“Sometimes I feel my whole life has been one big rejection.” – Marilyn Monroe
So, some time ago, (when I realistically had no business doing so) I made the decision to make a return to the world of dating.
Sigh. One sentence in, and the anxieties are gathering in the shadows seething in my periphery. Let’s jump in, shall we?
It was not a place I expected to be, it was not a place I ever particularly enjoyed being before. Dating sucks. Let’s get that out there right off tips. There are aspects of it that are fun, but for the most part, it’s frustrating and annoying.
I made the decision to do this online for a number of reasons.
1. This is the way things are done now. We have romanticized this idea of meeting charming strangers at random, striking up conversation, one thing leads to another and they live happily ever after. It’s possible that worked at one point. It may still happen in rare situations now. In the increasingly insulating world of the internet though, this is pretty much a fluke. Striking up conversations with strangers nowadays is largely viewed as creeper territory.
2. It allows a control of pace, and a quality screening process before you actually get to the date part. Yes, there’s something crucial to body language and chemistry that you cannot experience any of online, but what you CAN get is a good feel for how they might be conversationally, which is also a critically important thing in a prospective partner. This benefit is limited by user error. I’ve got a treasure trove of dating misadventure stories that are pretty much the direct result of me taking those options to screen better and throwing them out the window. Typically speaking though, you can get a decent feel of if there’s a point to meeting. Creation of funny stories is good, the wasting of time less so.
3. Well, it allowed me to hide. Kinda. I’ll explain.
Creating the profile was an anxiety-inciting extravaganza.
One of the basic set up questions is body type. Sigh. Of course it is. This was a problem on multiple fronts. While it is an option to leave it blank, what you don’t say here speaks louder than what you do. Secondly, I’m in flux. I’m changing. Not so rapidly that I couldn’t make an edit but I didn’t really know how to identify with myself…or with the other choices. Athletic? That’s a bad joke. Husky? Curvy? I didn’t feel they applied. Full figured? Full and overflowing, maybe. . They didn’t have an option for “hot air balloon” which was the only acceptable answer. A click and an eyeroll later, I was moving on.
A few questions later came my biggest fear, unsurprisingly, pictures. As previously mentioned, there were not many of them to be had, and I needed three of them. I went with a picture that my ex-girlfriend always liked, as I thought it was not terrible. This, for the record, is about as close to complimenting myself as I used to be able to come. I’d never call myself handsome, but I could say “not especially trollish” if I was in a particularly good mood.
Looking through the tiny selection of other pictures, I hated all of them (SHOCKING) and went with one of me with Patrick Rothfuss at a signing event I attended. I did this for a few reasons. A. Patrick Rothfuss. I mean, come on. B. Being a goddamn giant, and with him at a desk, I had to take a knee to equal our heights. This conveniently hid most of my body behind the desk. Nefarious! C. Patrick Rothfuss. I mean, come on.
I still needed a third picture. Feeling pretty annoyed at this point, I pulled out my phone, pointed it at my face and took a picture, any picture, just to have a third. Amusingly enough, this single shot born of irritation is probably my favorite picture of myself and the one I use in the “Meet Joe” section.
The rest of the profile was a breeze. This was where I could play to my strengths and showcase my charms. I’m not an expert writer by any definition, but I do have a way with words and am passably entertaining in a written format. Even here in my arena there were complications. I’d already done everything I could to avoid admission of size by direct answers of body type questions or pictorial evidence. I didn’t have to say anything here in the copy either, but my fear of being rejected by omission overrode my fear of being rejected by honesty. Even in that it was difficult to be clear about it. I was trying hard, desperately so, to avoid painting a pretty simple fact about myself that would be immediately apparent to anyone with eyes. Couched on both sides by quips and alternating statements of absurdity and profundity, I made the non-committal statement that I was taking my health more seriously with promising results. Which could have meant anything. I could’ve been eating Honey Nut Cheerios because the commercials say it can lower cholesterol. I could’ve quit smoking. I could have scheduled a series of cancer prevention exams. It allowed me to admit that there was…something…off without coming right out and saying it.
As pretty distinctly terrible as all of this is, avoiding admission is really one of the more innocent manifestations of this shame, which I was completely enslaved to. It gets much much worse than that. It’s an interesting dichotomy that someone would put themselves on display in such a fashion while doing everything they could to obfuscate themselves. It’s not exactly hiding in plain sight.
Once it was all done, I looked over it probably 50 times trying to decide if it was good enough. “Good enough,” of course meaning “so incredible that it could even possibly get someone to look past my size when determining my potential value as a partner.” I consulted close friends for their opinions on it. I second guessed everything I was doing, because I had managed to convince myself I was completely undesirable, and any efforts made by me to disprove this were counterfeits at best. These are the sorts of things we treat ourselves to. Good times.
For all of my anxiety, I reminded myself that not posting the profile had a very predictable outcome, one I didn’t care much for. It was going to be a bumpy ride for sure, but could it be worse than knowing that I let anxiety and irrational fear talk me out of forward movement? Probably not. You can’t win if you don’t play, right? With a deep sigh and mentally crossed fingers, I clicked “approve.”
Next time: Surprising Results.