I’ve said this on the blog many times, but I’ll say it again – I was an ugly duckling growing up. I was nerdy girl who wore glasses and had a big forehead. I wasn’t considered a cute or beautiful child, and I carried this feeling of ugliness and unattractiveness with me from an early age. At 14 the puberty fairy blessed me and woke up one day with breasts, hips and an ass. I went from zero attention to an insane amount of attention I couldn’t handle, but I still viewed myself as ugly and fat. At 17 I was 130 pounds with a 13 inch difference between my waist and hips,but it was years before I realized that was a good thing. All I knew was that I wore a larger size than my friends to accommodate my hips and booty, and therefore, I was fat. For most of my life I viewed myself as either ugly or simply not cute/pretty/beautiful. I received attention, mostly for my body, which didn’t help my self-image at all. Actually, knowing that men just saw me as body parts and an object of lustful desire may have made my self-image issues worse. Sure men wanted to sleep with me, but I never felt that I was desired to be a man’s mate, the woman he loved and proudly showed off.
Reaching my late 20’s helped me feel more comfortable with who I was and what I looked like. I still have body issues but I finally began to appreciate how I looked. I recognized that my natural hourglass shape was a blessing. I looked at my face and found it appealing, instead of agonizing over the flaws I used to see. I began to have true confidence, I wasn’t just faking it like I had in the past. Sure I’ve always been confident in my intelligence and accomplishments, but confidence from physical appearance was a new thing. And it felt good. Therapy helped me a lot, and I was able to look at myself, flaws and all, and appreciate what I saw.
I was carrying that confidence when I decided to take another plunge in the online dating pool. I was really digging a guy I met in Baltimore, but I wanted to go on some local dates…and I also needed a distraction or two. I realized I still had an OKcupid profile, so I updated it with new info and pics, and started getting messages. Most of them were deleted immediately, but one guy got a response, which led to another and another. He seemed like a good candidate – cute, funny, educated, etc. He asked me out and I accepted. Our first date was dinner, and when I walked in he told me I was beautiful in the first 5 minutes. Throughout the night, he remarked how I was more attractive than my photos and how surprised he was that I was single (btw guys, please stop doing that. It’s not really a compliment). After dinner we went down the block for drinks, and the compliments just kept coming. I enjoyed the date, so when he asked me out for that weekend, I happily accepted. Date 2 was another compliment party, with him raving about my body, my face, etc. I was so flattered, I hadn’t heard those types of compliments often so it was great to hear.
My phone rang a few days after Day 2, it was the OKCupid guy. I thought he was calling to make plans for our next day, but he had other plans. We made a little small talk and then he dove into the real purpose of his call.
“So I’ve been thinking, and I don’t think we’re very compatible. It’s probably best that we not go out again” he said.
“Ok…so you say we’re not compatible. I’m sorry you feel that way. Can you tell me why?”
“You’re nice and all but I think you should stop dating until you’re less fat. You should spend your time working on your body and getting fit.”
The moment the words came out of his mouth, tears sprang to my eyes. I think he kept talking but I didn’t hear anything else after it because my hand dropped away from my ear. I found the button and pressed End, hanging up the call. I’d heard enough. I was so in shock and I needed someone, anyone, to know what was just said to me and reassure me that I wasn’t crazy & that I was just subjected to a very rude person. So I tweeted what happened. My first response came from one of those Twitter popular people whose main reason for living is to get RTs and LOLs on Twitter – so of course he made an extremely rude comment as well. The rest of Twitter was much more supportive, trying to reassure me that the guy was a jerk, an asshole, rude, insensitive, etc. I also got several “but you aren’t that big!” and “lots of guys like big girls” comments…which also felt like backhanded compliments, but I get that people were trying to be helpful. While I shared with Twitter, the guy texted me, apologizing for the way he said what he said, and claiming that he forgot that most people weren’t as thick-skinned as he was. I pointed out to him that he wasn’t apologizing for believing that I was too fat to date him or anyone else…he was apologizing for his wording. He truly didn’t feel that he had done anything wrong.
That night I cried myself to sleep. For weeks afterward, each time I retold the story I broke down in tears when I reached the part where I repeated the line about not dating until I’m less fat. Even now, as I write this, I shed a couple of tears. The tears were never about the guy. They weren’t even really about what he said. It was that he tapped into my deepest insecurity and the thing I hate the most about myself. I carry around shame and guilt about my size and a lot of my fear of being an old maid is rooted in this idea that I won’t get chose because I’m bigger than I want to be. All the things I think and feel about myself and my body were thrown back at me by someone else. And that hurt a lot. Plus it’s just an incredibly rude and mean-spirited thing to say to someone. Like really? Is anyone ever too fat to date?
In one night, all that confidence I’d built up was washed away. I stopped feeling good about myself. I went back to seeing every flaw and wishing I had the willpower to stick to anything that would help me be smaller. My entire demeanor and energy changed. I lost my smile, my charm, my ability to flirt with men that came naturally. I felt ugly and like a failure and it manifested in the energy I projected. My friends call me a man magnet, but for months after that comment, I couldn’t meet a guy if I tried. My energy was all off and I knew it. I lost my mojo…but I didn’t know how to get it back. I felt like a different person, not my usual flirty self. I felt unattractive and fat and ugly. This went on for months and I worried I’d never get my energy back. The longest winter ever ended and I began venturing out again, and yet I still received no attention, which was new for me. I worried that I would never get it back. What would I do then?
My energy change came in a most unexpected place – DC. I spent the weekend before my birthday in the DMV, hanging out with old friends and making new ones at the cookout, a big tweetup event. I spent the weekend socializing, having fun and making friends. I was surrounded by genuine people and for the first time in my life I received a lot of compliments. I heard I was beautiful, pretty, gorgeous, sexy, and funny so many times that weekend, and after. These weren’t hyperbole or attempts at flattery, I could feel the sincerity from each person. And that made me feel so good. It made me feel ok.
After almost 30 years of not hearing that I’m beautiful or pretty or gorgeous, it feels so good to hear it now. Knowing that other people see me that way has helped me refocus my energy on my assets, instead of my flaws. I feel desirable again. I feel that I’m worth it.
When I didn’t expect it, I found my confidence.