How does one actually succeed in dating?
December 29, 2011 3:58 PM   Subscribe

What does it take for someone to actually want something to do with you?

(First, because I should say so, my workload has lessened considerably. If you were wondering.)

I'm female, and I've lived 23 years without anyone being attracted to me. This includes exes. (Long story. I can't talk about it publicly because the last time I did, the person in question found it. All I can say is that this is not an assumption.) Nor have I ever been in a relationship that lasted more than a few months. I realize I'm only 23, but that's still pretty old to see so few results. What am I doing wrong?

I mean, I'm actively dating, or at least I try to. The only place I've had any success is online dating (largely because of where I am in my life right now), and even that hardly qualifies as success. I rarely get messages, and the ones I do get are atrocious, which makes me feel terrible about myself because everything I've read says women are constantly spammed with them. I send a few messages, and try to make them good, but they are rarely answered. People click through to my profile sometimes but rarely do anything about it. If it's a numbers game, nobody's letting me accumulate any numbers, and if any meetup miraculously does come of things, the person in question generally wants nothing to do with me within a month if that. It's a system engineered to make me feel like shit about myself, and it's working really well.

Is it my looks? I don't think I'm horrible-looking. I mean, I don't look great, but I don't think I'm actively terrible to look at. I'm not thin, but I'm not exactly fat either (I'm right on the cusp of 24/25 on the BMI, which is probably fat to most guys, but I've tried to change that for 6 years so far with no luck.) My face isn't horrible, although it looks more haggard than I'd like. My photos look more or less like me. I've browsed other girls' profiles, and it's not as if I'm competing with a ton of model-types like me, so I don't know what's wrong. I haven't gotten the "you're in the most attractive half!" email ever, and the site seems to show me a lot of less attractive people, so I can read between the lines of algorithm code. Of course, nobody tells you what you're doing wrong. They just let you keep being wrong.

It can't be my job, because I have an awesome job. If it's my hobbies, I like my hobbies quite fine and am not in the market for new ones. I don't know whether it's my personality, but that's rather difficult to change, it's served me quite well in life so far, and if it was, again, nobody's bothered to tell me what about it is the problem.

So what am I doing wrong? Please be brutally honest. The whole reason I'm asking is because there's no other way to get feedback. I'd rather not post my profile publicly, because it could identify me if you know what you're doing (but then everything I've posted here could if you do), but if you ask I can link you. Or, hell, if anything in real life would work, that'd be fine too, preferable even.
posted by dekathelon to Law & Government (70 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
I have a hunch a lot of your problem is that you're only doing online dating. I *highly, highly* doubt no one has ever found you attractive; they just haven't communicated that to you.

That said, you might want to read this item from OKCupid's OKTrends, "Don't be Ugly By Accident." It analyzes a lot of data from OKCupid and comes up with some theories about which OKCupid photographs work and which don't. listed OKTrends as one of hte best blogs of 2011, fwiw.
posted by semacd at 4:09 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

It is quite simple.

Smile, eye contact, compliment.

You can hide behind a profile but that will not get you what you are looking for. You are getting dates, but you're fighting yourself.

to paraphrase a '70s horror movie, the calls are coming from within the house.

You need a step-by-step program that will change the way you look at things. And you need to fully engage that voice that is telling you that no single person has ever been attracted to you, ever, including people you dated. That voice is not realistic.

I once worked at a university library. A new library professor came in. She was young and flirted with me, even though she was married. She was an incredible flirt. I found myself crushing on her. And she had Elephant Man's disease. Some face deformity, problems with her arms and very deformed legs. But I found my heart beating faster around her. After a while, I saw her flirting with other guys too and I realized that she was plain and simple a player. I don't think she fooled around on her husband or anything, but she was running the show and had a lot of admirers.

So, that step-by-step program? It is in a book called Intimate Connections. Read it and make sure you spend several months doing the exercises. You will be amazed if you do.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:10 PM on December 29, 2011 [11 favorites]

A couple of months ago you said you'd moved and didn't know anyone socially in your new town. Have you managed to change that? Do your hobbies involve meeting people in real life?

Online dating never worked for me, despite most of my exes being the stereotypical nerd who'd be found on there, but I've had pretty normal success in real life dating - I tend to just meet someone randomly through people I already know. Maybe this is what would work best for you too.
posted by jacalata at 4:11 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Perhaps you need to revisit your assumption that 23 is too old to not have had a relationship of more than a few months and your assumption that no one has ever been attracted to you.

Also, from the way you talk, I feel like you could substitute the word "boyfriend" for the word "job" and the whole thing would still make perfect sense. Which maybe is a turnoff for those who meet you IRL.
posted by elizeh at 4:11 PM on December 29, 2011

I think it would help to see your profile. If you'd like to memail it to me, you can. I don't have an OKcupid profile, so if you have to be a logged in user to see it, then don't worry about it.

The only thing I can say without seeing you or your profile is that you have to lower your expectations. Again, I don't mean that as an insult, it's just the classic problem people have here. And nthing what semacd said: I doubt no one has ever found you attractive.
posted by two lights above the sea at 4:11 PM on December 29, 2011

Have an honest but kind friend look at your profile. Maybe you have it written in a way that rubs people the wrong way without you knowing it? Or maybe you have cruddy/blurry pics up? Or maybe you are scowling? I don't know, I've never seen your profile. But it couldn't hurt to have a buddy take a glance.

Also, avoid putting any of this sort of thing actually IN your profile. I've seen profiles where the person says something about never getting any mail or always being rejected or whatever and that is such a weird thing to read. It isnt that I can't understand where the person is coming from, its just that it offputting to read it in a profile.
posted by ian1977 at 4:11 PM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'm female, and I've lived 23 years without anyone being attracted to me.

If you're going on any dates at all, via online dating or otherwise, this seems provably false. Most men on dating sites simply wouldn't bother if they didn't find you at least somewhat attractive. If you're getting little interest or few messages, perhaps you're coming across as intimidating, or aloof, etc.? (Feel free to send me your profile.)
posted by naju at 4:14 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

How are you doing with friends? Do you find it easy to make friends or is that difficult too? Of the friends you have, are any very close types that you can talk to anything about and have vulnerable conversations, or are they all more distant? Have you ever had that kind of friend? If so, what did you bond with them over?

I am asking to determine how much might be luck, personality, issues with being romantically attractive only versus attractive even in a platonic way, etc.
posted by Nattie at 4:14 PM on December 29, 2011

Response by poster: re: jacalata - It's less that I don't know people and more that the people I know are colleagues or their partners. It's the kind of field where if I dated someone it'd absolutely get around. The same goes for people I meet through my hobbies - because of what they are it's mostly women and their boyfriends/girlfriends if they have them.

re: ian1977 - None of this is in my profile, obviously.

re: Nattie - I don't make friends super-easily, but I have a few people I can talk to about almost anything, both male and female. I forget how we bonded
posted by dekathelon at 4:17 PM on December 29, 2011

I was exactly your age when I met the man who is now my husband. Prior to that, I felt the same way you do. I had dated one guy in high school (lasted only 2 dates) and one guy in college (lasted 2 months) and truly felt I would be alone forever.

I am not good looking. I am fairly thin & fit, but have never felt that I had an attractive face. The way I met my husband was through a club. I know it's a cliche to say "join a club and you'll meet someone," but I think it's a really good way to find someone who you will click with. The club we were in happened to be related to a geeky interest, and therefore had a high population of that kind of people. So us two geeks found each other, went out on a few dates, and found out we had a ton in common. So while looks are always a part of dating, I don't think they are the only factor. And especially if you have interests in common, they are even less important.

So, think about what you already like: books, hiking, boardgames, whatever. is a great place to find clubs in your area.

Also, another cliche, but true: confidence is attractive. If you let yourself get depressed because you are single, that does end up making you less attractive. I have a Facebook friend who used to constantly post about how he was single and unhappy: "Oh it's Valentine's Day and I'm alone again." "Another Christmas without someone to share it with." "My cousin just got married, I wish I could find someone too." It got really annoying really fast. If I were a single person who was interested in him, that attitude would have put me right off. So I think it's important to work on having a good life for yourself, with just yourself - do things you enjoy, hang out with friends, go to parties, etc. "The one" may turn up when you arent' specifically looking for him.
posted by LaurenIpsum at 4:18 PM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

Ironmouth makes a good point (although I've never read the book mentioned): I have met people that by all society says should be unattractive, but the fact that they acted like that had no bearing on them made them attractive. I know it must be a huge downer to feel like you're 23 and why hasn't this happened for you yet, but try to make sure no one would ever guess you feel that way by the way you act and what you say; I mean, you can and should open up later, but it's surprising what people will believe about you so long as you act like it's the case. It can be hard to notice little things that slip in, though, so if you have a friend who can tell you when you say/do something that seems insecure, ask them (just be sure you aren't too sensitive to hear it and know they're saying it to help you, not to be mean). To the best of your ability, act like you're super hot and it would be weird for anyone to think otherwise; since it's a self-fulfilling thing, it's not a lie.
posted by Nattie at 4:22 PM on December 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

"I'm female, and I've lived 23 years without anyone being attracted to me."

It might be that few people are attracted to you, but it's hard to believe that no one ever has ever been attracted to you in the history of your life. People don't always tell you when they think you are attractive. I'd say it's normal for people NOT to tell you. This is a sweeping, defeatist statement, which is the tone of your whole post. You're taking one incident (your ex not thinking you're attractive?) or one negative thought ("I am not attractive") and applying it your whole life and beating yourself down with it. If you're going around with that sort of attitude, I think you should work on losing it. You've got to be believe you are worthwhile before anyone else is going to.
posted by Elizabeth907 at 4:35 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I mean, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, but I don't find it good at all when unattractive people think they are. The same goes for any other configuration, though: bad artists thinking they're good, mean people thinking they're nice - or attractive people thinking they're not, for that matter. In all these cases, they are wrong, and I think people should be right.
posted by dekathelon at 4:37 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm right on the cusp of 24/25 on the BMI, which is probably fat to most guys

I don't think so. Vogue models are thinner than Playboy models. From a 1985 study: "Men thought women would like a heavier stature than females reported they like, and women thought men would like women thinner than men reported they like. Results suggest that, overall, men's perceptions serve to keep them satisfied with their figures, whereas women's perceptions place pressure on them to lose weight."

You need a step-by-step program that will change the way you look at things. And you need to fully engage that voice that is telling you that no single person has ever been attracted to you, ever, including people you dated. That voice is not realistic.

I agree.
posted by iviken at 4:38 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

I don't know if you've ever been to reddit, but you might check out to get a profile critique and to learn about how to best take advantage of your experience on OK Cupid. I think there are a lot of do's and don'ts in online dating that you might not think of immediately, and they can help you out with that.
posted by malapropist at 4:38 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Short, fat, loud, mouthy & opinionated, and getting older every day. Never even achieved "cute" past the age of six. But all sorts of people continue to be attracted to me, and there's that fizz when I'm attracted to one of them.

Why? Why have I always had more "success" with men than my more attractive friends?

I like guys. My closest friends are women, and always have been, but I like guys. And I've never said this to a guy, but it may influence how I respond to them: I think men, all men really, are incredibly brave. A guy has this bit that's essential to being a guy, and he has absolutely no control over it. I've never heard of even a "bury me alive for 14 days and I'll live" guru claim to be able to get an erection on demand. And it's just out there, for everybody to see. I mean, what if you undressed in front of some girl and she laughed? What if other guys laugh? It just touches my heart.

So if I can talk to a guy, or laugh with him, or tease him, or argue with him, or trade favorite moments from Firefly with him -- well, that's what I'm paying attention to. NOT to whether or not he finds me attractive. That's not the point. Really, really not the point. Making friends with guys is the point. Attraction happens or it doesn't. Aim for an interesting life.
posted by kestralwing at 4:43 PM on December 29, 2011 [26 favorites]

Do you like these guys? Do you feel like you get along with them? I feel like you are seeing this as a "numbers game" and there's no indication in your post that any of these guys were people to you (doesn't mean that's how you felt, just something I noticed). Are you having fun on dates? Can you relax and be yourself? If not, you need to take a break and build your own self-confidence before this is going to work.

You are obsessed with looks but don't think you yourself are attractive; you probably need to change one of those things to be a happy person.
posted by chaiminda at 4:44 PM on December 29, 2011

I mean, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, but I don't find it good at all when unattractive people think they are. The same goes for any other configuration, though: bad artists thinking they're good, mean people thinking they're nice - or attractive people thinking they're not, for that matter. In all these cases, they are wrong, and I think people should be right.

The thing is... attractive is a subjective descriptor. There is no right or wrong there. I count myself as an overall attractive person, but there are most definitely a larger percentage of people (more than 1/4, for sure!) who would disagree. LaurenIpsum starts off her second paragraph "I am not good looking.", and upon some snooping, I think she actually is a rather pretty woman (those eyes, swoon!). Sure, some may disagree, but that's the point I'm making, right? Don't start off thinking "I'm not attractive" because it's defeatist form the start and likely sends a message to the people you are potentially dating, even without you realizing.

I'm an online dating (and OKcupid) success story, but many of my geekier friends have had much better luck meeting people IRL via their hobbies. YMMV.
posted by two lights above the sea at 4:57 PM on December 29, 2011 [7 favorites]

After your follow up, I am not sure how to respond. I'm not sure if you know what attractive means. I think you have attractive mixed up with "aesthetically pleasing", and they are two very different things. Attraction goes a lot deeper, it goes into who you are, beyond looking at a person. Some of it is confidence, some of it is the attractive person is making the other person feel good about themselves, very little of it is actually looks. Can you do some surreptitious people watching to pick up a bit more on the interactions, maybe?
posted by kellyblah at 4:59 PM on December 29, 2011 [11 favorites]

"I mean, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, but I don't find it good at all when unattractive people think they are. "

In all these cases, they are wrong, and I think people should be right.

The thing is, people have their own preferences/quirks on what they find attractive and it isn't going to be universal. Someone could be HOT to some people and others could be kinda meh to others. No one is "right" when it comes to attraction. It's totally and utterly subjective.

Personal antidote: watching the show Parks & Rec my friend thinks Rob Lowe is HOT and I think he is meh, whereas I think the nerdier Scott Adams is smokin' and my friend thinks he is meh.
posted by littlesq at 4:59 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

My initial impression is that you have a direct, realistic, opinionated manner that's probably awesome as a personal compass to the world but difficult for someone else to romanticize. I think that, considering the way most people are built, realism equates to cynicism and simply writing well equates to a terrifying intellect. I'm not saying tone it down--to some extent, you do need to put that out there, in spite of the cost, to get hits from people who're really a match. But if there's anything light, open, or easy-going about yourself that you don't mind emphasizing, it's worth a shot. You mentioned being willing to send your profile info for critique if someone asks. I'm game as an intellectual exercise.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:01 PM on December 29, 2011 [10 favorites]

Chiming back in to respond to this because boy do I disagree!

I mean, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, but I don't find it good at all when unattractive people think they are. . . . . In all these cases, they are wrong, and I think people should be right.

I think this may be a bit of your problem. First of all, confidence is incredibly attractive to most people. So a confident person may not think they are - strictly speaking - physically attractive, but they may truly believe they are desirable (which is a little bit different). I've repeatedly heard people say that confidence is the single most attractive quality a person can possess, and I certainly agree. Second, agreeing with littlesq that attractiveness is subjective. There really is no right or wrong when it comes to what is attractive. So those people may be considered unattractive by most people, but attractive by some, and that's all that really matters. They know they are attractive to some, and when they find those people, their charms work their magic.

Haven't you ever found a man attractive for his confidence even though strictly speaking he probably wouldn't be considered attractive? I have so many times I've lost count.

This is all to say that if you can start to believe you are attractive (physically and otherwise), you should give off an air of confidence, which should enhance your attractiveness to others.
posted by semacd at 5:07 PM on December 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

This may not be about looks or your hobbies at all, but how you convey yourself verbally and in writing.

To me, in the small sample of your writing (in this forum which isn't a fair representation), you come off a little aggressive.
posted by k8t at 5:08 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Close friends could give you way better advice if you trust them than internet strangers. We don't know you at all.

Be happy, confident and enjoy life. That does so much for how attractive someone is. This and a past question you asked make it pretty obvious you're putting way too much negative energy/pressure into this to make it work.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 5:12 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Re: chaiminda -- Some people I like, others I don't. I mean, a few times I've been the person to break things off, generally with excellent reason. (The guy who made anti-Semitic remarks ON A FIRST DATE, for instance, the person who acted 10 years younger than his age, that sort of thing.) And sure, I do have fun until it's time for them to actively judge me, which would be fun if the judgment generally worked out in my favor.

Re: just about everyone: Sure, I've wanted to meet people because of what they have to say / their confidence, but that didn't make them more aesthetically pleasing to me (which, let's just all be honest, is what constitutes "attractive" on a dating profile.)
posted by dekathelon at 5:28 PM on December 29, 2011

I would also be willing to offer constructive criticism of your online profile, assuming my old OKC login works. Memail me, if you want. I promise to be honest and respectful.

Here's an attitude shift that I hope helps. You've got to read a short personal story to get it, sorry:

I personally don't think I'm very attractive at all. However, I'm really good on a date. I'm hard to fluster, I'm not a prude, I'm generally game to try something new, I made a srong effort to have fun dates instead of the boring old dinner-and-a-movie, I'm funny (to many, not all), I know myself and how far I'm willing to bend.

I'm also very confident. That's because of a key thing you are missing. Chemistry. I relied almost completely on the irrational nature of chemistry. Chemistry makes up for many many problems.

My OKC profile was purely designed to get me to the place of meeting the real women behind the profiles. I had various "filtering rules", such as religion and expressed political attitudes (via OKC questionnaires), that I used to remove the intolerable people from my "it could happen" list. I wrote funny notes to the women who hadn't gotten filtered out by the short list of filtering rules. If I hadn't gotten a date by the second email, and also hadn't gotten a "shove off" email, I tried a third time occasionally, but that rarely worked.

After the date, if they didn't like me, OK (that's the confidence). If we had no chemistry, OK (again the confidence). The same thing works both ways. I wasn't always physically attracted to the women I thought I would. Pictures do not tell the whole story, not in the least. Even when the pictures are honest.

So, I set my search parameters quite wide. I dated (or tried to date) women who were "out of my league", and also women I thought were not attractive to my normal taste. I dated women +- 15 years of me, wider than most will give a chance. My goal was to give chemistry a chance to blossom. Some dates (1 in 10 or so) were hilariously bad, of course. Most were cordial but had no spark.

As a 40-something non-model guy, I found it relatively easy to get two or three dates a week, with two or three hours of effort each Sunday night sending out email contacts (while watching TV, not a big deal). For what it is worth, I tried varying my profile to see what got the most response, along with varying the style of what I wrote. I checked back occasionally and modified both to fit what actually works to get dates. Programmers like statistics. Confident funniness was the key for me, it almost certainly will be different for other people.

It worked, after about eight months of active and fun, but not ridiculously effortful dating, I found my sweetie. I'm now married to a fantastic, funny, smart woman who can and does turn me on with a glance, or even better with a casual unaware pose. That's what matters. Does this person turn *you* on? Are they a great person? You don't get that from the best OKC profile, it takes a face-to-face meeting, and that's the point of online dating.
posted by Invoke at 5:33 PM on December 29, 2011 [13 favorites]

What do you mean by "actively judge"?
posted by chaiminda at 5:33 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

How do you succeed at dating?

How are you measuring success? Getting dates? Forming short or long term relationships?

One thing you should absolutely stop doing is comparing yourself to other people's experiences. Having your inbox full of messages isn't the definition of dating success for everyone. Your relationship is experience is not that atypical, and neither is your experience with online dating. Maybe your expectations are not being met, but perhaps your expectations are off.
posted by sm1tten at 5:49 PM on December 29, 2011

If you really want things to change take heed of what these kind people are telling you.

I mean, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, but I don't find it good at all when unattractive people think they are. . . . . In all these cases, they are wrong, and I think people should be right.

Therein lies your problem. You want to be right and everything is just more...nuanced. It is really all how you carry yourself and your openness to others that makes you sexy and attractive. There are very few people that are universally deigned to be attractive or unattractive. The older you get the more you realize that being right isn't everything. In fact sometimes being wrong about something and learning from it is a gift.

So a ready smile, interest in others and what they bring to your life, a sense of humor and the one thing I would add that others haven't is a sense of style. You say you are slightly overweight. That is fine and a turn on for many, but dress like you love your body. If you love your body someone else is going to want to love it too.
posted by readery at 5:49 PM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

I am female, a little over 30, not particularly attractive, fairly overweight (BMI of 28), and my self confidence kind of sucks sometimes. I did OKCupid dating for about 5 years -- FIVE YEARS-- and only managed to have one "real" relationship (which ended after 9 months) and gain two post-dating friendships from it. Over FIVE years! It's a slow, brutal process for some of us.

But you know what? I enjoyed it a LOT. I went on tons of first dates, which is great for variety and feeling like you have a dazzling social circle in a new city. This year, I got married-- to someone I met in real life instead of OKCupid, because it turned out OKCupid was just a way for me to "practice" dating before the right guy came along.

So what does all that mean?

1. It takes time. For me, it took 5 years to learn how to enjoy dating, how to "market" myself to guys, and most importantly how to find the right match for me. Don't despair and don't be impatient.

2. You don't need to be thin or beautiful to get dates. Why was I so successful? I have an interesting job that I love to talk about. I love food, cooking and drinks-- perfect things to use as a centerpiece for a first date. I have my own sense of humor and personality that I didn't craft to be just like everyone else. Guys remember that.

3. Don't be discouraged that a lot of your dates don't go very far. First dates are fun. Short-term dating is fun. This is an opportunity to have a lot of variety in your dating pool. Things not working out after a few dates just means you get to date some other guys instead.

4. 23 is hardly "pretty old to see few results." I guarantee you, lots and lots and lots of ladies under the age of 30 (cute, skinny ones even! ones without crazy deformities or awkward social habits too!) haven't had much luck either. Don't put yourself on a schedule. You don't have to be anywhere by any particular age.
posted by joan_holloway at 5:52 PM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

In all these cases, they are wrong, and I think people should be right.

Had you rather be happy or right?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:07 PM on December 29, 2011 [12 favorites]

People are trying to tell you your personality/mindset is what's getting in the way-- but if you insist on blaming it all on your appearance, why aren't you getting a makeover? Everyone can be more aesthetically pleasing with a little effort. Throw out your frumpy clothes, change your hair, get a pedicure, and be immaculately groomed. In other words, dress the part of a confident, interesting, all-around awesome woman-- however you choose to express and define it.

If you look haggard, there are several obvious things you can do: get more sleep, drink eight glasses of water a day, take a good multivitamin and omega-3 oil supplement, do cardio/weights/Pilates every other day, cut the carbs (no sugar, alcohol, red meat, or processed foods) and eat mostly vegetables and fish. If that doesn't put the pink back in your cheeks, nothing will.
posted by aquafortis at 6:08 PM on December 29, 2011 [7 favorites]

(which, let's just all be honest, is what constitutes "attractive" on a dating profile.)

Do you mean for us to take this as a given? Because it's certainly not an obvious premise.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:32 PM on December 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry to keep posting. I think this is getting away from the original topic. It does not matter what I think of people right now. Or, rather, it does, but that's not the problem. I'm quite fine determining whether I like people or not. The problem is maximizing the pool of people who like me, which is rather small.

And for what it's worth, I'd rather be right and unhappy than happy and wrong, but I'd like to think those aren't the only two options. Like I said, getting away from the topic.

(Re: looks: I do mean for you to take it as a given. But if you need more proof, boom.)
posted by dekathelon at 6:38 PM on December 29, 2011

In all these cases, they are wrong, and I think people should be right.

I agree with this statement without reservation.

That's why you should avoid making sweeping categorical statements. "I am unattractive" is an example.

The multiple meanings of attractiveness make it difficult to tell exactly what quality you lack. You could be referring to your adherence to certain standards of conventional beauty as codified in fashion magazines; then again, you might mean the ones from lad mags, health and fitness sites, any of the infinite genres of pornography... and if you don't specify which one, the truth value of "I am unattractive" is irresolvable. I guarantee that there is at least one standard by which you launch a thousand ships, and at least one by which you sink them.

Being wrong when it's easy (or practically feasible) to be right is never good, according to my personal values; but just as bad is to be certain when certainty is unwarranted.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:41 PM on December 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

Can you possibly post the text of your profile in here?
posted by k8t at 6:44 PM on December 29, 2011

(Re: looks: I do mean for you to take it as a given. But if you need more proof, boom.)

It's funny, the photos of women selected as most-attractive in that post look pretty ordinary to me, but the composition of their photos looks super professional. You should hire a photographer.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:46 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'll also look at your profile, if you want to memail me. I'm 33 and have been online dating for a few years now ( had a few longer term relationships in my 20s , and now I'm trying to get serious) , and haven't had a huge amount of success either. However--wait! I wanted to respond because a lot of these questions are answered by people in relationships, and therefore don't understand why you're itemizing things like looks, success, and comparing yourself to other people. It's not that you're shallow or preoccupied with people as objects or anything, it's that a relationship is still an abstract concept sitting on a shelf, so of course you can't really think about how you fit or don't fit with another person. It's more about seeing other people move along this relationship track faster than you, and looking at yourself and thinking why you don't have that. I think it's understandable to make comparisons in those situations.

However, it's not healthy. Like everyone's saying, it's not about what they have and you don't have. I swear some people just have some sort of magic dust that makes relationships easier for them and makes people more attracted to them. No one will tell you how to get that magic dust because they don't know themselves. I know this sounds odd, but that's the way it can feel sometimes, I know.

What I have been able to do is get past a lot of the defeating talk you're having -- "no one's attracted to me," "everyone else gets messages" "guys think my BMI is fat" -- I did this in part with therapy, to be honest, and also with just going out on as many dates as possible. If I remotely thought I might like the person, I would go out with them. It's like you just get used to the experience and desensitized by the rejection or weirdness. People don't write back to your thoughtful emails? Screw it! Write more emails! OKC makes it easier by showing you "similar" people. Write to them. They don't write you? Write to more! The guys don't call you again after the first date? If you were nice and polite and did your best, screw it! Write to some more guys!

Like anything just keep practicing and you'll get better at it. It might not be the "better" that gets you in a relationship, but it'll at least make online dating better for you, and not oh no horrible.

Here's another thing the relentless practice gets you: perspective. I know what it's like when you write an email to Seattle_Surfer_Geek that takes to into account his interests, has something funny, a few questions, perfect email. Then you see that Seattle_Surfer_Geek looked at your profile...but no reply from Seattle_Surfer_Geek.

This does not mean, despite how it might seem, that Seattle_Surfer_Geek looked at your page and thought you were horrible. I have done this, looked at a page, and not replied after someone sent me a nice message. The reasons include:

1) I forgot
2) I thought they seemed so cool that I didn't want to write them when tired/hungover/at work so I made a mental note to write a thoughtful reply later...and then I forgot
3) They had something in their profile I thought wouldn't fit for me right now, like planning to go on a ten month trip around Southeast Asia, leaving in six weeks. Just not for me right now, even though they seem cool.

I hope this helps a little. I know it's a little scattered, but I just want to make clear that I know where you're coming from and feel like I know why you've framed your question and response the way you have.
posted by sweetkid at 6:48 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

This isn't dating specific but I think you might need to hear it:

You're engaged in social networking. It's a crapshoot. Just try everything you can think of and don't give up and maybe you'll get lucky, that's all that anyone who isn't filthy rich can do.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:51 PM on December 29, 2011

The problem is maximizing the pool of people who like me, which is rather small.

Then have some people look at your profile and see what the issue is.

To maximise your pool you need to make sure you are fairly and accurately representing yourself in a way that flaunts your good traits. You could probably falsely increase your pool by lying about yourself or doctoring your photos to align more closely to the tastes of the masses, or by showing cleavage.

You might just have a small pool. Nothing wrong with that. I too have a small pool. As I suspect loads of people on metafilter (and the world at large really) have. Look on the OKCupid blogs about the best sorts of pictures to take (as suggested). Have a friend or 3 or 4 read over your profile and give their opinion. Other than that...what sort of answer are you looking for?
posted by ian1977 at 7:11 PM on December 29, 2011

I'm female, and I've lived 23 years without anyone being attracted to me.

Stop with this. First of all, you are counting your childhood years? Ick. Also, stop pretending that you can read people's minds. People have been attracted to you, alright? Granted, it might not have done you much good if you didn't know, but it can also be pretty hellish to live a life where many people are very attracted to you AND always letting you know.

So, in your adult lifespan you've had about 5 years worth of time in which you've felt unattractive. That's insanely common. It takes time to grow into an adult body and an adult mind comfortable with desiring and being desired. Sure, there are people who fell into it a lot younger, but you are not in a competition with them. Everyone's lives come with their own advantages and disadvantages, and if you don't put down the measuring stick now, it could end up being the only thing fucking you in the long run.

Anyhow, meeting worthwhile mates is just trial and error: lather, rinse, repeat. If you get a bad one, toss it back, there will be another. But that does require effort on your part, and right now you are spending too much time in your own head, trying to balance your half of the equation. Stop it -- you are fine, really. You are good enough, you are worthy of being loved, and people are (and/or will be) attracted to you.

But you really do have to internalize that fact and grow comfortable with the fact, because it's not fun to date someone who is always doubting how attracted you are to them. It sucks to be responsible for convincing someone that they're lovable or fuckable or whatever. If people sense that about you, they're going to A) think you're a lot of work to be around -- probably too much. Or worse, B) they will exploit that weakness and find all sorts of really fascinating ways of treating you like shit, and they'll get away with it because they know you'll assume that it's mostly your fault.

How do you change it? I can't tell you how to find yourself sexy. It didn't work for me until I was lucky enough to have sex (when I was almost your age) with a very sweet older gentleman who made me feel like the sexiest person alive. It was just one time, but I carried that image of myself around for quite a while, and it at least got me thinking of myself and my sexuality as valid gifts that I had to offer people. Sure, I'm not everyone's type, but who wants to be? Anyhow, you need to find a way to connect your body with your brain in a way that turns you on. Then, you just invite people to the event that's already in progress.
posted by hermitosis at 7:15 PM on December 29, 2011 [18 favorites]

Your writing style comes across as "ready to fight" in here. This may be because of frustration regarding the topic, but if not, it's something you might want to think about.
posted by Kloryne at 7:30 PM on December 29, 2011 [13 favorites]

re: ian1977 - None of this is in my profile, obviously.

But it's not obvious at all. We haven't seen your profile, and nobody here had any way of knowing that you aren't saying some self-deprecating stuff in there in order to attempt to "address the issue" or whatever before somebody else could hurt you with it. People do that, you know?

You're sounding a little harsh here, and you're not providing any context that would help us understand why you're so down on most of the items you don't care for. Like your profile, or your pictures, or a description of what the guy acting 10 years younger than he is (how old is he?) was actually doing, for example. It's odd that you cite two examples of unacceptable behavior by dates and one is anti-semitic slurs and the other is acting young, and then describe the other incidents as "that sort of thing." But those aren't remotely the same sort of thing! Are they? I mean, what did he do? I'm thinking, I'm 32 and I like riding a skateboard around, is that the kind of thing she's talking about? Does he deliver pizza, is he still in school, does he play beer pong all night, does he talk about women like he's 14, what? It's like you think we know much more about what you're thinking than we possibly can, given the details you have actually transmitted. I would submit that you also think you know much more about what people think about you than you possibly can. OK, maybe you somehow found out that not one of your exes was ever for a minute actually attracted to you (serious question: why were they with you? Are you inheriting?), but I can almost guarantee you, having read this, that there are people who find you intimidating. If one of them is attracted to you the odds that he is going to tell you are not so good. The prospect of rejection can be awful enough when you know the other person would be gentle. This is not so hot for sexual confidence either.

You say that you're interested in being liked more, not in liking other people more. But if people are getting "I probably won't like you, I don't like most people" vibes from you before they've met you, they aren't going to approach you at all, no matter how good they think you look.

I know guys have it easier, but I have been attracted to some weird-looking dudes in my time, and they weren't even musicians. You can be "right" about whether specific not-horrible-looking people (including yourself) are attractive to you, but you can't be "right" about whether those people are objectively unattractive. When you say this, you're insulting people you haven't even met or talked to or anything. Not the people who think of themselves as attractive, but the people who find them so. Like, if you say Tom Baker is not devastatingly handsome, and you're right, then I am either deceiving myself or crazy or don't exist.

In conclusion, you've gotta get out of your head more. If your profile is anything like this thread, I suspect that you seem to be asking somebody to try to meet you inside of it.
posted by Adventurer at 7:50 PM on December 29, 2011 [12 favorites]

Just from reading this thread and your other one about dating, I am getting an idea of you being rather high strung and anxious about doing things "right" and "wrong." Maybe you don't come across as being very relaxed/comfortable with yourself. Have you considered therapy?
posted by oceanjesse at 8:00 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

What is your job? You're sounding too cerebral.

At 23, get a job, part time even, in a "cool" bar/restaurant, or even a family place, and get to know and hang out with the other workers and their friends. A one night a week gig is OK and better than none. Friday and/or Saturday night is the busy time and they need part timers. The after work parties might astound you or frighten you, but maybe you should see that side if you haven't.

At 23, you should do things in real life, not online dating. Spend that time in that restaurant working. Even if you have that Master's or PhD you can say you're making extra cash to pay off your student loans earlier or something. It's probably true?

A thing about dating that is rarely mentioned anywhere: you find best matches with someone you see regularly. At school, at work, or at your hangout(s). At some point something clicks for you or the other then something happens. A really crude bizarro approximation of this is "online dating" where you exchange several messages before actually meeting.

It is a numbers thing. The more people you see regularly, the more chance that something will pop with one of those regulars - after being met and seen several times first with no pressures or desires.

The "love at first sight" is very rare, but real, but it is always only on one side - the other has to see the person several or many times first.

Get out, have some fun, stop looking, stop thinking so hard, and increase the chances of something starting for you in real life.

Good luck!
posted by caclwmr4 at 8:08 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

Please. People really don't get how brutal the dating scene can be, and they're taking that out on you. Don't listen to 'em. What people are saying here is you're not being Mary Sunshine about something that is a problem, and instead of helping you fix it, people want to tell you you're depressing and argumentative. What a load of crap.

But your question ("what am I doing wrong") cannot be answered without reading your profile and looking at the pictures you put up. Right now we have one tiny little bit of input, and since that's you talking about a problem, people are assuming that must be what your dating profile is like. The one thing I noticed about your question was that you only replied a few times, and got discouraged with no responses. You say no one is "letting" you win the numbers game. Here's the deal: if you are going to increase your chances, you need to be contacting other people, and start trying not to think so hard about those people who don't respond. It's normal to be hurt by that, but you have to get over it to some extent.

Listen to anyone who actually emails you and reads your profile. Do you have a friend you can ask? Sometimes friends know how to highlight your good qualities in ways you would never think to do. I highly recommend offline dating as well, and all I can say there is network, network, network. Go to parties, talk, flirt, and meet people who can introduce you to other people. If you really are average in the looks department, someone will be into you, trust me. You're still plenty young enough to turn this thing around.
posted by thelastcamel at 8:16 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

Like others here have said, confidence and attitude make SUCH a difference. I have met guys who at first, did nothing for me, but after getting to know them, were pretty hot via sheer force of confidence & personality. And it works for chicks, too. Objectively, I'm not much to look at (short, fat) but even I turn a few heads occasionally (and get messages from guys on OkC every few weeks or so). Not as often as my more conventionally attractive peers, but it happens. And you know when it happens? Generally when I'm out having a really good time or in my element at work and not giving a damn what anyone else thinks (which can be tricky, I know). It's the confidence and attitude every time for me, at least. Work on your posture, and try to keep an open-looking countenance.

Fianlly, My natural expression is kind of angry looking (so I've been told), so I try to cancel it out with a very slight smile when I'm feeling open to talking to people at cafes or the like. Good luck! I've had times when I felt very much what you describe, but you keep on and stay open, things will turn up if you let them.
posted by smirkette at 8:18 PM on December 29, 2011

On preview, what thelastcsmel said.
posted by smirkette at 8:19 PM on December 29, 2011

Having taken a look at your posting history, I guess it's kosher to mention these depression symptoms: black-and-white thinking. Getting angry at people who don't deserve to be confident. I Am Intrinsically Undesirable/Why Doesn't Anybody Want Me. "I'd rather be right than happy" is something people say when they don't ever expect to be happy and can't call up a realistic memory of it (one of depression's most debilitating, self-preserving features), or when they're martyring themselves for a just cause, which calling other people wrong about their opinions of their own desirability is of course not. I keep trying to call you "kid" in these sentences because I have been to most of the places you seem to live in, and you need to get yourself out of there. I don't think I'm projecting when I say that in the absence of anybody else to criticize your brain is liable to eat itself in this state.
posted by Adventurer at 8:20 PM on December 29, 2011 [11 favorites]

I agree with the lastcamel also on, well, everything, but also the bit about getting out there and flirting at parties. Go wherever and just talk to people, even if you really don't want to. Just keep on doing it. It will be demoralizing a lot of times, awkward, etc. Keep doing it! If it's awkward at first, start small and just keep trying to talk a bit more and a bit more. You can't just jump from being insecure about this stuff to super confident, but you can muddle along and be patient with yourself.

Here's me talking about this topic before, although not limited to dating.
posted by sweetkid at 8:28 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's the deal: if you are going to increase your chances, you need to be contacting other people, and start trying not to think so hard about those people who don't respond. It's normal to be hurt by that, but you have to get over it to some extent.

This times a million. A low response rate is largely the norm I believe.
posted by ian1977 at 8:37 PM on December 29, 2011

What are you doing wrong? I'm guessing you're coming across as defensive, negative, apologetic, or desperate, or some combination of those and other factors. Low self-esteem and/or unrealistic expectations could also be factors.

This question is hard to answer as posed. You haven't linked to your pictures or profile, so we don't know what you look like, whether you are using good pictures, or what you are saying about yourself. We also don't know what you are saying on your dates or in your relationships.

In this thread, what you're doing wrong is being too combative and unwilling to listen because you have a thing about being "right" and "realistic." In your previous dating question, you seemed to have trouble with the idea that dating often kind of sucks and sometimes it just takes time to meet the right person.

So, I'm not really sure what you're looking for here, but the bottom line answer is that you need to work on readjusting your attitude. How you should do that depends on details you haven't provided.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:46 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

I mean, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, but I don't find it good at all when unattractive people think they are

Lots of people upthread already said that attractiveness is subjective. There's no right and wrong, and it's a lose-lose game to thing there is. I mean, I think Dalí is a really bad artist, and I can write a compendium to prove it, but does it matter? Not only Dalí (and Gala) thought he was great, also millions of people agree with them.

"Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member". - Groucho Marx.

So, when you meet someone, it might be that you already despise them deeply just because they felt you were attractive and worth meeting; and the vibe you're sending, believe me, is deeply felt. It can't possibly work. You're constantly sending your resignation.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 10:20 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

but I don't find it good at all when unattractive people think they are.

Sorry, but as long as you've got this attitude you may be successful but you'll never be happy.
Or content.
Or kind.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:22 PM on December 29, 2011 [10 favorites]

but I don't find it good at all when unattractive people think they are.

FWIW, I think I agree with this statement, insofar as you're saying that it's very possible to be looking "out of your league". Confidence is important, of course, but I guess my outlook is more realistic. Looking out of one's league sometimes seems to be counterproductive self-torture to me.

That said, I still think charm/social grace can do some serious heavy-lifting. I'm a decent-looking guy (but no stud) who's had moderate success on OKC. Feel free to link me to your profile and I'd be willing to offer some constructive criticism.
posted by stroke_count at 10:37 PM on December 29, 2011

You say that the real issue is "maximizing the pool of people who like you, which is rather small," but you can't do this without changing how you view other people and yourself. Presentation is half the battle, and you present yourself in the way that you speak about people, including yourself.

You judge yourself as not-super-attractive and act as though the dating game is decided by being aesthetically pleasing. Neither of these are facts, yet you treat them as though they are. You seem:

(a) Super-judgmental. If you seem as judgmental in person as you do in writing, you're probably scaring off a good number of men who are completely worthwhile but harbor some insecurity (as most people do). Few people want to feel brutally judged, even if they think judgment is funny when directed at other people. Also, judgmental people come across as confrontational. Few people want a confrontation-laden romance.
(b) Extreme. If your perception seems as black-and-white in person as it does in your writing, you may be making yourself unattractive to people who want to be around emotionally mature people who can appreciate nuance.
(c) Negative. A lot of people find negativity unattractive. Not only does it drag other people down, negative people also seem less resilient and, of course, less happy. I think most people want to be happy, and people who want to be happy want to date people who seem happy.
(d) Insecure. Most people are at least a little insecure in some regard. That's fine. But insecurity is very easily communicated in body language, and if you communicate it very often, people are going to think of you as insecure. If you put yourself down (even if you call it "realistic"), people are going to think of you as insecure. Few people want to date someone like this. How many super-insecure people have you been attracted to?

I'm curious about this line: "I do have fun until it's time for them to actively judge me." Do you mean when they decide whether or not to continue the relationship? Assuming yes--because I can't think of what else you could mean, unless you have judging contests when you go on dates--I think this indicates the major problem in your mindset. You act as though people are judging you all the time.

On some level, you could argue that they are. But mostly, people just want to enjoy themselves. If you help them enjoy themselves or feel good on some emotional level, they're much more likely to "judge" you favorably. In other words, they'll like you more. And if people like you, they may want to date you. In other words, focus on how you're making THEM feel instead of how they're perceiving you.

And even if people "judge" you favorably or like you, they STILL may not want to date you. Even if they like you generally, they may think they're not ready for a relationship, that their values don't align with yours, that you remind them too much of their ex, that they're still not over their ex, or that it's not fair to you because they'll be moving away really soon--in short, there are a million reasons why they may not want another date, and it doesn't mean you're totally unattractive or hopeless. It can just be that the circumstances aren't right, they're messed up about something, or they just felt incompatible with you. So stop putting so much weight on this.

All in all, I think you should re-examine your judgmental attitude and open yourself up to more nuanced ways of looking at social interactions. Journaling could help. Therapy could help. But if no one's ever been attracted to you (which I doubt), rearranging your online dating profile certainly isn't going to suddenly make you a lot more attractive to people.
posted by melancholyplay at 10:58 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Look. I'm sorry if I came off as judgmental, I just get (understandably?) frustrated when I ask for feedback on how I can improve my situation, and instead people say I'll never be kind (which somehow qualifies as not judgmental, but never mind that.) This whole situation is frustrating me. I've been trying to make things work since June and it hasn't. Something is wrong.

Responding to a few general things:

- I didn't post my profile because of Google. (This username has no relation to anything I've ever used anywhere.) But I did offer to link it to people who asked, so there's that.

- By "actively judge" that's pretty much exactly what I mean, yes. The thing is, though, people do judge you all the time. I read it all the time on past threads, it fits my experience, etc. The thing about actively judging is that (I'm totally ripping off someone from my last question here) that's when they let you know or imply the outcome, positive or negative. And that doesn't go well for me as often as I'd like to.
posted by dekathelon at 11:12 PM on December 29, 2011

You're where I wish I had been at your age. Asking how to fix your blind spots is great.

You want it straight, so I'm going to tell you what a friend told me then. I wish I'd listened. It would have saved me a lot of needless confusion.

If you want to date more desirable men, you have to be as physically attractive as possible. Not just middling, but as super-fine as you can possibly be.

If you're in a less-than-metropolitan-area, you have more latitude, but if you're in a big city? You have to be really fit. As fit as possible. A variety of body shapes can be attractive, but if you're a size 0-4, you are going to have more options. Period. Not-fat doesn't cut it. Anecdata: I am 5 ft 2, size 0-2 and 105 lbs, and most of the girls dating the men in my very wealthy neighborhood full of smart men are my dress size or smaller.

So get your BMI down. Figure out your ideal weight and get there. The men you probably want will not date you until you do.

Also, what's up with your hair? Long, straight hair is what the majority of most men like. I consider my boyfriend the least judgemental man I've ever met, but if he'd met me when my hair was short, he wouldn't have dated me. He just hates short hair. Most straight men do. Grow out your hair if it's too short to brush the top of your armpits. Buy clip-in extensions for your dates till then- memail me if you want the brand I use. If your hair is curly, buy/use a flat iron.

How are your teeth? Buy a whitening kit or have them professionally whitened. If your teeth need work, get it done ASAP. This is important.

How's your skin? Get a chemical peel or laser treatments if you have acne scars.

Is there a feature, such as your nose, which could be improved? Get it fixed. I've done this, and I'm waaaay hotter now. Ignore people who think this is unnecessary or a bad idea. If you like it, do it. Conservative, well-done plastic surgery opens up a world of possibilities no amount of other changes or charm can accomplish, if one is a candidate for it.

Your clothes? Spend every spare dollar you have to look stylish, sexy and prosperous. Wear bright, solid colors. Show off your cleavage or legs, but not both at once. Wear heels to every date. Buy a well-tailored coat, pearls, knee-high, high-heeled boots and a cossack hat for winter. Wear expensive perfume.

Remember, for most straight men, sexy is a formula: long hair, short skirt, high heels. Sure, there are exceptions, but even those men will rarely like you less if you follow the formula.

Don't do anything that makes you look or feel like you're wearing a costume or facade. Just find what you personally enjoy while staying within the parameters above.

As far as your attitude goes:

Hetero-normative men like women who give them what they cannot find at their workplace or among their friendships. That means softness, sweetness, glamour, tenderness, vulnerability, ego bolstering (genuine if at all humanly possible), support and unconditional love.

So if you're harsh, become soft and as sweet as you can. Smart women sometimes resist this. I did. Don't play dumb, just be you, but soft, playful, vulnerable, hard-to-get you. Smile. Use sensuous, langurous gestures as opposed to quick, nervous ones. Slow is sexy. Stand up straight and strut into your dates as though you're walking on air.

And just so you know, I've done all of the above and am now much cuter, happier and paired up with a wonderful man. Before? Not so much. In fact, seven years ago I could have written your post.

PS. Let your dates pay. For everything. I never used to do this. Most guys prefer this, and it helps weed out cheap losers. Yes, I'm a feminist, but after much experience, I just have had better luck letting my dates pay.
posted by devymetal at 12:20 AM on December 30, 2011 [33 favorites]

I really disagree with the nature of devymetal's post above. While fixing your appearance can't hurt, this problem seems a lot deeper than your appearance. For example, you allude to an ex who seems to have claimed that he was never attracted to you (?), and that probably didn't help you and this fear of being constantly judged. I don't think a pity parade is your style, but I hope you didn't just brush that off as him being "realistic." If he did indeed say that, it had to be scarring--that's a pretty horrible thing for anyone to say to someone they once dated. My point is, this problem goes deeper. So plumb deeper for the solution.

Gaining confidence is important. Whether you gain that confidence by making yourself more physically attractive or whether you gain it by changing your patterns of behavior is up to you. I think a combination of both is probably best, but I think you absolutely cannot do without the latter. There are plenty of good-looking people who have trouble in the dating world--it's the psychology and outlook of a person that really determines a person's life.

I didn't mean that being judgmental is something you should feel ashamed of or sorry for. I meant that you may be coming across as very judgmental, extreme, negative, or insecure in real life, and that may be turning people off and hindering your attempts to improve your situation.

I'm unsure of what you mean when you say you've "been trying to make things work since June and it hasn't" (been working, I presume). When will you know that things "are working?" When you get a date? What changes have you been making? Are they all changes in your appearance? Because if you've just been making appearance changes, I'd say you need to go deeper. If you've tried making internal changes (what kind?), I'd say a dramatic internal shift might take longer than 6 months to produce really concrete results--but that you'd feel the changes start to happen, and you'd probably be a bit happier than you seem.

On the "actively judging note"--I don't think "judging" a person is ever quite as cut and dry as "positive" or "negative." There are many shades in between, such as "I like this person, but they're not compatible with my needs" or "I'm intrigued by this person, but I'm intimidated and don't want to make the effort." And judgments often change. Hasn't anyone ever surprised you by doing something that shows you that you were wrong about them? Lots of people have made people change their minds about them through sheer persistence. If people are judging you (on some level) all the time, you also have the ability to change their judgments at any time.
posted by melancholyplay at 12:48 AM on December 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

And yes, confidence is key, and must be developed, but no amount of internal confidence is going to inspire a man who considers you physically unattractive based on your online photos to ask you out.

Work on both, but no matter how much you are glowing inwardly, if you have the thought of, "I would feel so much more comfortable if I were fitter/wearing a better dress/had my teeth whitened, etc." you're going to find it impossible to project confidence. When those external factors are also fixed, you WILL be more genuinely confident, but not till then.
posted by devymetal at 1:42 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wow. I cannot disagree more with what devymetal says. If you want to lose weight/straighten your hair/get plastic surgery, by all means, go ahead. But do it because YOU want to, not because of some cockamamie idea that it'll help land you a man. That way lies resentment and regret. Not to mention I don't think you want the kind of man who will want to date you because you look like a pretty china doll and not, y'know, a living breathing woman.
posted by Tamanna at 2:03 AM on December 30, 2011 [15 favorites]

but I don't find it good at all when unattractive people think they are... they are wrong, and I think people should be right.

You are confusing "physically attractive" (beautiful, handsome) and "sexually attractive" (able to arouse the sexual/romantic interest of potential partners.)

Plain, homely and even sometimes downright ugly people who are charming, confident, flirtatious, etc. often do attract people who are interested in dating them. Which means they are attractive. Therefore, they are not wrong.

This is why people are telling you to work on your confidence, personality and flirting skills even if you think you are not cute.

I don't think devymetal is wrong, men do like women who are thin and sexy. Some men will only date women who are physical "10's" or as close to it as they can get, and if you want one of those, well, she has your plan. It sounds like a shit-ton of work and money, but then again so is college, right?

But there are many, many, many men who are attracted to women who are on the cute side of average. And there are some men who are attracted by personality alone, and don't mind if a girl is plain or homely if she is charming and interesting and fun. Some men don't mind a plain face if a woman has a hot body, and some men don't mind a chunky body if a woman has a pretty face. (You can apply that to women who like women and men who like men, as well.)

I once had a huge crush on a woman who was as homely as a mud fence because she had these adorably feminine mannerisms and a flirty way of using her eyes that was just incredibly sexy. She always had dates and boyfriends when I knew her, and she's happily married now.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:55 AM on December 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

Seconding thelastcamel.

I am somewhat attractive and have gotten so few bids over the course of 30 years that it's almost laughable. (I am NOT looking for a bid here. :-)) I could just about make the same comment that you made about no one being attracted to me - - and the few that are, I don't find attractive at all, often with very good reason. I tried forcing the issue with online dating for years; it was not worth my time other than to prove itself unworthy of my time. Period.

Looks don't really make that much of a difference - I look around and am perpetually amazed that certain people get dates/relationships. I don't get it at all, but I think I'm from another planet anyway.

So it has to be something else other than looks. Not all of us are comfortable with the opposite sex, or with people in general. Some people manage to "fix" that; others, for whatever reason, can't. So what. You do not have to be in an intimate relationship to lead a fulfilling and rewarding life. I don't even think you need to have that many friends for that. The important thing is to accept yourself and be content with your own company.

If I were you, I would forget about dating for now, if possible. Learn more about who you are and what your likes and dislikes are. If there is a spiritual path that attracts you, check that out. If you can cultivate platonic friendships with men who are worthy of your friendship, do so. Same with friendships with women, if you can.

You sound as if you like your job and it's rewarding to you - lucky duck. If you enjoy that, pursue it in your off time. Forget the people who intone "no one died wanting to spend more time at the office." If your job is where you spend most of your time, and it satisfies you, it is more than OK to have that be the focus of your life. Sounds like you have some interests outside of work, too: good deal.

Most of all, don't count on or put a lot of money toward a magical, mystical transformation into something other than what you are. Take it from someone who tried it. You will either find a good relationship or you won't, but you are inherently worthy of one.
posted by Currer Belfry at 5:17 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry but I vehemently disagree with devymetal above. There's nothing wrong with trying to be as attractive as you can be, but there's something intensely unattractive about pushing and pulling yourself until you fit into the narrow attractive box that you claim most straight men want.

Maybe you think I'm kidding myself, but I really wouldn't want a man like that. Someone who cares so much that their partner conforms so exactly to the prevailing beauty standard is just not very hot to me. What's going to happen, 15 years from now, when you can't conform as exactly to the beauty standard? Do you just want to be dumped for a younger, hotter model? That way leads madness and neuroticism. I want someone who will fall for the entire package, who thinks I'm hot as hell despite my thighs being dimply and who loves me as much for my personality as my looks. Believe me, it's possible and happens more often than you think.
posted by peacheater at 8:44 AM on December 30, 2011 [7 favorites]

I mean, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, but I don't find it good at all when unattractive people think they are. The same goes for any other configuration, though: bad artists thinking they're good, mean people thinking they're nice - or attractive people thinking they're not, for that matter. In all these cases, they are wrong, and I think people should be right.

Here's the thing--there are core assumptions that you have that you are not really acknowledging. The first is that there are "attractive" people and "unattractive" people. This is a construct in your head. It is also called "all-or-nothing thinking." In reality not everyone is attracted to the same people. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. It is said that what type of face you are attracted to is a function of what type of immune system you are looking for in a mate. I don't know the science on that, but there is no tablet floating around Jupiter that lists the names of all persons who are objectively "attractive" and objectively "unattractive." In other words, you mistake the social cues sent out by TV and movies for an actual objective value. Such things are not true.

So the key is this--there are no objectively attractive or unattractive people out there. There is no basis in logic for such things to exist, because it is a personal decision. Keep that in mind. And get Intimate Connections.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:16 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry but I vehemently disagree with devymetal above. There's nothing wrong with trying to be as attractive as you can be, but there's something intensely unattractive about pushing and pulling yourself until you fit into the narrow attractive box that you claim most straight men want.

devymetal is effectively making a "no one got fired for choosing IBM" argument to dating-- "no one got rejected for being thin, having straight hair, having symmetric features, and wearing a miniskirt."

There's something vulgar about her argument, of course, but if you're going to approach dating as a numbers game, then one strategy is to fit a standard that will maximize the number of possible suitors.

Ultimately, your personality is your personality, and it is fair to be very protective of it, lest you lose yourself trying to pursue something that ultimately won't satisfy you (money, a profession that's a bad fit, an image of an SO you feel you're "supposed" to have, etc.). But devymetal's approach is an approach.
posted by deanc at 9:30 AM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

fwiw, I know plenty straight haired, white toothed, super tiny girls who wear cute clothes and who also had fun, cool personalities who've had trouble with dating and felt no one had interest -- especially when we were in our twenties.

Like I said...some people just have some magic dust or something that makes it all easier. No idea.
posted by sweetkid at 9:47 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

To clarify, I don't mean "vulgar" as in "disgusting" or "obscene." I mean "vulgar" as in "base, plebeian, unrefined." It's cutting straight to the chase, in the same way one might choose a college major by looking at the list of "highest earning college majors" and picking the one at the top: a strategy lacking in subtlety but one coolly focused on a specific set of goals.
posted by deanc at 11:58 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Online dating can be really terrible. I know people it works for, but it really seems like it isn't working for you.

The thing is, putting up an ad on an online dating site is really the path of least resistance in terms of feeling like you're doing something, relationship-wise, and that effects the types of people you're going to meet. I've seen pretty much two categories of guys:

1.) There seem to be a ton of guys who just broke up with their girlfriend, or got dumped. Will typically be extremely commitment-phobic and call things off after a couple dates.

2.) On the other hand, there are guys who have been single a long time and are mostly content being single, but keep getting pressured to find a girl (by friends, parents, society, etc.) They will put in the minimum amount of work possible to say they're looking while maintaining impossibly high standards.

There are undoubtedly tweaks you could make to your profile to get more responses, but the "within a month they want nothing to do with me" is pretty typical. Get involved in more in-person activities and stop wasting your time with this online dating stuff.
posted by dagnyscott at 12:13 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone who's responded - I should have made that more clear, that I appreciate the suggestions and have done a few, or at least the ones that are doable right now. Again, I'm sorry if I came off judgmental. This probably won't help my case much, but I don't think I'm like that in person.

The reason I posted this now is because I was thinking about New Year's resolutions, for what that's worth. It probably instead just made a lot of people dislike me, so go me. I'm going to mark this resolved now.
posted by dekathelon at 9:26 AM on December 31, 2011

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