Is there anything I should fix to increase my dateability?
December 13, 2011 11:11 PM   Subscribe

Is there anything I should fix to increase my dateability?

Hey everyone,

So I have a pretty long history of questions on MeFi. Unfortunately, most of them involve insecurities surrounding romance, dating, and sex. I wouldn't blame anyone for reading those questions and finding them annoying or superfluous. I wish I could say things have gotten better/ Actually, most of the time I never get around to a first date because most guys on the dating website I use don't respond to simple, friendly questions and I've all too often been in the awkward situation in which a straight female friend of mine (who does think I'm attractive and likable) tries to set me up with another gay male friend of hers but is told by said gay male friend that he's not interested.

I've brought up this issue with friends who say that I probably come off as desperate and eager with a billion insecurities. But that would make sense if I were having a hard time with second dates or developing relationships. The problem, though, is that I usually get turned down right off the bat or receive no response to a first message. I don't go after supermodels out of my league. I know that I look different and exotic, but I guess I didn't expect that this would hinder me as much as it has, especially since I live in a big city. Anyway, I'm considering plastic surgery in the hope that it will improve my dateability. My photos are below (I realise the risk of revealing one's physical identity here, but I'm willing to take it). If you think I might benefit from fixing something, then feel free to let me know. You can be honest. I'll be fine ;)

posted by cscott to Human Relations (65 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
In your pictures, you look fine. Plastic surgery looks like a very, very bad idea for you. The problem, if there's a problem, is not in how you look.
posted by pracowity at 11:18 PM on December 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

For what it's worth coming from a straight guy, I think you look perfectly fine. I see no reason to consider plastic surgery.
posted by Homo economicus at 11:22 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you happy with how you look? One should never undergo body modification merely to please others.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:26 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Straight woman here. I can't imagine that anyone would reject you for your looks. You look totally fine to me. Maybe you just aren't meeting people you click with?
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:27 PM on December 13, 2011 [8 favorites]

You're a very attractive guy. I don't know what you want to fix, but being more attractive is not your issue.

I've brought up this issue with friends who say that I probably come off as desperate and eager with a billion insecurities. But that would make sense if I were having a hard time with second dates or developing relationships.

Not true at all. Confidence comes through in the way you smile, the way you hold yourself, the way you look at someone and say hello. Yeah, it comes through messages and online profiles, too. When someone is deeply insecure it can come off very strong and yeah, is not that great.

I've gained a great deal of confidence in the past 3-4 years, and the difference it has made in my dateability is amazing. Though prior to that time I was more slender and conventionally attractive, I get a lot more positive attention right now and am able to make a better connection with people off-the-bat. Honestly, I can't overstate what a change it makes.

I think you need to work on gaining pride and happiness with yourself, as you are--that way you'll be able to project it and others will see the good in you as well.
posted by Anonymous at 11:28 PM on December 13, 2011

I think plastic surgery can be helpful when it corrects some kind of extreme physical characteristic that's so noticible people find it hard to look past. You know, an enormous nose or ears that stick out way too far. In those cases, the surgery lets people actually see you, instead of that one aspect of you.

Nothing about you needs surgery - I'd suggest that the dating trouble doesn't come from what you look like.
posted by twirlypen at 11:30 PM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

You really are very attractive.

I would instead focus on what's going on inside you - you've just discussed getting plastic surgery to make yourself more dateable. Love yourself first!
posted by mleigh at 11:34 PM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is not an issue that will be fixed with plastic surgery. This is an issue that will be addressed with therapy and possibly even meds - desperate is not attractive, desperate is not fixed with cosmetic surgery.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:38 PM on December 13, 2011

dude, considering plastic surgery here is a sign of so much insecurity that I wouldn't be at all surprised if it is coming through not only in your first messages, but in any profile you have created. You might be able to improve your self-esteem with therapy.
posted by jacalata at 11:50 PM on December 13, 2011 [22 favorites]

The problem, though, is that I usually get turned down right off the bat or receive no response to a first message.

In that case, and given the consistent answer you've gotten from every comment so far ("It ain't your looks"), maybe it would be more productive for you to set aside the photos and instead post a few samples of your "first message[s]." Keep in mind that a few articles on the subject have talked about how it's common to receive no response to many, many first messages...but still, maybe if there's something correctable to be found, it's there. Consider updating the thread with some samples and folks can tell you.
posted by red clover at 11:52 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wait, do you just use a dating web site, or do you hang out where gay guys are? If you need your straight female friends to introduce you to guys who are gay, you're not getting out enough! If you live in a big city, there are likely to be lots of social opportunities in which to meet gay men, from sports groups to book discussions to (of course) the bars. You are perfectly nice looking -- it sounds to me like your dating problem may be that you're putting all your eggs in one basket. Get to know guys in contexts where it's not all about finding "the one."
posted by Wordwoman at 11:53 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's not your looks- please don't get plastic surgery. You're a cute guy :)

Maybe you just haven't met the right person yet, or are a "late-bloomer" in love. I consider that to be true of myself. I don't think I have a bad personality, nor do I think I'm physically unattractive, yet I've never been in a relationship longer than a couple months. I try to make peace with the fact that I should try to have a full life, and eventually my time will come.

Also, improving physical appearance is not really a good way to find love, in my opinion. First of all, in your case you don't need it. But by becoming more physically attractive you'll attract more people who like you for your looks, which is not really what's going to lead to love.
posted by bearette at 12:13 AM on December 14, 2011

I'm going to be completely honest here, because 1. you said you can take it, and 2. this way you'll know that the good things I say are not just me being nice.

Straight woman here, so not your target demographic, but maybe my thoughts are helpful anyway.

When you said you were considering surgery, I clicked over to the photos expecting some very extreme features. This is not what I saw. I repeat that I saw NOTHING that I would think you should get 'corrected', an in fact I think it would be sad if you did.

That said, I'm guessing you might be thinking of your nose and your lips? You do have a largeish nose compared to most people, and your lower lip is also quite large. But honestly, you are attractive enough that I think you can get away with that, and these non-stereotypical features even kind of act like a woman's "beauty spot", highlighting your other good looks.

Your large lower lip, to be honest, made me wonder what it is like to kiss you. (In a good way). Your nose is large, but cute. I don't think that everyone should have the exact same nose. Diversity here is what makes the world go around.

So don't change your looks. Change your attitude towards them.

(And seconding that if you post the sort of message you are sending out to prospective dates, we might be able to give some advice).
posted by lollusc at 12:14 AM on December 14, 2011

Another straight guy here. </caveat>

nthing the recommendation to not change your body but to change your mind.

Unless you want to change your body through diet and exercise in which case I say go for it, but more because that's a great way to help bump up your confidence and overall mood.

So yeah, there's nothing wrong with how you look, you are an attractive guy! Just work on the attitude and confidence thing. Frankly, you'd be amazed how much you can broadcast about your confidence levels even in a first message or meeting--it's hard for us to pick up on what we are sending out sometimes.

Part of it is also being prepared to not feel bad when you are rejected--it really is a numbers game (I mean, obviously I don't know about gay male dating but I can't believe it would be that different) on some level, and I think it helps to think of it this way: if they don't want you, 1) their loss, and 2) you are better off without them.
posted by dubitable at 12:23 AM on December 14, 2011

Well, not a gay guy, but if I was, I'd tap that. Change your attitude not your physical appearance.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:23 AM on December 14, 2011 [8 favorites]

I think you're very handsome and all of your features seem completely in balance and complementary, meaning that if you got plastic surgery I think they would look out of balance and "off."

I've brought up this issue with friends who say that I probably come off as desperate and eager with a billion insecurities.

I have an inkling you need to listen to your friends since they know you better than we do and they know what you look like.

For us to really answer this question usefully, we need to see your profile and/or the messages you're sending out to guys.
posted by cairdeas at 12:38 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

I am a gay man, and you are very attractive. Gay online dating sites are weird. No matter who you are or what you look like, people will not respond to you, and you won't know why. Maybe they aren't really looking, maybe you're not into the stuff they are, maybe they're just browsing, or are away from the computer. But keep trying, keep looking. If you want more advice, or just someone to complain to feel free to message me.
posted by Garm at 1:06 AM on December 14, 2011 [8 favorites]

I think that you look fine. (Does my sexual orientation matter? I am female for the record.) I do not think that you need to seek plastic surgery but instead just keep trying like others have stated.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 1:23 AM on December 14, 2011

Best answer: I'm not going to patronise you by telling you you're so handsome and of course you don't need surgery, you're so attractive and cute that anyone would date you . What I am going to say is, if those are your pictures, get better pictures. Especially if you're leading with that first one - is that your main profile pic? Its awful, the quality is very poor, the lighting is terrible - you look green. The pose looks forced and you're at a funny angle that makes your face look lopsided. (based on the other picture, its *possible* you have one eye slightly lower than the other - hard to tell, you're at an angle again -but that aint stopping you getting dates and its not something that can be fixed with surgery). You actually look kinda insecure in that picture. The boat picture is much better, natural light, natural post - you're out having fun, you look relaxed and happy but its a side-on picture and based on the timestamp, its more than 3 years old.

If you're getting rebuffed at the first message and presumably not getting messages of interest yourself(?) then the first step is better pictures, that the first thing anyone sees, before they read a word of what you've written about yourself. You must have a least 1 friend with a decent camera, even a decent cell phone camera would take better pictures than that. You want to capture that relaxed happiness (and good lighting) if the boat shot but in a larger, face-on shot.

Of course, once you've got past the picture, there's the text. You could have supermodel good looks and still not get a date if your profile screams desperate bunny boiler. You haven't linked your profile (or example messages) but if your friends are telling you you're coming off as insecure and desperate, listen to them... and maybe consider some therapy. If you're happy in yourself and modestly confident, you'll be 100 times more attractive without changing a thing about your appearance.

I'm not a gay man and you're not my type but IMO saying you're very attractive is pointless ego stroking to convince you not to get surgery and I suspect you're going to disregard what those people have said based on that, so lets be realistic, you know you're not model hot, girls/guys do not swoon when you walk by but you are not unattractive, you're not ugly by a long way. Maybe your features aren't as small or as symmetrical as is considered 'optimal' but they're not outrageously disproportionate or wonky. You look like you're in shape, you have good skin and great hair - big plus points there. Your looks are not even close to being a barrier to getting dates. If your only goal with plastic surgery is to improve your dateability I think you will be disappointed (not to mention sore and out a big chunk of change).

Get a close friend to help you take some better, more recent pictures and go over your profile to get rid of anything that sounds needy or insecure. If you think you're scaring guys off with your opening gambit, maybe try waiting for them to come to you.

Also, I wouldn't read too much into guys your friends set you up with not being interested, maybe they weren't looking to get set up with someone. Its probably not personal, some people just can't help being interfering match makers and think that you're both gay and single therefore you're a perfect match.
posted by missmagenta at 1:44 AM on December 14, 2011 [20 favorites]

natural post pose
posted by missmagenta at 1:45 AM on December 14, 2011

I'd say you were a reasonably attractive guy - not amazing, to me, but attractive enough that there will be plenty of people in the world who'll find you very attractive, if that makes sense.

You could do with some better photos. When people use cropped holiday/socialising photos for their profiles it always looks bad.

In my opinion, you could also do with a better haircut, but nobody else has mentioned that so probably I'm wrong.

When someone as normal looking as you considers plastic surgery, it suggests a deep insecurity (and self-obsession) that probably seeps into and taints all contact with other people. So, yeah, as everyone else has said, this is probably more of a mental problem.
posted by cincinnatus c at 2:14 AM on December 14, 2011

You look pretty young and given your posting history you seem like a typical gay guy in his 20's.

Here's the thing. While queer folk are coming out at younger and younger ages, most gay people don't start dating until they are in their late teens/early 20's. Where as our hetero counterparts have been doing it for years at that point. So you and your dating pool are filled with people who are as mature as 14 year olds when it comes to this. People are going to be terrible at knowing what they want and being able to both communicate that and identify that in others. How many buxom 19 year olds are their on cruising websites who say are looking for LTR's only but will gladly give you a blowie after five minutes of chat? (All of them, is the answer). So the problem is both your inexperience and the inexperience of the people you are hitting on.

Work on your game. The same general things will get you a first date and it is all in how you present yourself and engage people. I would love to be able to see a chat log to see where the things go wrong. You have to examine your interactions to see what gets a desired response and what does not. But no matter what things will go wrong on sites. Gay men look for mates in the same spaces we look for a fuck. So many of the people who look like the boy to bring home to mom are really the boy who wants to be fucked on mom's couch.

And I will second MissMagenta. Multiple good pics that are frequently changed will get more people interested. While you are handsome the photos are not. They are grainy and one has a lady friend in it. Then there is the possibility your profile scares the bajezus out of people. I don't know what is on it, but a few grainy photos are forgivable but coupled with a crazy profile and it is over. I would be happy to take a look at any profiles you have and make helpful suggestions.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:59 AM on December 14, 2011

You look fine, the pictures look terrible.

Check out this article on good photos for dating profiles:

In the second one, you look good, but notice that the girl in the background is more in focus than you? That makes it seem like she is the focus of the picture, she is not, you are.

Also, most people on dating websites do not reply, especially if they are female or gay male. It's a numbers game. They are receiving too many messages, partly because there are a bunch of people on there sending hundreds, and HUNDREDS of messages.

Also, there is a stereotype in the gay male community, that straight females are not good matchmakers, because of the idea that they will match terribly unsuitable people, just as long as they know both of them, and they are both gay. There will be many people who will react against being 'setup' in general.

Anyway, if I were you, I'd go with going to gay social events more, over online dating. Good luck!
posted by Elysum at 3:27 AM on December 14, 2011

Nothing even remotely wrong with your looks. You would appeal to a lot of people.

Definitely get rid of the photo with you and the girl - it looks like you are on a date.

Recently I went on a hike with my friend and took a bunch of photos of her for a dating site. She wants to date someone who likes to hike so it's ideal to have that as a setting. I took a ton of photos and some of them turned out very well. So if you can arrange a day out with one of your friends who likes to take photos that might really help.

The key is to take lots and lots of pictures because a certain percentage of them will come out well, and you will feel more comfortable in front of the camera.

When I was single and on dates or at social events I would repeat in my head that someone would be lucky to date me and that a lot of people would be interested in me. They were! And I'm not some super model.
posted by Melsky at 3:51 AM on December 14, 2011

Unlike most people here, I am all in favor of (natural-looking) cosmetic surgery in general. But not for you. Your features are distinctive and well-balanced, and I think if you altered them, you'd run the risk of looking really weird and plastic-y.

I (straight female) agree that any negative response or non response that you're getting is probably due to either the nature of your message/profile/insecure vibe in person, or just randomness that has nothing to do with you. You're good looking, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if you'd written that lots of guys found you very attractive, looks-wise.

I also agree that clearer pics couldn't hurt.

The one thing I'll throw out there though, do you possibly live in a very white environment? I've found that some white people just don't recognize any type other than uber-white-bread-attractive as attractive. I'm always amused/saddened, that whenever there's a picture or video online of some actress or singer I would *kill* to look like, some truly appallingly beautiful woman, if her nose is any bigger than a button, at least half the comments will be "omg what is wrong with her nose??!!11?" Maybe that's not the case with you; anyway, ethnicity aside, physical standards and preferences do vary by region, sometimes to a surprising degree. So there's that.

That said, I still have the strong feeling, for whatever reason, that it's either your insecurity or just randomness that's happening here.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 5:01 AM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]

Read Intimate Connections by Dr. David Burns. Do the exercises for at least six months. Make sure you are then prepared for the results. I remember reading a review on Amazon: "I read this book. I did everything it said. My love life took off like a flaming rocket."

This is an emotional problem. You look just fine. Know a dude who likes your look a lot. But you need to work hard to get in the right space emotionally.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:12 AM on December 14, 2011

Two thoughts:

Have you tried different dating websites? A friend of mine (who is actually kind of chubby and also so cute, perfect features, nice hair, very charming) had trouble getting dates and then signed up for a dating service that was explicitly chubby-guy friendly (although not, I think, a bear site) - and he got ridiculous tons of dates. Is there a site that either caters to your interests or is explicitly friendly to people who don't look WASPy (obvs, I have no idea what your racial background is, but I know for a fact that some sites have an icky, racialized climate where pink-blond-type white folks are the goal.)

Have you tried some kind of activism or queer-focused thing that attracts gay guys who aren't super into careers, being upwardly-mobile, etc? I personally couldn't get a date with an upwardly-mobile queer woman if I went down on my knees and begged (as it were) but I seem to be passably attractive in activist/volunteer circles. And let me tell you, if I could look like the non-dude version you without major surgery and genetic tweaking, I would do so without a second thought. (Although I often find myself confused by what other people find attractive - this "you should have small regular features" thing is so weird and frankly the legacy of WASP values. Big features for the win!)

Also, go new places, even if it's just readings or volunteer stuff. It was absolutely revelatory for me to, on one occasion, meet a huge number of new queer folks and realize that (partially because I was a new possibility) people actually thought I was attractive. Fattish, weird me! Attractive! It gave me a real boost of confidence and I have been dressing better and flirting more ever since.

Also, therapy - for years I obsessed about my (deficient - fat, other drawbacks) looks and it ruined so much for me. I've been able to get past that without therapy after years of work (although I still worry about my looks more than I should). For me it was internalized homophobia, mostly. Worry about my looks was a proxy for the guilt and discomfort that I felt about my gender and sexual identity - discomfort and guilt that I honestly could not see that I was feeling.

Internalized crap - homophobia, class stuff, gender stuff, race stuff - is HUGE, and can be very hard to spot and very destructive. Literally, it took me until my mid-thirties to realize that no matter how queer-positive I was on the surface and no matter how much I knew that straight relationships and straight social dynamics were not for me, I was still trying to push myself into this straight mold unconsciously and trying to deny and minimize my social/romantic/sexual feelings as a queer person.
posted by Frowner at 5:15 AM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm a straight woman, and all I know is that I have learned, over the years, to fight the urge to set my gay friends up. I seriously don't know why some of us straight women have a "set your gay friends up" fetish, but here is what I do know: 50% of my gay friends don't want to be set up. They will always refuse the offer. It has nothing to do with who the prospect is, and more to do with mild annoyance with the fact that I, along with many other straight women, assume Gay person A will be into Gay person B, even if all they have in common is their sexual orientation. So, honestly, I wouldn't necessarily take the set up rejections to heart. I think some guys hate being treated like straight women's Ken Dolls, there for our matchmaking amusement. And I don't blame them.

So you're getting a high level of rejections on a dating website and when friends want to set you up on blind dates. But left to your own real-life devices, it sounds like you do fairly well. I have to wonder if you're not focusing too much energy on the rejections - which to me sound like they aren't even personal. As others have said, maybe the trick is to focus on real-life networking.
posted by Milau at 5:32 AM on December 14, 2011

Plastic surgery is not your solution. You look just great.


I've brought up this issue with friends who say that I probably come off as desperate and eager with a billion insecurities.

Think on this. Because this jumped out at me like the Rockettes doing a kick line and waving signs saying "THIS IS IT RIGHT HERE!"

Look at how you phrased the question to US --

1. You start off apologizing for asking so many questions on AskMe.
2. You then apologize for the fact that most of them are about dating.
3. You then forgive people for finding your questions "boring and superfluous".

That's three times you've spoken badly of yourself before you've even gotten around to asking your question. And then even after you ask the question you are all but begging people to trash-talk you ("If you think I might benefit from fixing something, then feel free to let me know. You can be honest. I'll be fine ;)" )

You are so convinced that we all think you're insecure and boring and ugly that you're apologizing for it and forgiving us for thinking it. But frankly, I don't even remember a single question of yours before less, much less have I formed an opinion about you based on it. So all I have to go on is you waving a big sign telling me "I'M BORING AND INSECURE, PLEASE AGREE WITH ME ABOUT THAT!" And that makes me uneasy because "uh...I've never met you before, why do you want so badly for me to dislike you?"

People can pick up on that insecurity right away. Dismissing your friends' advice with "oh, it couldn't be that, people haven't gotten to know me at all" may be a mistake.

Because honestly, you look just wonderful. But your WORDS tell a very different story about what may be going on with you. Unfortunately working on your confidence and self-esteem is a hell of a lot harder than surgery -- but it's got a hell of a bigger payoff, and the effects last way, WAY longer. And are a lot more effective in the long run.

Good luck. My best to you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:47 AM on December 14, 2011 [43 favorites]

Totally agree with EmpressCallipygos about leading with your insecurity. Based on your description, I was expecting you to be hideous. You are good looking. The photos aren't great.
posted by gaspode at 5:52 AM on December 14, 2011

Gay man's opinion here: You're adorable.

I don't know how to fix your dating situation, but it's not your looks. Seriously.
posted by xingcat at 6:10 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a fan of plastic surgery (I've had my nose done and I would recommend the procedure to anyone who could use it) but you don't need any. Your facial features are large but attractive. Plastic surgery would only feminize your features or make them look more faux-Caucasian. Your teeth and hair are fine also.

I agree with everyone who says your insecurity must be shining through.

Also, just as importantly, from all the statistics I've read about online dating for people who aren't white (I'm a straight Caucasian women, but this was good to know when I was on those sites), here in the U.S. online daters don't respond as often to those outside their own race *unless* that person is white. It was a huge, significant difference in response rate, percentage-wise. I'm not sure where you are, but if you focus on people of your own race or non-whites you'll have a higher volume of responses, at least theoretically/statistically.

Also, new clothes and accessories-- really good designer ones-- couldn't hurt. And get new pictures, too.

Have you tried meeting men at the gym? It's worked for a lot of guys I've known here in NYC...
posted by devymetal at 6:12 AM on December 14, 2011

I thought about this all the way to work. Here are a couple of things I've noticed:

1. Are you sort of passive in how you expect guys to react to you? Do you feel that what happens is "I stand there and get examined, and if I am good enough then the guy will date me, and what is going wrong is that there is some intrinsic characteristic that I have that makes me not able to pass scrutiny"? That's a bit of the feeling I get here. I recognize that from my sad, insecure, internally-homophobic past. For me it meant that I never had strong feelings of agency in my relationships and I was never able to even identify my wishes and needs beyond "someone who is not awful who likes me".

2. Do you have something in your background that makes you want to punish yourself? That's something I've struggled with, too, and it meant that I was always drawn to people who were unavailable and/or not into me, never going to be into me. In retrospect, I look at some of them and think "it was a damn good thing that we didn't get involved because we had nothing in common and I wasn't even really attracted to them, only to their perceived superiority". Like, I'd put people on a pedestal - usually people who were no damn good for me - and decide emotionally that their approval would mean that I was worth while. But secretly my unconscious had chosen them precisely because they would never like me, so I would perpetually be caught in this loop of insecurity, waiting, unhappiness.

3. What about fear of intimacy? That's a terrible, therapy phrase, but it's a useful way of understanding self-sabotage. If you're always unhappy and unable to find a good partner, you never have to deal with relationship stuff, loss, rejection-by-someone-you-really-care-for, etc. What semi-conscious assumptions do you have about how relationships work? Do you have a positive vision that you really believe for [whatever kind of relationship you're looking for - long term, medium term, happy hooking-up, etc]?

4. Do you visualize the kind of relationship you want? (Not the kind of person) This helped me into my first really good adult relationship - I decided I wanted a relationship where we could [do various things, meet my family, support each other, etc] and where I would not have to [provide emergency money all the time, suppress my feelings, etc]. I spent time thinking about what that would look like, and it helped me to judge people - I could more easily spot the ones where I could never imagine that they'd want to meet my family or talk about my horrible day at work, etc etc.

5. What about being pickier, at least in your head? That helps me a lot - I act in my head as if I can 100% choose my relationships, I look at people as if my evaluation of them is the only thing that matters rather than my usual "but it's almost an insult for someone so awkward/funny-looking/irritating to be attracted to such a great person!" routine. I look at random people as if I were going to date them, too, and try to think about the ways in which they are attractive (truly random people, not just conventionally hot ones) instead of blanking that out, because it puts me more in touch with my attractions, sexuality, etc.
posted by Frowner at 6:22 AM on December 14, 2011 [11 favorites]

Also (sorry to keep going on): you need to have your locus of approval inside yourself. This "sorry for existing and being so annoying and needy on an advice site" thing...oh, I did that too. (And sometimes fall back into it, but it's not longer default).

1. You have to truly believe that you are as fully human as others and have as much right to exist, speak your ideas, etc.*

2. You have to stop needing permission and approval just for ordinary things. You have to trust your judgment.

3. There's some accidental narcissism in profound insecurity. ("I don't want to be a narcissist" was the thing that helped me most in my quest to be more secure.) When you're really insecure, you're constantly demanding validation from others - you have to, because otherwise you're terrified and uncertain and it's truly unbearable. Everything has to be about you just for you to survive. This creates a horrible loop, because you're always pestering people who then find you needy and act weird to you, and then you just feel worse.

4. IME, there's usually a bigger fear behind profound insecurity, for which the insecurity acts as a mask and from which it distracts. Fear of your actual desires? Fear of failing at something you really care about? Fear that you really, truly can't succeed even if you're trying? Fear that if you're living a fully actualized life as a gay man you won't have any remaining struggles/purpose? Good old fear of death? Fear that it's not just "I'm funny-looking and awkward" but "I am not like others and can never be happy"? Lots of fears out there.

5. You need to be able to believe that you are basically like other people in most ways. (Then, if you're like me, you can return to "I am mostly like other people but still a big weirdo in some crucial matters") Again with the narcissism: there's something in insecurity which says "I am not like other people, I am weaker and weirder and more vulnerable and My Story Is Not Average". Also, your insecurity itself can come to seem like the only thing that makes you special.

6. And thus, it's easy to become semi-consciously attached to your insecurity - it's so much a part of your identity and personality that the thought of being a regular secure person is actually a little scary and unwelcome. For me, being insecure made me special - even if it was in a terrible way. Being comparatively secure about myself is in large part realizing that the world is wide, not everyone will like me, some people will like me and my reactions to things are usually perfectly normal and legitimate.

7. Seriously, you're cute. Do something to break the "OMG I'm worried about dating" cycle - take up some new exercise, go on a really intense retreat for a weekend or a week (this did a lot for me when I thought it would just be new age crap), focus on learning things and being in the world. You're still pretty young (younger than me, anyway) and I bet that in two or three years you can look back and barely even recognize this part of your life.
*As an anarchist, I don't really approve of rights discourse, but it's good short-hand.
posted by Frowner at 6:40 AM on December 14, 2011 [11 favorites]

what kind of sites are you on? i'm a bi guy and your message reminds me of like every other dude who attempts chatting with me on grndr. totally respectable, even attractive looking fellows who apologize within seconds of sending me a face pic, like even before i've looked at it, messaging me,

if you don't want to talk anymore you don't have to.


it's a bad photo! LOL but all i have.


we can't all be studs! LOLOLO

those lines are immediate turn-offs. it's tough wanting to be someone's friend, let alone make-out with him, when the pick-up line is pretty much an apology for trying to pick me up in the first place. seriously, confidence man.
posted by chyeahokay at 6:55 AM on December 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

Is there anything I should fix to increase my dateability?

Yes. You're a hot mess. But on the inside. You're fine on the outside! It's time to get to work, buddy. Gonna take a while till you're not a needy, simpering, self-doubting puddle of neuroses. But you'll get there! It can be done. Time to get some confidence. Then you'll be hot inside and out.


Formerly needy self-doubting gay puddle.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:03 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

You look fine to me (I'm a straight guy, so take that for what it's worth). But if you're seriously considering plastic surgery to have more success on a dating site, I have a feeling that your profile and first messages are probably projecting a desperation that you're not aware of. Really, think about this for a second - you ask your friends what the problem is, they give you a sensible answer, but you decide that they can't possibly be right, it must be how you look, and so you're going to have surgery to change that. That suggests either a severe body-image problem or a need to be with someone that has grown past the point of control. Either way, I think you'd be surprised how readily it comes through in what you think of as casual communication.

How about posting a link to your profile, or the text of that profile? That may be where the problem is.

Finally, I don't know what it's like to be a gay guy on a dating site, but I imagine it's pretty similar to being a straight guy: sending out tons of messages that don't get any response is just part of the deal.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:04 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

You have a nice smile and that is what a lot of people will notice first off, in real life or photos. Do you have hobbies? As suggested above, have someone take some shots of you having fun doing whatever it is you do, when you're happy and relaxed.

Having a quick look at your previous questions, it doesn't seem that getting dates has been much of a problem for you before - what's changed? Have you started using websites exclusively? Whatever was pleasingly apparent in your real life persona that got you those dates clearly isn't coming across in your online one. And I think people can spot desperation even in cyberspace, so maybe some of those people who would find you intriguing in real life are being put off by this aura of "Sorry - like me - sorry" you're seemingly putting across online. People can catch onto the smallest hint of neediness / abasement and many of them might find it unattractive. And those that don't might not be the sort of people you want to spend too much time with ...
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 7:18 AM on December 14, 2011

It's really really not your looks. You're attractive. Conventionally attractive, even. Even if you were plain, it wouldn't be your looks.

Since you mentioned your history of datingfilter questions, I gave them a quick glance. I noticed two things: first, you've dated before. Maybe they didn't end well - and that's the case for a lot of us - but clearly you can get your foot in the door. Second, all your questions are some sort of relationshipfilter variant. I don't think I've ever seen an AskMe history that consistent; the people who keep coming back to AskMe with the same questions usually also have occasional questions about naming their cat or choosing a fitness class. I don't know much about you other than your insecurity in relationships. Maybe that sort of single-mindedness comes across in your online dating profile/messages and on in-person dates.

I remember reading a comment in a similar question that I can't find right now, but it went something like "What do you have to offer a partner besides your own need?" That really resonated with me, and I think it's a good question for you to reflect on.

A couple other questions for you to consider:

What do you need from a partner that you can't get from within?

If relationships didn't exist, i.e. nobody dated, what would you do to make yourself happy?
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:27 AM on December 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

Get some gay male friends who are older than you. Five years, ten years, fifteen years older. Straight guys always have older male friends for role models, and gay guys need them, too. They'll tell you in a heartbeat what's going on, because they've already been there and done that.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:33 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

You know what helped my dating insecurities and self-esteem? I got off the online dating sites for awhile. Seriously - take a break. I realized after awhile that I felt like every online date I went on felt like a job interview and like I was being judged. This completely eroded any confidence I had.

Take a break and pick up a hobby/sport/special interest and join a club. Focus on making new friends. The combination of making new friends with the new hobby/etc. will give you confidence. When you have confidence, you will love yourself more. When you love yourself more, it oozes outwards, and people pick up on this, and the people who do are the awesome ones that you WANT to find and have in your life.

Don't do plastic surgery.
posted by floweredfish at 7:34 AM on December 14, 2011

Response by poster: Hey everyone,

Thanks for all of the responses. I wish I hadn't deleted my OkCupid and profiles so I could provide some samples of messages. But, at any rate, I don't have much of a desire to go back online and would much prefer meeting people in real life in situations that are less "this is a date and there are rules to follow" than "I'm at a party, at a social event, a political rally, etc. just being myself." I think that there probably is something to the idea that you find love when you're least looking for it.

MissMagenta, yours was probably the most honest response of all of these incredibly helpful responses. I also think that I harbour a frighteningly vain desire somewhere deep down to be one of those guys who turns heads and, since the way I look now won't accomplish that, surgery might. But that would be unrelated to dating as such and isn't a healthy desire to be acted upon (unless one wants people to think of one as an egotistical douchebag). I'm still on the fence about rhinoplasty and otoplasty and I think that, even if I were to go through with that, then it would have to be for my own satisfaction rather than that of others. I'll also try to get better photos just to use on Facebook, which almost everyone I know uses to stay in touch, see what friends and acquaintances are up to, etc.

DestinationUnknown, I live in New York. There's a lot of ethnic diversity here, but in the gay male community there is a regnant aesthetic paradigm which prizes physical features that I obviously don't have. I've often been advised to get out of Manhattan and explore Brooklyn, but although the latter is more hipsterish, it's no less narrow-minded in terms of what is considered attractive. The NYT also recently published an article about a study which showed that most white people, straight and gay, prefer their own kind on dating websites with only about 3% contacting African-Americans. At any rate, those are unfortunate facts that I cannot change; dwelling upon the unfairness of it all isn't going to help me. I do plan to address the insecurity on my own and possibly with the help of therapy.

Frowner, I agree that there's a veiled narcissism in these kinds of insecurities that is usually only psychologically and emotionally destructive. And I'm going to work on approving of myself from within however I can.

I wish I could respond to everyone's comments individually. I seem to have found myself in a vicious cycle: I'm not attractive enough to date as regularly as my white friends, I assume that this must be because I'm not what most gay guys here want in terms of looks, I feel insecure and bad about myself, I then encounter rejection when this insecurity is radiated from my online profile or my social comportment, so I feel even worse and more insecure after being rejected ("Of course I was rejected. If only I looked like Clive Owen or Tom Cruise, then life would be better"), etc. I'm going to have to get creative about taking the attention off of the way I look and onto just being and enjoying life. And perhaps somewhere along the way I'll get a boost of much-needed confidence.

Thanks again.
posted by cscott at 7:57 AM on December 14, 2011

It can be disconcerting and dispiriting to realize that ones looks are just fine.

Modern American culture is all about selling solutions for ones sub-par appearance. Fat loss, muscle gain, rhinoplasty, tanning, bleaching, orthodontia, tooth-whitening, Botox. Wrinkle cream, Spanx, body-waxing, the perfect fit t-shirt and lifts in your shoes. We're being sold the message that our bodies -- our looks -- are wrong, and are between us and love, but that we can spend the money, and our looks will be fixed.

If one has the cash, this can seem like the best deal ever -- in exchange for enough little green pieces of paper, ones interpersonal pain, ones loneliness, can be SOLVED. To be loved you have to be beautiful, but that's okay, because to be beautiful is to be loved, and beauty can be bought.

Admitting to oneself that one is already quite beautiful enough can suck because it means admitting that there's no simple exchange of money (and sometimes time and physical pain) that will fill the void and allow us to love, to be loved, or at least to be wanted.

I'm saying all this because your feelings about your appearance may be a way of insulating yourself from the fear of loneliness and the void.

Also, please listen to everything Frowner says.

Have you considered the possibility that you feel a reflexive contempt for, or annoyance at, people in real life who express strong positive opinions about your appearance? Take it from a fat chick: I know I'm not a movie star, but lots of people don't want movie stars. It took me years to really accept that the people who call me gorgeous are neither insane nor making shit up.
posted by endless_forms at 8:45 AM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

It's not your looks, it's your pictures and attitude.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:55 AM on December 14, 2011

sending out tons of messages that don't get any response is just part of the deal.

This. Guess how I know? :P

Seriously it can be crushing when you send out a dozen friendly little notes to a dozen different guys and none of them write you back. Having gotten back on OKCupid recently, I was not prepared for that experience -- it really does suck. But that really is the reality of meeting people online these days; there are so many people trying it that everyone can afford to be VERY CHOOSY, based on criteria that may have nothing to do with you at all.
posted by hermitosis at 8:58 AM on December 14, 2011

Incidentally I think your looks are just fine, and I bet that people who see you walking around are in fact impressed. But what are they supposed to do, stop you and tell you so? Sorry, that's not how it works here.

You know what I love so much about where I live in Brooklyn? It's so far off the map in terms of that whole Chelsea/Hell's Kitchen type of gay, where there is so much pressure to look perfect and BE perfect. I don't know if you're going to gay bars in Manhattan, but it's very easy to feel ugly and socially irrelevant at these places, even if you're far from it. Find a more easygoing place with a neighborhood-y vibe, where regular people go to hang out. In these places you'll find a broader mixture of types and a more accepting environment where you can probably relax a little more (and that will help you overall).

When you are relaxed and already having fun, you will seem more attractive to people. That, combined with your natural good looks, should ease things for you a bit.
posted by hermitosis at 9:08 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I noticed from one of your previous questions that you are south Asian. Do you know about this group? (I'm not suggesting it as a way to date within your own ethnicity if that is not your goal, but as a way to increase your social opportunities and maybe get some support.)
posted by Wordwoman at 9:12 AM on December 14, 2011

cscott, just to elaborate on my first post, I sympathize with your insecurity because I suffered from deeply dysmorphic thoughts about my body when I was younger. I felt grossly overweight with horrifically ugly features. It did not help that I am one of the least photogenic people in the world. I would've given anything to go on Extreme Makeover or some other show to fix everything wrong with me (though I despaired even those shows could do anything) and dreamed of being an impossibly gorgeous.

Everyone wants to be hot. But sometimes an obsessive desire with being hot, like the one I had, isn't born only of vanity. Looking back, when I wanted to be "hot", what I really wanted was for other people to do the work of building relationships because I was so damn bad at it. I was socially awkward, it was terribly difficult for me to talk and flirt with people, and I could identify a billion quirks about myself and my looks that I thought were turn-offs. Being super-duper hot was the cure. Then other people would do all the approaching, all I would have to do is pick and choose! No more worries about my awkwardness, filling dead spaces in conversation, or figuring the best way to say hello to a stranger. Being hot would make up for the fact I wasn't charming and an easy conversationalist.

Anyway, for a number of reasons I ended up going through a really dark period and got out of it by throwing up my hands and deciding "not giving a fuck" was preferable to being miserable. Made a number of life changes. My new "Give no fucks" philosophy extended to meeting new people. I stopped trying to impress anyone and just talked to people as if I couldn't care less what they thought of me. The effect was almost immediate. I was surprised to find people who I thought were way out of my league started actively pursuing me. Even though I didn't think I was coming off as desperate before, I probably a fire engine of "LOVE ME OH GOD LOVE ME" sirens. Not to mention I was now relaxed and enjoying my life much more than I was before, making me a more enthusiastic, positive person.

Seriously, being attractive to people is not just about having attractive features. If you don't believe you're hot shit, then you can be an 11 on a 1-10 scale and the confident guy at 7-8 will outshine you. (The real secret is that you don't even have to believe you're hot shit--just pretending will get you 80% of the way there)
posted by Anonymous at 10:01 AM on December 14, 2011

I'm a (mostly) straight woman. Unlike the gender stereotype, I am VERY visual when it comes to finding someone attractive and being turned on. Well, first visual, then I want to know how you smell. Um, but anyway. I know other people are telling you that you look "fine" and you're "attractive enough" and whatnot, and that telling you how hot you are isn't going to help the situation. They're right, to some extent, but I am going to say the following anyway:

I think you are SUPER HOT. Like, I'd stare at you across the bar, and think all sorts of dirty things about you, gay or not. Rrowr. You're my type.

So I said the above for a reason. You need to know that there will be people out there who will find you incredibly physically attractive. There will be. I have gay male friends who share my tastes in men, so i KNOW they exist.

Which leads me to this:
I've brought up this issue with friends who say that I probably come off as desperate and eager with a billion insecurities. But that would make sense if I were having a hard time with second dates or developing relationships. The problem, though, is that I usually get turned down right off the bat or receive no response to a first message. I don't go after supermodels out of my league. I know that I look different and exotic, but I guess I didn't expect that this would hinder me as much as it has

I really don't think it's your looks. I think it's in the way you hold yourself, the tone of your voice, your conversational style, how relaxed your face is, etc. In other words, all the non-verbal cues that indicate confidence and self-assurance. Many of those cues are visible even in photographs. I know it can be hard to develop that confidence when people don't seem to be responding positively to you. It's definitely a vicious cycle...but you have to do the work to get out of it.

On preview, schroedinger's second post is perfect.
And because I think you need to hear it. You are SUPER HOT. Some chick in San Francisco thinks you are crazy hot. It's not much, but come on, what are the odds I'm the only human out there who finds you physically attractive? Please, no plastic surgery.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 11:14 AM on December 14, 2011

Speaking as a Brooklyn gay dude: WOW.

If I were single, I wouldn't be posting here, I'd be sending you a MeMail asking you out on a date. No, like really though. If you're worried about being a head-turner, then let it be known that you have officially turned mine. (And I'm no slouch. You could do worse.)

Anyhow, the point is that lots of different people find lots of different things attractive. Stop worrying about what everyone likes. You want the guy who wants you, right? So just be you, and put yourself out there as is (without apologies or caveats or warnings) and that will help you find the guy who's honestly interested in what you have to offer. The goal here, I guess, is to become secure enough in yourself that you can handle the possibility of rejection.

And sadly, the only way to get better at that is practice. Go out to bars and have a good time without getting picked up by anyone. Write messages knowing that 90% of them will go unanswered. Remember that every guy who passes you up is just someone who you wouldn't have had a good time with anyway, and at least the rejection saves you from having a terrible first date.

Also, I used to basically be the mayor of OKCupid, and I had the most success in terms of responses when I was direct. Rather than starting a conversation, I usually just wrote to people saying, "You seem interesting. Let's meet for coffee. When are you free?" You're not there to meet pen pals, right? Step up and ask people out. You'll feel great when you get a "yes," and a "no" is just more practice.

Also, just to remind you: you're straight-up HOT, and don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 1:18 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't go after supermodels out of my league.

By the way -- go after the people you're attracted to. Being attracted makes you more attractive. Attraction does specific physical things (like dilate the pupils) which people pick up on.

If your self-evaluation is preventing you from even trying with people you are actually interested in, then you aren't ever going to get anywhere.
posted by endless_forms at 1:55 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding JuliaIglesias: another more-or-less straight (and white! and attractive! since you seem to think attractive people and white people aren't into you) chick who thinks you are strikingly hot and very much my type. I go for dark, handsome, intriguing looks and yours are all of those things. I can't imagine that there aren't thousands of gay guys in New York who agree. Changing such a fantastic face would be a real shame.
posted by ootandaboot at 3:08 PM on December 14, 2011

I'm not a gay man, but I do secretly look at random men and women and see if a feature looks off (I got sort of addicted to those celeb plastic surgery sites) and believe me when I tell you that you're very,very handsome and you definitely shouldn't touch your face.

I'm not a plastic surgeon or a casting director for cologne ads, but you're very, very attractive, particularly because of how your expression goes with your features. It's great. I'm afraid if you touched your facial features, you'd lose that fantastic expression---it's very attractive and I can't imagine why you're not being asked out by men all the time (and I'm quite harsh when it comes to assessing men. I don't think Ryan Gosling, Colin Farrell, Gerard Butler or Clive Owen are very attractive at all because they all look slightly dirty to me but to each his/her own.)

Keep the mug as it is. You look great. Seriously. I wouldn't have bothered commenting if it weren't true.
posted by anniecat at 3:11 PM on December 14, 2011

you are super cute ;)

Regarding your question -- Think of the amount of money you would want to invest in plastic surgery and have some professional photos taken instead. Artsy, edgy photos. Pictures of you without other people, showing your personality. The photos you currently have are snapshots, two are out of focus, and the other one is with someone that was cut-away.

I love your smile, you have a great profile, and your eyes show a lot of personality. And you work out. Easy work for the photographer that you hire! If you lived on the w coast, I'd be happy to shoot a few images of you.

If you still want further help, then take the balance of that plastic surgery budget, and meet with an image consultant. Review voice, projection, posture. Perhaps take an acting class? Or maybe enroll in Toastmasters. You will get feedback on tone, any verbal tics, and other movements that we don't see ourselves (but that others do).

Spare the knife and go for the photog and advice. And in the meantime, get out there and mingle !!!
posted by seawallrunner at 8:04 PM on December 14, 2011

cscott, it strikes me as interesting that the response you considered "most honest" was the one that was ever-so-slightly critical of your looks. Actually, everyone else who gave you compliments was being honest, too. I really feel you CAN turn heads based on your looks, but that you should focus less on that. Because turning heads is very different from getting dates. Being attractive is so much more than physical perfection, and would you want to date the minority of people for whom it's not?

personally, if I saw a ripped guy with a perfect face, yes I would turn my head. But I wouldn't want to approach him; I'd be intimidated and also I'd feel (perhaps a prejudice) that his personality probably suffers from the amount of energy he spends on looking good (I know, not necessarily true).

Also- physical perfection is BORING.
posted by bearette at 8:54 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

cscott, it strikes me as interesting that the response you considered "most honest" was the one that was ever-so-slightly critical of your looks. Actually, everyone else who gave you compliments was being honest, too.

This. For whatever it's worth, the reason I personally didn't critique the things that MissMagenta critiqued was not because I wanted to avoid full honesty and spare your feelings -- I would have zero problems giving you my honest opinion if that's what it was. I didn't critique those things because MissMagenta and I have different honest opinions and I don't share hers. I don't even see some of the things she's talking about; that's fine, since we're each entitled to our own perspectives.

It seems that you are automatically more likely to believe negative opinions about you are The Truth than positive opinions, even when to do so is irrational. In this thread, positive opinions about your opinions about your looks outweigh negative opinions about your looks by, what, 30 to 1? I have the inkling that even if it were 100 to 1, you would still take the negative opinion as more honest.

Or, it could also be -- not that you are more likely to think negative opinions per se are more honest -- it could be that you just see opinions that confirm what you already think/have decided as being more honest.

It seems even after your update that you are still clinging on to the underlying reason for your rejections being your looks -- even though you acknowledge that you might be radiating insecurity, you believe your insecurity comes from having been rejected for your looks. It's unfortunate. I feel like you are keeping yourself in your own prison by continuing to cling to this explanation. I really suspect, as alluded to above, the idea of changing your looks might seem like an easy out/shortcut for you, rather than changing the real problem, whatever it is, that might be harder to face or fix, or you might not even know how to fix or think you can.


The NYT also recently published an article about a study which showed that most white people, straight and gay, prefer their own kind on dating websites with only about 3% contacting African-Americans. At any rate, those are unfortunate facts that I cannot change; dwelling upon the unfairness of it all isn't going to help me.

It seems you're citing this as supporting proof that your looks must be a factor in your rejections here. That is completely irrational to me.

-From your previous posts, it seems that you are South Asian, so what does the rate of white people contacting African-Americans have to do with you? It seems you're just assuming the rate would be the same, but it probably varies a lot. I doubt 3% or less of white guys contact East Asian women, for example.

-Why are you assuming this study had anything to do with LOOKS? And not, you know, the long and fucked up history of racism, segregation, and inequality in this country? What is the evidence you have that LOOKS were the cause of the results in this study? I think none. I think you are totally reading that in and assuming that, and I think you're quite mistaken.
posted by cairdeas at 10:19 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wordwoman, I do realise that I need to extricate myself from the typical bar/club scene, which is essentially a meat market. If you're not hand-cut USDA prime steak, then you probably won't end up conversing with anyone for longer than a few minutes. And there's hardly any chance of making new friends there because just about everyone is looking for sex or some sort of physical attention. I've heard a few stories of life-time lovers meeting at a bar, but those are few and far between. I'm trying to explore other options. SALGA is a good resource and I've made a few new friends there. I can't say that I've connected with anyone romantically at SALGA, but that may also be because there are probably less than 50 visible South Asian gay men in all of New York City! Still, your advice is good and I'm working on getting out of the club circuit.

Milau, I can see why one would infer from my previous posts that I do poorly online but relatively well in real life. I suppose that part of the problem is that "real life" has consisted either in the time I spend with my three closest gay friends (which rarely involves meeting other gay guys) or in hanging out at clubs, bars, and weekly gay parties (something which most gay guys in their 20s do here). The first involves no opportunity for forming new connections and the second is, as I mentioned above, hardly an ideal atmosphere for forging new friendships and relationships. The music is blaring, someone is stepping on your foot, someone else is spilling his whiskey and Coke on you, and the guy behind you is cuter so whoever you're talking to is already preparing to ditch. That's an exaggeration, but you get the picture :)

Devymetal and Cairdeas, the study to which I was referring is here:

The statistic concerning Caucasians initiating contact with African-Americans is just one dimension of a larger story--namely, that online daters tend to stick to their own kind and that 80% of Caucasians contacted only other Caucasians. The study also revealed that white people more than black people preferred to date within their own ethnicity. This led Professor Mendelsohn, who directed this study, to conclude that "[w]e are nowhere near the post-racial age." My point in mentioning this study even just obliquely isn't to condemn all white people as racists. The point, rather, is that the "long and fucked up history of racism, segregation, and inequality in this country" has repercussions to this day. It is true that the study demonstrates nothing about the ways in which online daters perceive looks or use physical characteristics to determine whether they want to initiate contact with a person.

But I think that it's likely that the regnant aesthetic paradigm which prizes Caucasian features isn't entirely unrelated to this story. Here's why: I used to be on a social networking website for LGBTQ folk known as Connexion, which was recently shut down. In the "Queer and Questioning" section, where people post questions and receive a thread of responses, one would often find queries concerning whether choosing not to date someone based on his or her (or hir) ethnicity is tantamount to racism. The overwhelming majority of Caucasian respondents (Caucasians also made up the majority of people on the website) said no. They would typically argue that racism has only social, political, legal, and economic dimensions, but not an aesthetic one. The only exception would be to openly ridicule a black person's excessively large lips or unusually wide nose--that would be racist. But to mention in an online profile that one is "only into other VGL white guys" or "not into fats, femmes, Asians, or blacks. Sry" is merely a matter of preference. Preferences, on this view, exist because they exist; the circularity of their reasoning was not apparent to them. To encourage white gay men to date black gay men is much like encouraging gay men to date straight women. Our preferences, so they say, are "hardwired" into us in much the same way that our sexual orientation is. They never provide any proof for this hardwiring either in genetic or evolutionary terms, but they are somehow certain that it is something immutable. I, for one, do not believe that ethnic dating preferences are immutable or part and parcel of a genetic or evolutionary bequest. I could make the argument in greater detail here, but I won't. When one considers all of these observations it becomes difficult to disentangle the ethnocentrism in the world of online dating from the ethnocentrism in the world of online social networking. My conversations with people in real life seem to corroborate these observations. People generally don't seem to consider their ethnic preferences as anything problematic and tend to regard them as fixed and unchanging. And, so goes the reasoning, people have a right to preferences over which they have no control. Looks are a part of the story as well. For the same people who argue tautologically in favour of their preferences often say, "Well, I'm not into black guys, I'm just not into that look, but so what everyone has their preferences" or "I'm not into Asians romantically, but I have plenty of Asian friends, that doesn't make me a bad or racist person." I think that, at the very least, we have to ask ourselves whether all of this doesn't point to something in our culture that few people choose to discuss--are we, in a sense, racist in how we conduct our romantic and sexual lives in this country?

Nonetheless, I don't think that it's possible to change people's minds about this. I'm not going to sit down with someone to whom I'm attracted but who isn't into brown guys, who isn't into "that look," and convince him that preferences are fluid. I'll have instead to focus my time and energy on people who don't think so narrow-mindedly. That also requires exercising discretion in respect of one's friends of colour, some of whom have internalised this kind of racist thinking and choose to date only white men, begging for their approbation in order to feel validated. I'm happy to say that I have more diverse taste. My ideal men are not Brad Pitt, George Clooney, or James Franco. They are Fawad Khan, Adeel Husain, Boris Kodjoe, and Neil Nitin Mukesh, among others.

Frowner, you ask whether I'm punishing myself for something. Therapists have asked me whether my parents criticised or even jokingly poked fun at the way I look when I was a child. They didn't. But, having grown up in a few different countries around the world, I have felt very much like an outsiders and had difficulty forming friendships from a young age. On a few occasions, I was made fun for having dark skin, both by American and Japanese-American kids in elementary school whilst living in Tokyo. It may be that I took such incidents of racialisation far more personally than most. Also, I apologised for being "annoying and superfluous" in my original question because, in the past, many respondents have said something along the lines of, "Having read your previous posts, you seem incredibly needy and insecure. It's no surprise that the guys you're interested in have qualms about you!" without bothering to answer the question posed. So I apologised in advance as a kind of defence mechanism, as a way of deflecting this kind of non-response. Perhaps that is irrational.

Schroedinger, that's a very insightful remark. I do think that part of wanting to become "super-duper-hot" through something exterior and artificial like cosmetic surgery has to do with finding a way to avoid social discomfort and awkwardness. I was a socially inept mess in my younger years, but I think I do fairly well now in the company of people whom I don't feel are evaluating the way I look. But as soon as I'm in front a guy whom I find attractive or with whom I'm on a date, I get somewhat nervous and talk too much, hoping that he won't notice the flaws on my face or find me boring. As many people have pointed out here, that kind of insecurity is often readily apparent and, for most people, it's a turn off. So part of my struggle involves becoming more secure and confident about the way I look, believing that I'm worth spending time with, and trying to form friendships even with people I date (instead of following the rule book which specifies when you can have your first kiss, when you can first have sex, etc.)

Endless_forms, I want to agree with you about this whole "leagues" business. It seems to me that most gay guys I know do believe that there are leagues. If you're a 6, then don't expect anything when you decide to approach a 9 at a bar. If you're a 9, then honey don't bother with the 6's and 7's. And if you're a 3 or a 4, you're just tragic. Sounds superficial, high school teenagerish, and repugnant? It sure is. What's surprising is that my friends who are educated and generally socially well-adjusted tend to think this way. Many of them, not surprisingly, also don't think that gay men have "real" boyfriends and that the proof of this is the commonness of open relationships even among fairy tale gay couples. Anyway, I do think that there's something to just going for what you like. Maybe most people will see me as a 6 and the guy I'm approaching as an 8, but for all anyone knows, that 8 is into exactly my look, my personality, etc. That requires tremendous confidence and intrepidity.

Thanks again, guys. I feel grateful that so many people have responded to this question, offered sound advice, and given me a great deal upon which to reflect critically!
posted by cscott at 7:14 AM on December 15, 2011

Response by poster: Also, about honesty in respect of the way I look (at least based on the photos provided), I do respect and appreciate the positive opinions as well. I think I suffer from perfectionism coupled with masochism (yes, more fodder for therapy). I don't think I crave constant attention from people, but I would like to be someone who is very handsome and very intelligent as opposed to handsome and very intelligent. Perhaps this makes me not just a perfectionist, but also petty, superficial, and greedy, and I need to find a way of relinquishing this desire. And there's probably some masochism involved in latching onto criticism as a further corroboration of my already low self-esteem. Neither is constructive or therapeutic.

Again, I'm not certain about surgery. I'm going for a consultation next week at the office of a reputable plastic surgeon in New York City. There is more at stake than merely what I wish for myself. I think that I should at least consider whether it's possible for me to go through with this not to conform to an oppressive aesthetic paradigm or to please others but to feel more confident. The latter seems to me the reason that people whom I know, both straight and gay, have cited in pursuing cosmetic surgery. Of course, they don't suffer from low self-esteem more generally in the way that I do. So I suppose that it only becomes reasonable to go through with surgery when you're already in a relatively healthy place emotionally and psychologically.
posted by cscott at 8:36 AM on December 15, 2011

Hey, about the consultation:

Do everything you can to feel highly confident walking in there. By design, it's an interaction during which someone will tell you how you need to be fixed. Given that you already have self-esteem issues, it will be easy for you to walk out of there feeling as though you have obvious flaws in need of addressing. Don't let your insecurities drive you to an expensive and permanent procedure. Be mindful of undertaking this choice with as level a head as possible.

Bear in mind during this interaction: the two people looking at your face (you and the surgeon) are the two most critical people in the world. No one else looks at you trying to find what minute details could be improved.

I'd also get a second opinion. After the consultation, ask a close friend for an honest opinion. Not a stranger who aren't invested, but someone you trust and who cares about you. Explain the specific procedure you're considering and see if this person thinks it would be worthwhile or make a difference.

Full disclosure: I'm rarely a fan of plastic surgery. That said, I understand that it can make a difference in people's lives. So go for it if you think you need it, but make sure you need it. Confidence comes from lots of different places, and I'd hate for you to go under the knife only to realize that your insecurities went deeper than your facial features.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 10:02 AM on December 16, 2011

It is true that the study demonstrates nothing about the ways in which online daters perceive looks or use physical characteristics to determine whether they want to initiate contact with a person. But I think that it's likely that the regnant aesthetic paradigm which prizes Caucasian features isn't entirely unrelated to this story.

No, I could not agree with you more. Caucasian features are absolutely prized in US society. But "prized" is completely different than "attracted to."

That study said 3% of whites will contact blacks on dating sites, fine, but I would eat my entire collection of hats if only 3% of whites were attracted to black people based on looks. The only proof you need is the absolute fuckton of porn featuring black people that white people buy. Or the fact that 58 percent of African Americans have at least 12.5 percent European ancestry-- and the fact that many of the white people responsible for that 12.5% were as overt, vile and hardcore as you can get when it comes to racism -- they were slaveowners.

The only difference between those two things, and contacting someone on a dating site, is that they can be done secretly. Your social circle doesn't have to know.

So I think if you are seeking plastic surgery in part to get white people to be more attracted to you, I think that it will be pointless because they are already attracted to you.

And if you are doing this because some people, consciously or subconsciously, have shame or bigotry around dating people they're attracted to when they fall into certain categories, getting a nose job is not going to help with those people. You'll have a straight nose but still be a South Asian guy. Will you then start with skin bleaching, hair dying and perming? Change your last name? It will be so warped. It will attract warped people.

I really do not see any way that plastic surgery could possibly be of any help with this.
posted by cairdeas at 11:32 PM on December 16, 2011

Response by poster: Cairdeas, is there evidence that white people are buying "the absolute fuckton of porn featuring black people?" If there is, then I'd be interested to know about it. What does the interracial mingling of whites and blacks in American history have to do with this? Does this somehow demonstrate that the regnant aesthetic paradigm is not based on a particular image of whiteness?

It seems to me that unless you can show that white people are "already attracted" to "exotic" types like me you don't have a case at all. I agree that people who have already made up their minds about which ethnicities they date or don't date (as a result of the shame or guilt that they experience in respect of their bigotry) will not care whether I do a Michael Jackson job to impress them. But the point wasn't to attract people like that. It was to be considered attractive at all by most people in this society. One might say that it is sad that I should feel the need to go to extremes to satisfy the demands of people in American society. But taking the more morally noble position of just being who you are will not get you very far in terms of dating either. That is just the unfortunate reality of things. I could well behave like Gandhi in this situation, but, if I do, then I shouldn't expect to ever get anywhere in terms of dating. This would, rather, be an invitation to loneliness and alienation.

It may well be that, even after rhinoplasty, I'm left struggling to date. If that happens, then at least I would know that I have done everything within my power to be "dat(e)able." I would then just have to keep trying, hoping that I find someone who is compatible. I'm not sure that "prized" is as different than "attracted to" as your remarks imply. It seems to me that, for most people, "prized" and "attracted to" are, for all intents and purposes, synonymous. It is perhaps only the most sophisticated and educated such as you who are able to make these distinctions. Would that there were an online dating website or house party for such intelligent people.
posted by cscott at 2:06 AM on December 17, 2011

It was to be considered attractive at all by most people in this society.

Wait - hold on. Were you the kind of kid who, when playing Monopoly, tried to own all properties so you could absolutely obliterate the opposition and guarantee a win? I would also love to be considered attractive by most people in society. It would be wonderful if all I had to do to get a date was show up somewhere and say "hmmm tonight I pick you". Sadly, 90% of us don't qualify. 90% of us are going to be attractive to some and not attractive to others. 90% of us are going to have to rely on building rapport to meet and pick up people, while crossing our fingers that the person we find attractive also happens to find us attractive enough to date. And while 90% of us fall in the "not attractive to most people, but attractive to some" category, 100% of us will have to face rejection at one point. (Following any star's love life clearly reveals everyone gets their heart broken sometime).

So really, when you establish the goal that you want to be physically attractive to most people, you're just being a maximizer. You're also saying you don't want to hang with the masses - you want more privileges than the rest of us. You're also revealing that you fear rejection so much that you want to buy insurance against it. Maybe the trick isn't plastic surgery (honestly, you've very close to being universally attractive already). Maybe the trick is to learn to be humble. To accept that you're, after all, only human and will have to face the joys and difficulties of dating... like the rest of us.

Or, to put it briefly: please realize your objective, being attracted to most, is unrealistic. (And that is not even saying anything about the fact that picking up is also about building rapport, a feat which has little to do with physical attraction and a lot to do with letting your personality shine through.)
posted by Milau at 5:53 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Milau, you're right. I misspoke. I agree that it's unrealistic to want to be considered attractive by most people in society and that this betokens vanity. What I meant was that I do desire to be considered physically attractive by enough gay men (who, for the most part, give assent to the paradigm I've been talking about) that I can even date regularly enough to experience the lack of guarantee, the rejection, the joy and the pain, and so on. I have to work on my insecurities, but I do think that plastic surgery will, if nothing else, increase my confidence. It's really really hard out there!
posted by cscott at 1:55 PM on December 17, 2011

do realise that I need to extricate myself from the typical bar/club scene, which is essentially a meat market. If you're not hand-cut USDA prime steak, then you probably won't end up conversing with anyone for longer than a few minutes. And there's hardly any chance of making new friends there because just about everyone is looking for sex or some sort of physical attention.

If you delete your presence on dating sites and refuse to go to bars or clubs you will not be dating anyone anytime soon. Gay men are a very small portion of society, even in New York. To find people to date you have to go where dateable people are.

I know. I know. The bars suck and are a meat market. But you could not be more wrong about the people that go there. Yes, many are looking for sex. But many are also looking for friends and people to date. The two are not mutually exclusive. You need to drop your preconceived notions about what people want and learn to socialize with them. The problem is not the world gay men inhabit but your ability to interact with them. I can sympathize because a younger version of me could have written this post.

To illustrate, I am engaged to my boyfriend of 7 years. I met him on a hookup site. We were both not looking for sex but we did find each other. We went where the gay people are and founded what we wanted.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:34 PM on December 17, 2011

Gay white male here. I spend most of my time in Boston, much of my time in New York. My advice is highly individualized but I find that these opinions are shared by the overwhelming majority..

Nthing new pictures:

*If you plan on using them for a while, crop out the timestamp. I always assume the worst when pictures are out of date. (I mean, absurdly so.)
*I'm surprised no one has addressed your asexual picture selection. I suggest more appealing scenarios. Not trashy; candid photos that show enough are far more appealing than cover-ready photoshops that were taken under immaculate lighting. Your body appears to be an asset - get a return on your damn investment.

Nthing confidence:

*Calypso said it best.
*I'm not a 10; guys don't throw themselves at me as I walk by. I play to my strengths. I can make people laugh and "er'rybody loves a smart bitch". I know I need to engage them. So I do.
*Bad posture is a deal breaker for me, namely because of the intangible implications. (Unfair assumption perhaps but it is what it is.)
*If you want it too much, I don't want it at all.

I'm not sure I trust the statistics regarding dating and ethnicity. Then again, this is coming from a man who has dated all but white men. Regardless, your issue is self esteem and we don't need to concern ourselves with anything that is going to sabotage that goal. Assume the numbers lie.

Speaking of numbers, it's a numbers game. I literally can't tell you how many times I've given a guy my number and haven't got a call. I can't tell you because I don't even pay attention. If I'm hung up on that guy, I don't see the others.

Practice on people you aren't interested in: men, women, children. Similar to taking an interview for a safety job, you actually perform best because there's less pressure.

When you go out, drink! Before you discredit all my advice based on this one suggestion, consider it from the side of exposure therapy. Just a drink or two - that's plenty to quiet all the self doubt that will disappear naturally once you see that guys are in fact interested in you.

Admittedly I read your first few posts and skimmed the rest. That said, it seems that you're preoccupied with the validation of getting replies, not with the guys themselves. We all face rejection. And that's ok.
posted by at 1:22 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

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