First of all, Happy Belated Bday! We don’t know each other personally, but in my world, the story I tell myself is that we’re kindred spirits as women of color struggling to keep our heads above water with all the crap out there designed to keep us down.
Joke’s on them because we have awesome swan and donut floaties.
I’m writing to you because I’m in need of your sage counsel. I need your honest opinion.
So I’m currently on Tinder (I’m currently living in Mexico City) and I just went on a date with a dude who is witty, chatty, friendly and not creepy — catnip for an oversharing, sarcastic, no-filter, pun-making lady like myself. We get along well, have similar values and have good conversations about dating, light skin privilege and historical violence against women.
But here’s the but: I’m not physically attracted to the dude. He’s not typically “good looking” and I feel like an asshole. Not that I owe him anything for paying for dinner, or in general, but I feel guilty for not wanting something more with him because I don’t find him attractive. It was only a first date, but I can’t shake this shitty feeling that I’m perpetuating these unfounded ideals we have been conditioned to have around beauty and worth and attraction.
How much is my feeling of not being attracted to him founded in my personal taste and how much is my conditioning by our messed up society? I’m confused and I’d love your opinion.
Thanks for reading this far. I love reading your columns! They give me life!
Thanks for the birthday wishes, YES re: swan and donut floaties (we don’t die, we occupy … swimming pools) and yes we are kindred spirits. P.S. Mexico City is hella dreamy/don’t forget to go to Chilakillers on Avenida Revolucion in Tacubaya.
Soooo this question is so jui-cy! I love it.
I have many, many thoughts. To begin with, I want to say that the most important takeaway from today’s advice will be (as always): honor yourself, trust your instincts and be clear about your boundaries.
Let’s talk about instincts first.
As you seem to already know, “instincts” and “fucked up things we learn from the culture that feel like instincts but are actually just internalized oppression” are sometimes difficult to differentiate. Like, if you had no social training in racism/sexism/ableism/fatphobia etc., would you like this dude? I mean, we can’t answer that question. So let’s ask ourselves a more productive one: “is this person worth my time?” It sounds like the answer is yes, and in many ways, that’s the most important question you can ask yourself about anyone in your life, whether you’re gonna bone them or not.
Next: dating rights.
You have the right to date or not date who you want. My friend Shae taught me this and I love her for it: you’re allowed to pass on a good man. He might be Father Theresa, but if you decide you’re not into him you don’t need any other reason besides that. I know: revolutionary. We are taught we have to snatch up the first thing with a dick and an actual soul, but alas no, Boo. That’s some sexist scarcity propaganda.
Let’s talk about attraction now.
I don’t know about you, but for me, online dating is weird because attraction works differently in my brain when I’ve met someone online. Like the mechanics and process of attraction feel totally different when I meet people offline. I’m not trying to say that meeting people IRL is “better” or “more organic” (psh), I’m talking about how attraction happens when my first exchange with a person is offline vs. online.
So, for example, I’ve noticed that the men I’m attracted to online are completely different from the men I’m attracted to offline. Oddly (/not oddly) I’m more attracted to upper-middle-class white dudes when I’m online dating, and the men I’m attracted to offline are more often dudes of color with a working class background.
When I meet dudes online I’m mostly interacting with IMAGES of them, and it feels like the part of my brain that’s being activated is the mass media/television/magazines sensitized part. I find I am more visually discriminating when I’m picking partners online because our visual media is super fucked, and it seems that I’m engaging that heavily colonized part. Even when the exchange moved into a live date, I found that I brought those prejudices into the first date.
When I meet dudes offline, I find that my needs are entirely different. I’m looking for someone whose worldview resonates with me. Sure, I want a person whom I find attractive. Their physical selves are just one part of the interaction, though, and I don’t have to ask myself, “am I into this person?” I just feel it or I don’t.
What I’m getting as is this: sometimes when we meet someone online we are trying to gather all the data we need from one date. Meanwhile we’re also trying to hold onto our boundaries, question our interest, suss out whether we want them to be our Boo, make sure they’re not a cannibal, all while also trying to eat or drink margaritas (without spilling). In under 2 hours. This is, like, a lot.
Absolutely, there are people we meet for one date and know that we hate them. But in your case, I think your curiosity is piqued.
If I were you, I’d go on two more dates with him.
Here are the other things I would recommend:
- If he does something that really sets you off on date two, then you can totally never see him again.
- Set really clear boundaries with yourself about sexy times. Not to sound like a prude, but if I were you I’d take physical intimacy off the table while you’re deliberating — to honor you and also him.
- If you end up going on all three dates, take some time after the third date to audit your investment thus far. How have your feelings changed, if at all? Do you like him more/less/the same as the first date?
- Don’t force anything and take your goddamn time because, hey, you’re worth it.
Hope this helps!
Dear Virgie is a weekly advice column by Virgie Tovar, author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp, the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, November 2012) and the mastermind behind #LoseHateNotWeight. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality with a focus on the intersections of body size, race, and gender. Virgie has been featured by the New York Times, MTV, Al Jazeera, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine Online, and Bust Magazine. Find her at www.virgietovar.com.