If you’re anything like I was back in my early dating days, online dating makes you anxious. Having to immerse yourself into the murky world of being judged by men, based on a couple of paragraphs you’ve written about yourself and a few pictures? Only to have bland email conversations with some so-so fellas? Only to arrange an awkward coffee date or two that fulfill your small-talk quota for the next three years?
So yeah, there are some unpleasant, hard, annoying, and downright scary things about dating – for men and women of any size. Many of us aren’t doing it because we love dating, but rather because we’re looking for the prize at the other side of this whole process: finding our person.
But here’s a tip: there are the real traps, irritations, and hard parts of the dating process that you can’t get rid of, they’re just there. But there’s also some psychological stuff on top of all the real stuff that can make it seem almost hopeless. And that’s the part we’re gonna work on today.
Cause if you have to date, you’re not going to be able to half-ass it. You’re going to need to be deliberate. Structured. Consistent. And you’re gonna need to summon every ounce of grit you can. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and it hurts as bad as (I imagine) running a marathon feels, sometimes.
But you know what you don’t need? The mind games our fat-biased culture throws at you! ‘Cause our culture has a lot of thoughts about plus-size and curvy women dating, and seems to have created its own false reality based on this third-grade-bully thinking.
And that’s our task today: mythbusting. Let’s get rid of these false beliefs and head trash that throw salt on your dating game. Here we go:
1. You have to be thin to get attention from guys online.
Nope, nope, and nope! Today’s top dating sites have millions of users, all of whom are looking for different things in their partners. If you play your cards right, you will be able to meet positive, well-matched fellas who are partner-potential. The site I recommend for plus-size women is OKCupid (for many reasons, stay tuned for another blog on this topic). OKCupid has 30 Million active users. That gives you a whole universe of guys to choose from. And it has this great matching algorithm that’s pretty good – if you know how to work it. It’s based on these match questions that ask you about everything from what type of relationship you’re looking for, to how often you brush your teeth. And here’s the most important tip about OKCupid: it works best if you use the match questions to your advantage.
Here’s the catch: you don’t want to go through and answer every match question that comes your way (as tempting as many of them are!). You want to choose only the questions that a) you care strongly about, and b) distinguish you from most of the other folks in your area. That’s right, if you’re a liberal lady living in San Francisco, you want to avoid questions about gun control, flag burning, and abortion – because most of the guys in the area are going to answer those questions the same way as you. You’re giving away too many match points to too many guys who will ultimately end up being poor fits for you by answering a bunch of political questions in the same way everyone else does in your area.
What you want to do instead, is pick questions that distinguish you from all other San Francisco gals, and most importantly, to answer every question about body size. The others, you want to simply ignore. That way, when you peruse your matches, you’re going to have a much greater chance of finding fellas who might be interested in you!
Cause here’s the truth: 20% of men either don’t care about body size in choosing a partner, or prefer a curvy woman as a partner. Not two percent. Not 0.02%. Twenty percent. Hey, it’s not 100%, but you don’t need every guy to like you. You don’t want to date a fat-hater. You want the guy who is perfect for you. And if you’re choosing from 20% of all of the guys in your area, and you play the game the right way, you’re going to get some attention from guys.
Now, don’t get me wrong – it takes work to build up a large selection of matches. It takes deliberation. But let’s banish this myth of “you have to be thin to find love” once and for all, because it’s not reflective of reality and what the research shows.
2. The only guys you’ll meet will be fat admirers and fetishists.
Okay, this is a quick one to debunk. Researchers have found that around two to four percent of the male population have sexual fetishes. They’re going to range from foot fetishists, to swingers, to fat fetishists. So if we look at our percentage of cool-with-curvy-women guys, the 20% of men who either don’t care about body size or prefer a curvy-bodied woman – how could all 20% of them be fat fetishists? It just doesn’t add up.
Also, here’s the thing. You know a fat fetishist when you meet one. You can tell because they’re not really into you, they’re into talking about sex with fat women. They focus only on your body and your looks. And you get to ignore that email, hang up that phone call, or suddenly remember a friend who needed you to stop by – and end that date. But remember, you have less than a two-to-four percent chance of running into a fat fetishist in your dating life. So you probably won’t have to run away from them very often.
Personally, I’m of the opinion that this myth comes from a culture that constantly satirizes curvy women’s sexuality. We learn, from a very young age, “I can’t be attractive if I look like this. No one could possibly find me attractive.” So when someone does, we dismiss it. We make it sinister or creepy in some way. Don’t let this myth get in the way of you seeing that you are attractive just the way you are, and that it’s okay when fellas see you that way, too.
3. Rejection is bad for your self esteem.
Is it bad for you to get rejected? It feels like it, doesn’t it!
If you’re anything like me, and you’re a little shy, or an introvert, or even downright socially anxious, the very idea of rejection feels like it’s going to hit you right where you’re weakest. But actually research shows that it’s best to lean in to situations that make you anxious if they’re important enough. If you have a fear of spiders but you come across a spider like every 6 months, it’s probably fine to leave that one alone. No need to stand around holding a spider just to beat a fear that kicks up twice a year. But if you drive for Uber in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has seven bridges, and you have a fear of bridges? That one’s gonna be a problem.
Here’s the truth about dating: you absolutely will get rejected. It’s almost a given. Hell, it is a given. You will get to know someone, and think he’s kinda cute, and feel positively about yourself, and dating, and maybe things are looking up – and then you’ll never hear back from him. It’s as inevitable as having to cross a bridge as a Bay Area Uber driver. So it’s going to be important for you to lean in to that fear a little bit.
It turns out, anxiety activates hormonal and neurological processes in our bodies that tell us that we are in TERRIBLE DANGER! This is quite useful when we’re faced with a tiger jumping out at us from behind a bush, for example, and you can see how evolutionarily it was important to have this fear system to keep us alive.
But it turns out, rejection isn’t an actual danger. It’s just a reality. Can bridges collapse and kill people? Sure, it happens. But it’s pretty darn rare, and consequently we’d encourage that bridge-fearer to try to cross some bridges and see that they don’t typically collapse. Same goes for rejection. It doesn’t actually do real harm to you. It feels bad and it can send us on a shame spiral – and it’s going to be important to learn some skills and have some strategies in place to help you disrupt that spiral.
Again, it comes back to doing the work. Consider in advance that rejection is likely inevitable. Have your best friend on alert that you might call her for a rejection-intervention at some point during your dating life. Define what that intervention will look like. A night out with cocktails and fancy sushi? A night in watching Love Actually and crying? Have your rejection plan in place. That way, when it happens, you’re ready to fall into it, feel it, get it out of your system – and yep, get right back up on that horse and start dating again.
4. Online dating doesn’t work.
Every guy who messages you is a sleeze. Every dude whose profile you look at is boring. When you reach out to fellas, they don’t message back. The whole process is unromantic as hell. This must mean it’s not gonna work!
The problem with online dating is that it can be so hard, so anxiety-provoking, and so unromantic that you just want to give up on the whole thing. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.
In 2013, over 20% of marrying couples had met online. And among milennials, the percentages are even higher. Among my close friends and family, 60% of us met our spouses and partners online.
Is online dating a lot of wading through bad profiles, ignoring the pointless messages you get from guys who emailed 50 women at once to tell them they have pretty smiles, and starting conversations with nice guys only to have them stop responding? It absolutely is. But this doesn’t mean that it’s also ineffective.
The fact that it’s so hard means that, like most of the difficult but oh-so-worth-it things in life, it works if you work it. If you’re deliberate about it. If you jump in with both feet and structure your dating efforts into a regular habit.
It means dating is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll need to take breaks, and reach out to your support team for comfort and encouragement.
And as for romance: being deliberate about your approach to dating doesn’t mean you don’t get to have that our-eyes-met-and-we-just-knew moment. That’s what happens when you meet the right person. When you have that coffee date that lasts three hours before either of you realized it, and then turns into dinner.
Remember your goal as you move through your online dating marathon. Don’t let the hard times and the dry spells keep you from finding your fella. Take breaks, lean on your community for support, but remember that it works if you work it.