contacted me first have been worse: yesterday, a man messaged me to tell me he’d let me sleep with him since he’s bored with his fat, lazy-in-bed wife, as long as I drove to Wisconsin when his wife and kids are gone. Another guy, barely old enough to get a tattoo, said he’d get to the point: he wants an experienced woman to teach him. And there have been a few who are old enough not only to be my father, but my grandfather, too! GROSS.
Reading profiles has become kind of ridiculous, because they almost all say the same thing: they want a light-hearted, outgoing, skinny woman. Perhaps using slightly different language, but it’s a lot of the same thing. Sometimes, I read them and I can see how we’d get along in everything mentioned, except for that one little phrase that makes it clear that he only wants thin women. Even guys who are 75 pounds overweight themselves are only interested in thin women. sigh. I’m kind of in that in-between stage, where I’m the size of an average American woman, which means I’m not so very gigantic anymore, but I still am losing (seven more pounds lost this month!), with more hips than I like, but pretty decent boobs that balance it out. Average, though, is still fatter than they want. Even taking my weight out of it, I don’t fit into what they describe. I’m not light-hearted. I’m not outgoing. I’m funny, but not in a way that translates well into profile-writing. I am really smart, but to say so makes me sound arrogant. I’m a really loyal and honest friend, but that’s something that plays out in time, not in 45 seconds of reading. I think I’m a pretty good person, but then again, it’s not like anyone would advertise themselves as an asshole, you know?
So two and a half months later, I find myself in the same position. Well, not brokenhearted anymore, but still bored. It’s hard to be ignored all the time and not feel like there’s just something fundamentally unattractive about me. Some invisible force that stretches even into the internet. Poor BobbyJeff, Melissa, Brandon, and Ange have listened to me whine about it and have been kind enough to not tell me to shut up.
I keep saying that I am done with it, but since I have another few weeks on my subscription, I still check it. Every so often, I find myself talking to someone for a day or two, even though they always disappear. It’s a weird sort of masochism, I think, being a romantic. Because no matter how often I end up bummed out by being ignored, there is that little voice that says “but it worked for Ange… look at how happy Jerry is…” I suppose it’s the price I am paying for not being too jaded. The price to pay for hoping, however tenderly, that it’s possible that there’s someone who will see past my hips and inability to write my own catalog entry and see that I have pretty eyes, brilliant brain, and that eternally damned “great personality.”
Posted on December 10, 2014, in Anxiety, On Being a Woman, Relationships and tagged Anxiety, Body Image, dating, Men, men and women, mental health, On Being a Woman, Online Dating, Self Image, Women's Issues. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.