What Else To Improve Dating Prospects?
February 14, 2013 2:48 AM   Subscribe

A year ago, I posted about whether I should have any plastic surgery done to improve my dating prospects as an "ethnic" gay man in a major US urban area. Six months ago, after a lot of introspection and a commitment to psychological counseling to help me build my self-esteem, I decided to pursue primary rhinoplasty. Here is what I've learned in the time since I last posted about how to improve my dating prospects:

(1) Of course, I believe that friendships and romantic connections are more to do with personality, intelligence, values, etc than faces and bodies. At the risk of seeming superficial, I am posting here only in respect of the issue of physical attractiveness (because, unfortunately, it is given primacy above all else by most gay men where I live)

(2) I feel that the results of my surgery are quite good. They are not perfect, but the quest for physical perfection is illusory anyway.

(3) I feel much better about the way I look and who I am than I did last year and seeing a therapist has helped me tremendously. But I am still plagued by doubts about whether I will be physically appealing enough to other attractive-but-not-modelesque gay men like me.

(4) I don't know whether more plastic surgery will change anything for the better or make it more likely that other attractive-but-not-modelesque gay will take an interest in me.

(5) I am beginning to wonder if the reason most of my friendly messages to said gay men on dating websites are ignored because I am "batting outside of my league" without realizing it.


My question is as follows and can be answered with reference to this link:


(A) Regarding (4) above --> Based on the photos you see do you see anything else that might benefit from surgery to improve my attractiveness?
posted by cscott to Human Relations (59 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
More therapy. Whatever problems you're having, it's not because of how you look.
posted by jon1270 at 2:51 AM on February 14, 2013 [52 favorites]

Haha. Jon, your bluntness is much appreciated and made me chuckle :)
posted by cscott at 2:53 AM on February 14, 2013

You're hot--before and after the cosmetic surgery. However, I don't think people telling you that you're hot is going to solve the problem here. Second more therapy.
posted by whitewall at 2:54 AM on February 14, 2013 [16 favorites]

[Edited with consent of OP to remove images of third parties.]
posted by taz (staff) at 3:38 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Of course, I believe that friendships and romantic connections are more to do with personality, intelligence, values, etc than faces and bodies.

No, you don't believe this, because you are still incredibly hung up on whether you look good enough.

Be honest with yourself and what you really believe. THEN go get more therapy. Because you haven't admitted to yourself yet that you still think that relationships are all about physical attraction, and you need to be honest with yourself that this is your problem before therapy can help you fix it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:44 AM on February 14, 2013 [13 favorites]

Nthing that you're not done with therapy.

There's nothing that plastic surgery can really improve upon for you. And, even if there were, most people would rather have a slightly-imperfect but confident partner than an artificially perfect, insecure one. At least the ones who are capable of healthy relationships.

There's a reason some people get addicted to plastic surgery, and those who do often start out fine and end up looking freakish. If you're considering further procedures after a nose job, you are at high risk of becoming one of those people. Don't cut off your nose to spite your face.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:59 AM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

You are a very handsome man. If you think your community is too racist to appreciate that, move.
posted by lydhre at 4:08 AM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

[A couple of comments deleted. If you feel impatient with this question, probably just better to pass it up -- otherwise try to helpful and civil. And OP, Ask Metafilter is not meant to serve as a discussion spot to argue/convince others; please just respond to answer specific questions or offer clarification where necessary. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 4:13 AM on February 14, 2013

Taz, fair enough. Thanks.
posted by cscott at 4:16 AM on February 14, 2013

When people are saying physical appearance is not the issue, it's not that they're seeing glaring flaws in your appearance but are desperately holding onto the "It's what's inside that counts!" line in order to maintain some polite status quo. It's because it is pretty clear your psychological hangups are sending enough red flags to drive off any potential partners long before they even start contemplating your physical appearance.
posted by schroedinger at 4:22 AM on February 14, 2013 [11 favorites]

Do you want people to fall in love with your face, or with your you?
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:28 AM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

There's a reason some people get addicted to plastic surgery, and those who do often start out fine and end up looking freakish. If you're considering further procedures after a nose job, you are at high risk of becoming one of those people. Don't cut off your nose to spite your face.

Amen. You are a good looking guy and there is no surgery that will make you look better. You'll just look different.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:30 AM on February 14, 2013 [7 favorites]

Seeing only the pictures you posted I would totally date you but, seeing this question also, I would flee like I was being chased by a giant pile of insecurity that is a huge pain to deal with even in much smaller doses. I suspect I am not alone, and that your level of attractiveness is not your salient issue here. I don't doubt that racism is a big part of it, but you might benefit from moving to a bigger gayer city, at least in my experience at least it does seem to be less of a big deal in gay dating scenes than straight ones. Though, one of the weird aspects of how gay scenes are always smaller, is how that magnifies variation in how shitty or great they are, if only as a function of sample size.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:30 AM on February 14, 2013 [10 favorites]

No, I don't see anything else that might benefit from plastic surgery. You are quite good-looking and I think jon1270 nails it.
posted by _Mona_ at 4:38 AM on February 14, 2013

How well integrated or involved in your local gay social scene are you? It sounds like you believe that attracting men with your looks is the only possible route to relationship happiness / sexytimes, but that just cannot be true. I know there are supposed to be sort of different dating rules among men (though I don't think I really believe it), but it seems like knowing people in your dating pool and meeting more is pretty fundamental.

You mention being plagued by doubts, and also that you are messaging guys on dating websites. Do you have gay friends? Do you go out with them socially? What I am getting at is that dating websites really skew towards physical attractiveness as the major way of getting responses from people, and that maybe you have a vicious circle going with your doubts that anyone thinks you are hot, and people not responding to your messages.

As AskMe has often said, getting new pictures taken might go along way on the website front. You are totally smoking hot, but low quality pics do not attract anyone. Look up what OkCupid has to say about what kind of pictures work, get a friend and a good camera, and get your hotness properly documented.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 4:41 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I think you're good looking. If one of the 3 photos is before plastic surgery, I can't tell. You have natural good looks. I can't imagine a single reason to undergo any more plastic surgery.

If I were you, I'd listen for that voice that says "Well, this opinion doesn't count because _____". I'm guessing that a thousand people could tell you that you're attractive - and you are - and you would mentally disregard every single one of those opinions unless they came from the demographic you're trying to please: hot gay guys in your city.

I don't know if the problem is solely insecurity. It certainly could be - insecurity is a lens through which the entire world looks hostile, judgmental and uncaring. It can shape your world to an extent that would truly shock you if you were suddenly able to stop feeling insecure. The massive influence of the judging and comparing mind is only noticeable when it stops or recedes, kind of like silence is most noticeable when a horrible loud noise finally ceases.

This isn't just you. Almost everybody spends far, far more time than they realize evaluating, comparing and judging their surroundings in order to determine whether they can feel OK about themselves. And most of us find we come up short.

I'm not excluding myself here. Let me tell you about an experience that was really important to me. I do a lot of silent meditation retreats. During silent retreats, nobody talks to anybody else at all. You just happen to be existing in the silent company of many other people for many days. With no distractions or responsibilities, peoples' minds inevitably turn to their fellow retreatants. We make stories upon stories about everybody around us, based solely upon how the others look and walk around. The stories can be good or bad, flattering or unflattering. We notice ourselves comparing our own style of walking, way of drinking tea, unconscious body movements, body weight, shape, hairstyle, choice of clothing, and just about every other minute detail, to everybody else on the retreat. Let me tell you what I've seen happen in my own mind:

"That person looks really mindful and focused. Do I look that focused or more focused or less focused?"
"Am I the same weight as her? Do I look as good as her, worse, or better? Could I wear pants like that?"
"Is that how *I* look when I sip tea? When I chew? How can I look better while eating?"
"She looks so lithe and strong. Do I ever look that way? How can I look more like cool and fit while sitting and walking in silence?"
"He seems really kind-hearted in his actions. Do people think I'm kind-hearted enough? How can I demonstrate my kind-heartedness more obviously?"

Let me tell you, finding this kind of shit going on in my own mind is not pleasant. Unbelievably self-centered, narcissistic, shallow junk. You don't know me, but if you did you would probably be really surprised. I do not present as a person who is interested in being the most beautiful. I never wear makeup and I pretty much dress in hiking clothes. I don't talk about beauty and I know absolutely nothing about fashion. I *do not value* these things.

It was really upsetting when I first realized that despite my desire NOT to focus on shallow aspects of beauty, I was comparing myself to other people NON-STOP. I didn't understand why it was happening and why I couldn't cut it out. And what's worse..... this is the important part..... I saw right away that my obsessive unconscious comparing was basically preventing me from acting directly from what I do value, which is kindness and honesty and empathy and compassion. It wasn't that I was acting like a monster at all times, it was just that there was always this barrier between me and my neighbor - the barrier of comparison. I was still a kind and compassionate person, but everything I did went through a filter of my own insecurity first.

The story gets better, though. Over time, I've noticed that the experience of the comparing mind has changed. The last few retreats I did, I found myself thinking unexpectedly lovely things about the people around me. It wasn't a manufactured thing. I didn't try to say nice things about them so that I could become a nice person or so I could see myself as kind. It was totally in spite of myself. I had a job washing dishes with an fat older lady with grey hair. You know what? I genuinely, cross-my-heart find her beautiful. She was beautiful. I don't just mean her heart was beautiful, though it was. I looked at her and I heard myself think - gosh, she looks great. There were women my age who looked slim and fit and strong and I finally found myself thinking that they looked beautiful without first asking if I looked better or worse. You get the idea.

Beauty and sexual attractiveness are not the same thing. I realize that. I'm not trying to say that they are the same. People have preference. I have preferences. As I said, I don't know if your problem is 100% insecurity. It's certainly not your looks, so it could be racism. I don't know.

But I do hear the pain of the comparing mind in your question, and I know something about that. What's deeply miserable here is the constant comparing, the constant distancing yourself from everybody around you through judgment and categorizing. That really hurts.

The really, really important thing to know is: the misery stops when you stop giving credence to the comparing mind, not when you become the best-looking person ever so you come out the winner in every comparison. That's just as miserable.
posted by Cygnet at 4:42 AM on February 14, 2013 [88 favorites]

cscott, this question makes me so sad. You are a very good looking guy. I may be a straight lady and therefore out of your target assessing demographic, but if you want credibility, I was in a long term relationship with an "ethnic" brown dude who didn't look terribly dissimilar to you. His face was a bit wider and you have better hair, but whatever.

How you look is NOT what's hampering your ability to get dates. Even if you were conventionally unattractive, which you are not, that still wouldn't be the reason. For proof, look at dumb sites like Awkard Family Photos and look at all of the funny-looking people who have found love.

I strongly suspect that the reason you're having trouble on the dating scene is that you have extremely bad self esteem and aren't confident. People can smell that sort of thing a mile away. It comes off in the way people write dating profiles. It comes off in the way people talk about themselves. It comes off in the way people talk to others. Even in a relationship-neutral zone, like sending work emails, you can tell. It's the difference between, "Hi, Tim, I need the numbers from the quarterly report by noon. Could you please help me out with that? Thanks!" and "Hi, Tim, if it's not too much trouble, I really need the numbers from the quarterly report today! Earlier is better, by noon if at all possible! Please let me know if that's something you can do for me. So sorry to bother you. Thanks."

A lack of confidence has a way of showing itself in everything someone does, and it's a very unflattering quality. It's a LOT of work (I know from personal experience here) to be in a relationship with someone with low self esteem. It's exhausting to have to supply constant validation for someone who still never thinks that they're good enough. Anyone who has been in that sort of relationship will run far, far in the other direction at the first hint of a confidence problem.

Long story short: it's not how you look. You look fine. Please stay in therapy.
posted by phunniemee at 4:43 AM on February 14, 2013 [26 favorites]

I can't see anything on your face at all that would be improved by plastic surgery.

I'm not just bullshitting you. You are very attractive by any objective measure. You are already one of the hottest guys in any bar you walk into. I can tell you this with a lot of confidence.

You seem pretty hung on your race. I think that's really something you need to explore. Also maybe get out of the gay dating scene and meet guys through activities and friends more. From what I know it can at times be pretty harsh and superficial (I realize I'm making gross generalizations here) and you may be too sensitive for that scene. Nothing wrong with that.

Also if you are less judgmental of other people's looks and try to open yourself up to more types of guys you may find that you are less critical of yourself and the level of physical perfection you seem to think you must obtain.
posted by whoaali at 4:51 AM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

You get out of dating what you put in. You say that you want to meet guys who are interested in looks, not personality, but are you doing anything to break that dynamic yourself?
Guys who are interested in looks only in one situation will be piqued by your personality in another; people aren't that simple. If you're just hanging out on Grindr or in bars, yes, maybe your looks will factor in majorly; but if you're actually seeking out more holistic venues where, you know, guys have a chance to treat other guys like people rather than objectified chunks of meat, maybe then you'd meet the type of people you're looking for. Case-in-point - I'm an ethnic gay guy too, and I recently attended a speed-dating event where I was getting copious attention from all of the super hotties in the room. Now, I'm only average-looking, and compared to you, I look like Gollum, but yet, I did fine for myself because I projected as insanely confident and willing to treat people like people and seek an immediate connection. At the same time, you could tell that the hotties were uncomfortable when they were paired with each other, because neither could get over the hump of judging on appearance that was a downside in that environment. The cynic in me would say that the underwear-model types were all sick to death of being treated like chunks of meat, but didn't know how to break that cycle - which is why they found me refreshing.

So seek out environments, not necessarily "types" of people. That advice goes for both ends of the spectrum for looks.

That being said, past a certain point of attractiveness, being good looking can be an issue as well because it adds a barrier to people seeking to get to know you. If you're looking for a quick hook-up? Sure. But if you actually want a relationship? Welcome to another layer of difficulty on top of all the others. To be honest - comparing your before and after images, I would be less inclined to date you after the surgery because you just look so much less natural. While objectively, you look better, it's still abundantly clear that you've gotten surgery to reduce your natural racial features. So if I were to suddenly meet you, my first impression would be, "this guy feels shallow and insecure to me." Re-evaluate your goal and try to figure out what it is you actually want to do, because as you pose it right now, more plastic surgery is NOT the option here.

And agreeing with Blasdelb that you feel like a massive pile of baggage from your posts, and no matter how good someone looks, I would not touch insecurity like that with a 10 meter pole.
posted by Conspire at 4:55 AM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

The non-response rate is more likely about one or more of the following:
  • which dating site(s) you're on.
  • the content and tenor of your profile.
  • the content and tenor of your initial messages.
  • the actual personalities of the men you are contacting.
I say all of this as a straight woman, but men with empty or vacuous profiles, messages that focus on my looks, differing attitudes about outdoor activities/food/drugs/gender/etc are waaaaay more important than looks.

As someone who photographs not so well, and is moderately face cute in person...I have to agree, it's not about the nose or any other part of your face. When I put up a profile I can guarantee that only one in ten messages to me will include anything of substance, and far fewer will be compelling. This means that 9 out of every ten men who sent me a message did not even get a hello back from me. No matter how smoking hot they are to me. (yes, I realize I'm not a gay man, but I have a very narrow range of 'smoking hot' AND the number of actual, real life gay men who have said 'he wasn't really my type, but I couldn't pass up his humor/brains/backrubs' is a reminder that we need to treat the people we hope to date like they are people.

Because they are.

Instead of simply piling on to say more therapy, l'll say that, plus go live in the world. Meditate. Jog. Choose a craft or hobby. Take a cooking class. Plan a vacation for yourself to take alone. Write letters to your far away friends. Visit museums. Meet more people, gay/straight/whatever and get the word out tha you'd like introductions to eligible bachelors who might be compatible.

And discuss those things with your therapist also.

Be honest with your therapist. Because they can't help you if they don't know what success looks like to you. And sometimes, the biggest help is recalibrating your measurement of success.

for what it's worth, I also find you very attractive. Though I'm outside your target demographic.
posted by bilabial at 4:56 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

(though yes. As others have said, there might be racism involved but no surgery can fix that because there's nothing wrong with your face or your skin color and there is nothing reasonable about wanting to attract a racist.)
posted by bilabial at 4:58 AM on February 14, 2013

Nthing all of the above-mentioned not only do you look fine but you can't get hung up on looks comments, I just want to add that you should consider taking up some sort of physical activity where you can feel genuine pride in your body's abilities.

Kayaking, martial arts, boxing (which could be especially helpful because your face is going to get knocked around), rock climbing.

Find something that makes your body strong and powerful and your mind will follow suit.
posted by kinetic at 5:06 AM on February 14, 2013

I am beginning to wonder if the reason most of my friendly messages to said gay men on dating websites are ignored because I am "batting outside of my league" without realizing it.

Really ask yourself this: what evidence do you have that backs this up? I'm a gay lady and I think you're quite good looking; unless the town you're living in is Supermodelonia then I sincerely doubt the men you've messaged think they're too hot for you. People frequently say that online dating is a numbers game; how many people have you actually messaged?

Like the other posters have advised, more therapy really seems important to help you work on whatever inside you is telling you you're unattractive. In the meantime, if you're trying to figure out why people aren't responding to your messages, perhaps you could post your dating website profile here for critique - if anything is affecting your response rate I don't think it's those pictures you linked us to, so maybe there are things you've written that you can work on?
posted by DingoMutt at 5:07 AM on February 14, 2013

All that's going to happen is this:
1. You will work on your looks more, but it still won't be enough and you'll be back on metafilter with another version of this question in a year
2. In ten or twenty years, when the aging starts to hit, you'll look back on your photos and wish you hadn't wasted so much time beating up on yourself.

What's more, I think you know you're better-looking than average - there's something in the way you write these questions that suggests this to me. There aren't a lot of this kind of "hot or not" questions posted here, either, so you're kind of going outside the typical place for this stuff - it really reads to me more as a...a...kind of anguished humblebrag, like your unconscious point is "look at me, I am so handsome and yet I suffer!" Which is actually obviously true - you're handsome and yet you suffer.

I find myself wondering what you do with yourself when you're not worrying about your looks - do you do any kind of political work? Teach a class? Do you have any way of gaining status that isn't "I look hot" or "I have a fancy job"? On a practical level, an accomplished person is always attractive and if you start out handsome you'll have people trailing around after you because you'll be handsome and in a leadership role. But it will also give you some way of feeling worthwhile other than looks and you'll meet a better class of fellow.

Also, I'm getting an "I want to date only super-hot guys" vibe here - I think it's a bit fake to be all "average gay guys like me". I know lots of average gay guys, my friend, and so you do - and it's disingenuous to pretend that they all look like you or better. I hope you're talking to your therapist about why you want to date only guys who are really hot, to the point where you're cutting into yourself, physically and emotionally, to attain that. I also hope you're being really direct on your dating profiles - "Looks are very important to me; please only message me if [some in-group language for 'being really good looking]". I think putting that out there in those terms would be good for you if you're not already doing it - frankly, I think it's a shallow goal, but at least it's your goal, not some kind of "oh universe please let me prove that I am worthwhile so that I can date a handsome guy".

Another thing (that once shook me out of complaining about my own appearance in front of others): perhaps think about how your concerns about micro-managing your appearance make other less-good-looking people feel. I don't care that much any more because I'm at peace with my appearance, but the message you are sending to the world is "I have had plastic surgery to improve my already attractive features and I am still barely average and cannot attain love and must improve myself, so you, who are less naturally gifted and work less hard, are really both ugly and lazy". I bet that's not the message you want to send, but I know from my own young day that it's a message you are sending.

Look, I get the sense that you come here wanting reassurance, but that reassurance is just a fix, not a cure. And any "improvements" you make aren't a cure either.

Does your therapist work with a lot of clients of color? I think that questions like this have so much subtext that you really need a therapist to sort out the "appearance issues that anyone might have" and the "really need to talk to someone with lived experience as a person of color because otherwise they won't be able to help much".

I really wish you the best - I hope that in a year or two this anxiety will lose its grip and you'll be able to pursue things that will make you happy. I - much less handsome than you! - used to be miserably obsessed with my to-me-inadequate looks and I remember how unrelentingly horrible it was.
posted by Frowner at 5:26 AM on February 14, 2013 [35 favorites]

Curiosity drove me here.

As much as I hate to sort of participate in HotOrNotFilter, I gotta tell you, OP..... looks definitely aren't your problem. Something else might be, but I'm straight as they come and I'd date you! Do whatcha gotta do, my man, but at this point, you'd be gilding the lily. In addition to any other affects you may be having here, I'll bet you're making a bunch of straight women unhappy.

Jeez. One day I hope to look as bad.
posted by FauxScot at 5:29 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wanted to add: think of all the reasons why someone might not respond to you on a dating site - to name a few:
  • They're interested in/currently seeing another person
  • They hardly ever check their account
  • They think that thing you like is the worst thing ever
  • They're put off by your username
  • They meant to but got busy; your message got buried in their inbox
  • They think you're out of THEIR league
  • They're put off by your writing style
  • They think your initial message was too wordy
  • They think your initial message was not wordy enough
  • The site's "match ranking" system said you weren't a great match
  • Their type is heavier/thinner/hairier/less hairy/blonder/darker/taller/shorter/three-eyed
  • Your profile says you don't have/like pets/kids/religion
  • Your profile says you do have/like pets/kids/religion
  • They just weren't in the mood to respond
That's just off the top of my head (and mostly based on reasons I've not messaged someone in the past), but my point is that there are SO many reasons why someone might not respond to a message. I'm not sure it makes sense to automatically assume that it's because of your looks (and even if it was, do you really want to go out with the kind of tedious ass who saw your profile, thought you were a great match, but didn't like one little thing about your pictures? Why on earth would he be good enough for YOU?).

Please do take our therapy advice seriously; fixating on looks is just not helpful here.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:30 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

I looked at your pic and tried to imagine what your problem with it was. My best guess is that you display a certain vulnerability/sensitivity that you mistake for weakness, neediness, insecurity, imperfection. Your mission (if you choose to accept it) is to discover that this is actually the best part of you.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:30 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

You look physically very good. You have looks well above the average. There is nothing that would be improved by plastic surgery. Your question implies a non-standard (read: potentially pathological) evaluation of your looks and their contribution to your happiness.
posted by OmieWise at 5:38 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

On the one hand, maybe I'm not qualified to judge because I'm a dyke and I'm like an 11 on the Kinsey scale.

On the other, I live in San Francisco, where there is hardly a shortage of gay men who are very conscious about looks, and I have eyes: There is nothing wrong with the way you look. You are nowhere near ugly or unattractive. You are damn handsome.

The thing that's making you unattractive is coming from inside the house. More therapy, less surgery.
posted by rtha at 6:04 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Frowner, thanks for your incredibly thoughtful response. You've given me a lot to reflect on. To answer your questions in order ... No, this isn't a humblebrag. My post sounds more "confident" than I really am. The humblebrag might fly when I'm surrounded by mostly straight folk who sometimes say or do something to register that they find me attractive. But the dynamic changes very quickly and dramatically in the presence of gay men, whether online or at a normal social gathering or at a gay bar. If I sound more secure about my looks than I claim to be, it's only because of my choice of words. I don't think there's ever been a genuine moment that I've felt "so handsome." I am sure of that.

As for my career, I'm pursuing a Ph.D. at an Ivy League university and teach students there, yet I suffer ;)

I think this is what crushes me ... And I acknowledge that it's superficial, vain, and irritating for people to hear. It's not when the "really hot" guys pass me up; I expect as much from them. It's when guys who are attractive but not "really hot" like me never respond or are always looking past my shoulder at someone apparently better looking. My intelligence, my interests, my humor, etc.--all the things that really matter--are quite literally overlooked in most situations. I get that most guys sniff my insecurity from the moment I walk into the room and that this is what drives them away. But that doesn't really explain why I've done so poorly online even after having friends check my profile for any traces of insecurity. I actually think that it's pretty hard to write a profile which screams of so much insecurity that people become loath to respond. Most guys I message never get to find out what I teach or what I value or what I enjoy because, I suspect, my looks don't cut it for them. Now, if it were up to me, I'd say to the gay male urban community, "To hell with you all for caring so much about looks and directly or indirectly telling people like me that we're not attractive enough to talk to or get to know." (E.g. I've had a couple of guys say to me something along the lines of "You're cute for an Indian guy"). But then I will be alone. And though I try very hard to be independent, I would be lying if I said that I don't feel lonely when I go for years without dating or any sort of physical attention.

I'm not sure I understand your point about less attractive guys and whether I'm sending some sort of message to them.

Lastly, I agree that reassurance from strangers on the internet isn't a cure for my psychological ailment or a solution to my dating problems, but I do think that it helps to establish whether my perception of myself is distorted. And I think the answer to that is fairly clear.
posted by cscott at 6:05 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are you primarily looking for dates online? Then, yeah, in addition to scaring people off with your insecurity, you are most assuredly running into racism. But insecurity is likely the biggest culprit here. I'm buddies with a guy who could be your twin (or twink) brother, also from a major urban area. He is usually followed everywhere by an entourage of drooling dudes because in addition to being handsome, he is kind, interesting, and confident. That is, he spends a lot of time on personal pursuits and not much time worrying whether or not people find him handsome. As others stated above, it is a burden to constantly assuage someone's poor self esteem.
posted by Lieber Frau at 6:18 AM on February 14, 2013

cscott, I checked out those photos, and as a gay man, I can say, you're pretty damned gorgeous.

I also texted your Flickr link to my boyfriend, and he thinks you're gorgeous as well.

So that's a survey where n=2, and you show up as 100% gorgeous.

I suspect the reason why people are telling you to explore other reasons why you're having so many issues with dating is because you're a gorgeous man who is focusing on something that doesn't need to change one bit.
posted by xingcat at 6:45 AM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

I'm not sure I understand your point about less attractive guys and whether I'm sending some sort of message to them.

Because it's mean, and mean is ugly, that's why. Look, I'll tell you my story: once I was young (and now am not so old, and I have seen the righteous man forgotten, etc etc) and thinner than I am now, had better skin, etc. I was an insecure mess. I was in a situation where I was being mentored by an older queer woman (who must have been about the age I am now) - a big, soft butch woman with a similar partner and a little daughter, one of those very competent, community-focused old school lesbians. I was talking in front of her about how I was so ugly and fat and how could I possibly feel good about my looks when I looked the way I did...and she said to me, "I'm older and fatter than you - how do you think that makes me feel?" And the way she said it, I knew she meant it. It had never occurred to me that I - someone young and stupid and useless - could possibly make someone older and accomplished and valuable feel bad through some stupid thing I said - I might as well have been trying to take away a mountain with a teaspoon, that's how I felt. But I'd made her feel ashamed of her body and her looks when she was so wonderful and had so much place in the world.

That woman was not a potential romantic partner for me. It had nothing to do with sending messages to potential dates and everything to do with sending messages to other humans in the world and hurting them for dumb-ass, stupid reasons. When you're all about your looks, you're putting that out into the world.

It's when guys who are attractive but not "really hot" like me never respond or are always looking past my shoulder at someone apparently better looking. My intelligence, my interests, my humor, etc.--all the things that really matter--are quite literally overlooked in most situations.

That is a useful observation! What I'm hearing is that you feel like you are such a good deal for these dudes (because you're smart and talented and at least as good-looking as they are if not somewhat better-looking) that you really ought to be assured of their attention. Like you're the fantastic vintage jacket on the thrift store rack for $4.99, and some other dude is off looking at the Target jacket marked $9.99. Oh, I hear that! If that's what you're saying, well, I doubt that our dating lives are similar in other respects, but I definitely have experience with that. It was not generally a good idea - when I did end up in relationships where I felt like "I am such a really good catch, a better catch than you, maybe", I often ended up with people I didn't really like enough to be fully immersed in the relationship with, and I ended up bringing a lot of my own baggage into the relationship. And of course, many times the people I saw as "you really ought to like me, I'm way better than you could usually do" didn't like me for perfectly legitimate reasons of their own.

Admittedly an imperfect relationship with baggage looks pretty good when you are lonely.

Do you feel like you have a really transactional interpretation of relationships? Like, you need to figure out what you are "worth" on the dating marketplace and then engage in a calculation of what you can "buy", when you are a "bargain", etc? I have tended to do that and it's been a bit destructive to me. (And in that case, the things you value about yourself are "worthless" on the market and that can be a real headtrip - that's one reason I don't date cis men anymore, actually. The things I value most about myself - brains, some wit in conversation, dapper personal style, strong political commitments, interesting life experience - are at best neutral and at worst drawbacks with most men.)

It sounds as though you're in a feedback loop that reinforces your insecurity - your insecurity is excessive, but real-world events keep it from abating.

I do wish I had some good advice.

It's weird to me that there isn't lots of dating intrigue at your institution, though - all the academic gay dudes I know are constantly in the midst of...well, let's just say that meeting people isn't their problem. Are you in a field that is both very straight and very straight-laced?

My friends who've had the most success with relationships have mostly found them through more specialty stuff - message boards, activism, places where their interests made them interesting. Like, all they needed was to be the best-looking guy who liked science fiction or who worked on immigrants' rights, or who was part of the film society - they weren't really competing with every other hot guy in the world and they weren't competing solely on looks. (That does mean that you meet fewer people - a film society is a small place.)

I mean, I am sorry - I often think that while some of my gay friends have wonderful relationships, I am much happier as a sort of miscellaneously-gendered queer person who just dates whomever because I don't have to deal with so much of that really strict looks-based shit.

I hope you're able to internalize the "I am good looking" thing precisely so that you can forget about it. I wasted my twenties worrying about my looks - when I was stronger and had more spare time, I could have been out dancing every night (I love to dance even now), I could have been out meeting people and doing fantastic queer activist projects. But instead I was sitting at home being all humble and obsessed and peering into the mirror all the time, fooling with my hair and hating myself.
posted by Frowner at 7:01 AM on February 14, 2013 [25 favorites]

Please don't let anybody carve on that face any more.
posted by flabdablet at 7:19 AM on February 14, 2013 [7 favorites]

I am not a gay man, so I utterly cannot speak to that side of things and thus you should take my advice with a grain of salt. However, when I got my rhinoplasty, I made a firm commitment to myself that this would be the only cosmetic surgery I ever had (other than minor non-invasive stuff, like removing moles, unwanted body hair, etc.) The reason why I felt that was important is because I feel it's possible to give in to the temptation to have "just one more procedure" and then "just one more" until eventually you end up looking like one of those freaks on TV who serve as cautionary tales about cosmetic surgery. It's not an unreasonable concern, and thus it's important to be very self-aware of how malleable body-image can be.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:27 AM on February 14, 2013

I'm a little surprised that you'd be willing to post your photo, but when people tell you the more likely problem is how you approach people or present yourself you don't offer up your messages on the dating sites. Is there a reason you don't want people reading what you write to the men you are interested in?

You also don't offer any real numbers of how often this is happening to you or how many men you've sent messages to online. There's a big difference between sending out 100 messages in a week and receiving no replies vs sending 2 messages. How many times have you had the experience of someone glancing around the room looking for someone else to talk to? Can you remember specific incidences of this happening, or do you have more of a vague memory of it happening at some point a few years ago?

(I'd also like to point out that you have no idea that they are looking for more attractive men to speak with. That is completely one hundred percent in your head. Unless someone has actually stated that is what they are doing, which would be worth mentioning. They could be looking for a friend, maybe they came to the event hoping to specifically speak with one other person, maybe they just got horrible cramps and are planning a quick pathway to the bathrooms. You don't know. The fact that you INSTANTLY assume it's because you aren't hot enough to keep their attention speaks volumes. )

If you are honestly mostly lonely and hoping for a romantic connection, why are you so hung up on dating a man who is very attractive? Do you believe that less attractive men are less loveable, or capable of giving love? Because if you truly believe that, it would help explain why all your energy is focused on your appearance. Believing yourself unlovable would be traumatizing.
posted by Dynex at 7:49 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you are good-looking and I don't think any further surgeries would be helpful.

If you want to furth improve your appearance, then I urge you to focus on other methods. You can improve your physique through bodybuilding and exercise. You can focus on eating really healthily and get amazing glowing skin.
posted by bq at 8:46 AM on February 14, 2013

What you're asking is the equivalent of asking a financial planner whether you should plan for retirement by skipping that morning latte.

Every time we hear those pop finance shows suggest things like this, most of us have a visceral urge to throw something at the TV/radio. So too with your requests for suggestions about plastic surgery. If there was anything you could do to improve your looks, the potential gain would be so negligible as to be immaterial.

Furthermore, the potential damage to your image is off the charts. And while the benefits are entirely subjective (someone might prefer a more shapely nose over one that has been pinched/tightened/whatevered), the potential damage to your face/looks is pretty objective. There is a general consensus among the population that *nobody* likes people who look like they've had plastic surgery. And the only way you can guarantee that you don't look like you've had plastic surgery is to not have plastic surgery.

You've already done it. And good for you. But frankly, I prefer men with distinguished features. So to me, you've just lost the one thing that might have set you apart from other people by having your nose shaped.

I'm glad you're seeing a therapist. Seeing a therapist is the equivalent of visiting an actual financial planner for retirement advice. Not the type that tell you to skip the latte, but the type that tell you which investment vehicles are appropriate for you, what your target should be, what the risks are, and what the potential advantages are. They type that can accurately assess your assets and liabilities and help you make the best decisions possible for yourself. You need to do more of that. Because it sounds like you're just getting started.

Did you hear about the guy who calculated his probability of finding romance? It was a sort of pop-math article that was popular a couple years ago. A guy worked out the probability he'd find a mate based on his criteria and his circumstances. It has been turned into a flashy video for this year on Valentine's Day, and maybe it will help you understand what long odds this whole thing is. Facts are: the odds aren't great for someone who is looking for a same-sex match, because the population is just smaller. And made smaller still by your qualifications (not that they're good or bad - but being selective means that you're just not willing to entertain all the options that might otherwise be out there for you).

Good news is that the odds get better the closer you get to real life. Gays are good at self-segregating and finding each other in major ciites. (It's certainly easier now with the internet.) But that doesn't improve the number of potential matches there are for you. Just improves the odds that one of them will actually work out.

It sounds to me like you are suffering from a bad marketing campaign. When advertisers set out to sell a product to someone, they don't just want the person's money. That would be short-sighted. They want loyalty. They want the future. You are currently obsessed with finding A Person. Any Person. You want that person to buy your product. You want A Romance. Any Romance. You just want that person to buy your product. What will you do with it, once you've got it? What do you have to offer that person? What life do you want to live with them? What future do you want them to buy into? Sell that instead of your face. Cause guess what: we're all going to get old and ugly and fall apart. It IS going to happen to you too. What then? What will you do then? Will you have more work done to stay 25 forever? Cause it wont happen. It can't happen.

Here are some factors that are probably weighing against you. You should consider them because some of them you have control over:

- You are still in school. You're working on a PhD so you're likely to be in school for a long time. This weighs against you. Students get screened out of a lot of people's lists. Whether rightly or wrongly, this happens. And it is probably weighing heavily against you. Students get screened out for a lot of reasons. Economics and volatility are probably the big two. You're a PhD candidate. You're going to leave once you graduate. You're a student. You may well be living on loans. People make a lot of snap judgments when they're dating, and most of them amount to "am I willing to put up with this issue." When they don't know you, when you have no shared history, then there is NO reason why anyone would put up with just about anything. That's an incredibly hard burden of proof to overcome.

- You live in a Major Metro City. While that might help in some ways (yay, more gays) it is a double-edged sword. The tyranny of choice may mean that competition is more fierce. Why not be a big fish in a small pond for a while? Why not take your show on the road so that you don't have to fight with all the gods at Equinox for the attention?

- Your race. As sucky as this is, the gays are ridiculously racist and I apologize on behalf of all of them. I'm sorry you have to deal with that. As a white gay dude, it actually makes me sick to my stomach when I see the blatant racism on dating sites. But remember those statistics for finding love that I mentioned earlier? They just got slimmer because the number of awful racist jerks out there is staggering. And even if you're attracted to them, they may not be attracted to you. Ever. No matter how much you change about your looks.

Keep up with the therapy. Keep up with the self improvement. Consider how others look at you (as a package, not physically), and improve the things you can. Don't worry about your face any more. You're sabotaging your retirement by skipping lattes when you should be making actual investments.
posted by jph at 9:10 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I mean, I'm a lady, so you wouldn't be into me, but I'm into dudes. And you look like a slightly darker twin to the last dude I dated, who was literally so hot my friends would say things like "godDAMN, how did you FIND him?" as soon as he was out of earshot.

My guess is your messages go unanswered because 99% of all dating site messages go unanswered. That's just online dating. I am sure that there's some degree of racism in effect; the people of color I know fare much much better with non-online dating or sites like HowAboutWe, where it's more about just finding people to do stuff with.

Dating sucks, dude. Even for the very hottest people alive. You can't game it with surgery, you can't even really game it with therapy. You should get the therapy anyway because you need it for all the not-dating components of your life. You should by no means get more surgery. And as for the dating, you just gotta keep at it and keep trying to meet people, knowing that it may be hard and it may take a very long time.

But remember, you don't need to get ALL THE PEOPLE to date you, just one or two who're pretty great. :)
posted by like_a_friend at 9:46 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Also, this:

I actually think that it's pretty hard to write a profile which screams of so much insecurity that people become loath to respond.

Wow, no. It's super easy. I would say at least 40% of the profiles I encountered on OKCupid were seething with passive-aggressive insecurity. SEETHING. Messages, too.

SUPER easy.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:53 AM on February 14, 2013 [10 favorites]

Just thought I'd say, even though I'm a straight guy, I can tell you're pretty damn hot, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with any of your face.

Work on what's behind it.
posted by fearnothing at 10:03 AM on February 14, 2013

It's also worth mentioning that if you really want to improve your dating prospects--as your question title asks--you probably want to stop putting so much energy into using online profiles and the very visual medium of social media to find prospective partners.

Almost certainly, if you're putting yourself in a position where your appearance is what you're using to present a first impression, you're going to get feedback based on that. Some of it will be good, but not all of it will be. That's normal. Sometimes (often) unpleasant, but it's normal.

Meeting partners or dates (and friends) in other ways is going to do a lot to improve your self-esteem and your romantic prospects. Putting yourself together with like-minded people who share your interests, hobbies, etc. is a very healthy way to introduce you to people whose affinity for you will be more about common interest, rather than their attraction to a photo of you.

Join some volunteer groups, use Meetup.com, go to a MeFi meetup. Meet people, and even if they're not gay, they might have gay friends that they would love to introduce to you.
posted by yellowcandy at 10:10 AM on February 14, 2013

I work at an LGBT advocacy non-profit, so while I'm straight, I see a lot of hot dudes and see a lot of hookups (Mr. Gay America used to work here for Chrissakes).

Dude, insecurity is a turnoff. You're catching people looking at others because you're deep, deep, deep in confirmation bias. You're a good looking Ivy League prof, and outside of some general racism that permeates America, guys will want to fuck you.

So yeah, get with the therapy, and specifically look for things that can interrupt that needy, insecure voice that's in your head. It's not making you happy, it's not getting you laid, and it's maladaptive. At the very least, I've got to imagine that there are LGBT clubs for your ethnicity at your school — one of my buddies used to run a South Asian LGBT group at Harvard. Get over there, and at least the racism will be diminished.

In the meantime, maybe think about installing Grindr or something and go get laid. That deadly semen buildup is impacting your ability to think rationally, and if a guy like me can get hollered at by a bevy of dudes outside the Eagle, a dude like you can get laid even if it's not with Neil Patrick Harris. Get laid a couple of times, relax, then start thinking about dating.

A lot of the gay dating scene is totally superficial and shallow, but that's only the very surface of the gay dating scene. Don't contribute to that.
posted by klangklangston at 10:19 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Maybe you're not flashing your beautiful smile enough? Queer dude here, and I am quite experienced at spotting hotties, and you qualify. Please do not go for surgery ... leave that for people who have a sound medical need.

You're working from a script that is not helpful. However, you're headed in a good direction by asking "What else?" because there are so many other paths and soon enough, you'll find yourself on a good one.

What do you do for fun? Do you have fun?!?!? When was the last time you did something spontaneous? When did you last take a healthy risk? How often do you interact with groups of people?

The reason on-line dating doesn't work is ... it mostly doesn't work for anyone. Sure, we hear of a few success stories here and there, but more often than not, the stories are fraught with anxiety, let-downs, etc. as you've discovered firsthand.

In my personal experience, I've had lovers from backgrounds and heritages different than my own and the ones that worked out best were after I decided "no more internet dating" and got out there in the world, following my personal interests and the things I felt passion for. Sure enough, one of the days I took a healthy risk, by going to a queer event I'd heard about but had never attended before, I laid eyes on a very beautiful person and just started talking (in fact, I said something vaguely dorky but it was something!). We are still in love all these years later, and all it took was being aware that I needed to do things differently and a willingness to put aside all the negative things I think about myself and just be present in the moment, with an awareness of what is happening in the here and now.

So start today and get rid of that old script that isn't working. Heck, write it all down on a piece of paper ... every last thing that never worked and all your anxieties. Then, tear that paper up into the tiniest pieces ever, throw the pieces up in the air like confetti and dance for joy because you're done with all those things that don't work!!

Then, go out and celebrate. Write a new list of the awesome things about you, your life, and the world around you. Then start sharing your gorgeous smile with the world ... smile at everyone you pass by on the street, especially those guys you think are hot (who cares gay/straight/bi/whatever!). One of them is going to smile back one day, and then the fun begins!
posted by kuppajava at 10:25 AM on February 14, 2013

If I dated someone who looked like you, and they told me they had plastic surgery for the reasons you give, it would scare me right off. Maybe I'm being sexist because you're a guy, but I'd like to think it would be the same with a woman.

Now, being a PhD student at an Ivy Leage? I feel your pain.
posted by BibiRose at 10:49 AM on February 14, 2013

Despite the fact that I am not sure I buy the "oh, no really this is not humblebragging I'm just ivy league educated and hot and so lonely" line, I will still say this:

I categorically refuse to respond to overtures from extremely attractive people in pretty much any situation and especially on dating sites.

I'm not sure exactly how attractive I am, but I know when guys are in or out of my league. I date exclusively WITHIN my league because mismatched pairings are fucking miserable unless there is some kind of equalizing factor and I don't trust someone as far as I can throw them if they appear to be operating outside of this very standard social code. Super attractive man messaging me online? He either is only after sex and has no idea how to make relationships work from never having had to try very hard OR maybe he has ten cats and some kind of even dan savage unapproved fetish.

Food for thought.
posted by skrozidile at 11:13 AM on February 14, 2013

I'm learning so much reading these responses. I don't know any of you, but I've not seen a more gracious group of people on the internet before. Thank you all so so much!
posted by cscott at 11:15 AM on February 14, 2013

Straight woman here, but I know much less attractive gay men than you in happy relationships and/or plenty of hookups. The problem is in your head.
posted by walla at 12:27 PM on February 14, 2013

Straight man here. You're hot though. It's kinda obvious.

Maybe you intimidate prospective mates. Pursuing a PhD at an Ivy League school suggests that you are wealthy/smart/cultured/whatever, and that kind of thing can scare a lot of people off.

On the other hand, looking at your profile reveals that you have posted 20 questions to AskMe, and literally every one of them is about dating. This suggests to me that you are a little too concerned with the subject to approach it in an objective manner. If I was considering dating a girl who was as thoroughly obsessed with dating as you seem to be* I'd bail out with a quickness. That kind of thing smacks of imminent drama. Gives me the creeps.

Maybe step off the dating tip for a while and see if there is something else that can hold your interest. A lot of people think therapy's a good idea, and I won't say they're wrong; but it sounds to me like one way or the other you just need to get more comfortable in your own skin, and with keeping your own company, before you're ready to share who you are with another person.

Anyway, stop cutting your face; you don't need it.

*A straight analogy based on what you've posted here, which I'm aware might not be the best representation of your personality.
posted by Pecinpah at 1:58 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Not sure you need this thought, but I'll put it out there anyway.

There's a type of artist who buys every kind of paintbrush, every kind of paint, a great easel, the best canvases and all that crap, and never seems to really get started painting, and when they try to paint they flail around for hours and it all kind of comes out enh.

There's another type of artist who has a crappy brush and a rusty tube of nasty old paint and they dash off the most beautiful works on an old paper shopping bag with a few flicks of a wrist.

Point being: stop worrying about your TOOLS, e.g., your face, your body, your clothes, your whatever.

Start focusing on the essential nugget of making friends and turning them into lovers: be open, be friendly, be kind, be thoughtful, be courteous, be natural and in-the-moment, but most of all ... be yourself. And if you don't know how to be yourself, well, that's what the therapy is for.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:18 PM on February 14, 2013 [10 favorites]

I suspect, my looks don't cut it for them.

Or you know, your looks make them feel unworthy, competitive, like they need to act cool and not totally infatuated- a million human things that don't mean there's something wrong with the way you look. It sounds like you may have unrealistic ideas of how people react to attractive people, and if you catching someone straying from that... Boom! You're imperfect! I can well believe that the little signs that are telling you that someone is uninterested when you're talking to them in person are distracting you from any signs they are making to try to indicate that they like you. You might benefit from going out with friends, intending to look your worst, with no expectations, and just have a good time being social. Over and over and over.

And for goodness sakes, don't do anything else to your face. Do some other pampering thing that is good for your soul and makes you happy.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:02 PM on February 14, 2013

I am a gay man. While I am in agreement with many of the posters that you look great, I will take your questions at face-value. Your face looks good, I can't imagine that more surgery would help. But, the pics do not show your body. If you do not have a shirtless pic in your profile, many gay men will not respond to your ad. If you do not have a defined or muscular chest in that pic, that will eliminate even more. If you are not already working out, that is something you could do. Also, if you are well endowed, I would encourage you to make that clear in your ad. In my experience, online dating is a numbers game. I went on dates, hooked up, or had short-term dating relationships with literally scores of men before I met my husband. We have been together 5 years now. As a reference point on "leagues," when we met he was 22 very good looking with a well-defined body. I was 44 and a chubby, hairy bear type. You can either be looking for what will attract a lot of responses to ads, or you can be looking for the one guy you click with and want to spend the rest of your life with. Becoming a gym bunny can get you the first. Being yourself, and being willing to put yourself out there over and over again just might get you the second. At least, it did for me.
posted by hworth at 5:31 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just wanted to note that, for online stuff, you should lead with the cat pic. Part of your issue here is putting across confidence, and that picture is much more relaxed than the other two.

Also, you have what people call "classic" good looks -- strong jaw, very regular features, etc. I genuinely cannot see any area of your face that I think would look better with surgery.
posted by ostro at 10:25 PM on February 14, 2013

You look fantastic.

Drawing from what I’d say is a fair amount of exposure to gay culture for a straight woman, and, just, cities: if you’re at any of the Ivy League schools other than Columbia, I am going to back you and others up that racism is very likely the problem wrt online dating. And I’ll +1:

- a move to a genuinely cosmopolitan city in the near future
- perhaps, doing pics again, in alignment with sexy-shot norms
- more body work - working out, massage, sport - to root you deeper into your physicality, which is important for all kinds of people, but maybe academics, especially.

And, I think whatever you have to do to walk tall, within reason, is golden. Including therapy, and including (past) surgery (because, can’t see that any more makes sense at all). I think you sound reasonably well-adjusted to your current appearance*, and are fairly appraising what you have to offer. And, that your frustration is understandable, and probably more a consequence of causes macro-er than your self-esteem. But, yes to therapy, because it's doubtless hard work being a minority within a minority (within a minority - as you're well aware, you're in the tail of multiple curves). Good luck.
*though, you've been warped by a bubble, i think
posted by nelljie at 10:46 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

*editing window closed: it sounds like you like how you look at home, in the mirror, in a picture, now. But suffer when you compare yourself to a homogenized group. I think regularly seeing other active, attractive men of colour will help shift that.
posted by nelljie at 10:53 PM on February 14, 2013

I was holding my breath when I clicked over to your picture. I was afraid you were going to be homely and then we'd all be like "It's what's inside that counts!" Then when I saw your picture I felt sad because you're so beautiful, and I wish you could see it.

Internet dating encourages people to think about romance in this very mercenary way. You're looking at pages and pages of pictures and profiles and it starts feeling like you're trying to buy a new cell phone or something. "What specs does this model have?" The truth is that dating is a lot more complicated than what specs some guy has. A guy might be very average-looking, but share your sense of humor and obsessions. Some other guy might be a bad writer but smell fantastic and have amazing chemistry with you. When I had a crush on my domestic partner, I looked them up on OKCupid, and their profile was dull and the algorithim said we only had 70% romantic compatibility -- yet here we are years later, totally in love. I know your question wasn't about finding love, but I guess what I'm saying is, I don't know why you're not getting responses from online dating sites, but it seems like you're beginning to evaluate yourself (and other men) as if were all cell phones. Is there another, more organic way you could meet people?
posted by feets at 4:14 AM on February 15, 2013

Let me ask you a few questions straight up, that I'm hoping you've covered with your therapist.

1. Were you born in the U.S.?
2. If so - did you always live in the city where you live?
3. If you didn't always live there - were you the only kid of your ethnic group in school?
4. If you were - did you get shit for that?

What I'm getting at is - I wonder if maybe the reason why you're so damn hung up on your looks is because back in the past, the third grade bully picked on you for being the only [blank] kid in your class. And if this is the case, and you have NOT addressed this with your therapist, I'd definitely explore it. Because, all the plastic surgery in the world you get today is NOT going to change the fact that an eight-year-old brat was a jerk to you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:34 AM on February 15, 2013

And because that sounded harsh - I'm not speaking from a place of "why are you so hung up on what a third-grade bully did to you" if that's the case; hell, I still have troubles that go back to what my own third-grade bullies (and fourth grade and fifth grade and seventh grade bullies) did to me. So I know what a mindfuck that can be.

However - what's helped is recognizing that that is the mindfuck in question. Figuring out that "oh, it's not that I am dumb, it's that I'm still smarting from when Donna Tibbins kept telling me I was dumb". You know?

The reason I'm harping on that is that you've mentioned that you wanted to improve your prospects as an "ethnic" man, as if you've somehow internalized that "ethnic" = bad or ugly. There's a clue there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:04 AM on February 15, 2013

Another gay man here, living in a large and status-obsessed city. Racism is a problem, lookism is a problem, and insecurity is a problem. You have control over one of those; the other two are totally in the eye of the beholder.

I will tell you the one thing I tell all my friends who complain about being overlooked: I have witnessed absolutely no correlation between (a) how attractive I think someone is and (b) whether he is in a happy relationship. It takes one person to like you--in the end, if and when you find one, he's going to like you, not your nose.
posted by psoas at 11:56 AM on February 18, 2013

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