DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m what you may describe as a “late bloomer” to the dating world. I’m a 29 year old woman who never went out on any kind of date in middle/high school, never even kissed a guy until I was 23 (b.t.w. still a virgin, but that’s a whole other topic). I’m extremely shy and introverted, preferring to spend my nights home watching my favorite anime shows, browsing the internet, going out for walks around my neighborhood, etc. I do occasionally go out with my friends on the weekends, but that tends to be the exception, not the rule.
So my question is, about a year ago, I was set up with a guy that some friends of mine thought would really click with me. He was a total geek like me, shy (i.e. he needed a couple of shots and a can of beer before I even arrived to be able to talk to me), hadn’t been serious with anyone for about a year since breaking up with his last girlfriend. Lo and behold, we did end up clicking that night! When we made plans for dinner for the following week, I was ecstatic; I felt like, finally, I was entering the dating world! Our next date consisted of dinner and later a really loud bar. We ended up dating for about 6 months, and I thought things were great for the first few months, but… then I realized, that I wasn’t sexually attracted to him.
To be fair, I didn’t have any initial sexual feelings for him when we first met, and nothing seemed to develop for the 6 months we dated, but I thought I would give him a chance, see where it would go. I wanted to see if I could look past the things that kind of bugged me, like how he was a chatterbox due to the fact that he was “nervous and felt like he needed to impress me”. Coo, I understand, but there’s nothing wrong with silence every now and then. About 5 months into our relationship, make-out sessions turned into what I would describe as “heavy petting”, but still no penetration. Truth be told, I’m still not entirely sure that I was ever ready for even going as far as we did, but I had a hard time saying no to him, since it technically wasn’t sex, and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. However, I think that the main reason that I wasn’t attracted to him (and I feel like such a bitch admitting this) was because he was overweight.
I’ve struggled with body image issues myself (I was a loner in high school, never felt like I was good enough to go out with anyone), so I know how it feels to be the “fat, lonely loser” (his words, not mine). I recently lost about 20 pounds, and have adapted a healthier lifestyle (watching what I eat, try to get enough exercise, etc.). He, on the other hand, couldn’t cook for himself (I mean, he literally burnt microwavable foods on a regular basis), was content to eat out every night, and thought of gas station food as the main staple of his diet. Near the end of our relationship, I was afraid that our lifestyles would not mesh, and that I would end up adapting his lifestyle and returning to that person who I never wanted to be again. I was seriously depressed at my heaviest, which is part of the reason that I have that fear of regaining all that weight and then some.
With all the body-positive images that are so prevalent these days, it makes it even worse for me when my jerk-brain tells me that I’m heartless for dumping this guy just because we didn’t click sexually (which is a BIG deal-breaker, I know, but still), and that I wasn’t physically attracted to him. I know that movie/TV characters are/can be fan-service (for both female as well as male fans), and that the male definition of “perfection” is a lie fed to us by the media, and I feel that these messages are contributing to egging my brain on to drag me down into the dumps about not feeling it for this guy. Or am I really heartless who could’ve/should’ve let the relationship go on for just a little longer to see if my feelings would change?
I’d greatly appreciate any insight as to whether I’m really heartless or not over this.
Just Too Picky?
DEAR JUST TOO PICKY: There’s a difference between things like body positivity and being sexually attracted to every body type, JTP. Now you’re correct: the idea of a “perfect” or “ideal” body type is literally marketed to us, in a multitude of ways. What we consider to be “attractive” is not only incredibly variable but also culturally and socially influenced; you only have to look at the way art portrayed “ideal” body types over the ages to see how much people’s visions of beauty have changed. Sometimes those changes have come because of cultural exchange – when two cultures meet and influence one another. Other times, those changes have been deliberately introduced. Western women, for example, rarely cared about shaving their armpits until Gillette decided to make it an issue in order to sell more razors.
Part of the point of the body positivity movement is to recognize that there are a wide multitude of body shapes, sizes and types out there, none inherently more or less beautiful or better than others. But that doesn’t also mean that everybody needs to be attracted to all types or else be a hypocrite. Even when we acknowledge the attractiveness of different body types, we all are going to have our personal preferences. Some men like petite women, some like them to be more voluptuous and others like women with Amazonian physiques. Some women like the Chris Hemsworth beefcake, some like their men to be thicc and some like them skinny.
Now, it’s a good idea to interrogate why you find certain body types and features attractive; sometimes those interests have more to do with cultural messaging then our actual desires; many guys who like bigger women, for example, will often repress that desire because society tells us that large women are unattractive. Therefore, liking BBWs is shameful somehow. But sometimes what you like is just what you like; there’s no harm or foul there. Everyone’s gonna have their preferences.
All that having been said: there’s more going in here than just the fact that your boyfriend was overweight. As much as the two of you had in common, you also had some incompatibilities right from the get-go. You mentioned in your letter that there were things from the beginning that you were trying to overlook. If there are aspects to his personality or his habits that annoy you when you’re still in the honeymoon period of your relationship… well, those aren’t something that’s going to get any better as things go along.
And then there’s the fact that you two had different outlooks on life that couldn’t really mesh. The fact that you want to live a more active, healthier lifestyle while he was living on a diet of junk food, for example, is a pretty big indicator of different and incompatible values. That doesn’t make your values better than his, but it does mean that the two of you just weren’t going to work out in the long run.
Look, it’s good that you feel concern about whether it was his physique that was turning you off, but let’s be honest here. You spent half a year giving this dude a chance and it just never clicked. That’s not the mark of someone who’s heartless and shallow, that’s someone who was trying to give a guy a chance and let him grow on her. It just didn’t work. Taken all together, I think it’s fairly safe to say that while you weren’t necessarily digging his body, that wasn’t the only issue you had. You two just weren’t right for one another. And there’s nothing wrong with that. You gave it a try, you learned from it, and now you’re both free to find someone who does click with you.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I was on the phone with my brother and his girlfriend the other day. At one point in the conversation his girlfriend told me that she posted a vacation pic of the three of us online. Part of the caption had a joking mention that, BTW I was single. I was excited when she said that 2 girls responded. I felt down when see said they were either fat or not too great looking. I know I’m being judgmental, but I want more attractive women in my life. Is it bad to have standards like that? I’m an average-to-pretty good looking guy. I could work out some more but I’m in no way obese or anything.
When I expressed my dismay at what my bro’s girlfriend said, she told me that I need to carry myself better and not care and be so worried about what girls think of me. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT STEPS TO TAKE TO CARRY MYSELF BETTER. Right now it feels impossible to not care about what women, or anyone else is thinking about me. I get what she means though. I’m not a very confident in my day to life. At least I don’t feel truly confident on the inside. I hate myself most days. I don’t know. I’m lost. I thought working out was the answer, but I know thats only skin deep. I want to be a good person.
What can I do?
DEAR SKIN DEEP: First things first, SD: it’s not bad to want hot women to be interested in you, but don’t bag on women showing interest in you just because you don’t feel like they’re up to your standards. The fact that there are women you may not find attractive who think you’re the bee’s knees and the badger’s nadgers isn’t an insult or a mark against you. It’s not a though only hot women are allowed to thirst after Chadwick Boseman, y’know?
But let’s talk about attitude. Part of what holds a lot of folks back is their mental state and how they feel about themselves. Our perception shapes our reality; when you don’t believe in your own attractiveness or your own worth, then you end up making it impossible to find love. You won’t believe that other people could possibly find you worthwhile or desirable. You’ll come up with reasons to dismiss or ignore people who do want what you have to offer – she couldn’t possibly be into you, she just pities you or is trying to use you. She’s not interested in you, you must be misreading things. Why should you go talk to her; she’s only going shoot you down.
That negativity is unattractive at best, and if left unchecked, can turn toxic. The incel community is an example of that negative outlook taken to it’s extreme; it encourages hatred, not just of themselves but of everyone else too.
Now it sounds to me like you’ve got a bit more going on than just low self-confidence. If it really is a case that you hate yourself most days, then it’s entirely possible that you’re dealing with a form of depression. One of the ways that depression manifests itself is in the idea that you’re worthless and there’s no point to anything. That can turn into self-hate pretty easily.
Before you start working on building your sense of value and your internal validation, I think you should talk to a therapist. Think of it as repairing the foundation of your sense of self; talking to a mental-health professional will help you overcome that sense of self-hatred and give you the techniques that will help you recognize that you deserve to feel good about yourself and that you’re deserving of love and affection. It’s like the sage says: if you can’t love yourself, how the hell can you love anyone else?
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)