Talking about looks is hard. It seems that, when we talk about the way we look, we’re either perceived as fishing for compliments or seen as being vain. But I want to dive into the subject and hope you can avoid those assumptions, hope we can avoid the stigma associated with talking about looks.
I get messages on online dating sites all the time commenting on the way I look. My pictures are not risque or inappropriate by any stretch of the imagination. I am not in a bikini or even in a low-cut shirt in any of my pictures. But in just one day, I got these treasures:
Don’t be confused. I have my body issues and insecurities just like everyone else. Mostly, they center around my weight. But I went and talked to my doctor and she told me I’m not fat, I’m just ‘above average.’ And we all know what an overachiever I am.
Now, there’s lots of studies alleging to prove that men are very visual creatures. And people who post pictures on their online dating profiles are more likely to get messages. I mean, would you want to go on a date with someone and have absolutely no clue what they look like? Probably not. Heck, if an online dating site matches me 100% with a guy and he has no picture, I won’t message him. Period. I don’t care if he’s my soul mate. My soul mate would have posted pictures.
But why does our first communication with someone have to be solely about appearance? Why can’t someone comment on the content of my profile? There’s a lot on there. Like about how I’m awesome at color coordinating outfits. And how I make super delicious waffles. And about my board game expertise. These are pretty much all the things men look for in a woman, right? Right?
It’s funny, I have a number of guy friends who read my blog. When they see a silly or ridiculous picture I post on Facebook, one friend often comments that I should put it on my online dating profile. Now, I’m absolutely not trying to pick on this friend, but it’s an interesting phenomenon. If I post a picture that might be traditionally unflattering or where I’m making a funny face, it’s instantly sarcastically flagged as a picture too unappealing for dating sites. But if I’m a silly-face-making person, wouldn’t I want to date someone who would find my ridiculous, absurd, childish faces endearing? Why must all of my pictures be glamorous or serious, if I don’t see myself as a glamorous, serious person?
The reason I wanted to talk about this is I’ve noticed a lot of attention on social media to “catcalling” recently.
Today, I went to drop off a box of donations to the Goodwill by my house. As I handed the employee the box, he looked at me and said, “My, you’re very pretty.” As young women, many of us have been taught to just smile and say, “thank you.” I spent so many years rejecting compliments and being told to just accept it and be polite, that my response was a sort of laugh and then a quiet, “thank you.” That man stared at me the entire time I walked back to my car and drove away.
So what exactly is catcalling? Well, Urban Dictionary says it’s “A loud whistle or a comment of a sexual nature made by a man to a passing woman” (but obviously you have to take that with a grain of salt). The internet lit up when a young woman called “Lindsey” started secretly recording men who catcalled her, and handing out cards telling the men about street harassment. I kind of think she’s awesome, but take a look for yourself:
In response, Doree Lewak wrote a article for the New York Post called, “Hey, Ladies — Catcalls are flattering! Deal with it.” But Doree seems to have all the self-confidence in the world. For those of us a little less self-absorbed, a catcall can seem down-right threatening. I have walked to my car late at night and had a man shout after me. I don’t know if he’s just catcalling, or if he’s now going to try to follow me back to my car, or worse.
In a response, a USA Today article says catcalls are never a compliment, creating fear in women.
So where’s the line? Is catcalling a “thing” on online dating?
The co-founder of OK Cupid says while men are okay dating average-looking women, they still shoot for the super-models of online dating. And if what men are drawn to is looks, then I suppose a certain kind of man will comment on the way someone appears from the get-go. Although it does frustrate me when I get a message asking a question that’s clearly explained in my profile. Did you just look at my picture and shoot me a message?
Of course, online it’s easier to simply ignore someone or delete their message, whereas on the street you’re forced to endure the comments until you’re out of earshot or they stop. And I’m sure some women do mean it as a compliment. In the past month, an elderly man I sing with in the church choir told me I’m beautiful, and a high school student I know said something similar. But I’m not offended or taken aback. I take the compliment in the light in which it was intended. The difference is, I know the character of these men. When it comes to online dating, I don’t know these guys from Adam. I also don’t know Adam all that well. Who is Adam, anyway?
So, men… what should you say to a woman on online dating?
Say something personal. Talk about something you have in common, a tv show you both like, a favorite restaurant she likes that you’ve been meaning to try. Talk about the cute dog in her picture or what she did on that tropical vacation she posted pictures of.
But leave the “nice curves, baby” out of it.