Dating, for a messed up obese guy
September 3, 2012 5:57 AM   Subscribe

I was (am?) socially broken, and had (have?) crippled my self-confidence, as well as my body. Help me fix me.

I realise that this might well have been done to the death - and I have searched, but I think my situation is suitably edge-case enough that it could warrant a post of its own. There is quite a bit of backstory, I'm sorry for the braindump.

I am 34 years old. I met my ex-wife at college, and we were inseparable from that moment on. We stayed together throughout college, got a house together, got married, and spent our entire 20s never more than a few hours out of each other's company. Over the years, infatuation became familiarity and from familiarity a slowly brooding contempt began to arise in the relationship. We both put on some weight, had sex less and less often, and gradually the marriage started to become more of a chore for both of us, but we were so heavily vested in each other that splitting up was a difficult thing to do.

Then 4 years ago I discovered my ex-wife was having an affair with one of my so-called friends, and, as a result, the marriage abruptly ended. No qualms with her - the marriage was a dud, we needed to end it, she probably got there before I would I have done the same.

That all said - I took it fairly badly over the proceeding couple of years. I clammed up, got miserable, angry and pessimistic. I stopped seeing my friends, I even moved away to a completely different town partly-purposely to be alone. I did not go out. I lived as a hermit. I spent money I didn't have on pointless toys and frivolities and got my finances in a total mess because of it, I drank a lot, I did not socialise with anyone outside of the office, and I generally got very, very down. The only constant was food - I seemed to get by and self-medicate myself by - well - eating. As a result, my weight ballooned.

Sexually, I was impotent. I mean that in every sense. I would see women actively cross the road to avoid walking past me in the street. I met this one girl in Amsterdam - not a prostitute! - in a hotel bar we were staying at, and we ended up making out and retiring to her room. I could not function - there was alcohol involved, but I wasn't pie-eyed drunk. I haven't had meaningful sex in possibly six or seven years.

At the point where I realised what a mess I was making of my life, I was tipping the scales at 400lbs.

A quick reality check, a change of job, a change of city, and the clarity one can only get from being near the bottom snapped me out of it. I'm doing better now - I'm taking care of myself properly, and I've lost a chunk of weight since then through eating much more sensibly (and am still doing so) - though I'm still firmly in the 'Morbidly obese' BMI category - and I'm becoming far more socially active than I was before, finding new friends and being a social animal(!) at work. Bear in mind though that I am still very much the wrong side of >340lbs.

All of which has reawakened my desire to get out, meet people and get dating again. Which is where my social awkwardness and crashing lack of self-confidence comes in. A week or so ago, I met this amazing woman through a work colleague. She is, well, gorgeous. I have no idea how this happened, but we somehow hit it off and spent the night flirting and socialising with each other, but it went no further than that. We did exchange numbers though, and we arranged to meet up for dinner a few days later.

We went on the date, and it was great. At least - I thought so, and she did too, at least she appeared to, and said as much at the time. We got on really well, went to a couple of bars after the meal and chatted until late. We discussed the issue of my weight - she's never 'been out with a big guy before', and I told her how I got this way, but that I was fixing it and so on. She didn't seem too bothered. We talked at length about a 2nd date, and the places we could go and the things we could do and made tentative plans for the coming week. There was no intimacy, other than a peck on the cheek when we left. I received a text from her after getting home that night, which says - verbatim - 'Thanks for a fantastic night. Sleep well and I will see you soon! X'. I replied with similar sentiment, and sent a couple of follow-up texts a day or two later, and I've heard nothing since. It's been 5 days.

So, there's that whole will-she, won't-she issue, and I don't know if this will go anywhere; I'd really, really like it if it did, but the larger question is how do bigger guys, with self-confidence issues and crappy social skills go about dating? I've tried internet dating, but it did precisely nothing to repair my ego, as I managed to get single figure numbers of women who actually conversed with me on both match and eharmony in 12 months; and out of those only actually turned into a date (and what a train-wreck that was - perhaps a future post?). I also found the ethics of these companies somewhat questionable - a week or two after my subscription would lapse, all of a sudden a very attractive lady would be wanting to talk to me; providing I re-activated my subscription, of course!

I'm rambling now. Any advice is very gratefully received; I will answer any questions you have, if you need more colour. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I replied with similar sentiment, and sent a couple of follow-up texts a day or two later, and I've heard nothing since. It's been 5 days.

So make a specific plan and ask her out. The will-she, won't-she issue and will-this-go-anywhere question aren't going to go away by losing weight. The weight gain is a red herring, especially since you've changed your lifestyle and are getting healthier as a result. You've never actually dated before; you were monogamous since college & have been alone since your divorce. Maybe, like many people (myself included), you're just not a casual-dating kind of guy, you're a relationship guy. So you met this woman, hit it off, and are now ready for date number two. Don't worry about what happens after that. It sounds like you're actually doing fine.
posted by headnsouth at 6:11 AM on September 3, 2012

[Urg, meant to italicize that first line, as it's from the OP.]
posted by headnsouth at 6:11 AM on September 3, 2012

It's been 5 days since this woman has heard from you. You seemed to like her, you talked with her about possible things to do on a second date, you responded to her text thanking you for a fantastic night, and it's conceivable that she's already confirmed that her phone battery isn't dead at least once today. Why are you leaving her hanging?
posted by Houstonian at 6:15 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

... on preview exactly what Houstonian says. right now, in some alternate universe only gorgeous women know about she is writing:

"he was great, we texted goodnight, now i havent heard from in 5 days, what gives??"

so get on with it already! you can do it!
posted by chasles at 6:19 AM on September 3, 2012

Call her!

Look, I'm picking up that you're feeling insecure about your weight. I think I have this correct: On First Day, she did lay eyes on you, and you two got along. You asked her out for dinner and she said yes. Then there was Second Day, in which you had a wonderful date, with talk of a Third Day. That's another yes. Now, if your weight was a problem for her, do you think there would have been a Second Day? Of course not.

So maybe she's been busy -- it happens. Maybe she's being coy (doubt it). Maybe she's not into texting or has an older phone that makes texting difficult. Dial her number and say (to her or leave this as a message): I'd like to take you out on a date, to [place or activity] on [date about 3 days away from today, no later than this-coming weekend]. I can pick you up at [time].
posted by Houstonian at 6:35 AM on September 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Uh, I did send replies to her - I sent a further two messages to her over the last 5 days. It has been 5 days since the last contact from her.

It sounds like maybe your followup texts were more connected with the first date than the second date. Once you've both said "hey that was great, let's get together again sometime..." it's time for a specific invitation to the next thing.

We talked at length about a 2nd date, and the places we could go and the things we could do and made tentative plans for the coming week.

Did you firm up those tentative plans? Do that. "Hey let's have that second date we talked about. How about X thing Friday? We could meet at Y for happy hour first."

Your head might still be in that weird alternate reality of online dating where you have to decipher open-ended words on a screen ... this isn't like that. This is old-school dating where you met in person and started to get to know each other in person. Go ahead and invite her on a second date.
posted by headnsouth at 6:36 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh my gracious, CALL HER! No more text messaging. Pick up the phone and ask her out to dinner. Or whatever else you'd like to do as a second-date activity.
posted by baby beluga at 6:44 AM on September 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

I know she sounded interested, but the time elapsed make it seems (to me) like she's not interested in anything romantic going forward. But! You had two great dates, which means there are other dates out there to have. I'm very sure there are many beautiful, fascinating, smart women who feel equally broken by similar circumstances and are struggling in exactly the same ways. You can go to places where people who are trying to lose weight go (gyms, hiking or biking clubs, etc.?), and you can build out (meaning: meet in person) relationships with women from online communities with similar interests to yours. I know they are out there, as I know several women like that who are friends. You are well on your way.

On preview, yes, call her before you do anything else. Resolve this one way or the other.
posted by bluemoonegg at 6:53 AM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

She obviously likes you, it might not be obvious to her that you also like her, you might think it's obvious because she's an attractive lady and everyone likes those and you're part of everyone. Most women do not think that way about themselves. Time to get in touch and organize another date.

Also it's worth noting that by the sounds of things you're turning you life around and you're becoming a better proposition as time goes on, if you ever feel worried remind yourself that she clearly likes you enough to see the current you so the future you will obviously rock her world.
posted by purplemonkeydishwasher at 6:54 AM on September 3, 2012

I was (am?) socially broken, and had (have?) crippled my self-confidence, as well as my body. Help me fix me.


I took it fairly badly over the proceeding couple of years. I clammed up, got miserable, angry and pessimistic. I stopped seeing my friends, I even moved away to a completely different town partly-purposely to be alone. I did not go out. I lived as a hermit. I spent money I didn't have on pointless toys and frivolities and got my finances in a total mess because of it, I drank a lot, I did not socialise with anyone outside of the office, and I generally got very, very down. The only constant was food - I seemed to get by and self-medicate myself by - well - eating. As a result, my weight ballooned.

I think that you are not socially broken, as evidenced by pretty much everything else you wrote, your self-confidence is improving (writing that paragraph above takes strength and bravery) and your body is healing.

So I just wanted to mention that you seem like you're doing really well and whether it's this woman or some other woman I think you have a happy future and a lot to be proud of.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:03 AM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

So quite apart from this woman, re: the Match and eHarmony subscriptions: if you're not comfortable with those sites, maybe you're on the wrong site? I know OKCupid is a Mefi cliche, but there's a reason for that. And it's free, so no messages trying to get you to resubscribe!

Also, have you considered picking up any active hobbies -- maybe hiking, a kickball league, or something like that? You don't mention if you're exercising, but if not, that could be a huge help for your mood and health. (For most people, it won't help much with weight loss, but you could be one of the lucky few it does help. And even if it doesn't help with weight loss, it'll be a huge help with how you feel in your body, and your overall health.) If you are exercising, but on your own, finding somewhere where you can do something fun and active with other people could be both motivating and a good way to meet people.

And on preview, yay! Congrats on your second date!
posted by pie ninja at 7:06 AM on September 3, 2012

I would still like feedback on being big and dating though, if anyone has any more advice, Thanks.

You know what you did when this lovely woman and you saw each other and connected and decided to go out on a date?

Do that.

Seriously, though online dating can work out well, and other specific activities can lead to relationships, generally, the best thing to do is, when confronted with a fabulous person you'd like to date, ask that person out.

For big guys, I think in-person works better, because it's easy to judge people based on your perceptions of what you find attractive via photo, but those perceptions can be broken more easily in-person. You said this woman hasn't dated a big guy before, but she's certainly into you (3 dates and going strong, it seems), so I think just doing some social things you enjoy where there may be some women who enjoy the same things is the perfect way to go.
posted by xingcat at 7:22 AM on September 3, 2012

Go, you! You did it!

Ok, speaking as a woman, I just have one feedback item:

We discussed the issue of my weight - she's never 'been out with a big guy before', and I told her how I got this way, but that I was fixing it and so on.

Don't do that, or at least not first/second/third date. Everyone (even this fabulous woman that you have a date with tomorrow night!) has insecurities. Insecurities about things that are obvious, and doubly so for things that are not obvious to anyone except themselves. There's no need to bring them up.

For example, her thoughts might very well have been:
- Why did my hair have to pick this day to be so unmanageable?
- Wonder if he's noticing that zit/wrinkle/whatever?
- I wish my thighs didn't look so humongous in this outfit.
- I forgot to shave and I'm wearing the comfy undies. Just a peck on the cheek, then.
- If it's just a peck on the cheek, he'll think I'm a prude.
- If it's more than a peck on the cheek, he'll think I'm too easy. And he'll see the comfy undies.
- I shoudn't have eaten garlic for lunch!
- Oh dear. I told that old, stupid joke. Now he'll think I'm a freak.
- He seems so much smarter than me. Can I even hold my end of this conversation?
- Did I forget deodorant?
- Wonder if I have lipstick on my teeth. Raccoon eyes from crap mascara. A shiny nose.
- Gosh these shoes are killing me, but they are the only thing that makes my calves look nice.
- etc. etc. Really the list goes on and on -- women are particularly good at this. There are entire industries built around feeding and feeding into women's knack for this.

And yet, what did you see? She's a gorgeous woman who flirts with you. But wouldn't it have been awkward and terrible if she shared all those insecurities with you?
posted by Houstonian at 7:23 AM on September 3, 2012 [27 favorites]

ok, from now on houstonian needs to pre answer all my answers as, on preview, she once again has it just right.

At this point you should ignore the obvious topic of your size. you're making strides and obviously have gained SOME margin of confidence based on your ability to go out and charm the heck out of her, so focus on this "this gorgeous woman thinks i'm handsome and 3-date worthy" since its CLEARLY the truth! She's lucky to be with someone thoughtful and interested in their health enough to make serious changes so just keep doing what you've done thus far: be healthy and make good conversations..

congrats on calling her!
posted by chasles at 7:40 AM on September 3, 2012

I'm so psyched for you that you met someone rad and you're going on a second date. High five!
I just want to gently (so gently!) remind you to enjoy it all for what it is, try to stay "in the present," and just in case things don't go much further, try to take it in stride. Have you ever read about the common cognitive distortions? They're really easy to slip into, especially when you're starting to date someone new and you struggle with low self-esteem. So, if something goes awry with this new lady friend, just try not to jump to conclusions or be hard on yourself. The reason I say all this is because it sounds like you really want to keep moving forward with improving your health through diet and exercise and it'd be great if you could keep that positive momentum going regardless of what happens with this particular lady.
P.S. Seriously, way to effing go for changing things up and working to pull your life back together after your divorce. That takes courage and you deserve to be happy!
posted by pinetree at 7:44 AM on September 3, 2012

Just dropping in to say that of the two guys I have seriously dated in the last year or so, one was 350 lbs / 6'1" and one was 6'4" and weighed less than I do. Obviously I found both of them very attractive. One of the things I really liked about the heavier guy was how small and feminine I felt when I was with him. I think you should stop thinking of your weight as a huge disaster. It's got upside :).

And also, everyone thinks they have crappy social skills. Being yourself is great but very non-specific advice. Ask questions, answer them, talk about things you are interested in, share an experience. Don't try and create an impression of something you're not (but it's a fine line - you should also not tell fart jokes, for instance). I guarantee you are not as bad at this as you think. You sound lovely. Please stop worrying and have a lovely second (third?) date with this lady who sounds like she is very much into you.
posted by yogalemon at 7:52 AM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would actually feel much more comfortable about future prospects if an obese guy somehow addressed the issue of his weight, even on the first date. It doesn't have to be a serious talk, but I think some positive remark about a desire to get more active and eat healthier (etc.) would tell me that he's interested in changing. But definitely don't bog down the conversation with your insecurities ---- make it positive, talk about your fun plans in exercise and food.
posted by bread-eater at 7:54 AM on September 3, 2012

No matter what happens with this woman, you should take this whole experience as a positive. You met someone you were attracted to, she was attracted enough to your personality and physicality to give it a shot. On your worst day this will all seem unthinkable to you, and you'll pick it all apart and see it through the most negative possible light -- but the truth is, what you want is attainable, in a shorter term than you thought possible. Don't let anxiety over that send you careening back in the other direction, away from people and away from yourself.

As for the sex thing, you are psyching yourself out big-time. Take it really slow with whomever. Resolve not to put yourself in a sex situation until you've tested things out. Like, if you make out with someone and become aroused, that's excellent! Maybe stop things there for that night and then pick it up later on. This will help build your confidence and trust in your ability to perform.
posted by hermitosis at 8:08 AM on September 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

I just wanted to chime in as someone who, previous to my current SO and so far the love of my life, I had also "never been out with a big guy before".

He's bigger than all my previous partners had been, and I remember thinking as much when we met (as friends), and I'm sure it crossed my mind when we dated too, although I don't remember thinking it.

However, lets skip to the happy ending - I give no fucks at all about his size because I am 100% in love with him and that's that.

On a slight side note, he has actually lost weight since we've been together because I am quite a healthy person and he now does more exercise and eats better food because we do so together.

On a side side note, his size means he gives the best cuddles. I mean, the best. Even my girlfriends say his cuddles are the best cuddles. Hell their boyfriends say his cuddles are the best cuddles. Cuddles are like opera, it's a lot harder to do it well if you're skinny.
posted by greenish at 8:43 AM on September 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Following the deluge of "Just call her you idiot" sentiment - I got some cojones and did just that...

And, now we're going out tomorrow night.

I have nothing to add to the largely fantastic advice you're getting, except to say that this line was such a happy moment that I said "ah-HAAA!" with satisfaction out loud.

So you win the day.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 8:46 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

When it comes to sex, I've had sex with people who didn't get porn star 5-second granite erections. It's not a big deal as long as you don't make it all about the erection. Ask her what she likes, do it, it's not all about the penis. If it's an ongoing problem see a doctor about it if you can.

Good luck, you sound like a catch. (Self-aware and motivated to improve = catch.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:57 AM on September 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

(I don't mean to discount how stressful it must be not to get an erection, and how frustrating--but that doesn't mean you can't have a fun time and that she can't enjoy herself. Keep it lighthearted, communicate, enjoy the time with an attractive woman. I can almost guarantee she'll feel good about it and want to do it all again if you do that. Men's stress about their erections can sometimes be more difficult than the lack of erection itself, because the time then becomes about reassuring them which is basically work. It's much less fun than just having some playful sexual fun sans erection.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:01 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

The weight is just an excuse. My BMI is perfect and I'm apparently invisible to women. Your social skills, attitude and what you are doing with your life are more important.
posted by zebraantelope at 9:29 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just chiming in to say a) I, personally, am turned off when overweight people talk about their weight loss regime. I say this as an overweight person. It's more important to show that you take care of yourself, imo. b) I am into bigger guys. It's definitely my preference. Don't think women are attracted to you in spite of your weight; they might just be after your bod. ;) I've dated all body types of guys and the most physical attraction has been to guys who were pretty heavy.
posted by peacrow at 9:41 AM on September 3, 2012

Congrats on the upcoming 2nd date!

Just as a small suggestion, maybe steer away from discussing your ex and the end of your marriage early in a relationship --- after all, you want to impress this lady, not scare her away with looking bitter or angry. Oh sure, tell 'em you're divorced, but try to keep it light: it's one thing to give all the gory details in an AskMe like this, where the background is part of the question/discussion, but you don't want to look like a downer early in the getting-to-know-you stages..... honestly is good, just not all of it at once!

And remember to call her for that THIRD date, too!
posted by easily confused at 11:05 AM on September 3, 2012

houstonian says, responding to this fragment from the OP:

We discussed the issue of my weight - she's never 'been out with a big guy before', and I told her how I got this way, but that I was fixing it and so on.

Don't do that, or at least not first/second/third date.

(sorry, I did bold because I thought two italic posts would be confusing)

I disagree. And Houstonian goes on to say we all have things that bother us about ourselves, like not having a good hair day or whatever.

Morbid obesity is in a different category than the things houstonian mentions, but that is not my point: my point is that you (the OP) became very overweight in response to a specific situation, and you are losing the weight. I don't know that you necessarily want to be identified as a morbidly obese man and you have no intention of staying in that category. I think it's quite appropriate, in your particular case, , to discuss what happened in your life, how you responded, and how you are fixing yourself, IF, and ONLY IF, you can do that without making yourself look apologetic (or worse).

I think it's fine to say what you've been through, what you're doing about it now, in order to explain the trajectory that you are on and you probably *need* to do it within the first three dates, because people are pretty quick to make judgements about who they are and are not attracted to. (I know some would argue that that's not a judgment, but I think judgment does enter into it).

You don't have to, of course, but if you feel comfortable doing so, I don't think that's so terrible.

also, congratulations on picking yourself up after this very difficult period of time and having the courage to start dating again! you sound like a very nice, together guy and I wish you the best. Have a great time on your second date!
posted by DMelanogaster at 12:58 PM on September 3, 2012

My guy (who I met on-line) is big, and it actually made me feel a lot more comfortable about the physical stuff. I had some insecurities about my own appearance, and I felt like he was not going to judge me for them if he had insecurities too. And it didn't matter to me if he was big because that was not the reason why we clicked.
posted by JoannaC at 2:41 PM on September 3, 2012

Houstonian is totally right-- I'm assuming you brought up your weight, and you totally don't have to. A lot of women think bigger guys are cute or don't mind (including me), and if she wasn't into it she wouldn't have gone out with you (especially not twice)! You sound really upbeat and wonderful, great dating material.

Agreed about erections, if you don't make a big deal out of it it will be fine. Most women with experience understand or can understand, but it will seem much less like a crisis/point of incompatibility if you're not freaking out or acting like you don't know why it's happening. But you may want to go to the doctor eventually if it continues to be a problem for you.

I'm so glad you called her! Good luck!
posted by stoneandstar at 2:46 PM on September 3, 2012

Excellent! Applause!

I'd say just keep on tackling your problems and solving them one at a time.

A great book of spells to avoid sinking into contempt and generally bad patterns of interaction is Miss Manners' Guide To Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour. Granted, intimate/close relationships are to be conducted on terms agreeable to both parties, but it's easier if you start out by treating each other super-respectfully from the beginning.
posted by tel3path at 3:54 PM on September 3, 2012

I'm sorry she flaked out on you. Please don't take it personally. She was definitely acting into you, then was a bit flaky with the texts and then cancelled with a text. She may not even know what's going on in her head.

Being obese will make it harder for you to get dates. It sucks but a lot of people are very superficial about physical appearance. So that's the reality. But a lot of women are happy to date an obese man if he's a good match for them. It's hard to remember but rejection from one woman, or a few women, or several women is not paramount to rejection from all women.

I've dated men all across the board physically. I was attracted to all of them. The one and only thing that bothers me about someone obese is that I worry that they might not care about themselves or their health and I want my partner to last a long, long time. The one extremely obese man I dated (heavier than you, about 6'2" or 6'3") kind of ended up sabotaging things between us himself because of his insecurities with his weight. I was really into him. I thought he had the cutest face and was so funny and kind. I made it very clear that I was into him. He just wouldn't really believe it, though. He was so down on himself that he couldn't understand why someone who he thought was gorgeous, smart and funny would be so into him. Not everyone thinks I'm gorgeous, smart and funny but he did and he couldn't realise that there were things even about me that made me undateable to some other people, even though he may have thought I was perfect. He also had impotence issues AND was a virgin and was super anxious about both. I was really happy to be patient and work through this with him because I liked him so much but he couldn't relax, believe me and trust me.

I know that it's all the harder because your date has just cancelled on you but you gotta remember to be confident with what you got. You have good points. Don't let this one thing bring you down. I think that's the secret to dating.
posted by Polychrome at 5:27 AM on September 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

Square one.

Nah, square one would mean you're exactly where you started when you posted the question. You're way ahead of the game now because now you know to just ask for what you want instead of trying to guess at what someone else wants.

You asked, she said yes, then she flaked. All ok. The only waste of time here was you waiting and wondering and worrying. Remove the waiting/wondering/worrying from the process and you're golden.
posted by headnsouth at 5:48 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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