Monday, July 19, 2010

Dating for the Big Girl

Plumcake over at Manolo for the Big Girl has taken on another dating question, this one from the comments of the post I mentioned previously. Go check out her fun post encouraging her reader to start dating.

It seems that a lot of people find themselves in the position of starting dating again when they haven't done so for a bit. Sometimes that bit was a marriage or a long term relationship, sometimes it's just a break from the dating world, and some people never really managed to jump in at all. Starting anything new is scary but here are a few tips I would share as an experienced dater. Hopefully Jane from Plumcake's post will be ready to put herself back into the dating world soon.

Some online dating basics:

For most people, online dating is a great way to get access to a wide pool of possible dates. If you are thinking about starting dating again, I'd highly recommend joining one of the big dating websites. I've used most of them and have had varying luck on each. seems to be the most broadly used. It's a pay based site but the fees are pretty reasonable. I also like OK Cupid and Plenty of Fish which are both free sites. I did not have a good experience with eHarmony but it was several years ago and I know many people have found it helpful. I've briefly used two sites that are devoted to fat people, Large and Lovely and BBW Personals Plus both of which you also have to pay to use. Before you join any pay based site I'd recommend doing as much research as you can about them. Most will let you search for matches but not contact them before you pay. Do some searches for people in your area and age range. Look on the profiles for the date that people were last active. I've noticed that there are lots of online dating profiles out there that people don't seem to be actively using. It benefits the site to keep the profile there even if the user isn't active because it looks as if there are more dating possibilities.

1. Create your profile. Try to be as honest and authentic as you can be. This is not about fooling someone into going on a date with you. It's about showing people who you are and what you're looking for so that you can figure out if you are a good enough match. Of course you will highlight the positive but don't make shit up! Tell people what's special about you. Think about why the people who love you now love YOU? What do your friends like about you? Ask them if you don't know. Talk about the things you really like to do, not the things you wish you liked to do. Feel free to read other people's profiles for some inspiration, but don't just copy them. Reach inside and figure out who you are and what you want from this dating experience and then put it out there. Proofread and spell check obsessively. No need to give people a silly reason to be put off by your profile.

2. Add a picture. Profiles with pictures get more attention. There's something about being able to put a face to the words that matters. Choose a picture that makes you look friendly and approachable. I really prefer a photo with a smile but I'm not sure how other people feel about this; the men who message me and have a photo without a smile always read as serial killers to me-but I'm not sure that's typical! Readers, what do you think of this? Make sure it's a recent photo. If you don't have any photos of yourself, grab a friend and a digital camera and go take a few somewhere that you like to go. Do not take one of yourself in your bathroom mirror and unless you're only looking for sex keep your clothes on. If you're not much of a photographer (and neither is your friend) take a whole bunch of pictures. Try some with the flash and without, zoom in more for a few, take some from above and some from the side. If you're outdoors, try to take some in the late afternoon or early evening when the light gets really pretty. Turn and face different directions to take advantage of the light. Inside, turn different lights on and off, even in adjacent rooms. Light some candles to add a softer glow. Throw a scarf over a lamp if it seems just a little too bright. Wear something that makes you feel good.

Start thinking about having a camera with you when you do things that you enjoy, even if it's just dinner out with a friend ask her to snap a picture of you sitting with your glass of wine. Start getting more pictures of yourself. You'll get more comfortable looking at them and there will be more good ones for your profile to choose from. It feels a little narcissistic sometimes but I think it will help you feel better about your body and to begin to see your body in a more neutral way. I still have times when I hate a picture of myself but I like many more of them now that I take more. Show all of your pictures to a friend and ask them to pick the ones they like best. Try showing them to a person of the gender that you would like to date. If possible put up a few shots including one that shows your full body. If you end up dating a person from the site they are going to see you eventually. If they're the kind of person who is comfortable or even prefers a fat body the picture will just show that you're comfortable being honest about the body you have. If a fat body is a dealbreaker for them, you won't have to worry about revealing it later when you've already started to form a little hopeful attachment.

If the whole picture process feels torturous to you, start looking at more pictures of fat bodies looking good. Make yourself look even if it makes you uncomfortable. Try to look without judgment or let yourself judge but then look at your own judgments critically. Is there something inherently unpleasant about a fat stomach? Or could it be that you've been taught to believe that? Is back fat really the end of the world? Check out Adipositivity and the Fatshionista Live Journal Community for pictures of mostly women and/or Men in Full for pictures of fat men (Adipositivity and Men in Full include nudity and may not be safe for work).

Put it up and see what happens. As many of you already know, no kind of dating is all easy and a online dating has it's fair share of challenging bits but there are also good things to be had and I think it's one of the best ways to get yourself back in the game.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Finding Fat Men Sexy: Culture, Gaze and the Male Body

This post started off as a comment on the post written by Plumcake from Manolo for the Big Girl called No Fat...Dudes? I ended up writing a post's worth in the comments so decided this was the better venue.

In that post, Plumcake asks whether she is a hypocrite because she has never dated a fat fellow hasn't historically dated fat fellows. I think this is a very interesting question. I've done a lot of dating and for a long time I too had never dated a fat man. In the fat-o-sphere I have the general impression that the message is:

"We don't want all men to find fat women fuckable because 'you're attracted to who you're attracted to' (YATWYAT) and that's fine. We just want you to respect the fact that some men are attracted to fat women and not deride them and us about it as if the possibility of wanting to have sex with us was unthinkable."

I think the message that our worth is not tied to whether you want to have sex with us is powerful and important but I think we may be doing the movement a bit of a disservice when we don't examine this more closely. The "YATWYAT" line is actually problematic. All of us are trained in this culture in many explicit and not-so-explicit kinds of ways to respond differently to different body types. We all absorb these messages even when we're trying to fight against them and I think it often takes vigilance and specific action to counteract the effects. Many women have to work to find their own bodies and bodies like theirs to be attractive and I think we need to do that same work with regards to the men we find attractive. So often the men presented to us in magazines, movies, and on TV as sexy or as objects of desire are very slim and muscular. Big and fat men are often presented as comic characters and often do get to be the love interest. When they are the love interest it's often in a role where the relationship is already established and they are not shown as an object of lust. This is doubly true for fat women in the mainstream media but this post is about the dudes!

A little over a year ago I decided to take on the project of retraining my eye to better appreciate the beauty and sex appeal of fat men. I had briefly dated a fat man and though I hadn't initially found him physically attractive I was attracted by other things and soon found myself physically interested in him. This conversion led me to realize that I'd been unfair and that I was missing out on a group of guys who might make great partners both in bed and in relationships so after we broke up I embarked on my gaze retraining project.

I was hesitant at first to even try because I believed the "YATWYAT" trope but I started seeking out images of fat men to see if it was possible to retrain my gaze. I'm happy to report that my project was a big success. I've been able to re-train my eyes to appreciate the sexiness of a variety of different male body types. One of my favorite resources for this has been the (often NSFW) blog Men in Full and the accompanying tumblr feed. The pictures of the men, sometimes nude and sometimes clothed and the commentary focusing on what made them sexy for the blogger there (sorry I can't find her name) helped me to start seeing these men differently and the fat men I run into in real life differently too.

Like Plumcake, I definitely didn't have a "no fat dudes" rule but I just didn't tend to notice them in the same way I did a more fit man. Men notice when you notice them. We put off subtle signals that give them the green light to flirt and I wasn't giving those signals to fat men so they weren't coming on to me. Now, over a year later, I notice big guys all the time and they often flirt with me. I've come to appreciate fat men like Jorge Garcia in a different way. I often saw his character on Lost as endearing but after this project I sometimes noticed that I wanted to jump Hurley's bones when he was on the screen in the same way I sometimes wanted to jump Sawyer's (Josh Holloway.)

Image copyright Fabrice

So my intrepid readers, what do you think about this? Have you dated fat men? Do you find them attractive in general? Have you changed what you find attractive or do you think it would be possible for you to do so?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Patience is a Virtue

This evening I chatted with a fellow who had contacted me last week on a dating site. He seemed interesting during our first chat and we ended up exchanging phone numbers. He called one afternoon last week. I couldn't take the call but he did not leave a message. Now this is one of my personal pet peeves because I feel like it leaves me in an awkward position. If you want to talk to me, leave a message. It's not that hard.

So needless to say, I did not call him back. Then Saturday at midnight as I was driving home from the Lilith Fair, my phone rings. It's an unknown number but I'm curious so I pick it up. A man with a strong accent says "Hello, did you forget me?" Now I have no idea who could possibly be calling me at midnight. I ask who it is and he replies "You don't know who this is?" I say no. We go through this routine a few times and I decide to make a few guesses. I was feeling a bit panicky about not being able to figure out who it was, like I had forgotten someone important which was a bit ridiculous. Just as I'm about to hang up he finally told me. I felt relief and we chatted for a few minutes. I told him I can't talk for long because I have a friend in the car. He is obviously a little bit peeved that he hasn't heard from me before this point. He comments on how busy I am. I felt strangely guilty but I shook myself out of it. I am doing the best I can. This is a complicated process with no clear rules. He asked me to call him back when I could talk. I told him I would though I'm not sure I really want to. My instinct is saying that he wouldn't be a good match.

Tonight he found me on instant messenger and again got a little bit belligerent about my pacing. He told me early in the conversation that he'd been on a date with a woman from his work yesterday. He told me that he doesn't really like her but that he feels like he needs to be in a relationship so he's probably going to date her. He complained about how people weren't responding quickly enough to his overtures on the dating site. He also told me that he has interviewed "over 1,000" people related to his work so he can judge people on the first date. He was anxious to have a date with me so he can put me under this microscope and decide if I'm worth dating. It was not a very good vibe.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wonder Woman Dating

I adore this illustration by Alex Heberling. Check out the rest of her blog and look here for more fat Wonder Woman illustrations. I've always loved Wonder Woman and it's nice to see her look so joyful even though she's a big beautiful woman.

But back to the dating stories!

Sometimes I feel like it takes a superhero to keep at the internet dating. I've been juggling a few guys through chat programs and phone calls and a few more first dates. Keeping all the details straight is a lot of work. I'm thinking that I may need a database or to create files on each of them but I'm not really that organized of a person.

After a few more conversations with A from the previous post I decided that I definitely didn't want to go out with him again. He was really just interested in a sex partner both online and in person. I guess I should have expected that a bit since he came from Craigslist.

I had a brief first date with another guy last night. We met for a cup of coffee after conversing by email quite a bit. He was sweet and attractive and I enjoyed meeting him. He works many evenings so it's difficult to find a time to get together again. He wanted to see me tonight but I wouldn't agree to meet him after he got out at 11 pm. He wanted to come over here but I just wasn't comfortable with that and he couldn't come up with an alternative except walking around a closed park. That didn't seem like a great idea with a man that I've only met briefly once. I suggested that we make a plan for another night but he seemed unwilling to do so. Next I suggested lunch on the weekend but he said he had to practice his music and would be too busy. He was clearly disappointed that I wouldn't meet tonight. I thought about suggesting a bar or a diner but I was frustrated with his unwillingness to make a plan for the future. Is it asking too much to make plans for a date? I'm not looking for a fuck-buddy here so if you want to date me you're going to have to come up with a time we can meet in public or at least in the daylight.

I'm feeling like a bit of a fuddy-duddy (and maybe by using that word I'm proving that I am!) I am a fairly sexual person but it takes me a bit to get to a point where I'm comfortable in that realm and I have unfortunately had a few bad experiences that make me cautious about protecting myself when meeting people I don't know very well.