I don’t often talk about personal stuff on this blog, but I figured once in a while it might be good, so this is a post about how I’ve found it useful and helpful to navigate online dating as a fat woman. Nearly three years ago, I decided I didn’t want to have monogamous relationships anymore, for the simple reason that they didn’t suit me. This means, though, that even though I spent two and a half of the past three years in a relationship, I was still dating the whole time. I’ve had a lot of dates (a bitter regret of mine is that I never catalogued them, but I’ve easily had 200 or more first dates since 2010), and my dating style and approach has become improved and refined over time. My weapon of choice is OkCupid, because the design is great, I love the matching algorithm, and it seems to be the most populated by interesting, thoughtful, attractive people, and is especially dense with nonmonogamous folk.
Since my first tip is ‘be the boss’, and I hate doing a post without a picture, please enjoy this photo of a young Bruce Springsteen. You don’t need to be the Boss, though, just be your own boss.
Be the boss
Don’t be at the mercy of everyone else: ask out the people you fancy, not the people you think will fancy you. This is my most important piece of advice. For the first year and a half-ish that I was on OkCupid, I had loads of dates, but 99% of the time, I didn’t fancy the people I was meeting. Why? Because I was letting my fat fears rule my choices, and going, primarily, for the ‘sort of people’ I thought would want to date me. I wasn’t even thinking about what I wanted, beyond ‘are they, like, at least 40% attractive?’.
My own internalised fatphobia and anxieties about how other people perceive my body (often rightly-held, though always useful to unpack) were clouding my judgement to the extent to which I was not allowing myself to be an active agent in my own love life. Then one day I just thought ‘fuck it’ and started messaging the people I wanted to date. I took control of my dating fate, and took steps towards having the experiences I actually wanted. And, what do you know, my luck changed overnight. I can’t fully articulate how much more fun I started to have when I was the one doing the digging around for interesting people, proposing dates and meeting babes. It was so empowering, and is something I’m never going to let go of. It’s a cliche, but confidence is so sexy. More than that, people believe what they’re told: if you message someone you find hot, the vibe that surrounds that action is ‘we are a good match, we are on the same page, we are a good fit’. Take control of your own narrative.
I identify strongly with a tweet by my darling pal Leah, all in lower case, simply saying ‘do wot i want’. It makes me laugh and is a generally good mantra. I ‘do wot i want’ and there’s always been a steady stream of people to do that with me.
Have shots of your body
If you’re a fat who’s embarrassed about the fact she’s fat, it’s a natural instinct to want to only show carefully-posed selfies with flawless contouring to conceal it. In the long run, though, this will do you zero good. Before every date you’ll find yourself wondering ‘but do they know I’m fat? What if they’re such a shitty person that that’s a deal-breaker for them? What if they spot me outside the bar and do a runner?’. If you have photos showing your fat body is fat, you can at least be secure in the knowledge that anyone who arranges a date with you is pretty cool with that. Your body is great, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Being fat isn’t necessarily a miserable, abject experience, and the more you try to reinforce that with your behaviour, the truer it becomes. So proudly post your body shots alongside your flawless selfies, and the body-positive babes will come your way.
My dating profile makes various references to the fact I’m fat, but none of them are apologies. Nowhere on my profile do I beat myself up about being fat, or apologize in advance to the people that are going to meet me. You are a beautiful, exciting, interesting person and anyone would be honoured to date you. That’s almost certainly the truth, unless you’re a mean ol’ thing. Never apologize for taking up someone’s time, never be grateful that they’re on a date with you, never buy into the myth that they have the upper hand because you’re fat and you should be happy they turned up. They have as much of an obligation to be delightful and interesting as you to, and to be honest, if you’re dating men, then never forget how mediocre many men are allowed to be: you have nothing to worry about.
Use technology to your advantage
These are quite OkCupid-specific suggestions, which is possibly an indication as to why it’s the best site, but anyway. There are two really useful ways you can make OkCupid a more fruitful and pleasant experience for you as a fat. Firstly, if you’re not using Chrome, then get Chrome, then install this plugin. I’m not going to say it’s life-altering, but it is life-enhancing. Now I’m using the plugin, this is what appears when I go on the profile of someone nice (this example taken from a hot date of yesteryear, who clearly matches perfectly with all the things I find appealing in a partner!):
This means I can tell straight away that the person whose profile I’m looking at probably doesn’t hate fat people. Whereas! If I’m scrolling through my potential matches and think ‘Ooooh, looks cute, let’s check ’em out…’ and it turns out they’re a wrong ‘un, this is what I see at the top of the page instead:
This means the answers they’ve given on body type are B – A – D and they are not someone I want to date. This saves me the trouble of either blithely messaging them and wasting my precious typing energy (which I conserve for blogging and bitchy tweets), or having to trawl through the answers to their questions, looking for specific tweets about their attitudes to bodies. Basically, it streamlines the whole experience. You can customise the plugin to reflect things that are important to you, so obviously the ‘weight nondiscriminating’ category isn’t standard across everyone’s.
The plugin is free, but another thing that can enhance being a fat babe on OkCupid is having a paid account. It’s not actually super expensive, nothing on your profile exposes you as having a paid account, and in addition to all the other excellent benefits (being able to creep on people’s profiles without them seeing! knowing whether someone’s read your message or not!), you can filter your matches based on their answer to specific questions. So I’m now able to filter the list of people I see when I search for people in London, in the age range I prefer, who have answered positively to the two major questions that OkCupid uses to determine compatible body politics (If one of your potential matches were overweight, would that be a dealbreaker? and Can overweight people still be sexy?). If you’re someone who would prefer a partner that explicitly prefers fat people, you can search for people who have given that answer. Both the plugin, and the ability to search by answer to a question, are just great timesaving approaches, and mean I personally feel more secure as a fat woman doing online dating.
Personally, people who aren’t 100% positive about fat bodies are one of my hard limits. I’m not going to reward them for their bad politics by dating me. It’s not hard to rise above fatphobia, and if someone can’t do it, then I don’t want them to make a special exception just for me.
Don’t buy into the bullshit too much
Yes, fatphobia is rife, but no, it’s not literally everywhere. I’ve been dating at a range of fat sizes (like, a spectrum of 5 over the past few years), and none of them have prevented me from dating top-quality humans. A lot of people are a lot less motivated by oppressive body politics than fear might lead you to believe. You are attractive and worthwhile in your own right, but also in the eyes of other people, and being fat doesn’t dim the light on all your other amazing qualities (whether those are great hair, raucous laugh, excellent storytelling abilities, wicked cooking skills etc). Anyone worth dating will be able to see that, and will think your fat body is totally babely.
Go forth and date!
A lot of these tips and thoughts are transferrable to people who aren’t fat, but more specifically, my truly excellent friend Fornicatrix has written a similar post for sex workers, if you think that would be helpful to you.