DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am not a good looking person by any stretch of the imagination, at least not in the conventional sense of beauty. The thing is, when I’m using dating sites like OKCupid of Plenty of Fish, I can easily find girls I’m attracted to, both by their pics and their self-description. I will also be contacted by girls who are attracted to me, but whom I don’t find attractive in return. How do I remedy my own physical attractions (as physical as you can get online) to girls who aren’t interested and girls who are interested?
Also, this doesn’t just have to deal with girls on the web. I’ve had a similar problem with girls in the real world as well.
Man In The Mirror
DEAR MAN IN THE MIRROR: There’re a couple things to consider, MITM. First and foremost is that being good at online dating, especially in the post-Tinder era, is a separate skill from actually dating.
As swipe mechanics create an incentive of shallow, superficial browsing, knowing how to make yourself stand out and capture people’s attention as they’re idly thumbing through Tinder is a skill, and one a lot of folks never fully cultivate.
It can seem a bit odd to separate it out like that, but making connections on dating apps, especially ones with swipe mechanics, is very much a multi-disciplinary skill that goes beyond just “be attractive; don’t be unattractive”. Looking good in photos, for example, isn’t about being blessed with the right cheekbones and a certain level of facial symmetry; it’s about knowing framing, understanding lighting and make-up, how to pose and present yourself to the camera and how to create a connection between you and the person looking at the final results.
There’s a reason why there’re literally thousands of conventionally attractive people who never work as models; they may have appealing facial features, but they don’t have the other skills that come together to make themselves leap out of that photo.
And that’s before we get into the differences between how men and women use dating apps.
So the fact that some of the people you’re into aren’t matching with you doesn’t mean that you’re not attractive. Clearly you are, seeing as you’re getting attention from other women. It’s more likely some aspect of your profile isn’t clicking with them or catching their eye in the right way or there’s some aspect of your profile that signals an incompatibility. Gauging your objective attractiveness by how people respond on dating apps is like trying to decide who’s the most delicious by who gets taken down by a leopard first; that’s just not how things work.
Now some of this can be an in-person issue too. You don’t say if you’re actually approaching the women you find attractive, or if you’re looking for spontaneous attention from them before you talk to them. Similarly, you don’t say if these women you’re not into are approaching you unprompted, or if you’re just catching signals from them that you’re not seeing from the other women. It’d be helpful if you’d included that information, since that could tell us more about just what the problem could be, or if there even is a problem.
But one thing I can tell you is that it sounds like you’re hoping for quick or even instant attraction, which… well, that’s not exactly how things work. Yeah, we can tell at a glance if we find somebody sexy, but as a general rule, we don’t date based on love at first sight. More often than not, we date people we’ve gotten to know over time; propinquity has far more to do with who we choose to date than “seeing that sexy somebody looking at us from across the bar”.
And no, dating apps don’t disprove this; there’re reasons why most first dates off dating apps tend to never lead to anything. There are so many factors that affect who we are or aren’t into that can’t be detected over text or even video chats; we only can truly experience them in person. First dates off the apps are often more about figuring out whether there’s actual compatibility and enough we find the other person interesting enough to spend more time getting to know them.
So one of the things I would suggest is to worry less about trying to get instant results – like getting a phone number or date from someone you just met – and more about getting to know people over time. Exposure and familiarity will do much more for building attraction and interest as people get a chance to know you and vice versa. If nothing else, it’s much easier to improve your love life when you get comfortable talking with the women you find attractive without being overwhelmed by the feeling that her looks give her status over you. Being able to connect with people as people is incredibly attractive. If you aren’t flustered by talking to Hottie McHotterson and feel like you need to be Perfect Tommy to get a date, then you’ll do a hell of a lot better. Plus, getting to know her without the self-imposed pressure to Get The Date will mean that you can spend time finding out whether she is worth your time and if she has more going for her than just being good looking
And incidentally, I’d suggest applying that same outlook – getting to know folks beyond how tight your pants get when you first see them – with the women who seem to be showing interest in you. Not because you need to “settle” or date women who’re more your speed, but because you might be surprised by them if you got to know them.
Plus: you’d be amazed at just how that “enh, not bad” woman at the gym or the bookstore turns into wolf-whistle-jaw-drop-lip-bite when she’s gotten dolled up to go out.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com