Note: Half of this post was originally posted on sister blog Mavenity. I’ve taken the parts that are relevant to The Curvy Nerd and written new material around it. The original post is in the blue box!
Being a big girl dating can be frustrating for a number of reasons, many of which I’ve previously discussed. Online dating has a particular caveat in that all the lead-up to dating a person takes place from behind a computer screen, with wooing based on words and some pictures. How do you know that what you see if what you get? Will attraction online translate to attraction in person? He likes the pictures I’ve posted, but will he be disappointed if I’m bigger in real life?
Pictures can lie, or at least soften the truth. Anyone, fat or thin, pretty or plain, knows that it’s key to choose flattering photos for your online dating profile. People do care what you look like, and that grainy photo of you taken from fifty feet away isn’t doing you any justice, nor is the “My Space” style angle shot of just your head & shoulders. We choose pictures with flattering angles, hair styles, clothing. And if you’re overweight, well, come on – we post the photos we have (or have some taken) that downplay our body, and play up our favorite features (usually shoulders up).
Personally, I strive to be as honest as possible in my online dating profiles, even to my detriment in terms of responses/interest. If the site has a body type option, I say curvy or a few extra pounds. I specify that I’d like to be matched with average/stocky guys (I’m attracted to thin men, but am sick & tired of being matched with gym rats who have no interest in me). I post my favorite head shots, but I also try to have at least one full body or most-of-my-body shot that at least shows that I’m bigger than average (even if it’s not my “before” picture from this blog!). I never pretend to be thin, but I hardly announce that I’m fat, either.
However, this isn’t fool-proof, and I always stress about whether or not he has the wrong impression of me – did he see all my photos (or at all)? Was posting the most flattering angle of my full body a bad idea? Will he still like me when he meets me in person, and I’m maybe fatter than he was expecting? (I do, after all, appear pretty thin from the shoulders up XD) What happens when your worst case scenario comes true – either you open up about your size, or you share a full body photo OR you find out via other means that your potential date is, gulp, no longer interested because of your size. Or, even worse, openly hates fat people.
In February 2011, one month into this weight loss journey, exactly this happened to me. I was on eHarmony, and came face-to-face with the issue a lot of us fear – someone I was interested in, who seemed interested in me, indicated that he would not date someone who was overweight. Not only that, but additional web crawling lead me to his journal, where he posted from pretty hateful words about “fatties.” What a nice, ugly reminder that it doesn’t always matter that you have a “great personality,” are funny, smart and interesting. If you’re fat, you are not an option.
So I was on the fourth leg of “Guided Communication,” where you send another user your Must Haves/Can’t Stands. And I found myself staring at something that stopped me cold:
He listed in his “Can’t Stands” Excessive Overweight.
Let’s talk about eHarmony’s “Excessive Overweight” category, and body size on eHarmony in general. eHarmony, it seems, wants to tip-toe about body size. Maybe it’s because THE 29 DIMENSIONS OF COMPATIBILITY RULE ALL, or because eHarmony does give a shit about physical attraction and favors the “let’s throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks” approach, but for a fat kid, it’s rather disconcerting. The problem is, everyone’s idea of “fat,” “overweight,” “excessive overweight” and “obese” differs. And let’s be honest, “excessive overweight” sounds like a euphemism for “obese,” right? But then the description of this “Can’t Stand” reads: I can’t stand someone who is overweight.
Hold on. Just “overweight”? What the HELL does that mean? I’m overweight. But I’m not obese, and wouldn’t class myself as “excessive” anything. But a fatty hater might think being above a size ten IS excessive, and obese (CRAZYTOWN). So when Lawyer #2 (as I nicknamed him) listed that as a can’t stand, I became concerned. Is he a fatty hater who will think I’m slob and dismiss me out of hand? Or does he not want to date someone who is obese, and 100, 150, 200 pounds overweight? That is certainly understandable. Thinking I’M obese is not.
I put my Googling skills to good use, and using the email he gave me and his first name tracked down his Twitter and LJ. I won’t post the exact quote here because it’s Googleable and would compromise his identity, but let’s just say I found a recent post on his LJ about how he hates how “obese” women “pretend to be thin” by posting “manipulated” and cropped photos of themselves so men won’t see they are fat. They should “lose wait” (sic) before they go on these sites. He also called fat people slobs.
THOSE WACKY FAT CHICKS, TRYING TO DATE LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE! DON’T THEY KNOW THEY ARE FAT AND UNLOVEABLE? </sarcasm>
Funnily enough, I am, in a way, taking his advice. I kick-started my diet and lost a few pounds before I joined eHarmony and started using it in earnest, because I wanted to make sure my health and weight-loss journey were underway. Am I hoping before I meet someone in person that I can shave off a few more pounds? Yes. But I’m not manipulatively cropping photos, and in fact posted a full body shot, though I do have to admit it is a generous one. I weigh a few pounds more now (no more than 15) and I was wearing a flattering and slimming dress (Calvin Klein, shockingly, makes a size 14 dress that FITS me and looks AWESOME), but I posted it purely so any interested matches could see that I’m not a skinny chick.
Still, it grates. Could I ever date a person who hates fat people? Would I ever feel comfortable introducing him to my friends (some of whom are heavier than I am), knowing he thinks they are obese, lazy slobs? Well, no. People who hate fat people often have a different concept of “obese,” and lower tolerance level for it, as actual fat people. (and to boot, he’s a rabid Tea Partyier. Eek).
Further pondering of the situation got me to the bottom of it: as a free preview user, *he couldn’t see my photos*. So even though I posted honest photos, this person in particularly couldn’t see them. You’d think this would make me feel better. It didn’t. Because it means that he was interested in me as a person – background, interests, values, etc. – but not if physically I didn’t fit some idealized package.
Doesn’t that just make you feel like crap, fat ladies? You get the validation of knowing that you’re smart/funny/interesting/whatever, but at the same time are told that your outside package is too abhorrent to date/love? And we wonder why so many fat people hate themselves, and masochistically diet with the belief that there’s a “thin person” inside them dying to get out?
Plenty of people out there think like Lawyer #2, and they’re the types that give people like me complexes about our bodies and dating. It’s also jerk-faces like him that kept me fat for so many years, while I waited in vain for someone to “love me as I am,” and validate in my mind both my personality AND my outer package. A part of me hates giving people like him the satisfaction of slimming down, but on the other hand, I’m doing this for ME… and I’m sure someday I’ll be happy and loved for exactly who I am (and what my fat past has made me), and Lawyer #2 will still be a judgey/preachy asshole who likes to put women into perfect, little boxes. So I win!
[[fun fact: if you go to the original post, you can see eHarmony's "response" to my issues with their body type rubric. I LOLed.]]