Hello Captain and Co.!
Here’s my super sad background: I am a fat (stats redacted), black, straight, able-bodied, 33 year-old woman. I haven’t had sex in 13 years. I’ve come to realize that my one sex partner kinda raped away my virginity. I basically kept dating and sleeping with my abusive date rapist. Yes, I’m in therapy.
Despite my unfortunate past, I’d like to date but have been extremely unsuccessful. I try very hard not to think that it’s because I am fat and black and over 30 and both inexperienced AND damaged goods, but it’s hard to stay positive. Online dating hasn’t worked. I’ve been on exactly one date and I’ve tried online dating on and off since 2006. Set-ups are rare and typically don’t pan out, though one did result in 6 dates with a man who was WRONG for me, but it was still something!
I have, probably ridiculously, got my eye on this beautiful specimen of a man. He’s like a kind, friendly, sorta urban Lex Luthor. I may not have a chance; I think I have a lovely face and I do my best to look pretty, but men don’t seem to look beyond my size or blackness or horrible personality? I end that as a question because I don’t know what my problem is.
I try my best to smile and make pleasant conversation with Mr. Luthor. I even emailed him once as a follow up to one of our talks. (He wrote back!) I don’t know if he’s single, but I don’t think he’s married. If he isn’t single, I’d like to be his friend because someone that beautiful and kind must hang around other beautiful and kind people, right? Maybe my new friend could introduce me to someone great! And he seems pretty great. Win-win!
I think he has gazed at me more than once during our weekly chats, but I’ve been talking myself out of those thoughts because really? I’m so out of practice would I even know if he was? However, when he talks to me, I sometimes get the feeling that that’s how he’d talk to a friendly puppy, like even with all the possible gazing, he may not see me as a woman to maybe do pants things with.
Can you teach me how to excuse his beauty and not get so flustered when he’s around? Can you teach me how to show him that I am a woman, dammit, but in a way that won’t get me fired because our interactions happen when he visits my workplace a few times a week?
Thank you for reading and helping!
Please go read the entire Shapely Prose archive. Read this post twice, and then bookmark it. You’ll want it later.
Then read this.
Keep going to therapy. What happened to you is a big deal. Be nice to yourself and do whatever you need to to heal. Hopefully you will get to the place where you realize that someone else’s shitty acts are not a reflection of who you are. You didn’t cause them to happen to you, and they don’t have to define the rest of your life.
Racism and fatphobia are real things in dating, especially online dating, and there are some people in the world who will reject you on sight because of who you are. That hurts, for sure. BUT there are also people who will like you just fine and find you beautiful as you are. And there are a lot of people in the world whom you would reject on sight (or after a 2-minute conversation or exchange of messages). So one important shift that you could make in your thinking is to not see it as THE ENTIRE WORLD vs. YOU and tell yourself a story about how everyone rejects you. You rejected (or will reject) plenty of them, too, and if you doubt me, browse the “okcenemies” tag on Tumblr sometime. Do you want to play legos with the guy who has a Tasmanian Devil/Confederate Flag tattoo? No. No you do not.
I do not know if this hot Lex Luthor dude will like you That Way. There’s pretty much one way to find out, and that way is “Hey, it’s always so great to see you when you stop by the office. Would you like to have a drink or dinner with me sometime?” Since you have his email and he has yours, ask the question! Ask now, before you get too invested in the fantasy of what it could be like or psych yourself up too much. If he says no, or you guys don’t actually click, it will be sad, but since you can’t date everyone in the entire world you have to figure a certain amount of romantic rejection is normal and not a referendum on whether or not you are awesome. Just do it in the most straightforward, clean way possible and don’t get hung up on mounting a campaign of seduction, or, er, “showing him that you’re a woman.”
You might get flustered around him, and that’s okay. Sometimes we get flustered when we have feelings for someone.
I can’t teach you how to love yourself instead of apologizing for your body and your face, but I can tell you straight up to stop calling yourself “damaged goods.” To stop apologizing for your existence, for your body, for your history. To ask people out when you’re interested in them. To act like you have a right to exist and a right to want love.
Going forward, this is pretty much what you can control:
- Work on loving yourself. It will be a lifelong project. Two things that helped me immensely were:
- Seeking out images of fat women. The “fatshionista” community on LiveJournal and the huge variety of fatshion blogs have been very inspiring and helpful to me.
- Stopping the habit of negative self-talk. Other people might say or think mean things about me, but I’m not going to do their dirty work for them.
- In your free time, find activities and friends and spaces where you feel awesome. Do things that are fun, challenging, stimulating, creative, and that bring you into contact with other people. Find some outlet where you feel most yourself. That is where you are most likely to encounter people who might date you (or introduce you to people who might date you), and that is where you build a great life for yourself.
- When you meet someone cool that you’d like to get to know better, ask them out. Sooner rather than later. If they say no, give yourself three days to feel sad and then write them off. It wasn’t about you.
I don’t know if this helps you, but I’m a rape survivor and a great big fat lady in love. It was mostly dumb luck, like in that linked post. But the work I did in therapy, the work I did to stop talking trash about myself, to stop apologizing for myself and hating myself, the work I put into having a good life and not putting things off for some magical future, the work I put into believing I deserved every good thing sure as hell helped me know love and believe in it when it showed up.
You deserve every good thing, Letter Writer. Whether it’s this Lex Luthor guy or another foxy fellow down the road, I hope you get the romantic relationship you deserve. The first step is to talk about yourself and see yourself in terms of the great things you have to offer and not as a list of perceived deficiencies. In other words, give the love you deserve to yourself.
169 thoughts on “#403: Fat sexual assault survivor seeks the super handsome guy at work.”
You do not have a horrible personality. I promise you. You are articulate and thoughtful, and those are rare and precious traits.
That phrase jumped out at me too. LW, why is that that you say you have a horrible personality but don’t list any horrible personality traits? My guess is, you don’t have any. (I mean, I’m a total stranger on the internet and don’t know you at all, but I’m taking you at your word here.) Do you kick puppies? Do you bully suicidal teenagers on twitter? Do you spoil the endings to movies? You mean you don’t do any of those things? Well, you don’t sound like such a horrible person to me.
In contrast, you twice mentioned ‘kind’ as one of the things you’d like in a partner or friend. You value kindness. People tend to cultivate the traits they value. Ergo, you are probably a kind person. /armchairdiagnosis
Best of luck to you, LW! Jedi hugs forever.
Thank you. I’m not horrible, but I wondered if there was something about my personality that was scaring menfolk off since people insist that I am “beautiful”.
However, I have accidentally kicked, dropped, and sat on various puppies. I am very clumsy and puppies love me very much and feel the need to be underfoot all the time and then things happen and there are booboos and kisses and treats.
“puppies love me very much and feel the need to be underfoot all the time”
Puppies are excellent judges of character!
Very, very true. I wasn’t sure at first how much I liked a good friend’s boyfriend, and then my dog, who is skittish and shy with strangers, met him and LOOOOOVED him OMG SO MUCH. I decided to trust her (the dog’s) (and the friend’s) judgment, and I’ve ended up thinking he’s a really great guy.
There are kisses and treats though! If you were horrible there wouldn’t be.
Clumsy is an easier fix than mean. I’m kind of klutzy at times, and it’s because I move faster than my brain can keep up. Slowing down helps, because caroming off the bookshelf does not get me from the bedroom to the kitchen any quicker. Mean? That takes work to get rid of, and most mean people aren’t willing to do that work.
Also, puppies live in the now. Ten minutes ago, you stepped on a tail, puppy yelped, you consoled and treated puppy, they’re all good. You may remember it, but puppy doesn’t care. You scritch tummies well- that gets remembered!
Your second paragraph made me giggle! If you can make a stranger giggle on the internet, you must be a riot in real life. I like you already.
As one fat rape survivor to another, hang in there. It gets better. And you’ve just found a great community of people ready to listen and send huge Jedi hugs.
You hit the nail on the head, you have to see yourself as worthy of love – the rest will follow naturally (and I speak from years of experience with low self-esteem). Can I add that EVERYONE in the world has the same anxieties as you, whether they admit it to themselves or not. The real difference between someone who appears confident, and someone who feels they can’t be, is in their attitude to themselves. I’ve only found that out by reconnecting to people in my past who I thought had it all worked out and were the ‘in crowd’. Turns out they thought it was me who had the world at her feet… our self-perspective is highly biased and not to be trusted!
Good luck with Mr Luthor. Sounds to me as if he’d be lucky to have you in his life.
Exactly this. I know people in high school who I thought had everything together that apparently thought I was ridiculously cool. You’re always going to be your harshest critic, and other people can’t always tell when you’re feeling all awkward. That said, it’s really hard to get past the tension even if you know and accept that… I’m still working hard on this.
It IS hard. Keep faking it until you make it! Or not, maybe, just be yourself. Whatever works on a given occasion. Just remember, you’re a beautiful, serene swan, it doesn’t matter you’re paddling for all you’re worth under the surface.
This advice is great for you OP! That said, I would think twice about dating coworkers. Read posts on askamanager.org to see the reasons why. However, once you or he leaves you should totally send that email.
I think it really depends on your work environment; hopefully the LW has a good handle on whether or not coworker-dating is a good idea in hers. Also, it sounds like they don’t work together closely in the same place, which makes it all much easier. Here in the UK dating colleagues seems a lot easier, not sure why; but quite a few of my friends and family are now married because they got the hots for someone at work.
This wasn’t to suggest it was completely off the table, but it’s something to consider very, very carefully. http://www.askamanager.org/2012/10/should-you-date-a-coworker-3.html and http://www.askamanager.org/2011/12/reasons-not-to-date-a-coworker.html are particularly relevant.
Do we know for sure that he’s a coworker, though? She says he visits her office a few times a week. Could be a sales rep, a freelancer…the FedEx guy, etc.
Then again, I married a coworker from my company’s satellite office, so I’m not the best one to ask here 🙂
The UPS guy who used to deliver to my office job was FINE. Damn.
Dear LW: in case you are tempted to skip over the Captain’s links, especially to Shapely Prose, please read them! Shapely Prose will keep you reading for a loooong time… maybe months. I mean it! And that’s good because you are asking big and important questions that will not be healed or changed in a few minutes. It will take work and time, and most especially loving yourself over the rest of your life. I am so sorry for the things in your past that are eating away at your self-esteem: if I could wave a magic wand and take all that away, I totally would do that for you! And every rape survivor! Alas, my magic wand is still in the development phase, and I’m waiting for the patent office to get back to me as well, so instead, the work of therapy and reading and learning a whole new way of thinking about yourself in relation to the world is what you get instead. Probably better in the long run, anyway.
TL:dr: read the links! It will take a long time! That’s ok! hugs.
Shapely Prose high five!
*high five back to YOU*!
Sweet Machine – apologies for the OT question, but where do those gorgeous gravatars (yours and the others on Shapely Prose) come from? Is it a program generally available or something just done for the SP crew? I admire ’em every time I see them. 🙂
If I’m remembering right, one of the other mods (possibly Fillyjonk?) drew them all.
Ah, thank you, Other Becky!
Totally agreed. I have a lovely therapist who has helped me through some disordered eating and some self-esteem issues, but Shapely Prose has helped me just as much, if not more. It’s a great resource for days when everything just seems to be TOO MUCH and anxiety outweighs the happy and you need a reminder that everyone has a right to exist and be comfortable in their own body.
I also recommend an idea that’s a slight variation on something the Captain mentioned in another post: taking a picture of yourself (IF you’re comfortable with pictures) when you’re feeling confident and happy. Or, if you hate hate hate taking pics (I know some people find them triggering), maybe writing yourself a note on a day when you’re feeling good. It gives you something to look at during more difficult days that reminds you you ARE a confident and wonderful person. Or come back to this thread for all the jedi hugs!
You sound perfectly amazing. You’ve come through hard things and maintained kindness and thoughtfulness and strength. Those aren’t easy to do sometimes!
It’s getting a good pic that’s always the trouble for me – I can look in the mirror and think “Yeah!” and then take a pic and think “Crap that’s a lousy pic, I do Not Photograph Well!” 😉
‘If he isn’t single, I’d like to be his friend because someone that beautiful and kind must hang around other beautiful and kind people, right? Maybe my new friend could introduce me to someone great!’
Good on you for getting back out there! I think it’s great that you’re in therapy. You’re not alone in basically being raped by your partner. There are stories of similar experiences in one of the latest letters on this blog, ‘I can’t tell whether my GF wants to have sex with me.’ Maybe read them.
Maybe this is just me, but I got a possible burgeoning Nice Guy-vibe from this letter. Or Nice Girl, here. (I’m not trying to accuse you of being a creeper. If this doesn’t feel like it applies to you, LW, just ignore me.) Like in the back of your head you’re saying to yourself that one day Lex Luthor (or one of his beautiful friends) will be single and then he’ll see how fantastic you are and you’ll get to swoop in and fall in love. I just want to say that you’re already fantastic and worthy of love. You don’t have to beg for scraps.
It’s understandable that you’re nervous. The cure for that is experience. If you date more, you’ll realize that it really isn’t a big deal. Rejection sucks, but you’ll be fine. You won’t click with everyone but you will have fun. Some of us are better in person than online. But I have to say, you’re great at expressing yourself. The Captains’ advice about doing activities you like and meeting people through them is great.
If LL is in to you, great! If he’s not, you are still a wonderful person.
This was my thought. All the other advice given is great, buuuuut being friends with someone because you want them to hook you up with their friends is pretty uncool behavior. If Mr. Luthor is an awesome person but not single, be friends with him because he’s an awesome person, not because you want him to be your personal matchmaker.
The “introduce me to someone great” line was meant to be all encompassing: friends, lovahs, people to do dumb and awesome things with a few times a month. “Beautiful”- Inside and out! Blerg, that phrase- and “kind” people in general, not just hot guys who are also nice. Sorry that wasn’t clearer. Didn’t realize it made me sound uncool or worse.
No worries! Sometimes stuff makes sense in the brain but doesn’t make it out the right way. And that’s definitely a great attitude to take: you can meet all sorts of great people and have a fuller, richer, happier life! You, madam, have your head screwed on straight. You rock.
I’m happy to be wrong!
I have zero tips on dating/asking boys out. Just wanted to say congratulations on jumping back into the dating pool! Recognizing you’ve been on several dates with the wrong man is a great first step. Be yourself, have fun, and good luck!
Everything that everyone else has said. Especially the bits about reading Shapely Prose. Seriously.
One more thing that might help you in how you think about this: Yes, there are people who wouldn’t want to date you because you’re fat or black or a rape survivor. Awesome! You have an in-built asshole filtration system! You are significantly less likely to be dating someone you’ve gotten emotionally invested in, only to find out weeks or months in that they are actually a fatphobic racist who can’t stand women with real-live complicated histories. Those guys? Not people you want to date. Not wasting weeks, months or years on them means you have oodles of time to get to know awesome, anti-racist, body-positive guys who want relationships with fully-realised people they see as equals.
On a similar note, the years that you’ve spent being single? I’ll bet you’ve been doing all sorts of other things with those years. I know that when I meet a person that I’m interested in dating, how many people they’ve dated recently isn’t the first thing I want to know about them. I want to know about their hobbies, their passions, the things that make them happy, their values and the things that make them them. Those things are far more important than how long it is since they last had a date. Our culture tries to tell us that being single is some kind of less-than state and then being in a romantic relationship is the only way that we can be properly adult and fulfilled. Bollocks to that. You are who you are, and the thoughtful, insightful person you’re showing yourself to be here is what you’re bringing to the dating table.
Beautifully said! I know that when I get to know someone I usually front-load all the stuff that makes some people run away / want to kill me / tell me I’m going to hell for all eternity. This means the people who actually talk to me already know the things that they might otherwise object to, and I don’t have to have distressing revelation-times later. And I still manage to find awesome people everywhere I go.
Frankly if race, size, and trauma history are enough to keep someone from being interested in an otherwise fascinating person, that someone is an asshole. Period. And who needs more of those in their life?
So much yes to all of this!
“…how to show him that I am a woman, dammit…”
You are a woman. You are an awesome, intelligent, thoughtful woman who deserves to be treated as such. As said above – ask him out. If he turns you down, then be okay with it. That’ll show that you’re a woman (who knows what she wants and respects other people’s autonomy) more than any elaborate romcom-esque seduction montage.
Plus, if he doesn’t see you as a love interest now, I’m not sure what all you can do to change that in his mind. People are attracted to whom they are attracted. In my extremely limited experience, throwing yourself at someone doesn’t seem to work. Putting your best foot forward, making sure you look your best, absolutely. But if you’re like me, you already do that because you have a crush on this guy.
Go for it! You are awesome and I hope you two make tons of killer Kryptonian robots together!
As well as the Captain’s excellent advice, re the getting flustered thing, I would suggest approaching it like acting a part. The part you are acting is, ‘Confident woman who never has a moment of self doubt and who is enjoying [LL’s] company’. The only times I’ve been able to look at or speak to beautiful men have been when I was already in a role which needed me to fake confidence and ease – teacher, keynote speaker, meeting chair and so on. It worked a treat. I think most men love to feel they can have an easy and fun conversation with someone. If you can do that (and it sounds like you’re already great at it), that’s a huge advantage.
Also, it might be helpful to try not to think of what might happen next. You could treat it like a giant game of Consequences, where you add your part and pass the sheet along without any idea or worry about what will be written underneath by the next person. Only looking back at the end will you know how the story turns out – but hopefully it will have been at least fun or interesting along the way. Lots of luck and Jedi hugs, you sound utterly brilliant and we are all rooting for you.
That acting a part thing? Can’t say it has worked nearly as well for me as embracing who I really am, accepting that I’m never going to be bubbly and sassy and quick-of-wit, but that the world doesn’t actually need everyone to be that; people who are mellow and enjoy listening and laughing at other people’s jokes have value, too.
Agree absolutely – but it can be very daunting if, for whatever reason, you haven’t yet embraced who you are. And then embracing who you are starts to seem like another impossible mountain to climb. So acting – or telling yourself you’re acting – can help bridge the gap, particularly when you start to realise, ‘hey, I just totally projected my best self, and it was awesome!’
See, I have a problem with the idea that that more outgoing person is your (my) best self. And the whole faking-greater-suavity thing makes me feel like I’m agreeing that extroverts are better. God, what a world it would be if everyone was talking over one another, trying to showcase their wit! I am a listener, hear me not roar!!
Yeah, I do fake it some. I don’t go to the few social gatherings I attend and tell everyone “hi, I’d rather be home with my book!”
But I think the pressure to be glib may be part of the LW’s problem. If she’s like “I don’t chat well with strangers, how can I showcase my wonderfulness?” telling her to fake chatty actually feeds the inner wail of “I am dooooomed!” Better to remind her, as Cliff Pervocracy does, that often human plays just as well as slick (if not better, if the goal is to connect rather than impress).
Maybe I sound a little militant about this, but my own personal epiphany about accepting that I am who I am introversion-wise and that that’s ok is the core of my happiness-in-middle-age. And though I weigh more than ever before (when not pregnant), I find I get more compliments on appearance these days than I ever did when I was thinner and full of self-contempt for my lack of gab-gift.
Not to mention, if you do the act and it works, doesn’t that add pressure to keep it up? That doesn’t sound like fun or a good idea to me.
I think it depends, and what it depends on is kind of a fine line: are you role-playing Some Other Person Who Is Outgoing And Bubbly And Confident, or are you role-playing Me, Except Totally Cool With This Situation?
The latter can, if it suits your personality and social strategies, be a fake-it-till-you-make-it strategy. (It’s worked for me on occasion, but that’s the most I can say without projecting my experience onto someone else.) The former, though, is just setting yourself up for exhaustion at best.
I understood the comment differently (and now I wonder how it was meant), because I took the acting part to mean ‘acting as if not flustered/nervous’, i.e. acting as you would when you are already confident with someone. You are yourself that way, just without the nerves. The way the LW described it, being flustered was an obstacle and this way she could bypass that.
A sociological understanding of the self kind of helps me here – because I used to feel like I was acting a role when I pretended to be more confident than I really felt. I didn’t like that. But from a sociological perspective, the self is something one does and creates. I wasn’t pretending to be a different person; I was becoming a more confident person. So the self is always enacted – we’re social beings, and we’re onstage when we’re socializing. Everything we do and say is therefore a presentation of self. Sometimes the self I want to present is way more kickass than I usually feel, but it’s still me.
When I used to walk in front of a classroom to teach, I would pull on the confident, I-belong-here-and-know-this-and-you-listen self. It was sincere, but still a conscious thing.
I would say “act like yourself if you weren’t afraid,” because that’s been really helpful to me; I wouldn’t say to act like someone else. But all of us contain many many aspects. Finding a sincere self who is also capable of dealing with the situation is definitely an option.
(It’s Goffman and dramaturgy, those who are interested, and I can talk about it all day. These were ideas that made my life So Much Better.)
The idea of self-as-created is really cool, and this quarter I have been starting to project “teacher, whose classroom this is” so much better. If you did want to talk on it all day, I’m all ears!
Exactly! I was (am?) Super Shy and Awkward, and when I changed high schools I decided to just “act as if” I felt confident. I practiced how I thought confident people walked, or smiling and saying “Hi! I’m Marillenbaum!” when I met people. Feeling prepared for social interactions actually helped me enjoy them more, and me enjoying it fed into the other people feeling more at ease around me. It doesn’t necessarily mean you are trying to be glib or slick, just helping yourself not trip over your various angsts.
Yes but as Alphakitty said, that doesn’t always work, because the ‘acting’ bit can be (and very often is) a vital part of the whole insecurity.
I have found that I am able to go out and not be completely quiet and flustered since I stopped putting pressure on myself to be outgoing and super-friendly. I first started accepting myself as an introvert, and only THEN I started developing actual self-confident in public.
Also a reminder: acting all super-friendly and bubbly is not equivalent to being sociable. You can be friendly and sociable without playing the super bubbly part. In fact, acting it out might make you miss people who are more similar to you and are keeping quiet. Being just plainly yourself (in a polite, minimally friendly manner) is the best plan of action if you aim at building real friendships.
‘Fake it till you make it’ really is not universal advice. And not necessarily useful for people will deep-seated insecurities which run deep and have accompanied a person for decades. I speak from personal experience. I am, however, very glad that it worked for you and I hope this system works for others who put it into practice.
Conversely, sometimes the best thing you can do is not act a part, but just put it all out there as “Haha, I’m totally flustered and awkward about this, but hey, I’m putting myself out there anyway. Really, isn’t this awkward for everyone?”
No guarantees (well, nothing is guaranteed), but… sometimes being honest about how weird it is trying to bond ends up being the bonding experience. You’re letting the person inside your armor a bit, and if they’re a good person, they’ll appreciate that.
Yes, there is something charming about putting the truth out there that people connect to.
It’s kind of like how it used to make me miserable and awkward and embarrassed that I forget people’s name within seconds of hearing them. But now I just say “I’ve forgotten your name already, I’m truly terrible at names!” And because it’s obviously not that I’m uninterested in them, and because I’m willing to put my foible out there myself, it is never a big deal. At least half the time they say “me too!”
I once did a “just so you know, if I call you Bob, it’s because I’m terrible at names and too embarrassed to admit I’ve forgotten yours for the third time in a row” to a GROUP of people when we were made to do the stand-up-say-hello thing at the start of a course. Made them laugh, and half of them called me Bob the rest of the course! Which instantly made every conversation less scary because we were bonding over shared humour and awkwardness.
I am so doing this the next time I’m in that situation. I WILL CREDIT YOU.
Go for it, Bob!
I agree with this comment so much. I once saw it done on a council committee, of all things. The usual chair was absent, so one of the vice-chairs, a rather timid man, was chairing the meeting instead. This being a political meeting, the atmosphere was rather hostile, and as he was opening the meeting he made a mistake due to nerves.
He paused, looked around the table at the cold stares, and then said disarmingly, “Oh, right. Just give me a couple of minutes to collect myself and then we’ll get started.” There was laughter, but all of a sudden it was sympathetic laughter, and the atmosphere improved markedly. Amazing what can be done sometimes by acknowledging one’s own vulnerability. 🙂
My own awkwardness somehow became part of my charm a while back. I’m still socially awkward sometimes and prone to saying things that NO ONE says and that I would not recommend saying, but apparently now I carry it off. Usually this manifests as “I like you! We should be friends.” Followed by “Wait, did I really just say that out loud?”
I rarely blush, but I stammer, and look at the ground, and keep talking to people anyway. Turns out that being-sincere-while-shy is actually, apparently, quite attractive to at least some people. The combination of awkward and bold really kinda works for me. Good thing, too, because… well, it’s my only option really.
“I know this is kind of ridiculously awkward but you just seem awesome and I’d love to have more conversations with you so um call me sometime?”
I know that when someone who is obviously bashful/awkward/shy makes the effort to get to know me they win me over pretty damn quickly just because they’re putting in the effort. At this point, it’s pretty easy for me to talk to interesting and attractive strangers (it gets easy, for some of us, eventually!). But I remember what it was like when it was OMG TERRIFYING and I respect that. It’s awesome when someone braves their own OMG TERRIFYING just to talk to me. 🙂
Thank GOD that awkwardness can be endearing. If it weren’t for that, I would have no social skills whatsoever. The happiest moment of my life was when I tried to talk to this cute girl I was crushing on and I couldn’t make my words work, and I couldn’t stop looking at the ground. Then she said, “You’re really awkward. [pause] I like awkward.”
I find (or maybe this is just what I tell myself) that acknowledging the awkward out loud reassures the person you’re talking to that you do have at least some understanding of social norms, even if you’re having trouble putting words together. And I think deep down, everyone has an insecure 16 year old inside of them, and acknowledging my discomfort sets other people’s insecurities at ease. I hope.
I’ve heard my moments of awkward make me less intimidating. I hadn’t realized I could be intimidating, but I’ve heard this from several sources, so I guess it’s probably true.
I love that quote. I like awkward too! I distinguish between good-awkward and bad-awkward. Good-awkward is when you really want to hold hands and she really wants to hold hands and you both kind of twitch spasmodically and then don’t hold hands but it’s obvious you almost did.
Bad-awkward is, I dunno, when one of you just grabs the other’s hand and then the other takes her hand away and then there’s silence… (pronouns taken from my own life, by the way).
Sometimes I worry I’ll get too confident and lose my endearing awkwardness.
Ah, memories of the good kind of awkward…
Ten years or so ago, I was chatting with a cute guy I had just met and realized I might be interested in. He was from a much smaller city a couple hours away from the city where I lived and had said something about how everyone in his city involved in our shared hobby was paired off.
The next thing I said: “Well, I’M single!”
The next thing I thought: “Did I just say that??? I sound SOOOOO desperate! I probably scared him off…”
Somehow this evolved into him offering a backrub, scared that I would run away thinking he was just trying to get me in bed. And well, that’s where we ended up, though “in tent” would technically be more accurate.
Lots of the “oh wow cute awesome person here and I really don’t want to screw this up and wait, you’re NOT running away screaming…?” sorts of interactions followed. And approximately two years later, we got married, which we still are. 🙂
One thing that helps me with confidence sometimes is to think about / listen to music that makes me feel awesome. Instead of pretending I’m someone else, or in a specific role, I just give myself the soundtrack of what I want. If I had my way Veruca Salt would play whenever I walked into a room, because I am THAT AWESOME… in my head.
Soundtracks are such an important part of how we perceive people/actions in video. Like this awesome scene of Emma Stone in Easy A, 80% of what makes her look not super awkward is the awesome song that is playing. http://klipd.com/watch/easy-a/olive-emma-stone-slow-motion-walk-scene We would all seem hotter if that song played every time we walked through a crowd, for reals.
So I am just saying that music can be a great way to evoke emotion. So maybe try giving yourself a sexy/ awesome playlist to listen to sometimes, just to psych yourself up a little bit. (Some of my favorites: Maneater, Baraccuda I clearly like some girl rock.) It probably wont be enough to overcome all crush related awkwardness, but it never hurts to find ways to boost your confidence.
Yes! I used to wear heels when I wanted to feel extra!awesome before presentations, teaching etc. because they made me feel a little more intimidating and psyched up. Now, due to the fact that I fall on my ass when I wear heels, I put on lipstick.
Doing little things to help you embrace your awesome = super good idea. And if you’re a glamourous!me = awesome!me kind of person, try lipstick!
Oh my gosh, you like Veruca Salt?! Apart from my high school drama teacher, I didn’t know anyone else liked them or even knew who they were! Internet high-fives!
I have several friends who use that as their custom ring tone for when I call! Dream of soundtrack coming true.
Oh, LW, do you see the dreadful cycle you’re in? You haven’t found the love you want and deserve, which is so painful, partly because while intellectually you know you deserve love as much as anyone you also have that awful, howling insecurity that says “maybe it’s because there’s something Wrong With Me,” and it’s never going to happen. So you focus on everything that arguably constitutes a flaw in your character/appearance/background saying “is this the Reason I haven’t found love? Or is it this? Or this?”
And the thing is, there isn’t necessarily a Reason at all, beyond that you haven’t yet run into the right guy (one of several, at least, but who cares because you only need one), who meets you and is intrigued, and wants to get to know you better, and ultimately wants to be with you and Be With You, as you feel all that about him. But that process of focusing on everything even possibly construable as negative about yourself is like feeding yourself daily doses of poison.
Cut it out, please! Yes, you have Issues. Recovering from your first, crappy sexual experience is one of them, a legitimately big one at that, and I’m very glad you have a therapist for that. But that does not make you “damaged goods,” like some can of beans that has to be sold for less because it has a ding in it.
I have the feeling that you are comparing yourself to some sort of Ideal Person, not just in terms of weight but in terms of uncomplicatedness, social ease, big heartedness, etc., (maybe extrovertedness?) and because you’re not that you feel unworthy of a great guy. But the thing is, that great guy? He’s probably got issues of his own, insecurities of his own, complications of his own. Selfish moments! Most people do. Which doesn’t mean he’s not great — just that he doesn’t belong on some pedestal looking down at lowly you with your issues, insecurities, and complications.
Life isn’t about being perfect, it’s about the struggle to be pretty damned good, and about accepting that sometimes all you can manage is “hanging in by my fingernails and doing no harm,” and forgiving yourself for that. You’re ok as is, really you are. You’re just like the rest of us muddlers.
The right guy won’t care if you’re fat, though yeah — there are plenty of Wrong Guys who will. He won’t care if you’re black; again, unless for some odd reason your target demographic is racist white men, it’s not a flaw! He won’t care if you’re inexperienced or that your first sexual relationship was so bad, except to want to make sure he’s kind with you and that this experience is positive. He’ll value, among other things, the way you’ve learned to communicate about things that are important to you. He’ll value the way you make him feel.
In addition to the Shapely Prose thing, watch Brene Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability on TED Talks… Just to help you come to terms with that ache in your heart when you contemplate putting yourself out there.
Then ask the guy for coffee, being prepared with a light “had to ask!” in case he says no. Just getting that out there will feel better than worrying and worshipping and wondering “what if?”
“Life isn’t about being perfect, it’s about the struggle to be pretty damned good, and about accepting that sometimes all you can manage is “hanging in by my fingernails and doing no harm,” and forgiving yourself for that”
This this this this this.
“Life isn’t about being perfect, it’s about the struggle to be pretty damned good, and about accepting that sometimes all you can manage is “hanging in by my fingernails and doing no harm,” and forgiving yourself for that. You’re ok as is, really you are. You’re just like the rest of us muddlers.”
This is such wisdom. This is what I need to print out and put everywhere.
Everyone’s said great stuff here which is totally true, and as always the Captain’s advice is spot on. The only thing I wanted to touch on is that when you mark yourself as ‘damaged goods’ you’re setting yourself apart in a way. What you don’t think about is that there’s a lot of people just like you walking around, you just can’t see it. Yeah, sometimes when you look around, it *looks* like it’s just you and everyone else has their shit together but that’s not true. I’m sure you’ll go over it in therapy, but you’re far from alone and lots of those other people find love and romance. I’m sure you will too. Best of luck. 🙂
“What you don’t think about is that there’s a lot of people just like you walking around, you just can’t see it.”
It’s a bit cheesy, but there’s a scene in an episode of How I Met Your Mother that illustrates this pretty well, I think – one of the characters is panicking about his “baggage” (having been left at the altar). In classic sitcom fashion, he realizes everyone has baggage with about 3 minutes of episode left. But then they do this really delightful bit with dozens of people walking around NYC carrying big trunks and suitcases.
I heartily endorse “ask him out before you’re too invested in the fantasy”. Bonus: If he’s as kind as he seems, he will be kind if (if!) the answer is no. And if he isn’t that nice, then you wouldn’t want to date him anyway.
LW, if you’re anything like me, this “learning to feel like you deserve love” thing can be tricky. Something that helped me is to start small. Can you pick one thing about your appearance that is pretty, and one thing about your personality (which I promise you is not horrible) that is admirable? They can be little things. They can even be tiny things. The trick is that you have to be completely positive about them. No “I have a great smile, if only I didn’t have a double chin” allowed.
Then sit with those things for a while. Take some time every day to admire your awesome smile or your graceful hands or your infectious laugh. Notice the times that your empathy or kindness or punctuality or preparedness have been evident. Let yourself feel good about them.
Once you really believe those things, in a deep-down gut-level way, add something new. You contain multitudes of awesomeness. You deserve someone who can see and appreciate that, and the first person who fits that description should be you.
I love that advice, OtherBecky. And I’d add something my parents have always told me to do when I’m being hyper-critical of myself. They say I should sit down and ask myself what it is about me that makes my friends – every member of Team Me – like/care about/value me. Friend A might love me because of X, and Friend B really values Y, and so on. It helps so much to remind oneself that yes, there are plenty of worthy things about you, and there are plenty of people out there who will love you – platonically and romantically – for those things!
I wholeheartedly agree with this. Also – just because you have an inner critic that feels free to inject its nasty commentary doesn’t mean it’s right. The mean voice in your head does not get the final say. You can argue with it. You can tell it to shut up. You can tell it that ‘s wrong, or that you get that it wants to protect you, but it’s not helping.
This might sound silly, but once I started arguing with my own inner critic, it really helped me to be more positive about myself on a daily basis.
Soooo true! I used to feel like friends/family who said nice stuff were blinded by love/loyalty, while my inner mean girl spoke Truth because she knew things about me I had mnged to hide from everyone else. But I’ve finally realized my inner mean girl is not objective at all, she’s horribly ready to put the worst interpretation on everything. And where did that love/loyalty come from, if I’m so awful?
Yes! I actually renamed my inner mean girl (what a great description, btw) the Fun House Mirror. Its perspective does not reflect reality.
I’m jumping on the “Great advice!” train here.
I have a wonderful group of friends and it has taken years to begin to feel like there may possibly be reasons I’m surrounded by these amazing people instead of it being a cosmic fluke.
I have totally stolen this from someone else who commented a while ago, but a great way to start thinking good things about yourself is this thought exercise: sit in a cafe, or walk down the street and say nice things about EVERY PERSON YOU SEE. No qualifiers allowed. None. No skipping someone because they’re ‘hard’. Say something nice about EVERYONE.
See how nice everyone was? See how you must therefore be cool/pretty/smart/put-together? It is a really good way of making yourself think a bit differently about yourself, and about other people too
This is, as always when it’s suggested here, fantastic.
LW, I salute you. The biggest, most important things you can do for yourself as a rape survivor are to ask for help and to be gentle with yourself. And you are doing precisely this by seeing a therapist and by reaching out here. Please give yourself a gentle Jedi hug for doing this!
What happened isn’t your fault. You did whatever you had to do to survive and get away to a place where you can get some distance and ask for help with healing. You are okay. You are going about the business of life. You are still the person you were and are becoming through the work you are doing. Keep it up!
I like what Aoife O’Riordan said above: You have an automatic Jerkface filter built in and/or it has been fine-tuned to pick them out early before you are overly invested in a relationship (or the fantasy of one). Yes, it sucks the way it was tweaked. It is also an unexpected gift, and my own experience with rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, and therapy (CBT/DBT with trauma therapy) has taught me to look upon new filters as yet another skill (like sewing, or reading, or favorite hobby that I’m good at). In short, something that is a net-neutral as opposed to something, which is necessarily attached to the trauma.
Please find a way to redirect those “I have a terrible personality” thoughts. I know that Harshing on My Own Chi just makes me feel worse; you did not choose what happened. Instead, someone you love and trusted betrayed your gifts, the blame is squarely on their shoulders, and any back-of-your-mind-and-whispered “missteps” are irrelevant and hereby cancelled. (Picture me waving a magic wand!) And if you weren’t awesome, you wouldn’t be able to give someone else the gift of love, the gift of trust, and the gift of you.
Currently, I’m reading “Yes Means Yes” and it is helping me to reframe and rethink some of the factors, which make it so difficult to express and be comfortable in my own skin and with my own sexual identity, expression, and autonomy. In addition to all of the great stuff at Shapely Prose and, if you are at a place where you are ready, I can’t recommend the book enough.
LW, the very best of luck to you.
You know that cliché of finding love when you’re not looking for it? Well, you want to get back to dating and stuff, but get bogged down looking for Love. The world is your biscuit tin, you’ve got to try dunking a few different varieties in your team before you know which is the best. And how to dunk, so you don’t end up with half the biscuit falling into your mug, or crunching on not-soggy-enough snacks and pink wafers really probably don’t work. And I’ll quit the metaphor there, because it’s getting weird even for a total stretch involving biscuit dunking.
The best thing is to be yourself. You come over as a lovely person in your letter, so try not to spend another minute thinking you’re not good enough. Easier said than done, of course.
The thing I really wanted to say is that Lex could be a handy proxy while you get back into yourself. Right after my marriage ended and I had a big, giant breakdown, there was a guy at work who I developed a MASSIVE crush on. I think he knew, but was gracious enough to never say anything. Our babies would have been beautiful. But his girlfriend might have been a bit upset by them. Anyway; he inadvertently allowed me to start feeling like an attractive, datable person again after my ex so comprehensively gutted my self confidence. Maybe this guy could do something similar for you? Practise on him, be your natural self and get used to thinking that, hey, you’re pretty damned awesome. If he is your version of Dan, by the time you meet someone who reciprocates the pantsfeelings, you’ll be far more comfortable in yourself. And Lex does reciprocate himself, all the better.
Apologies for what could be stray words, I’m using my phone and it’s been eating as I’ve been writing and is probably going to add them back in when I hit ‘post’!
I am a twin, and my twin looks exactly like me- except she is 40 pounds thinner than I am. Growing up in high school and watching boys flock to her and not me really messed with my head- I felt like I was watching “my life as a thin person”, and was on the outside looking in. It was terrible for my self-esteem.
But you know what it was that really kept the guys away from me? My attitude. I lost a ton of weight in college and when I hit my “miracle goal” I spread my arms and waited for the men to flock around me. It never happened. I felt terrible.
The real wake-up slap came to me when I gained some weight back and a professional (yes professional) ballet dancer- with the hottest face and leanest muscle I’d ever seen on a man- asked me out on numerous dates. The big difference between high-school Kai and dating-an-Adonis Kai was I loved myself. So cheesy, but I was exuding a healthy love for myself instead of hidden distressed disapproval and self-doubt. You would be surprised how people can sense that.
You can spend many sleepless nights trying to figure out what is wrong with you. (I am not as thin as my twin! That is why I am unattractive to boys). Or… you can make your peace with whatever you feel is “wrong” with you, and live in happiness.
By the way, going on a strict “this man is physically-fit and I’m not” standard, it wouldn’t make sense that someone with my weight would reject our dates. Truth is, we had zero in common. This reinforced to me that the reason I might not be someone’s cup-of-tea is not solely based on me being heavy- as I had assumed and been taught my whole life. This guy was a great looking, nice guy, and I still can’t figure out why I wasn’t crazy about him. He has no reason to doubt himself- nor do you LW!
Step one is not thinking of yourself as “a fat rape survivor” and then trying to approach someone. Are you fat and a rape survivor? Yes. Are these the most important things about you? No! It sounds like you’ve conceptualized some image of yourself that includes all the “problematic” stuff, or stuff you view as a barrier to finding a partner. Can it be a barrier? Sure, but so are lots of other problems that you DON’T have.
It can’t be good for you to go into this thinking only of the reasons you may be rejected because of your “flaws”. Let me assure you that as a fat rape survivor myself, I’ve had many partners (and at this late stage in my life, I wish I hadn’t had about half of them). It’s true some people won’t want you because of some of your personal qualities, but as pointed out upthread, you wouldn’t want those jerks anyway.
If your cute guy turns out to be a jerk that will be sad. But maybe the attraction is a sign that you’re ready. And when you go about trying to make dates, try to instead get yourself in a mindset of “I am *insert your name here*, who likes kittens and puppies, is educated, and has a good job” or whatever other positive things apply to you. I know there are some!
The Captain has said a lot of smart things, so I want to touch on one specific, which is the fear of getting flustered.
Because yeah, you may very well get flustered. I get flustered every time I am spending time with a new-ish acquaintance or friend (or, when I was dating, new crush) who I think highly of and hope will think highly of me. Every single time. At some point during the evening I will blush or stammer or drop something or otherwise act flustered, either because I’m afraid something is going badly and it’s freaking me out OR because it’s going well and I’m getting kind of giddy off that.
For me, the important thing has always been to accept that I probably will get flustered and that is not the end of the world. Rather than trying to prevent it from happening (and either freezing up or getting *more* flustered thanks to the stress), I accept that it will happen and that it will not ruin the evening. Instead of going, internally, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I said that… oh my god, now I’m shaking and I spilled my water… oh my god oh my god why can’t I be chill like the cool girls WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME,” I try to be more gentle with myself. More like, “Okay, so I’m a little flustered and I flubbed that sentence. It happens. These people are decent, likeable people and they’re not going to hate me because I jiggled my water glass and got water on the table. We’ve got napkins, it’s cool.”
The fluster is going to happen inevitably. But if I’m kind to myself about it, I can keep it from turning into an Embarrassment Spiral of Doom.
This is some really good advice. I have a list of Rules of Successful Living, and one of them is “Don’t shame spiral”. So if something goes wrong, or you think you’ve committed some sort of faux pas, instead of going “Curses! You idiot, can’t we ever do anything right? This is horrible!” I go “Blergh, that was awkward. Let’s reset.” By staying present in whatever’s going on and not getting tangled up in shame and embarrassment, I get to feel more comfortable and maybe even laugh at myself.
Wow. You know what, LW? I’ve been lurking here for eons, and a few recent occurrences in my life had actually gotten me drafting my own letter to the Captain…and it would’ve read eerily like yours. I was so shocked to read your words today, dismayed at the fact that you have deemed yourself “damaged goods” with a “horrible personality,” but also grateful to you for putting it into words before I could. Because my immediate reaction to reading your letter was, “Oh, wow, she needs to know how much there is to love about herself, and I can tell this just from a few paragraphs!” And that, naturally, makes me a hypocrite, since I was THISCLOSE to writing my very own “I’m fat and old and my last relationship was five years ago and all ships have sailed forever” for the Captain’s Army to read. 🙂
But here’s the thing, LW: Your letter made me want to give you Jedi hugs and tell you that you’re so worthy of love. And I believe that with all of my being. I have many, many great friends who are overweight, over 30, with loads of “baggage” of all types, and these friends have found love. It’s fascinating to me that knowing THAT has never brought home the “you really ARE worth loving!” message to me as much as my gut reaction to YOUR letter has, right here, right now. So I thank you for that, LW, and I thank CA for posting your letter – clearly one that too many of us can relate to at some points in our lives – and I’m thankful for the links and the comments, too.
Hypocrisy aside (as of now I’m going to start following my own advice – we’ll beat our inner critics together, LW!), I very much agree with the comments already posted. The value you put on things like kindness? Someone “horrible” wouldn’t do that. Your description of this Mr. Luthor fellow? Your sense of humour shines through there, and few things are more attractive than someone who’s funny. You’re well-written and expressive, so you’re clearly very intelligent. And while you’re terribly critical of yourself, you’re also self-aware, which is a beautiful thing (once the Inner Critic is quashed, of course!). In summary: You sound like you pretty much rock.
As for Lex, do what feels right for you, whether that means fakin’ it til you make it (acting the part & accepting his response with grace and confidence no matter what it is), or let your vulnerability show & just be YOU when you approach him. Or some combination of the two. But (if the work angle isn’t too complicated) definitely do *something*, because even if he turns you down, the rush of confidence you’ll feel for being brave enough to put yourself out there? SO WORTH IT. (I speak from long-ago experience here!) And then, next time, you won’t feel so out of practice. And it’ll be a little bit easier each time. And slowly you’ll start to realize that you’re awesome & that you’re someone YOU can love, which is the most important takeaway of everything here.
That got incredibly teal deer. Apologies!
Just know that your letter changed my mood today. My entire way of regarding myself. For that alone, you rock. And know that, somewhere out here, I’ll be practicing what I preach right along with you; you’re not alone! GOOD LUCK!
This comment made my shriveled heart grow THREE SIZES. D’awwwww. JEDI HUGS TO YOU.
Aw, I’m glad I finally commented, then, Cap’n. I don’t know if I’d have had the courage to actually submit my version of this letter to you; the fact that LW did (brava!), and made me take a good look at myself in the process, compelled me to express my love and gratitude for what goes on ’round these here parts.
Argh, sorry to nitpick, but: It’s worth saying something for a lot of reasons even if you DON’T get a rush of confidence out of it, because you might not. Maybe it will be super easy to ask LL out! Maybe it will be really hard and scary! But then, maybe asking out the next guy will be easier, and easier — it’s not wasted bravery, no matter what.
I guess I just want to repeat what I said below: No matter how this turns out, be kind to yourself.
(I say this not in a “think of the worst-case scenario!” way but in a “I just asked out a guy I liked a lot and basically just felt shitty afterward, then spent a long time wondering what was wrong with me because I didn’t feel like all the Wisdom From Experienced Life-Livers said I was supposed to, i.e. proud that I’d put myself out there” way.)
You’re absolutely right there; I should’ve added a YMMV clause, because yeah, of course there are circumstances where it won’t feel the way it did for me. I got something out of the experience only because I was surprised at myself (and a little bit proud) for taking the plunge in such a come-what-may fashion. But it’s definitely not a nitpick to note that the ensuing potential rejection can suck. Defaulting to “be kind to yourself” is something I can totally get behind!
I love that feeling,when realize you are more than you thought you could be.
Now I’m remembering the times I just up and did the scary thing I could never do, how good it felt, and vowing to push my limits more.
Thank you for sharing that, and passing on your joy.
Oh man, LW, I don’t have any advice for you, because I am in a neighboring boat of “CLEARLY the reason nobody has ever asked me out is because [list of undesirable personal qualities]” feeling. (With an added dash of “Do I even want anyone to ask me out, ever? I DON’T KNOW BUT IT WOULD BE NICE TO FEEL LIKE I HAD THE OPTION.”)
So instead I will give you “advice,” which is what I think maybe I would want someone to tell me.
Be really, really kind to yourself. Like: If this whole business of asking LL out is really scary, that’s okay. If it takes a while to work up to it, that’s okay. If it doesn’t go the way you hoped, that’s okay and not a reflection on you. (If it does go the way you hoped, that’s pretty awesome.) If you read all this advice and it takes a long time to implement it, or if you find a different set of tactics that work for you, that’s okay. If you end up wishing you had handled some part of the situation differently, that’s okay. One trap I fall prey to is thinking that if I am hurting after an encounter, it must be because I did something wrong, but that’s not really true. Sometimes you bang against a sore spot despite your best efforts.
I want to reiterate what someone above said: LL is just a dude, albeit a nice dude. His acceptance or not of you bears no weight on your value as a person or your desirability as a partner.
I wish you the best.
I am in a neighboring boat of “CLEARLY the reason nobody has ever asked me out is because [list of undesirable personal qualities]” feeling. (With an added dash of “Do I even want anyone to ask me out, ever? I DON’T KNOW BUT IT WOULD BE NICE TO FEEL LIKE I HAD THE OPTION.”)
*picks up oar*
It’s one really big boat, clearly, and there are a lot of us in it. LW, you’re not alone!
Though I opt we not sing sea shanties to pass the time. 😉
But I like sea shanties. Hmmm, maybe that’s why no one’s asked me out lately…. Nah.
“Oh man, LW, I don’t have any advice for you, because I am in a neighboring boat of “CLEARLY the reason nobody has ever asked me out is because [list of undesirable personal qualities]” feeling. ”
I am in that boat, too. I hadn’t realised it was so crowded – I had always felt I was the only one on it since everyone else always seems to be dating or having boyfriends but not moi. And I could never figure out that ‘magical formula’ they had to do that.
LW, I hope these letters have shown you that, while your life experience and issues are unique to you (as are everyone’s), that you are not alone in feeling as you do. That there are many others out there who haven’t had much or any luck with dating, with trauma behind them, with negative thoughts about their personality and their physical appearance. I hope that gives you some comfort. I know it does for me.
And as someone who has a very self-critical voice, particularly about being single but everything else ever too, I know how difficult it is to listen to all these outside voices telling you positive things about yourself and you convince yourself how they must just be saying things out of (a) pity (b) they don’t know the real horrible you (c) just wrong wrong wrong. These outside voices are none of these things – they didn’t have to say a word either way, they didn’t have to post any comment, but your letter, and your words, and the beautiful personality behind those words, inspired and compelled them to respond. As it does mine. I hope someday you feel worthy of all these positive comments, because you are. And damned witty in your writing to boot.
LW, I wish you the best of luck with your therapy and with so awesomely putting yourself out there, and feeling again, and meeting up with cool guys.
Now, drst and Jane, about those sea shanties for singletons…..
Personally, my magic formula is that pretty much any time I’ve been dating it’s because I approached them/put myself out there.
Dating is almost never easy — at least not until you find an awesomesauce person — even for those who seem to do it a lot.
Oh sweet Letter Writer and all you other dear souls singing shanties in the “no one will ever love me boats,” I’m living proof that there is a possibility of getting out of the boat-even when you are absolutely convinced that you are stuck in it for the rest of your life. I was single for a long time. I have a letter much like this one that is still sitting in my email draft folder. I wrote it to Captain Awkward at the end of September but wasn’t quite ready to send it. I had spelled out all the reasons why I was thought I wasn’t lovable. I was totally convinced that I’d spend the rest of my life single unless something drastic changed.
Here’s a quote from it. “Basically what all this adds up to is that I have trouble believing that anyone would want to be partnered with me for the long term. My girlfriends keep telling me that I’m wonderful and just haven’t met the right guy but I just don’t believe it anymore. I’ve tried so hard to overcome it or at least to fake it until I make it but I’ve given up on finding a relationship. It feels like the only way to survive. Do you think there is any way to get past this? I have met several interesting single men lately but I haven’t felt able to flirt or let them know I might be interested because I feel as if that kind of attention from me would be unwelcome. Until I deal with this core issue, I don’t think I’ll be successful in finding a love based relationship.” I signed it “Waiting to Be Worthy.”
Just a week after writing that letter, in a particularly lonely moment, I decided to throw up a dating post on Craigslist. I thought it would just be for casual dating. I focused on the good in me but didn’t hide who I was in the post. I got a bunch of responses but one of them stood out. We went on a first date a week later. He’s the most amazing man I’ve ever met. A month and a half later, he told me that he’s in love with me. It can happen when you LEAST expect it to. I didn’t do anything differently. I didn’t get thin or improve all the other parts I thought would be problems. I told him about them with fear in my heart and he gently laughed at me for worrying so. He loves me just as I am. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. There is hope, even for the hopeless.
That is really one of life’s beautiful moments and I am so happy for you.
As another Letter-In-Drafts-Folder person, I say this to you: Your comment actually made me tear up. In a good way. Thank you for sharing the hope. And a random internet stranger is now so very happy for you (and maybe a little more hopeful for herself?)!
Well done for pulling yourself out of that boat. I wish you the best of happiness with Craiglist dude.
I’d like to add to all the excellent advice you will get here, and at Shapely Prose:
Own Your Body.
By which I mean be honest with and good to yourself when it comes to what you need as a large woman.
At one of my first jobs, when we had meetings, I would stand apologetically waiting for everyone else to sit, and get stuck with the the tiny seat/ huge plastic arms chair. That chair hurt. It cut into my sides, and it felt like everyone was staring at the rolls of fat flowing over the arms of the chair.
After several months of this, one day I got my things together for our meeting and arrived early. I tried out several chairs and picked the most comfortable, set out my notebook and pens, left the room to get coffee and chatted with a co-worker on the way back in, then sat back down in my chosen seat.
The entire time my heart was racing, as though attending to my own comfort was a subversive thing. I kept scanning my coworkers faces for signs of disapproval, but no one noticed. The meeting progressed as usual, and I stopped punishing myself for being fat during meetings.
Eventually I also stopped buying the “It was on sale, and if I lose x lbs/ hold my tummy in/ stand in exactly this way it will look good” dress. That dress was a penance for my fatness. It mocked me every morning in the closet, it bound and chafed and made me self-conscious when worn.
Now I set aside a small amount of money and time to shop for clothes every month. It is less overwhelming and more fun for me to buy one or two great pieces at a time, because it takes time and effort to assemble a comfortable and flattering wardrobe for me and my body.
I could go on (and on), there were hundreds of little ways I punished my body for betraying me by being fat.
And if I wasn’t up to the task there was my boyfriend who was willing to step up and do the job for me. Who would offer ‘helpful’ critiques, who would push me into activities I didn’t like because it was ‘good for me’, who shamed me for initiating sex, who pressured me into performing sexually for him when I was exhausted, in pain, or just didn’t want sex right then. Who did all this while claiming he loved me. Who spoke of his love in as though he was a martyr, taking one for the team by being with my broken self. Who used my fear of being alone to silence me when I protested.
After I broke up with him, I spent a long time not dating anyone. Not wanting to date anyone.
This was me protecting myself and giving me time to heal, time to go to therapy, time to stop punishing myself for the things that were ‘wrong’ with me. And most importantly time to trust myself with myself again.
Because I did not trust my own judgement, and was sure I would pick another abusive loser, my body turned the pantsfeelings off for real men, and I spent a lot of time in romances of the mind. Elaborate fantasies, romance novels, etc.
I did start to date again, and all of the work I put into being good to myself had two unexpected benefits. First, I was now used to being treated well, and could recognize when others were treating me badly. When a man did things to make me uncomfortable, or ran over my boundaries, I could say “That is an asshole,” and walk away.
Second, I was attracting better men. Men I would have considered out of my league before. Men who were attractive, intelligent, and acted as though they enjoyed being with me. Men who were fun and sweet. Men who were thoughtful and sexy. There were wonderful men out there wanting my fat ass to love them and let them love me.
And I did Iove them, and now I’ve promised to love one in particular, and it’s awesome/scary/awesome, and I didn’t have to lose weight or trick them into seeing me as a woman, or hope that maybe one of their friends would be blown away by my amazing personality and fall in love with me/toss me a pity fuck.
I’d say I hope things work out between you and Lex, but what I really hope is that you get to a place where love yourself enough to never, ever, write the phrases “damaged goods,” “horrible personality,” or “friendly puppy” in reference to yourself ever again.
Ovation for you and this comment!
Cheering with tears in my eyes. Yes!!!
Wonderful, wonderful comment! Cheering from Downunder!
I…uh. Thank you.
Jerkbrain was saying a lot about my comment being inappropriate and an overshare, so I really appreciate it.
GO YOU. +1 Internet to you and many high-fives.
I think this kind of self-care is something so many of us need to do, at any size or shape.
Personal tangent that I hope isn’t too far off topic: A few months ago I finally measured myself for bras properly and finally started ordering bras from a country that believes you can be small in the chest measurement, have big boobs, and still fucking deserve sexy bras. I am SO much happier with me now, having bras in *colors* that *fit*. Yes, Virginia, there are sizes above DD.
Oh, my yes! It was a revelation when I finally got measured. So much less back pain.
I have had the small chest/big boobs problem, now I have the large chest/ginormous boobs problem. No matter what size I am my breasts are too big. Husband and I were budgeting recently and my bra budget was non-negotiable. I classify that as a health expenditure.
I’m not crying, it’s just…raining indoors. On my face. Really.
I feel like people are kind of discounting the race aspect too flippantly. I don’t know which online dating site(s) you’re using, LW, but it’s a documented phenomenon that black women reply the most often, but get the fewest replies from men, at least if the OKCupid blog is to be believed: http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/your-race-affects-whether-people-write-you-back/
So, I don’t think it’s as simple as, “Yay! You filtered out all the racist white men!”
Unfortunately, in online dating where it’s the easiest to vet people and dismiss them in seconds by viewing their profile, an unconscious race bias might play into people’s decision-making more than it does in meat-space. And those aren’t necessarily terrible people with Confederate flag/Tasmanian devil tattoos; from the stats, it’s clear that men of all races (including black men) follow this trend.
I say this not to discourage you but to affirm your experience. And also to say that, perhaps, you will have more success in person. Getting to know someone at a hobby group, or running into them at a friend’s party, it’s easier to make the mental/personality connection and cut through a lot of the unconscious biases that we all have.
I also totally agree with the people who suggest admitting to awkwardness; I know I tend to find that charming, and a great ice-breaker.
I don’t think anyone is trivializing the LW’s skin-colour. Just that we try to focus on things she can do and work at to feel better about herself. She can’t change her race. Not to say your comment isn’t true, but I don’t know how helpful it is for the LW who might already take any (perceived or not) slight as something that she is Bad At.
It’s helpful in that I’m suggesting she direct her energies somewhere that might result in more success instead of throwing herself into a context that is statistically *even more difficult* for black women to get a date, and wondering what terrible thing she did to put people off.
I think you guys are right on – there IS demonstrated racial bias in online dating that affects black women. It’s not her! It’s Racism! And validating that experience is important.
However, I focused the response on stuff that’s within her control. Other people’s racism = not within her control. Also, I don’t have experience trying to date (or online date) as a black woman. Knowing what the research shows, I didn’t recommend online dating as a solution in the OP.
I think the problem may have been the word “flippantly,” rather than something more neutral like “readily” or “casually.” I’m sure no one meant to be dismissive, or deny the reality of the LW’s experience.
Which is not to pick at your word choice in turn — we’re all doing our best, and sometimes we don’t express ourselves perfectly.
Well, I think it’s good to reassure her that how she perceives things is correct. It’s a weeeee bit privileged to compare my experiences as a white person to hers. Not talking about race is not exactly “being kind”. There is prejudice in the world. I will never experience it. I think it’s important to acknowledge what’s going on. Especially because it’s an explanation why people may not respond that often in online dating – and it has nothing to do with her character.
I agree. Yes, there will be fat-hating racists who would treat you (LW) badly. Great they don’t write you. But there will also be people like the people on CA (myself included), who would like to think of themselves as progressive, but who nevertheless show biased behavior.
It’s not fair and it’s not a reflection on your worthiness. It’s just a symptom of our society that you are not responsible for. Neither with how you look nor with who you are.
There is still one person, who you can make not rejecting you: that’s yourself. I know, this is not what you are looking for right now. But as others have already lined out: this is a really good way to become more happy, more satisfied and yes, more attractive to people, who are nice and good for you.
I don’t know, I kind of think it’s weird to tell the LW to read all of Shapely Prose? I like that blog too, but when I read her letter, I thought her issues with her weight (and race and age) were more about how other people treat her unfairly, whereas she really believes her history of trauma makes her less lovable.
Which is so not true, LW! I like you just based on this — you’re funny and endearing. Besides the straightness, totally the kind of woman I’d like to date. And I can tell you that in the last long-term relationship I had with a guy, I told him about my own history before we slept together and he didn’t run screaming. It’s part of you, but so are all your strengths. The right guy will see that. Good luck. <333
See also Sex and the Fat Girl. And many other blogs I found by reading…Shapely Prose. My point in recommending it, being, there is an entire site that was dedicated to writing about body image and self-acceptance in a way that this is not, and it was very influential in changing my own views of myself. I’d love to see your recommendations for other blogs/sites/books sources.
It’s nice if we tell the LW that she sounds totally lovely (because she does). But even if we repeat it 20 times, that won’t necessarily let the message sink in. For the sinking in stuff, a lot of people benefit from the possibility to hear a point (“you are good as you are!”) over and over again. That’s what this reading is for (and, well, over at Shapely Prose, they covered a lot more topics than could be ever touched on in one single comment thread).
No, I know. I didn’t mean for my comment to be any kind of solution. I just think she sounds great.
My point was that I think it would help her to read about rape survivors and other “damaged” women dating, finding love, and being in healthy relationships, and that this was where I saw the most insecurity in her letter.
I don’t have any recommendations, though, I’m sorry.
There’s some of that on Shapely Prose too. It wasn’t an “all-fat, all the time” deal. And a great many feminist blogs, especially the long-established ones with multiple contributors, have lots of useful and helpful stuff about living life in all its many wonderful, confusing dimensions as a rape survivor. In addition to the ones in the blogroll here, I’d recommend Shakesville and maybe Fugitivus. (Fugitivus can be pretty intense, but there’s some great stuff there.)
I still miss Fugitivus, and I wish she still blogged. Sad face!
And also, OP, you sound pretty awesome, and I wish you the best of luck in loving yourself.
This is the situation that Jedi Hugs were MADE for. Because, LW, I’m not a hugger–maybe you aren’t either–but I’m mentally enveloping you with warmth and appreciation. And also because, LW, you are a fucking Jedi. With mad Jedi skills including but not limited charm, self-awareness, and hope.
Totally OT, but I want to share a success story I had because of reading Captain Awkward. Today at lunch in the cafeteria a grandfather-age guy I’ve talked to in a friendly manner a few times but barely know came up behind me and started rubbing my shoulders. When I objected loudly and angrily, he first got defensive (“It wasn’t personal” literal quote) and then patted my shoulder again. Yuck. Anyway he went away and then a few minutes later gave an apology (“I’m sorry I invaded your space”) which he immediately weakened with justifications (that’s just how he is, how he shows friendliness). I had to stifle the urge to smile and reassure him that it was okay, I still liked him, and stifle a twinge of guilt that I was harsh when I didn’t do that. So you guys helped by reminding me over and over that he’s the only one with an obligation to behave well in this situation. I accepted his apology in a chilly manner and will avoid him in the future, and that’s totally okay — I don’t have to be “nice” and smooth things over! The victory wasn’t convincing him to change (I don’t think he will), but in changing my attitude. Thanks guys!
Thumbs up for you! Making that stuff work in the moment can be really hard. 🙂
I hope this isn’t too off topic because LW doesn’t strike me as at all clingy based on her letter, but I too am over 30, overweight, interracial (with a little bit of baggage to go along with that, WHERE DO I FIT?) and anyway, I’ve come up with some strategies that are recently helping me in the boy department.
To varying degrees, I’ve always had the fear when I start liking or dating someone that they will figure out who I actually am and run screaming. My normal brain realizes that this is absurb, but jerkbrain advises loudly that I HAD BETTER BE NICE TO THEM UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES BECAUSE THEY ARE DOING ME A HUGE FAVOR BY HANGING OUT WITH ME AND IF THEY DISCOVER WHO I REALLY AM THEY WILL DUMP ME SO MAY AS WELL DELAY THE INEVITABLE FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE BY BEING NICE! NICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This has worked about as well as you can imagine it would. Nobody wants to be with someone who is all sugar all the time and has no hard limits. Instead of pushing back when someone was douchy, I just hung in there, clung on tighter and tried to be nicer in hopes they’d appreciate how incredibly well I treated them. So just the other day I wrote down a list of standards for being in a relationship with someone–the things I really value, without which they will be rejected like a college application with spelling errors. I don’t even need to be fair about it–allergic to cats? Done. The new strategy immediately helped me close off communications with a dude I’d gone out with a few times, slept with and then he didn’t call me. Before I felt angry and rejected, even though I didn’t really like him. Now I feel angry but vindicated–he failed the common courtesy standard. Now I’ve decided I need many more standards–standards for when I will go out on a first date, whether to ask someone out, when I will go out on a third date, when I will have sex with someone, and so on.
It’s a pretty fun exercise and I feel like it has already helped my self-esteem because I’m acting like a person with self-esteem. Also, it sort of de-personalizes the process so that when you meet someone who seems cool at first but turns out to be lame, you feel justified in extricating yourself.
I’m mentioning all of this because whether or not hottie from work is someone you end up dating, if you have baggage about dating and/or self-love issues, it can be hard to keep focused on the fact that you deserve to have your needs fulfilled in a relationship. The relationship isn’t about being with that other person, it’s about the two of you being mutually positive forces in each other’s lives.
Anyway, I hope this proves helpful to you when you end up dating (as you surely will when you are ready because you rock!).
I don’t think it’s OT at all.
‘No one could ever love the real me!’ Oh, yes! I have lived there.
Focusing on what you need from your relationships, and breaking the trap of only thinking of the other person is good advice.
“To varying degrees, I’ve always had the fear when I start liking or dating someone that they will figure out who I actually am and run screaming.”
Oh yeah. EXACTLY. I always feel as though I’ve tricked people when I get a new job, or a compliment, or do well at something. That it was a fluke. It might be because my mom said “If people only knew the real you!” as a hurtful thing to me quite a lot of the time as I was growing up. And now. But I’m working on overcoming those messages and believing that I might be sort of awesome.
I love your advice about setting standards, too. I have so much to learn!
Thank you for your feedback!
The more I see of ou the more convinced I become that you are indeed terminally awesome.
I hope you’re offloading that toxic mom stuff in therapy, too. That is not “constructive criticism,” it’s poison.
That was a terrible thing for your mom to say. Imposter syndrome is bad enough for lots of us without having to deal with that, so it seems you are pretty awesome just for overcoming it.
Oh man, I do that THE WHOLE TIME too. And I agree with alphakitty, you may well be terminally awesome.
Your mom and my mum should get together. They would have a BALL. We could hang out and eat whatever the fuck we wanted to and talk shit about them?
Hells yes. I swear, making a list of What I Really Want/Need In A Relationship was one of the best things I ever did for myself. I got to the end and said “well, I’m never gonna find all that” … but since “all that” was What I Really Wanted, I was more willing to let go of the idea of finding it. I realized I’d rather be by myself and happy than get less than I wanted / stuff I didn’t want in a relationship.
Even if I hadn’t come to the “never gonna find all that” conclusion (or *spoiler* discovered I was wrong and there was someone who was “all that”), it still is damn useful for evaluating future relationships.
Hi, I’m the Letter Writer. (And maybe my reply ought to have a Trigger Warning? Sorry.)
I had been lurking here for months and convinced myself that I wouldn’t fit in or that if I asked a question it wouldn’t be answered. I need to work on my self talk, obvs. So when I say I AM ABSOLUTELY FLOORED that CA chose my letter and by the AMAZING words of encouragement, love, and advice you all have so kindly shared, please picture me. . . er, on the floor, being SUPER overwhelmed by how wonderful CA is and you all are. Thank you. And is it normal to weep in response to reading about yourself here on CA? ‘Cause I did, and they were tears of an indescribable feeling that I will assume is the feeling of what it’s like to be understood. Maybe even finally.
I hope it’s okay to respond, sort of, to questions and comment on things from the OP and that have been asked above, and please forgive me if I don’t get to them all:
Shapely Prose! I LOVE(d) SP! I have been in and out of my own fat/body acceptance and turned my back on SP when I thought I was going to be FINALLY be thin. I became fat while with the terrible person I mentioned in the letter and have sort of felt as though my body was a scarlet letter announcing my failings to everyone because of that connection. Anyway, I’ve been back through the SP archives just this past week and am reading “On Dumb Luck” repeatedly. Thank you, CA, for such a wonderful suggestion.
I’ve been on eharmony maybe 3 or 4 times, OkCupid twice, and am currently on my second stint on Match. OkCupid was the only place where I received multiple unsolicited messages. I am trying not to attribute that to the fact that I was 50 lbs. lighter with long, relaxed hair back then, but the fact that I mentioned it shows that I believe that, as much as I don’t want to. eharmony was the worst and biggest waste of money. I’m seeing Match to the end of my 6 month contract because they have a 6 Month Guarantee; they’ll give me money back if I do what they tell me and still don’t get a date. It’s been spotty and I’m being generous with that description. Only two men responded to messages I sent and I’ve had to have sent close to 70 by now. One of them wrote back to tell me that I had reinforced his decision to never date black women. So, yeah, racism in dating is a thing. I’m so glad none of you said anything about it just being a matter of sexual preference. Thank you for that. The amount of men that don’t list black women as women they’d like to date is. . . hurtful? Surprising? After 33 years of being black, I’m still thrown for a loop by just how many people hate/dismiss me because of my skin color.
Reading myself described as a rape survivor was really hard. He wasn’t “violent” and I said no repeatedly, but didn’t physically stop him, and when he was tired of me saying no, he threatened to tell my very conservative and religious parents about our “sex life” so I had sex with him to keep him quiet. He was awful. But does that REALLY make me a rape survivor? I don’t feel like I deserve, for lack of a better word, the description. I have a very hard time, even after more than a decade, accepting what happened as more than “just” a terrible relationship from my youth.
On to happier things: Lex Luthor and I are employed by the same large institution, but he and I do not work in the same department or building or in the same position. He comes in at least twice a week to prepare for- ugh, I don’t know how to anonymously describe what we do! Anyway, he comes in twice a week, sometimes more. In the beginning, I was awful and judged him, assuming that because he is handsome he’d be mean and/or stupid. I was kind of aloof with him, or short, to show him I wasn’t impressed. I wouldn’t give him the 20 binder clips (I gave him 12) he asked for, because who does think he is with his handsome face and huge smile and white teeth? Then I realized he was smart and kind and friendly and started to hide from him because I felt so unworthy. I’ve just recently stopped that nonsense. We’ve bonded over football *insert over the top eye roll, please* because he talked about how excited he was that his favorite team was playing. He was so touched that I remembered who his favorite team was. Like, wide eyed and breathy voiced and everything. I’m terrified about asking him out and what people would think if he said YES. Because he’s so pretty and nice and I’m a snarky, fat black chick. BUT I am practicing being confident and saying nice things about myself and looking at beautiful fat women. He’ll be in tomorrow. I don’t know if I can ask him out tomorrow, but I will try to continue to be friendly and smiley and maybe flirty? I don’t know, should I flirt?
Anyway, if you made it this far, thank you, Captain Awkward and the Captain Awkward Community. You all are wonderful people who’ve made me very hopeful. Not just about Lex, but about everything. XOXO
Is your snark what made you say you had a horrible personality? Because as far as I’m concerned, sometimes some snark is called for! Sometimes serious bitching out is legitimately called for! Two of my favorite commenters on this site are Sheelzebub and PFC Marie, neither of whom is known for mincing words.
Yeah, my snark and just not being, I think, that stereotypical “Nice Girl” – always giggling and kind and positive no matter what. I can be pretty frowny. But I have a glorious smile that I think might make up for the frowns.
Oh, honey — if one had to be relentlessly giggling and kind and positive to be lovable, the vast majority of the Awkward Army would be really, really lonely!
Me again. I spent some time on your blog this morning and yeah — I do like you! And more to the point, vis a vis this comment, yup, the things you are maybe snarky and pissy about are things that deserve it!
Your parents, using birthdays not to make you feel extra-specially special, but undeserving of life’s goodness! Your cousin, hearing you’re having a snafu of a night making you run late to your birthday gathering through no fault of your own, and not thinking “oh, that sucks, poor Ambrosia!” but “oh poor me, forced to wait in a lovely restaurant with people I love, Ambrosia has ruined my night!” Your friend, donning blackface for Halloween, and other “friends” giving you the “where’s your sense of humor” crap because you were offended instead of amused!
All that stuff is CRAP. I’m sorry you’ve had to live it. The more I get to know you, the clearer it is that the Reason you’re single — the only reason — is that the world is screwy and serendipity hasn’t struck yet. Keep on being your badass self and smiling your glorious smile when YOU feel like smiling, not to make people think you’re the kind of “nice” your screwed up mother thinks you should be. And God, I hope you get what you deserve — because he’s hot and kind and awesome in bed and feels like the luckiest guy in the world that nobody Saw you first and snapped you up before he came along.
I heartily second all of this. I mean, Jesus H. Christ, what is in the water where you live that makes everyone you know a socially-inappropriate assweasel? They really are all the problem. It might seem easier to say, “Oh, no, it’s just me,” but…it’s them. We are talking about people who wear blackface and don’t apologize for being horrible. It’s them. If I thought it would be easy or feasible with you, I would recommend burning a metric ton of bridges, but I am completely savage about terrible people and I realize that most people are not– and that is okay! Hang onto the gems in your life, and go get Lex! Even if it ends up being a just-friends thing, it sounds like you two get along, and this might be one way to expand your social circle and make it less full of assholes.
Snark = good. (If I had to stop being snarky for a day, I…. no, sorry, that thought is too scary)
Also, checked out your blog. So damn witty & interesting. Someday, your Prince Snarky will come along & you’ll create beautiful sarcasm together.
That you survived all the crap that’s been thrown at you & still manage to have a sense of snarky humour? That’s pretty awesome.
Hahaha your story about only giving him 12 binders… I snorted chamomile tea out of my nose. You sound so witty and snarky and generally awesome to be around. I think you definitely should flirt! Flirting is fun! Maybe Lex can just be your handsome-man-to-flirt-with-at-work-so-you-feel-beautiful-for-the-rest-of-the-week.
All strength and happiness to you.
Snark is a super personality trait. All my favourite people have some degree of snark. And Lex can’t think you’re that bad a person. He was flattered when you remembered something about him – the implication is that he thought he was less on your radar, that you had more important things to remember, and finding out otherwise was nice for him. Obviously that doesn’t mean happily ever after, but it does mean that he’s not nearly as hard on you as you are, which is a good start.
Hi LW! So good to hear from you!
I don’t think you have to identify as a rape survivor if you’re not ready. Maybe you never truly will. Just know that not all rapists are Scary Strangers. And you’re definitely not the only one being raped by someone you trust. You did what you had to to get by.
A few years ago, Kia Matthews performed an experiment where she submitted two identical on-line profiles, one with her picture (she’s fat and black) and one with a picture of her thin white friend. I think the most depressing aspect was how many compliments she received about non-physical things, her writing, humour and the tastes she expressed, when folk thought she was thin and white…
As a disabled white middle-sized woman, I do try to think of this stuff as a filter, but after some very bad luck, I have been very lucky in love, have never done on-line dating, so I’ve never have to face the numbers like that.
On the subject of very bad luck
“He was awful. But does that REALLY make me a rape survivor?”
Nobody should dictate the words you use to describe your experience, but most of us, and most certainly the law, would define your experience as rape. You said no, you said it explicitly and repeatedly, he carried on and shut you up with threats. That’s rape. The same thing happened to me, the first time, with a boyfriend I loved and trusted. I stayed with the guy – in fact, I married him, so kudos to you for getting out sooner than I did. In my case, it took ten or eleven years to even begin to figure that out (same with other physical, sexual and psychological abuse I experienced in that relationship). To call it rape isn’t to detract from anyone who has experienced more violent or more frightening rape – cancer is always an unpleasant and scary disease, but some versions are undoubtedly worse. For me, calling it rape was a major step in coming to terms with the trauma.
Good luck with Lex Luther!
I teared up when I read the Captain’s reply to my letter (since I failed to change the gravatar correctly, it probably doesn’t do much harm to say that I was Accomplished Overthinker of the wrong pants – and Captain, I STILL kinda shudder when I think of that pic you found!), so if you need to hear it from someone else: heck, yeah, it’s okay.
Your letter reaallllly resonated with me. There’s so much I feel I could say to you that I think could help, and I am about to be late for work and am having a bad anxiety morning already so I’m going to keep it on the short end: I vote for you asking this guy out. If you haven’t, consider talking to your therapist about whether you use “I’m damaged goods” as a defense mechanism (holy hell, do I do that! and I’m starting to talk to my therapist about it – I lack sexual experience for other reasons but currently can’t stop feeling broken because of my recent fibromyalgia diagnosis). (I also get scared when life is going well because I feel like it’s all about to be taken away. I got a bit of that vibe from your letter/comments – worth considering if that’s something you also feel.) Take heart from the stories people are posting here that You Are Not Alone in feeling broken or unlovable or unconfident or being ambivalent about SP at a particular moment in your life…and take heart from the fact that you’re wrong enough in the stories you tell yourself being unlovable that you have a ton of folks posting here because they dig you, based on your words. 😉
About race and internet dating: yeah, that would take too much time. I have this awesome friend who read and critiqued my OK Cupid profile for me – she encouraged me to think of the profile as a series of conversation starters, not as my life story. I started getting a lot more visitors and messages after that. And yeah, there are totally racists or people who say racist stuff out there (both “ugh, I’d never date ____” and “hey, you’re hot because you’re ____”), and that can hurt. Internet dating is just ONE option, and again: ASK OUT LEX LUTHOR! He may say no, but I sense that you’re strong enough to handle that. (And he might say yes! You’re strong enough to handle that, too.)
I have to get my butt out the door now, but I’m sending you Jedi hugs. (And an offer to swap more stories, if you’d ever be interested. My blog is linked in my gravatar.)
Snark! Snark can be so attractive! The right sort of person just LOVES snark. Not mean snark, snarky fun snark, of course.
I am pretty sure my husband partly married me to ensure uninterrupted access to a flowing wellspring of snark, actually. Some guys (especially smart funny ones) love snarky ladies who are eyebrow-raising and wicked-grinning and big-laughing. All my sisters are snarky ladies, and most of them are fat, and all of them are happily partnered.
Snark can make your personality a little abrasive; I had to learn to gentle mine with some people and in a lot of situations. But it doesn’t make your personality horrible! Horrible only comes in if you refuse to moderate your snark for people who are wounded by it. But you do not sound like that type of person, to me.
Ambrosia, I just checked out your blog and the few bits I read made me laugh hysterically. See, we were TOTALLY right about you! The internet has spoken!
😀 Thank you! I’m THRILLED to know I made you laugh!
No one should ever think any other person is too beautiful for them to date. Easy to say, hard to believe, but take a look at couples: there’s a huge range of difference between many partners and that’s one of life’s sweetest mysteries. Beautiful, in my mind, equals good. You sound really good to me.
Thank you so very much! :’-)
The nerd in me says you should go for it, then you two can cosplay as Lex Luthor and Amanda Waller (who is a large black woman in charge of EVERYTHING, and THE MOST FIERCE AND AWESOME CHARACTER IN ALL OF DC COMICS, I WILL FIGHT ANYONE WHO SAYS OTHERWISE. Seriously, think Nick Fury if he had to keep a team of Supervillains in line instead, and could also stare down BATMAN), and generally rule any convention you may happen to go to with an iron fist of awesome.
Then the rest of my brain catches up and says, yeah. You should go for it, and like Cap says, you should go for it now, because otherwise, you will get way to invested in how “beautiful and perfect” this guy is. I know; I’ve done it. It might help to remind yourself that he also farts, and it probably smells awful, and that there may have been a day when he left the house without brushing his teeth. Little gross human things like that. It’s impossible to ask a “Marble Adonis” out for coffee, and it usually ends in some kind of anti-climatic vampiric war, and nobody wants that. But you can ask a sometimes-gross human being out for coffee, because hey, you’re also a human being.
Go for it, anon. And be fantastic.
Best of luck, you sound lovely! ❤ Please let us know how it goes!
Hi, it’s me, the LW again, with a bit of an update:
Soooooo, last Friday I decided that I was going to ask Lex Luthor, also known as Jason Statham 2.0, out for coffee or a drink or something. I was expecting him to come in as he usually does and tease me about his team beating the one I root for. My plan was to ask him IN PERSON! when he did, but he didn’t. So I went and asked him in an email. Here is what I wrote:
“I was waiting for you to come in and brag about the [team name redacted] win on [date of game redacted], but I guess a one point win isn’t something to brag about. 😉 Hey, would you like to chat over a coffee or a drink or something with me to celebrate the end of the [thing specific to our line of work redacted]?”
Mr. Luthor-Statham 2.0 did not respond, but came in on Monday of this week wanting to know where I was because he had something to talk to me about, so said my coworker. I got super excited, especially when the coworker told me that he made a point of explaining his schedule, asking about mine, and wanting to know if my coworker or I could help him make 1500 copies, but probably me because he’d probably come in later in the day when I work.
I now assume (I know, I know, making assumptions is VERY BAD) that he was coming in to be all “OMG, Ambrosia! It was SO NICE OF YOU to ask me to have coffee or something with you, but I just CAN’T because I look like Jason Statham’s hotter younger brother and you look like you, but THANK YOU, gosh aren’t you just adorable for asking?”
He still hasn’t written back or been in and I feel that I am now obligated for all of womankind to Stand Up For Myself when he does come in with some excuse as to why he couldn’t write back or come in, even if that excuse comes with a very unlikely acceptance of my coffee or something invitation, AND that if he does say he wants to go for coffee or something I should say NO because it is not very nice to ignore an innocent invitation from a very nervous and inexperienced chubby girl, ESPECIALLY WHEN ONE TEACHES A CLASS CALLED “INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION”. Ahem.
Anyway, there is my update. I’ve been practicing how to say assertive and slightly snarky things with a smile. There may be more to this story as he is usually around on Mondays and Thursdays. Until then, thank you for the pep talks, and caring, and encouragement.
if he does say he wants to go for coffee or something I should say NO because it is not very nice to ignore an innocent invitation from a very nervous and inexperienced chubby girl
This makes me cringe. He doesn’t know what’s going on in your brain, so he doesn’t know that you’re very nervous and inexperienced, especially since (from what you said at your blog) you and he seem to have a good conversational flow. My feeling is that the best way to Stand Up For Yourself is to act on your desires. Forget social norms and expectations. This is about you.
Also, as a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology who surprisingly frequently can’t answer biology questions on Jeopardy!, I gotta say, cut the guy some slack for not being a perfect communicator even if he teaches communication. 😉
Isn’t that he Golden Rule variant 26.2? “Cut slack unto others as you would have them cut slack unto you?”
If it’s not, it is at least a perfect fortune cookie aphorism! (Can I take that for my fortune cookie project?)
I hate what I’m about to say, but say it I shall: I feel/believe that I can’t/shouldn’t cut him slack for fear that he’ll think I’m doing it, the slack cutting, because he is extremely attractive. I don’t want to be more of a cliche than I already am.
Even though he doesn’t know what’s in my mind, the point I am stubbornly sticking to is that the kind, courteous, adult thing to do would have been to reply to the email. It’s not his fault that his not replying makes me feel ugly and embarrassed and like a failure, but that fact doesn’t make him less wrong for not responding, regardless of his answer. However, I’m very sensitive to not being responded to regarding dating type things so maybe I’m all wrong for feeling that way.
I find your phrasing interesting: you don’t want to cut him slack because you don’t want to be a cliche. So…how does that relate to cutting him slack Because Shit Happens? Or Because You Are Being An Adult Even If He Isn’t? Is there room to say to him that you wish he had spoken up sooner (after he does), regardless of his answer?
I mean, I agree that it’s polite to respond to someone, but (as the Captain so often reminds us) he doesn’t owe you an answer. If I’m not just projecting myself into this: sometimes I tell myself I am a better person so that it hurts less when someone fails me. For all you know, there could be something serious that happened. (I was awkward about having to reschedule a first date recently because my grandmother died.) It pains me to see you using words that read as walls to keep from you hurting more, when the situation is unresolved. (That he said he wants to talk to you suggests the situation *will* resolve. Unless you hide from him again. ;-)) I don’t see you as a cliche, but your words here imply you think of HIM as a cliche: a pretty guy who is using that prettiness to get away with treating others like shit. Not a human who is messy and screws up sometimes. The picture you paint of him on your own blog is a lovely, messy human.
I know what it means to get tangled up in fear and rejection and legitimate frustration with other people not honoring social norms and vulnerability, and to feel like I will never, ever love or be loved – sounds like a lot of the Awkward Army shares those experiences. It seems normal to me that this is an exposed nerve for you – a place like a new bruise that hurts to touch, even if it’s not a touch that would otherwise hurt. I guess…I guess my long-winded, exhausted point is this: cutting him some slack might also mean cutting YOURSELF some slack. Does that make sense?
Do you have a Team Ambrosia? Team Elysia helps me defuse some of my shame spirals, panics, what-ifs, and self-denigrating. I hope Team Ambrosia is doing the same for you!
In the full knowledge that what I’m about to say is an uber-cliche (which doesn’t make it untrue, dammit!): you are not wrong for feeling [X]. You are never, ever wrong for feeling [X]. What you do about feeling [X] is a different deal, but feelings are what they are.
I’m going to offer a possible counter-interpretation of the situation: is it possible that he’s nervous too? I can see myself in a similar situation doing the Dance of Overthinking Things (especially as someone who doesn’t always check email on weekends):
1. *gets email some time late Sunday afternoon*
2. *thinks, OMG, this is from two days ago, zie’s going to think I’m giving hir the brushoff!*
3. *decides that it’s better to respond in person tomorrow, with apology for not answering sooner*
4. *doesn’t see hir at work tomorrow! but does leave detailed schedule, so maybe in-person communication can happen later?*
5. *feels like answering by email now would be massively awkward*
6. *realizes I should have answered on Sunday, dammit*
7. *has absolutely no clue how to go about responding without feeling like a giant schmuck for waiting so long*
8. *feels like a giant schmuck about not responding*
Not saying that the non-response should be excused, but I can see how it could happen despite (or even because of!) good, but slightly clueless, intentions.
You have just described what happens with me and almost all email that requires more than a minute to respond to. I sometimes think I need a macro for inserting “So sorry to be replying late to this email.” *facepalm*
Ambrosia, this is what I’m seeing:
You climbed out on that limb and asked him out, which was majorly scary and therefore majorly brave. You had an expectation that he would respond, if not in a certain way, at least within a certain time frame. He didn’t, which has left you sitting out there on that limb a lot longer than you were prepared for, and the stress of being all vulnerable out there is wigging you out. You’re afraid you see rejection on the horizon, so your subconscious is doing some preemptive rejecting. “Don’t think I’m awesome enough for an immediate Yes!!?? Well, maybe YOU’RE not cool enough for ME, after all. Did you ever think of that, buddy?”
But: he doesn’t know how awful you’re feeling out there. Remember? He thinks of you as flirty and snarky, and you managed an email that was all casual and breezy. He doesn’t know what a BFD that was for you to do. For all he knows, you do that kind of thing all the time.
He also doesn’t know that he is Lex Luthor/Jason Statham/Hotness Personified to you. Different strokes for different folks means not every woman in his life has thought he was To Die For Hot. And again, you’ve managed to keep your manner breezy and flirty and snarky. And for all you know he has YOU on some Cool Chick pedestal (remember, you have confessed to having a lovely face, glorious smile, and flirty snark!) and can’t imagine you angsting over hearing from him. (Plus, he’s a guy. Though guys are perfectly capable of their own insecure wigging, they don’t always get how what they’re doing could be causing a woman to wig).
Of course, rejection could be coming. You knew that when you hit send: that you were making yourself horribly, nakedly vulnerable. But it hasn’t come YET; it may not be coming in this context (there are still reasons he might not have answered, like he wanted to respond in person ’cause he thought he sounded like a doofus in all his draft email responses but shit came up and wouldn’t you know this week of all weeks he couldn’t get to you because that’s what life does); and the way I see it life will send (has sent) you enough totally unavoidable pain that there’s no good reason to race to embrace more. At least make it come to you!
Which is all to say, hang out on that limb a little longer. And if the guy you like so much does take you up on that coffee idea, don’t be so persnickety that he didn’t do it exactly the way you wanted him to, or so worried about trying to be the cool representative of Womankind, or attribute so many arrogant asshole qualities to him as a representative of Good Looking Guys everywhere against whom you must make a principled stand, that you snatch Defeat from the jaws of Victory. You are one flawed but awesome mortal woman and one flawed but (maybe?) awesome mortal man, trying to find out if you might work together. Let it ride, see how it plays out.
And because yeah — it may not be success, try to remember that he’s not a jerk if he says no, and he won’t know quite how bummed you are. Be prepared with a smile and a “hope I haven’t made you uncomfortable, but I think there’s nothing sadder than two people who like each other who never connect because neither of them has the gumption to speak up, so I try to speak up and see what happens.” Which leaves you not as Pitiful Rejected Person, but as Cool Chick With Gumption, which is what you ARE.
Meanwhile, in case he says yes, rent “She’s Out of Your League,” (I may have the title slightly wrong). It’s not an awesome movie, but it’s about a guy who wrecks his relationship with a woman he thinks is so fucking awesome because he can’t see her as a person and accept that she has chosen little old him. I kind of think you need to see it.
I love this reply.
Anyway, when I read the email that the LW sent to Mr. Hottie, her asking him to coffee sounded super-casual (here it is for reference):
Hey, would you like to chat over a coffee or a drink or something with me to celebrate the end of the [thing]
If I got this email from a co-worker or someone I worked with and had fun chatting with I would not assume this was a date at all – I would not be sure, but would likely take it at face value and assume the cool co-worker wanted to hang out over a coffee. I might even not reply immediately if I got trapped under a deluge of work, I might just wait til I saw Cool Co-Worker again at work and say “hey, wanna grab that coffee this lunchtime?” or whatever.
This could be just a cultural thing? (I am not American. I think the LW is American?) So maybe this is a clearly coded asking out on a date phrase in America or whereever the LW is from?
But for me (European, now in the Middle East) coffee is THE non-date beverage of choice.
(One reason I bring this up, about miscommunication in asking for coffee, is that I had an embarrassing situation recently where I asked an (American, male) co-worker who asked me if we could meet to talk about a project if he wanted to have that meeting over coffee, and he assumed that I had asked him on a Date, and started talking about How He Has A Wife.)
I think that cultural context aside, it’s a little inconsistent to pitch an invitation as super low key in order to maintain plausible deniability and dignity, and then be annoyed that the person didn’t recognize the invitation as an earth shattering moment of self-exposure requiring a top-priority response. Understandable, but inconsistent.
I still think the low key invitation IS the way to go. Telling someone you have a huge crush on them and are in danger of going up in smoke every time you look at them tends to be off-putting.
You “just” have to keep a firm grip on the part of your emotions that is prone to saying “S/he hasn’t answered yet! I am so mortified! S/he is an ass! Why, oh why, am I doomed to be so unlucky in love?..” Easier said than done, of course, and yes most of us have that voice, but it is like one of those fairies or imps that try to lure you from the well lit path into the creepy woods. You must not listen!
Also, though I hate to say it, there is a little Nice Guy entitlement creeping in. The Nice Guy says “But I put myself out there! The least you can do is respond nicely! You owe me that much for the sacrifice I made!” But of course when you put yourself out there it is not some kind of gift to the other person. You do it because you hope the risk will pay off for YOU, in the form of an acceptance. They don’t owe you anything for that.
“Also, though I hate to say it, there is a little Nice Guy entitlement creeping in. The Nice Guy says “But I put myself out there! The least you can do is respond nicely! You owe me that much for the sacrifice I made!” But of course when you put yourself out there it is not some kind of gift to the other person. You do it because you hope the risk will pay off for YOU, in the form of an acceptance. They don’t owe you anything for that.”
You’re right; he owes me nothing. Including even acknowledging the email’s existence. And in order to avoid the dreaded Nice Guy status, I have to accept this.
I feel particularly sensitive about it because so many of my dating attempts go unanswered. I haven’t figured out how to separate someone declining to respond to me with a general statement about my lack of worth. Clearly, I have work to do.
You get that I get that, right? The stuff I said, while true, does not speak to your bruised Feelings because that kind of thing doesn’t speak to ANYONE’s bruised feelings. You just have to bear it in mind before you get too pissy at your hot guy for not answering fast enough, or before you cut off his lovely nose to spite his too-damned-handsome face and then realize he was saying yeah, he’d love to go for a drink sometime.
You know what, Lilly, I’m an American, single woman in a male dominated industry, and I find that even innocuous statements like “Good Morning!” elicit the I Have a Wife response. I never ask work guys to do anything that could be construed as social until they have already demonstrated that they see me as a person rather than as a single woman. Too many experiences with the I Have a Wife conversation has left me wary.
There is a sickness in America that ascribes sexuality to anything that might conceivably be sexual, even if that is the least likely explanation.
Thus guys giving each other the side arm hug without eye contact, because men having affection towards each other = gay.
So even if the guy at work is not attracted to you, and is pretty sure you’re not attracted to him, and would love to [place] with you and talk about [project or stuff], he knows that someone in the office is going to assume that major boneage is happening, and out pops “I have a wife.” Not for your benefit, but for the ears of anyone who might overhear.
Sadly all the (straight) guys I’ve ever wanted to hang out with outside of work either gave me “I have a wife,” before I was married, or major grief when they realized sex was not included with coffee after marriage. It sucks.
Alphakitty, you are a goddamned genius.
“He still hasn’t written back or been in and I feel that I am now obligated for all of womankind to Stand Up For Myself when he does come in with some excuse as to why he couldn’t write back or come in, even if that excuse comes with a very unlikely acceptance of my coffee or something invitation, AND that if he does say he wants to go for coffee or something I should say NO because it is not very nice to ignore an innocent invitation from a very nervous and inexperienced chubby girl, ESPECIALLY WHEN ONE TEACHES A CLASS CALLED “INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION”. Ahem.”
Wow, girlfriend, you are having a LOT of feelings here. It is really disappointing when someone doesn’t respond to an invitation. The invitation was just between you and him, though. It was not representative of all womankind. That’s your disappointment talking. If he does come back and say yes, then go out with him. Your desire to turn him down is your disappointment telling you to teach him a lesson. Let all of that go. It’s not helpful.
I agree that when someone, say, you, issues a direct invitation, the invitee, him, should reply. I have been the jerk who ignored one, and I still say the invitee needs to reply. That’s not entitlement, that’s being polite. Invites require an RSVP, even if it’s a no. My life experience outside the realm of etiquette says that people can tell when they have been asked out, and saying no to dates is awkward and people will quit their job and move to Outer Mongolia to avoid it. In fact, noes in general are hard to give. There is a rule of thumb I heard somewhere which says “Yeses come immediately, noes never come.” I am not a mind reader, I don’t know the guy, I don’t know what is going on with him, but I am pretty sure he knew it was a date, and he is just as awkward as the rest of us when it comes to turning someone down. Btw, you are also not a mind reader, and you have no idea how attractive he finds you or why he would not want to have coffee with you.
I hope I am wrong, and I hope that he didn’t respond b/c he wants to come by in person and say “hey, instead of coffee, how about a drink after work?” And I hope you say yes.
Thanks for the update!
Years ago I had a cute acquaintance friend who was really good at asking women for their phone numbers. He could meet them out walking, on a plane, wherever, strike up a conversation, ask for a phone number, and receive it.
He never actually called them.
One day I asked him why he bothered to ask if he wasn’t going to call. He told me that he always *intended* to call. But once he got home, he could never muster up the courage to do it. What if she had no desire to hear from him, but gave up the digits to avoid an awkward moment?
Meanwhile, I’m guessing at least some of those women were disappointed to never hear from him and thought it was their fault somehow.
Don’t take stuff too personally. Just sayin’. 🙂
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