Cultural Appropriations · Rants For Thought

Lowered Expectations: The Experience of Dating While Fat

Years ago, Mad TV used to have a skit called “Lowered Expectations”. It made fun of video dating ads, and usually had someone who was considered “weird” or “undesirable” creating an unintentionally funny video to place on a dating website or program. I used to laugh a lot at this, because at the time, it seemed funny. Now, in my 30s, I realize that dating really is like an episode of “Lowered Expectations” – because when you don’t look like a poster child for society’s idea of beauty, it’s like trying to hit a dartboard blindfolded.

I’ve never been a pretty girl, and I’m not a pretty woman. I’m not thin, for starters. I don’t have perfect bouncy hair and I don’t have even features or a beautiful face. I’m pretty average, and being fat, I’ve been told some pretty unbelievable things when it comes to dating. It’s insinuated that if you’re not perfect, you should get ready to settle for whoever pays attention to you. Street harassment is supposed to be seen as a compliment. You’re supposed to be happy if someone leans creepily over you in a bar and tries to chat you up, and if that attention is unwanted, you’re looked upon as strange or ungrateful. “What more do you want?” I’ve been told. “Someone’s paying attention to you, shouldn’t you be happy?”

Conversely, you’re expected to grin and bear it when prettier friends grab the attention of someone you’re interested in. Feeling jealous or upset is considered stupid, since you would have never had a chance with that person, anyway. You’re expected to simply shrug off when you start talking to someone at a bar and they look at you with thinly-veiled disgust or do their best to move away from you to get to better-looking people. It’s as if living with a less-than-perfect face and body means that you’re some kind of social pariah. I’ve gotten so used to being looked upon with indifference, at best, and disgust, at worst, that hanging out at bars means that I just stick with my friends. If I do get any attention, it’s generally unwanted, because the person is giving me a bad or creepy vibe. Generally, this is proven to me later when they won’t leave me alone, demand unwanted contact, or want to buy me a drink and expect to go home with me. I don’t generally look for that sort of experience, and I think it’s kind of gross that I’m expected to “suck it up” because “that’s what people do at bars” and “you’re not in any position to pick and choose.”

I do like talking to people and meeting people at bars, and I don’t go in thinking that I’m going to be looked upon as the uglier accessory to make my pretty friend look better, someone to overlook and snub like I’m a guard dog to “protect” her. By the end of the night, however, that’s how I feel. And if I don’t pay attention to the people making me feel uncomfortable, I’m looked upon as too picky and ungrateful, when really, I just want to be respected and treated like a human being.

In short, I feel like I can’t win when it comes to dating, and I’ve become a little bitter and jaded about it.

I’m told to “go on dating websites”. I did that, and met someone that I thought I could start a relationship with. When the first date turned sour and I experienced some unwanted touching and kissing which didn’t stop when I said no, I was told that I’m too much of a prude, and I should take what I can get. I wasn’t told this by the person I went on the date with – I was told this by friends whom I thought would listen and provide commiseration. So my question is, why do I have to settle because I’m fat? Why do I have to accept a less-than-stellar dating experience because of the way I look?

I don’t feel like I have to lower my standards and expectations because I don’t look like that girl over by the bar. I feel like I can meet someone that will respect me and that will connect with me, no matter how I look. However, I don’t feel that society feels like that’s an option for me. I’m expected to shut up and take what I can get. Lowered expectations.

It bothers me that fat and ugly people dating is considered funny. Even if you don’t find a certain person attractive, why is it hilarious to think that they might want to find love and companionship? Converse to what some people seem to think, fat folks have feelings. They are often struggling with knowing that they’re undesirable in the world. Some have self-confidence issues that are proven over and over when they’re laughed at for trying to date or told that being whistled at on the street is the best they’re going to get. And the worst is being told that we could have a relationship if only we improved ourselves. Lost weight, put on more makeup, tried to do something with our hair. Wore different clothes. Acted more confident. As if we, ourselves, are just not enough.

I guess most of the time, according to society, we’re not.

I have found lasting relationships with people who looked past the way I look and into my heart and mind. I’ve connected with people on deeper levels and enjoyed being loved. I know it can happen. I just wish it wasn’t so hard. I also wish there weren’t so many roadblocks being thrown up. Look better. Act better. Take what you can get. Accept most of the world finds you ugly and disgusting. Accept most people think of you dating and laugh at the idea. Accept you’re not going to find love, and if you do, it’s probably a fluke.

I refuse to accept that.

Finding love and companionship isn’t just for pretty people. They struggle with self-esteem issues, too. And if they can find love, so can less-than-gorgeous people. We’re not jokes, disgusting, ugly, or anything else, and anyone who wants to make us feel that way isn’t worth our time.

We don’t have to lower our expectations and standards. We can look past the way people look, how awkward they might feel, and into their hearts. We don’t have to accept unwanted attention because we’ll never get anything else. We deserve respect. We are human beings, just like everyone else in society.

We are enough, just the way we are.


9 thoughts on “Lowered Expectations: The Experience of Dating While Fat

  1. A friend of mine retweeted your tweet about this article and I read it. I do agree that people treat people unfairly, but what sticks out to me most about your article are the fact that you don’t find yourself to be beautiful. I’ve never seen you before and I flipped around and looked at your photos and girlfriend, you’re gorgeous. And… what does being fat have to do with being attractive? You say, “I’m not a pretty woman. I’m not thin, for starters.” That’s not a precursor to unattractiveness. Let me say it again, YOU ARE GORGEOUS. I’m looking right at your picture now. The other thing I want to point out is that these people who think you should settle or talk to creepy people in bars… who are these people? Do they think they’re your friends? Get away from them! Those are not friends. I severely dislike those people for being horrible and treating you like that. There are better people out there than all of the people you mentioned. You deserve better and don’t let anyone tell you different.

    I do realize that you are saying that very thing in this article, but I’m disgusted that people would treat anyone that way. I’m a large woman and I’ve never had one bit of trouble getting dates, receiving attention (both good and bad,) or finding friends who love and support me. I’m certainly no better than anyone else, but when someone meets you, or anyone else for that matter, and they fall in love with that person, I guarantee that it has nothing to do with physical appearance. If it does, then it’s not real anyway. By societies standards, we may not be the type of girl the “everyperson” finds attractive, but who is this “everyperson” anyway? I urge you and anyone else feeling like you to know your self worth, exude the beauty, charm, and intelligence that makes you uniquely you. Embrace your SELF and offer it up to the world and take note… there are people noticing your beauty every single day and you’re missing them. Trust me on this. You’ve got something special and beautiful about you and I can see it from here!

    1. You’re right. Fat isn’t a precursor to being unattractive. That just goes to show how society has gotten into my head, too. Thank you for this wonderful comment ❤ It made my night.

  2. I agree with Cheryl. I don’t think you give yourself enough credit. You’re really very lovely!! If people don’t want to accept you, that’s their failing, not yours–though I think that’s something you accept from what you’ve said above and it doesn’t make being rejected hurt any less.

    Still, from where I stand, it’s better to be smart than pretty, anyway–it’s something that makes me feel better when I’m feeling particularly out of sorts with my looks. 🙂 It’s sad that society doesn’t do more to perpetuate the idea that a beautiful mind is better than a beautiful body. We would be a much less self-conscious society if it did. And, frankly, the American Medical Association classifying fat as a disease isn’t doing anything to help those of us who already feel worthless about ourselves.

    By the way, my sister is thin and pretty, and she hasn’t had any luck with dating sites either–she’s picky and doesn’t feel like she has to settle, but she’s also a pretty strong personality, which I think turns men who just want a “booty call” away. Most of the guys she meets on there want her to sleep with them, or send them naked pictures, and she’s just not into that. Even Christian dating sites have been a dismal failure for her and you’d think those who classify themselves as Christians would be most likely accept people the way they are. But no, even they are sadly judgmental.

  3. On one level I dig the “you’re beautiful the way you are” sort of responses to articles about fat-shaming, but they also bug me. For one thing, as a fat chick, it ends up making me feel like a bit of a dismissal of the reality in which I live. It’s similar when I tell someone I’m fat and they go, “no you’re not.” Like, look I’m 5’3″ and over 200 lbs; I am objectively fat…telling me “no you aren’t,” just makes me feel like my experience as a fat person is being dismissed.

    Also, these sorts of comments often end up making me feel guilty for having “let” the shit society says about fat people “get to me.” I end up thinking that if I were only stronger or more self-confident or if I just didn’t care as much about other people’s opinions, then I’d be fine…and it’s my fault for not being those things. (Same as it’s “my fault” for being fat). But everyone cares about what other people think of them to one degree or another. The problem isn’t that I need a thicker skin; the problem is that my appearance needs to stop being a source for ridicule.

    Which brings me to the next problem I have. Saying “you’re beautiful the way you are,” STILL places value/importance on one’s appearance, which is hugely problematic…particularly when it comes to women. And saying “you’re beautiful even though you’re fat,” still upholds the problematic system in which there even is something which can be considered objectively a beauty standard.

  4. As for a response to the article itself, yeah it’s damn tough to negotiate the dating world while fat. The thing I always keep in the back of my head, though, is that really it would be “settling” if I actually ended up with someone who didn’t really want to date a fat woman. I mean, for me, I don’t actually want to be with someone who finds my appearance off-putting.

    I think “settling” is actually a highly personal and individual concept. For me “settling” would mean an entirely different thing than it would for my sister, for example. My sister’s ideal, would actually be “settling” for me.

  5. There are so many things in what you posted that make me sad that I’m not sure where to begin. No woman on the planet is the ideal, because men are just as varied in their opinion of beauty as women are varied in their looks. There are women who spend millions on their looks to fit the ideal and still fail because it DOESN’T EXIST! And the unfortunate truth is that women in our society no matter what they look like are all expected to be flattered by male attention of any form, whether it’s catcalls or drunken attempts at a booty call, because our culture still expects a woman to value herself mostly by how she looks. This isn’t a skinny/fat ugly/pretty thing, this is part of being a woman in America. If a pretty woman complains, she is usually told, “Yeah it must be so bad having all those men pay attention to you and want you, you have it so rough! boo-hoo-hoo.” If you have people in your life you call friends who tell you to appreciate or enjoy this, you need to redefine friendship to exclude those who try to lower your self-worth.

    Speaking of self-worth, the lack of it seems to be the common theme running throughout this whole post. Your value has everything to do with what you assign it to be, and nothing to do with how you look. You called yourself average and fat. If someone described himself as average and fat, how would you interpret his worth? You need to take a really serious look at how you speak about yourself and to yourself because there was not one positive thing that you said about yourself in this entire post. Not one. Our society spends it’s time tearing down our self-worth every day, leaving it to you to maintain your value and dignity and surround yourself with those who also do the same.

    I have seen those men (I call them creepers) at bars, and I can tell you that they sniff out low self esteem the way that a shark can smell blood from an injured fish a mile away. They will move from woman to woman, trying every one who seems vulnerable until they succeed. The solution to avoiding them is not to “seem more confident,” it is to BE confident. Confidence and it’s lack are evident in body language and are hard to fake. Find activities that you enjoy doing, not because you might meet someone, but because doing them makes you feel good about yourself. Make a point to tell yourself something positive several times a day and acknowledge when you have accomplished something of value and give yourself credit. You are the only person that can build you up. I have known many fat and less than ideal-looking women who exuded sex appeal and attraction because they rated themselves as valuable and attractive. You don’t need to “be more,”
    you need to stop seeing yourself as less.

    And what does “settling” mean to you? Some women are walking around single and lonely looking for Mr. Darcy to walk into their life, while others let their significant other beat the crap out of them believing that they can’t do any better and all of them are “settling.” If settling means letting go of the search for a fictional Prince Charming and finding a man attractive for the positive qualities he has while not holding him up to the standard of perfection, and he is respectful and loving to you, I say go for it!

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I don’t think I have ever talked to a man who was at the bar looking for a relationship and a woman to respect. Just starting out on that basis means you’re at a disadvantage to every girl there just looking to go home with someone. If your friends are among those girls and you aren’t, why are you at the bar with them? To get left behind? If so, you’re setting yourself up for unhappiness and feeling failure. I typically find that I’m happiest when I head out to the bar with a specific purpose in mind, playing pool, darts, going to see a band I like, and shifting the focus away from sitting around holding a drink and scanning the crowd for someone I might want to talk to.

  6. This was amazing – you’ve really inspired me so much and you’re actually really pretty! Don’t put yourself down because you really don’t realise how beautiful you really are! I’m currently in high school, and it’s sad to think that the mindsets of some of my peers now will never change and mature, self confidence is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I remember because I’m surrounded by thinner, prettier versions of myself and although I may not go to bars or nightclubs, I certainly do go to parties and outings with friends. And it really is the same thing, I’m expected to settle for an underdeveloped neanderthal groping me inappropriately because that’s ‘the best I can do’. I’ve always thought that it was wrong and misguided, and you’ve really helped me to cement that and to stand strong in my beliefs so again, thank you.

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