The Denver Post once cited a survey that found women were most afraid of meeting a serial killer online, while men were most scared of meeting someone who was secretly fat.
Dating for me would be harder by default.
Even at my lowest weight, I fell comfortably and surely in the category of fat girl, solidifying myself there as a permeant resident even as my body fluctuated over the years. I knew before I ever started online dating that building an OkCupid and Tinder profile would be an exercise in how comfortable I was with my body, and how comfortable I was letting total strangers judge my worth on whether I was attractive or not.
But I couldn't even land a date IRL. Why would OkCupid or Tinder be any different? Each time I filled out a profile, or matched with someone new, I had to clarify what has always been the most important piece of my appearance – that I am definitely, certainly, fat.
I used to believe that if I never acknowledged my weight, people wouldn't notice that I was fat. But on a platform where appearance is everything, I understood I'd have to be honest with, and about, myself in a way I hadn't been forced to before.
While some men don't think twice about adding a few extra inches to their height and rarely get called out, I wouldn't have the luxury of being able to pretend I was more skinny than I was. If I didn't make the state of my body obvious, I would be considered dishonest, and also had the potential to make a man's biggest fear come true by blindsiding him with the real size of my thighs.
I am more than just my weight, and yet nothing would ever be as important.
Before signing up for OkCupid, I had never taken a full body shot of myself, not even the obligatory OOTD mirror selfie. My selfies were always taken from the shoulders up, and I considered them a form of self-appreciation; they were a celebration of the most attractive parts of me according to me.
On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it had never mattered that my body wasn't pictured in my uploaded photos, but I didn't have any choice when it came to my online profile. So, with my hair curled, a beat face, and my favorite outfit on, I took that full-length mirror selfie in my college bedroom, testing out angles and poses for my profile that made me look good but not too good.
Even though I didn't hate the way my body looked as much as I thought I would, there were other pictures I felt were prettier. But I placed those second in my profile's photo line-up, because it felt like something I was obligated to do. I had to be upfront about my fatness.
At first, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of messages and matches I received when my profiles went live. Each time a guy would reach out, I would somehow work into the conversation that I had just recently lost fifty pounds, but was still fat, just in case they couldn't tell from the photos I had uploaded.
A few would stop responding. Some would congratulate me and say that they appreciated my honesty. However, the overwhelming response was that they'd messaged me because of my big body. Most of the messages flooding my inbox touted how luscious my “booty” was and how much they loved a “thick” girl. They also claimed to be happy to find a “real woman” who wasn't a “bag of bones.”
If I didn't respond, some would grow hostile, and throw my fatness back at me. One wrote, “I don't care if you're bitchy and uptight, I'd still eat your ass” after I explained to him that I was interested in someone closer to my own age. Another was sure to tell me that I was an “ugly, fat tease” and made the astute assumption that I'd be “single forever” if I continued to be so “picky” after I took too long to respond to him.
Funnily enough, I had been in the middle of writing him back.
There was a lot of men who claimed to love fat women, and I was flattered – sort of.
It felt good to feel desired – sort of.
I quickly grew tired of only talking about my body, which was partly of my own making, but also seemed to be the only thing these men were interested in. I stopped responding to guys that opened with messages commenting on my appearance. Why didn't they want to talk about my favorite books? Or ask about my career? Why did every conversation have to be on the side of sexual?
I felt objectified, and more importantly, fetishized. All I had wanted while creating my profile was to meet someone new who accepted me and my body, but much like the men who simply didn't want to talk to me because I was fat, these men reduced me to nothing but the width of my hips, and that, I realized, was not what I wanted either.
But what did I want?
Turns out, online dating was the very beginning of a never-ending journey in my quest for self-love.
These days, I relish my curves, champion the cellulite that shows when I wear white jeans, and have done away with the fear that stopped me from wearing sleeveless shirts, short dresses, and anything high-waisted. I even started a YouTube channel, where my most viewed videos are those about my experience as a fat girl.
I've said goodbye to my dating profiles, deleted the apps, and stopped the search for love altogether. And not long after I did away with online dating, it occurred to me that my YouTube's inception wouldn't have happened if I hadn't spoken so openly about my body with my potential romantic partners.
OkCupid and Tinder gave me a forum to discuss my weight — it just wasn't the forum I was looking for.
I wanted the choice to talk about my body to be mine and mine alone, and I couldn't do that as I felt obligated to mention my size to avoid being branded as a “secret internet fatty” or a “catfish.” Now, not only do I take full body photos for my social media and my following, but I talk candidly and openly about plus-size fashion and film myself trying on clothes even when they aren't flattering. I love talking about my body – both its struggles and its successes.
I got what I needed from online dating as a fat girl – just not what I originally wanted. Now, I can control the conversations about my body, which is way more powerful than finding a man to love it.