Who's better for me - the girl I want or the girl my family wants?
December 21, 2013 2:23 PM   Subscribe

It seems like a no-brainer answer at first glance - of course you stick with a girl you really dig regardless of what Mommy and Daddy think. But I'm not so sure my own tastes are in my best interest...

Back when I was on my own in college and truly getting into real dating relationships for the first time, I realized that I have a "type" I tend to zero in on. Introverted, creative girls who weren't afraid to laugh at themselves and who prefer more nerdy hobbies always made me get hot and bothered.

I've also found that with many of the girls I stayed in relationships with, there's some strange similarities in traditionally negative things - clinical depression, anti-social tendencies, and weight issues - that I never found to be deal breakers. In fact, I tend to find the anti-social tendencies a relief (obligatory trips out on the town with a girls' friends SUCK) and I tend to find some kinds of insecurity pretty endearing.

My family has noticed this when I've introduced long term girlfriends to them - inevitably, once the girl leaves, the same conversation happens. "Son, why aren't you dating a girl that challenges you?" "You're very handsome you know," "Do you feel like you need the upper hand while you're dating or something?"

Basically it boils down to my parents not liking that I'm dating women who lack social confidence and are overweight. And I'm vilifying them a bit in how I'm portraying them because I WANT them to be wrong, but they do have some good points - I tend to stay aloof from making many new friendships in general and I truly just want to invest in a romantic relationship at this point in my life, so perhaps that's why I avoid more extroverted women right off the bat. That and I MIGHT tend towards having some insecurities myself, both socially and physically (I'm a skinny son-of-a-gun).

My folks want me to date Mrs. Perfect. A socialite with a great job who makes witty conversation and has a bangin' bod. I really just want a nice girl to cuddle and play Mario Kart with.

Are my current dating habits unhealthy? Or are my parents wrong and just being too judgmental?
posted by johnpoe50 to Human Relations (50 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's your life, they need to back up.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:26 PM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Date who you want, and stop bringing women home to your parents who you're just "dating." Save that for later and put some space between your parents and your social life.

But yeah I think there's something very wrong with finding other people's insecurities endearing.
posted by headnsouth at 2:29 PM on December 21, 2013 [38 favorites]

Your parents are being gross. Time to boundary up and hold firm.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:29 PM on December 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

Your parents are way, way out of line. And they're probably also wrong about what would be best for you.

Don't being women home to meet them early in relationships, and when you're serious about someone, don't indulge your parents in long conversations about this kind of terrible romantic advice.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:34 PM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

That and I MIGHT tend towards having some insecurities myself, both socially and physically (I'm a skinny son-of-a-gun).

Thought experiment:

Say you ended up at a point in life, some years down the road, where you found immense satisfaction and relief in heavy weightlifting. Say you ended up putting on 30 lbs of muscle. And you began to notice appreciative looks from all kinds of people wherever you went.

Let's say also, through a combination of life factors, you ended up way more confident socially. You began to find that it was way easier for you to socialize with both friends and strangers, that new people tended to really like you and you found it much easier to connect with them.

Would you still be happy and content cuddling on the sofa every single night playing video games?

The answer might be yes or no.

Food for thought.
posted by cairdeas at 2:34 PM on December 21, 2013 [14 favorites]

Your parents don't get a say in your dating life, past obvious dealbreakers like theft, abuse, and etc. (And even then, those should be gentle suggestions, not commandments.)

You liking more introverted, nerdy women who want to play Mario Kart instead of attending a late night party is totally fine. However, you should choose them because they have similar interests as you, not because their insecurity is endearing. I mean, seriously, finding other people's weaknesses and insecurity "endearing" is kind of gross in and of itself. If your girlfriend grows more confident, would you encourage that or discourage it because you like her being certain kinds of insecure?

While your parents' comments on "do you need the upper hand" is uncalled for, take a good hard look at yourself and make sure you're not self-selecting for those you deem "weaker" than you. A romantic relationship should be a partnership of equals.
posted by Zelos at 2:35 PM on December 21, 2013 [14 favorites]

And coming from the opposite direction, I once brought someone home who was tall, good looking, charming, well-educated and made lots of money. My family loved him. He was the guy who ended up throwing me down a set of stairs. People who are judging others they don't know at all based on superficial qualities often get it badly wrong.
posted by cairdeas at 2:36 PM on December 21, 2013 [60 favorites]

from the sounds of it you're chosing the nerdy girls because they make you hot not because you have low self esteem (although maybe give some thought to that possibility)

A socialite with a great job who makes witty conversation and has a bangin' bod. I really just want a nice girl to cuddle and play Mario Kart with.

Having common interests is going to be so much more important than jobs or looks 30-40 years down the line.
posted by missmagenta at 2:41 PM on December 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

My folks want me to date Mrs. Perfect. A socialite with a great job who makes witty conversation and has a bangin' bod.

As your parents, this is their job. Date who you like.
posted by bleep at 2:43 PM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree that this is your call and not your parents'.

Having said that, I was coming in to say something similar to cairdeas's comment but from the other side - what happens if you're in a relationship with someone who is endearingly insecure, and she finds her confidence? What if she deals with some issues and finds herself feeling more confident and builds a stronger social life.

Not to say that all introverts become extroverts with a bit of self-love, but the above has certainly been known to happen.
posted by scrute at 2:45 PM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

You are not ready to be seriously dating anybody if your parents have this much say.
posted by Wordwoman at 2:45 PM on December 21, 2013 [22 favorites]

My folks want me to date Mrs. Perfect. A socialite with a great job who makes witty conversation and has a bangin' bod.

That doesn't really sound like people with an interest in your happiness.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:50 PM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

But maybe they are sensing some dynamic at play. I wouldn't ignore their concerns wholesale. Do you like to feel in control? Do you like to be the more experienced one? Do you avoid feeling vulnerable? Do these girls feel like your equals? Have you dated more confident women, and how did it feel? If the answer is "threatening," them that's no good. If the answer is "bored" then maybe you just like nerdy girls.

Or find a confident nerdy girl. Those exist too.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:51 PM on December 21, 2013 [15 favorites]

But I'm not so sure my own tastes are in my best interest...

Well, ask yourself why you want a girlfriend? To share your life and activities with someone you understand and find endearing? Or to help you make social/professional connections and impress family/friends/strangers? If it's the former, which it sounds like it is, then you're right to be dating who you are drawn to naturally. If it's the latter, then your parents are right, the girls you're currently dating are probably not going to provide that.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:54 PM on December 21, 2013

Data point: my son just started dating a girl who is into horses and he went to her grandparents' house and made cookies with her. I said, "Cool! Horses! Make that girl a cheesecake! I'm so happy for you!"

The whole point of raising kids it to make them independent from you. You are an adult, independent of your parents. Yes, I did ask my folks for advice and yes, they did help me at times when I messed up, but overall, they stayed out of it. More along the lines of, "well, don't quit your old job before you get a new one," or, "oh he's an artist? Make sure you don't end up supporting him." But never anything like what you're saying.

I can't imagine telling my daughter (31) or my son (21) who they can or cannot date, either via outright statement or some sideways barb. Holy Moly, Batman, that's what I raised them for, I told them all the warning signs (don't let a guy make you go to bed with him just for dinner), etc. Then I taught my son to cook and do laundry and be affectionate. So far, so good.

Just ignore them and if they don't accept your girlfriends, say, "Mom and Dad, this is my choice. You taught me to be an independent thinker, now please stop." Because really, you are going to live with the woman the rest of your life, not your folks. As it should be. It's only natural, as we say.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:57 PM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Your parents are being inappropriate. They might also have a point.

I agree that it's awesome you like nerdy girls who play Mario Kart, and a little not so awesome that you find their insecurities endearing and attractive.

That said, I also had a tendency to be attracted to women I thought needed "rescuing" in some way. I was in my early 20s and really just needed to turn that impulse inward. Rescue yourself. Be your own knight, and start the process of being secure in your own choices if your family disagrees. You will fuck up, you will make bad choices, and you will need the skills to get yourself out of them, so you might as well start sooner rather than later.

If your parents keep bugging you about your girlfriend choices, feel free to remind them that they're not the ones going out with her.

p.s. This doesn't mean that you should never take anyone's advice, of course - that way also lies madness.
posted by rtha at 2:58 PM on December 21, 2013 [20 favorites]

Scrute says what I was going to say. I've been in a relationship with a woman who started out with a self-confidence problem, gathered up some self-confidence while we were together, and then dumped me. She may have been in a relationship with me in the first place partly because of her lack of self-confidence. People in long-term relationships change as individuals (one hopes), and as partners, they need to try to keep up with each other.

Your parents aren't criticizing the women you date while you date them, it seems, which is key. If they're commenting on your girlfriends' looks, that's kind of out of line, but the other parts, I think there's something to that. Fodder for introspection. It's one thing to view it as your parents trying to control who you date—which I doubt it is, from what you've told us. It's a completely different thing if you view it as people who know you and care about you pointing out an unhealthy pattern (for some value of "unhealthy").
posted by adamrice at 3:10 PM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

But I'm not so sure my own tastes are in my best interest...

I came in here expecting something like "my girlfriends are domineering and manipulative and my parents want me to stop being a doormat." This is obviously not the case. While I agree with some of the previous posters who say you may want to not date at all for a while and work on yourself, your parents definitely don't sound like they are interested in your well-being. They just want you to date someone they can brag about.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 3:20 PM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

This question feels kind of gross to me. If you're dating fat, introverted women, it should be because you like them and are attracted to them. It sounds like you're doing it because they're, what? Not going to leave you because they're insecure and you're so skinny and awesome? Too lazy to leave?

You can find a socialite with a great job who makes witty conversation and has a bangin' bod, and that bod can be fat. My husband thinks I'm super hot BECAUSE I'm fat and awesome. He's not like, "Oh damn she's fun to be with so I guess I'll overlook her weight." You should stop looking down at women you are ostensibly attracted to. That person can also be a "nice girl to cuddle and play Mario Kart with". There aren't just two types of women; skinny socialites and fat insecure ones! Women are people. You and your parents would both be better served to think of us that way.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 3:25 PM on December 21, 2013 [32 favorites]

No woman you bring home will EVER be good enough for you. Your parents will always think you could do better. Because you're their son, and you're perfect, and obviously you could have any woman you wanted.

You like who you like. There doesn't appear to be anything wrong with the women you date. While I think it's important to listen to family and friends about red flag type issues like the way your partner treats you, whether they make you a better person or bring out the worst in you, etc, things like "your girlfriend is fat" or "your girlfriend is shy/not charismatic" are not really among the things that it's worth listening to family about.

I don't know if you live close to your parents and see them often, or not, but one thing I notice about my relationship with my parents as an adult is that they often fall into the trap of seeing me as the person they wish I was, rather than as I really am. Is it possible that they've built this Outgoing Overachiever narrative about you, and the women you bring home clash with that and force them to question their image of you?
posted by Sara C. at 3:45 PM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think your parents are just trying to do what parents do, set you up with what they think will successful. That being said it doesn't make it right. However I agree with comments above that finding certain types of insecurities endearing a little off. Yet you are an adult. At some point everyone's body changes and even socialites are going to age and get stretch marks. To me, after 24 years of marriage, is how you and potential mate get along with each other and through a crisis etc. Even though you may find antisocial tendencies cute, at some point every couple needs to get along with others whether they like it or not. (Man and woman cannot live by Mario Kart alone) My suggestion is pretty trite but I think therapy might help you focus your thinking on what you want and how you get there without your parents.
posted by lasamana at 3:46 PM on December 21, 2013

You should date people you're drawn to. It's your life, not your parents'. But that said, they probably do know you pretty well, and if their comments are bothering you, maybe this is a sign that you yourself are feeling the need to branch out a little. There's nothing wrong with getting to know other people who don't necessarily conform to your usual pattern, and you might find that the super-successful socialite loves nothing more than to wind down with a game of Mario Kart.
posted by rpfields at 3:51 PM on December 21, 2013

You can find a woman who is confident and stable and enjoys Mario Cart and nerdy things. Take all of your parents' advice about finding someone emotionally healthy and leave all of the stuff about the external packaging.

It sounds like you are currently looking for a woman who is insecure, nerdy and likes to stay at home, which may not be a great game plan. It's definitely worth looking into that you keep finding yourself with women who have clinical depression and anti-social tendencies in common.
posted by mermily at 3:52 PM on December 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

date who you want to date--not who your parents want you to date. you're in your early 20s so your taste may change as you get older. it's your life to live so cuddle and play mario kart if that is what makes you happy. i think as you mature you may find yourself attracted to women with less insecurities but they still may well be introverted & creative & can laugh at themselves rather than the witty socialite types. or, you might eventually like that type too but it needs to happen naturally and not because your parents want you to be someone you're not. sadly, the person your parents are really trying to change is you rather than your gfs. don't let them. be true to yourself.
posted by wildflower at 4:03 PM on December 21, 2013

I'm sure your parents want what's best for you, but they need to back off and let you find that 'best' for yourself.

On the other hand, you really need to be a little more confident about your choices and preferences.

And honestly, both you and your parents are all WAY too focused on 'fat' girls and physical appearance --- focus more on the person inside than the outer packaging.
posted by easily confused at 4:38 PM on December 21, 2013

Not to say that all introverts become extroverts with a bit of self-love, but the above has certainly been known to happen.

i think you may be confusing introversion with shyness. they aren't the same thing. a confident introvert doesn't become an extrovert but is rather a confident introvert. it's possible they may become a bit more social but true introversion is not a result of shyness or insecurity.
posted by wildflower at 5:22 PM on December 21, 2013 [8 favorites]

I would just like to point out that dating someone because she meets some abstract standard or pleases your parents would be very unfair to her and just as unhealthy as being attracted to insecurity. Dating isn't an achievement, you know. It's a relationship with another person.
posted by Comet Bug at 5:23 PM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

I tend to find some kinds of insecurity pretty endearing.

I also don't think there is anything wrong with this in and of itself. I have anxiety and had a really bad flare-up in my early 20s just as I was starting to date my boyfriend at that time. I know for a fact that he found it endearing, which I never would have imagined to be possible. There are some people who try to clip your wings and other people who try to add extra feathers, and everything he did was focused on helping me fulfill my potential. He encouraged me to begin a difficult academic program and sometimes he would stay in my building doing his own work while I was in class; if I felt like I was going to have an anxiety attack, it helped immensely to know that he was there. Finding "flaws" endearing doesn't have to mean that you are going to exploit the weaknesses of that person or keep them down.
posted by cairdeas at 6:00 PM on December 21, 2013 [12 favorites]

Whether or not your dating habits are revealing some insecurity in you is a totally separate question as to whether or not you should listen to your parents re:dating, which is a different question again as to whether you should date someone stereotypically attractive. The the dichotomy you've created, between this person and the one you can cuddle and play Mario Kart with is probably the most false one of all.

This is not about you versus your parents. This is about you becoming the best version of yourself and finding a partner, perhaps, who you love. They can be introverted , extroverted, wealthy, not, thin or not.

Your parents actual questions do not sound as though they are pushing you towards a particularly superficial response, btw. That comes across in your description of who you think they want.
posted by jojobobo at 6:06 PM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

The excellent advice to avoid dating someone with the trifecta of "clinical depression, anti-social tendencies, and weight issues" is not wrong. All things being equal, those are simply not descriptors of a healthy partner in general. But because it happens to be your parents who are the ones advising this, they're "wrong"?
posted by hush at 6:08 PM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah...I disagree that it's always unhealthy to find insecurity endearing. I'm thinking of Annie Hall here. I think there should be other things you like, though, and that your whole attachment isn't coming from pity.
posted by amodelcitizen at 6:09 PM on December 21, 2013

Response by poster: A large part of me wants to get defensive about the "attracted to insecurity" thing that many people have zeroed in on. It's kind of a relief that a few people are saying there's nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but I do have to admit that I am probably finding insecurities cute because of a small messiah complex or something of the sort. I WILL go ahead and defend myself insofar as confirming I would be encouraging to a woman becoming more confident in herself (I have actively done this in the past). Still, it is true that I like insecurity in others because of my own insecurity.

I kind of like what rtha had to say, I probably should focus on me and make me the best I can be and all that. Truth be told, I'm very content and comfortable with where I'm at in life, but I pretty much know that I'm not pushing myself in the way a 100% healthy and motivated person would. I feel like I work so hard every day as it is, though, so the idea of being even MORE productive and spending even LESS time being a good for nothing manchild is stressful.

Anyhow, good feedback from everybody thus far. Thanks.
posted by johnpoe50 at 6:33 PM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sorry: then she broke up with him because something something something, but I still had a good conversation with my son. It's fantastic, talking with your kids as if they were human beings. Why don't you ask your parents to do the same thing?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:34 PM on December 21, 2013

I think you're doing okay, and I think your girlfriends are okay.
posted by spbmp at 6:49 PM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Date the people you are attracted to, treat your partners with the same kind of respect with which you want them to treat you, and make sure that includes that you both encourage each other to exceed your own expectations. The only seed of truth I can see in your list of what your parents want for you in a partnership is that: if these women you find yourself drawn to are falling far enough into their own insecurities, then maybe they don't have the wherewithal to act as a true partner to you? Do your partners challenge you intellectually? Do they give you emotional support in equal measure to what you give them, or do you generally fall into a caretaker/encourager role? Do they have things they are passionate about and inspire you to do the same (with some excellent Mario Kart cuddle time in the off hours)? Or do you find yourself doing those things because they are comfortable and do not challenge either of you to do things that, while difficult, you might enjoy more in the long run?
posted by theweasel at 8:39 PM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

You sound young. I think your parents are right, but there's probably not much you can do about it right now, and you'll resist it until you learn it for yourself and grow a bit anyway.

Do watch that messiah complex though. Feeling needed by needy people is a great way to get a cheap self-esteem boost, and it may be more about you than really helping them.
posted by quincunx at 9:05 PM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

In case my earlier comment seemed judge-y: "creative girls who weren't afraid to laugh at themselves" isn't exactly a description of horribly damaged, fragile people. We're probably all picturing different things based on the word "insecure." I did think the way you wrote your post left out concern with what type of partner would be best in a partnership WITH you, rather than simply FOR you, which I think is probably a more useful question. But I realize you're trying to clarify your own needs.

And I am kind of rooting for your tastes in partners, as most of those descriptors apply to me!
posted by Comet Bug at 12:16 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I truly just want to invest in a romantic relationship at this point in my life

This raises a red flag for me. It's always been my feeling that 'looking for a romantic relationship' is a bad idea. Sooner or later, and it's usually sooner, it gets to a point where you feel you have a girlfriend-shaped hole in your life and you'll just shoehorn someone in. This way lies madness; it's the equivalent of the largely mythical baby-crazy woman getting any guy just so she can make babies. It's not a recipe for long term happiness.

Instead, learn more about yourself. Figure out more about who you are and what you really want out of life. Definitely work on understanding why it is you're attracted to insecurity, because that also raises a big warning sign: I've gone through similar things to you and rtha of wanting to resuce people, make them feel better about themselves, etc. Thing is, when you do make them feel better about themselves you've served your purpose and they don't really need you anymore. Heartbreak all around.

So: meet people. Make friends. Do cool things. If something develops organically, awesome, that's much more likely to end up in a healthy and stable relationship than "MORBO WANT GIRLFRIEND FOR ROMANCE AND N64."

(None of this is judging or attacking you, and please accept my apologies if it sounds that way.)

My folks want me to date Mrs. Perfect. A socialite with a great job who makes witty conversation and has a bangin' bod. I really just want a nice girl to cuddle and play Mario Kart with.

So find a nice girl to cuddle and play Mario Kart with. Apart from "A person who makes you happy and treats you well," parental wishes for their children's sexual and emotional relationships are irrelevant at best, inappropriate at worst.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:07 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think it's probably not healthy, or good for you, to date women because they're broken and you want to fix them.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:07 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Two things are in tension here.

A parent must give their children candid advice about matters of importance, and there's little which is more important than choice of romantic partner. A sensible child entertains that advice, knowing that a parent has (at least) more experience of the world and has the best of motives.

But, a parent must also accept who their children are, and no longer give advice which has no chance of being accepted, and as such which is in fact no longer advice but passive-aggressive criticism of their identity or position in life.

In other words, you are perfectly free to sit down with your parents and say "Look, introverted overweight women are the kind of women I am attracted to, and one of them is likely to end up the mother of your grandchildren, and this discussion is over with." But if you aren't ready to have that conversation than your parents can, and should, keep giving you the benefit of their perspective.
posted by MattD at 10:22 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Apologies for massive length, but as a chubby nerdy woman who tends to be shy (late bloomer), I'm probably not best equipped to answer unbiasedly. So with that as a disclaimer: Date girls like me! Date them, love them, be happy with them, watch a lot of Sci Fi and play a lot of games and stuff. The world needs dudes like you, to counter all the dudes not like you. Really.

The thing is, I feel society gives us a very narrow view of what is both 'normal' and 'acceptable'

- If you're not striving, you're not ok.
- If you're not confident, you're not ok.
- If you're not thin, you're not ok
- If you're not gorgeous, you're not ok
- If you're not a social butterfly, you're not ok
- If you're not (system) educated, you're not ok
- If you don't have a good job, you're not ok.
- If you don't have a banging body, you're not ok.
- If you're content where you are, you're not ok.
- If you're not secure, you're no ok.

etc. etc.

Frankly, this is bullshit. Imagine if everyone lived a life based on those principles? Everyone would look the same, do the same things, have similar jobs, live the same life. Everyone would be the same. Talk about boring. Talk about nothing getting done. Nobody would take out the garbage, for one thing-- or nobody would date beyond the conventionally attractive-- it would be beneath them.

But the thing is, we're saturated with those messages, daily. If you follow this path, you too will be happy and awesome! It's not ok to 'just' drive trucks. Or work in retail. Or want to be a florist. Or drive a taxi. Or be overweight. Or date someone who is those things. Those things are bad, and should be looked down on. These are all people who missed opportunities. They don't challenge themselves, they're probably lazy. Don't be like them. Be awesome. Make lots of money.

I've always felt this mindset is wrong. No, I mean, it's not okay to be content with being mediocre, and part of happiness is pushing yourself towards goals. But pushing yourself doesn't have to be grand. It can be as simple as learning how to knit. It's not ignoble to not pursue 'the best' -- the best person, best house, best life. The thing is, society attributes meaning to the terms 'mediocrity' and what 'the best' is, anyway. Just because everyone thinks something, doesn't make it right.

The thing is, there's no real secret to life. It's just to be lived. There's no cheat-sheet to follow to happiness. Well, there are certain indicators. But it's not like you can do all the 'right' things, (like having the perfect girlfriend) and suddenly you'll live long and be happy forever.

But we all know of at least a few intelligent, rich, successful beautiful people who seem like they have it all, but are messes inside, or have terrible lives or other problems. We also probably know of homely, unambitious people, who carve out great, happy lives for themselves, and are quietly awesome, even if the world isn't aware that they too dare greatly in their own way.

I think your parents are vain. I think your parents are vain, because the expectations they place on you regarding a partner are similar ones my mother placed on me regarding boyfriends-- (good job, handsome, tall, etc) and my mother is vain. And I think that they push you towards 'perfection' because of this vanity. It's not really their fault, but it doesn't make it right.

Here's the rub: Nobody is perfect. But I think the assumption most people make (at least people like your parents) is that someone who is gorgeous and thin and obviously successful must be totally with it and have everything together. They must be well adjusted, and healthy, and pay their taxes on time, and they must be kind wonderful people inside and out.

This isn't true at all.

Because people are people. They are varied and complex. They are more than their appearance. Appearances don't dictate what you're getting into. It's pretty rare that appearance and job status truly gives you an indication of who a person really is. There are nerdy people of all shapes and sized and colors, and non-nerdy alike.

Moreover, It's absolutely possible to find a chubby, nerdy, cute woman who isn't clinically depressed (which is bad, but again depending on the individual may be survivable and conquerable) or has deep insecurities (also bad, but again, not terrible), and who is perfectly healthy. Just as it's possible to find a woman who ticks all the criteria your parents care about -- ('hot', thin, successful, sociable) and who is clinically depressed, insecure, unhealthy and has a bag of issues.

Chubby and nerdy don't necessarily go hand-in-hand with 'clinically depressed' and 'insecure' etc, either. I have a couple of friends who are both, and they are both confident, strong women who make absolutely no apologies about their looks and bodies. They are not depressed or insecure.

However yeah, I will say that for me, personally--growing up fat gave me a complex. I am sensitive and it was drummed into me that being fat was really unattractive and no guy would ever ever want me unless I lost half my body weight. So much so, that I obviously have issues. I still struggle with the idea that someone could actually get hot and bothered by my body or face, (which has happened but still surprises me) or be content with someone less confident (I have my moments of confidence, but I can be shy). Even though I've lost over 60lbs, I still have problems patting myself on the back because I'm still a bit chubby, and I feel like I'm not allowed to congratulate myself yet.

I'm working on my issues, but I'd wager that a lot of women who grew up overweight are prone to some kind of issues, yes. It's difficult when the whole world tells you that you should look a certain way to be 'right' and that anything else is 'wrong' -- that you're wrong. Also, there's a huge stigma against fat people, especially fat women. But I think that a lot of women have some kind of beauty hangup-- thin or fat, there's a lot of appearance-based pressure on women in general.

I don't think your parents are right. I do think they are being judgmental. I think they are being judgmental of women like me. And "A woman who challenges you who is beautiful and has a bangin' bod," doesn't equal happiness, and she's not more worthwhile than a woman who is none of this things.

And the thing is, overweight doesn't necessarily equal unhealthy, either. Some studies are beginning to show that being chubby may help people live longer. Nutrition, and obesity and health correlations are not as clear cut as people think. Generally, people are conditionally biased against certain things-- I'm not saying obesity is a good thing, but I am saying it's absolutely not as black and white as most people think. There's always more to everything.

There's nothing wrong with you for liking what you like. It's even okay to find some insecurity endearing. It's ok to not be super confident. It's okay to not like super confident women. I hate dudes who brag. I love humble dudes who are amazing but act like they're not. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. You don't need to alter your tastes to align with what society deems is acceptable or 'hot' -- or what your bro's are going to high-five you over or whatever. You shouldn't let yourself be shamed into liking something you don't. And I wish more dudes had the courage to admit they find the unconventional attractive, too.

Besides, being with someone shy doesn't mean you're doomed to a hermit cabin in the woods together, with just a Wii for company. It may mean you don't socialize as much, or go out or something, but it's a perfectly acceptable life path, providing you're not going to get bored doing it. If so, I mean, there are ways around it. But falling into a rut is a risk no matter who you're with.

Also, are your sure your girlfriends are truly anti-social? I can be shy, but not anti-social at all. I also don't think being shy is the same thing as being anti-social. I think that people who don't understand shyness absolutely conflate the two, but it's actually really different. Anti-social people don't like people. My shyness isn't about the people I'm meeting, or disliking interacting with them. It's that I find it kind of draining to always be 'on', it's tough for me for open up at first, and that I like my alone time. I find that if people understand that about me, it makes it easier on both of us. And eventually, I warm up to people. If a future partner was similar to me, I'd imagine that eventually, your parents would understand/like your girlfriend.

As for the 'challenge' comment they made-- It's not her job to motivate you. It's not her job to 'push' you, or make you better, or even encourage you necessarily. She's not your cheerleader. Sure, she should be encouraging and enthusiastic of you and your goals, and all, but she doesn't exist to motivate you. It's your job to do that, if that's something you want to do. I feel like your family feel you don't strive enough, and are hoping that someone who does, will somehow 'fix' you.

It can't, no more than you can 'fix' someone's insecurity. Actually, I saw a really interesting lecture about the psychology of love-- In it, the lecturer says that love should make you want to be better. Your partner, just by virtue of being themselves-- not by nagging, or even encouraging necessarily-- should inspire you to grow as a person, because being in love makes you want to be more whole. If she's good for you, she'll make you feel lifted up and challenged/encouraged without making you feel as if she needs to actually push or change.

Lastly, my brother is a nerd. He's a pretty great catch, cute and well off-- even before he got married. My brother married someone who is on paper perfect, because he felt it was expected of him. She's cute, slim, athletic, a healthy eater. She 'challenges' him, is very social, extremely independent, strong, successful, etc.

She also controls his life, is a nag, materialistic, spends all his money, is selfish, kind of cruel, pushy, conceited, vain, shallow, holds grudges and is judgmental. They also have absolutely nothing in common-- she scoffs at his nerdy pursuits and has no interest in sharing them. She has good points too, sure. But she is also insecure and manipulative, bad at communication, and disrespectful to him.

They've come close to divorce a hundred times. And they're miserable. His only reprieve is when he comes over to hang out with me and my other brother once a week. (We watch nerdy shows together).

Don't be my brother. He's deeply unhappy, and deeply lonely. No matter how good it looked on paper, ultimately he didn't listen to his heart and he's paying the price now.

Your parents are fallible. They don't know best, even if they think they do. But even if they think you're making a mistake, they should let you make your own mistakes. And it's okay to be attracted to nerdy introverts who are homebodies. Even if your parents know what's best, ultimately, they probably just would want you to be happy and loved.

Huge essay aside, (sorry, this question really hit home for me*) what's important here is that you find someone who speaks to you, who you're attracted to (whatever that means for you), that you get along with, share common interests, ideals, philosophies etc. It's important that you not want to 'save' or 'fix' her or protect her. That you work on what you admit is your messiah (or white knight, possibly) complex, and that you approach whoever it is, as an individual. I think the best way to find someone healthy (inside, and good for you) is to work on yourself, first.

Absolutely have at the nerdy, squishy girls, because I think we need all the loves we can get.

*It hit home for me because I was in a position where a person I loved got bogged down into the expectations his family had-- which were extremely similar to what your family have told you. He wanted to change his mindset about women and what made a woman 'worthy', but it was absolutely ingrained in him. Ultimately, it destroyed our chance together, made my insecurity to flare up even more and my self esteem to drop back down to almost zero. I don't think being that guy was a good thing for him, so don't be that guy, OP.

posted by Dimes at 10:34 AM on December 22, 2013 [18 favorites]

So I think your parents are being perhaps nosy and overbearing, but in a well-intentioned way. Ignore the specifics of what they're saying and focus on the sentiment. It sounds like their underlying concern is that the "type" you've identified is you settling, a bit.

@cairdeas made a good point that maybe you're going towards girls that are safe and low-risk. Now—I'm hypothesizing here, I don't know your precise situation, I don't know your dating history—but I think it's easy when you have slight insecurities about yourself to think, "Well, this person is also flawed, this person is on my level, I can keep this person, I can feel secure in this relationship." Security in a relationship is critically important, of course, but if the security comes from a sense that the other person needs you, or from a (secret, hidden, guiltily understood) sense that the other person does not have a litany of dating options and must be with you (or vice versa! you are the one without a litany of dating options)…then it's not quite so healthy, because the security is not from both of you choosing fully to be with each other.

It's fine to like introverted people. But I think it's tough if your type is not just introverted but insecure—this will lead to tons and tons of tiny problems, and it'll hold you back just as much as it will hold her back. People grow and learn and change independently. A romantic partner can only help someone along if that someone is willing and determined and invested in themselves. You don't change people. They choose to accept help when they want to change.

So it sounds a bit concerning, to me, that a lot of these girls have had "clinical depression, anti-social tendencies, and weight issues". It's easy to feel like you should be patient with flawed people (which is a way of accepting that you need to be patient with your own flaws). But it's so much easier and better for yourself and the other person if both of you guys are in a reasonably healthy place (for a healthy relationship). Try to catch the type of girl you like who's in this place where she can deal with her depression, is socially confident and comfortable (even if reticent and introverted), and accepts her body in a healthy way.

Personal anecdote—I have been, at times, the significant other struggling with depression and self-esteem issues and social anxiety issues. None of my relationships were as meaningful and strong and worthwhile until I decided to consciously "fix" myself. I had some incredibly supportive significant others, but you can't rely on other people forever, and you can't use external sources to prop up intrinsic motivation/self-esteem/happiness. Obligatory acknowledgement that anecdotes do not constitute data, but that's where my advice is coming from.

And of course I only know as much about your situation as you've posted here. If you read this and think, "This doesn't apply, I think the girls I date are extraordinary, they give a great deal to my life, there isn't this feeling that we're stuck with each other, I find them capable and autonomous adults who don't need me or a relationship, I am myself a capable and autonomous adult who doesn't need the other person or a relationship"—that's great. Communicate that to your parents. Don't worry if they give you more well-meaning but unsolicited/unnecessary advice.
posted by Sudo at 10:50 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

If your relationships are mutually satisfying, then just try to brush off your parents' comments. But this is the part that stuck out to me:

That and I MIGHT tend towards having some insecurities myself, both socially and physically (I'm a skinny son-of-a-gun).

It sounds like part of the reason you're asking this question might be because you recognize that your insecurities are affecting your choices about the women you're pursuing, and you might be happier if you changed that.

I chuckled at cairdeas' answer. When I was your age, I was very skinny and insecure about my physicality, and I'd also experienced some rejections, and I let those things have a big impact on my romantic life. I didn't do a lot of pursuing of women I was truly attracted to because I was too intimidated, and I ended up in relationships that were stable and comfortable and easy but ultimately lacking a spark.

Around age 23, I was single and decided to make some changes and got really into working out. It's now 5 years later, and my body, my self-image, and the way I look at sexual/relationship partners have all changed drastically; however, I met my current girlfriend only 6 months into that timeline.

So yeah, if the girls you're going for now are just your type, then go for it and don't worry about your parents. But if you're doing it because you just want somebody and you think somebody of that description is the most likely to accept you, I think that approach is doing everyone involved a disservice, and I don't think it has to be that way.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:10 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your girlfriend's weight is *off-limits* for your parents to comment on, and you need to tell them that in no uncertain terms.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:38 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am not sure I have anything really pertinent to say here, but I kinda feel the need to chime in because I like this question, I think it really hits on some important things. I find your dilemma interesting.

I think you have a good head on your shoulders. I get what you mean about finding flaws endearing, liking the sort of introverted girls that you like.

Any girl I'm with needs to be (to borrow a phrase my sister used the other day) "tuned into the same cosmic hum." I can't tell you how nice it is to have a girlfriend who is just as introverted as me. I don't pick a partner to "challenge" me ... Jesus Christ, that sounds absolutely awful.

There is so much more to a woman that her appearance. You need to connect with her on some spiritual, ineffable level, you both have to sort of idle at the same speed, there is so much subtlety in finding a partner that your parents' checklist for acceptable qualities just flat-out misses. I really like that you have zeroed in on these qualities that attract you and suit you. I think you are doing it exactly right.

You would have to change who you are to please your parents. Don't do that.

So, yeah, please, for the love of god, just keep doing what you're doing. You're fine.
posted by jayder at 12:10 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I also think you sound fine and on first reading I didn't think your attraction to someone's flaws was in any way sick or wrong. I think people jumped on that a little hastily. Also, I don't think nerdiness is due to low self-esteem. Some people are just nerdy and that's cute.

Your parents want you to date someone with a great public image. Probably some of this is due to selfishness, they want to be able to show off the hot successful girlfriend their son got. And this is super aggravating because being hot and successful does not mean that person is a better partner. I think your parents are being shallow and selfish. Just the fact that you are self-aware enough to ask this question shows that you have a good head on your shoulders. So date who you want and good for you for being open enough to consider others' advice.
posted by winterportage at 3:13 PM on December 22, 2013

Assuming you are a reliable narrator of your own life, you apparently have a very busy professional job with lots of responsibilities. It may be that these insecure anti-social women you're dating are not exactly paragons of professional ambition, and your parents are thinking that you can "do better" with a professional and intellectual peer, and they're wondering why you always seem to date beneath your "level." Maybe that's what is happening and that is another layer to what they're talking about, in the same way that many well educated women sometimes find themselves dating non-professionals without a college degree.

Now, in my years of dating, I echo jayder's maxim that the key to a good relationship is when the two of you are "tuned into the same cosmic hum." But if you're dating these women because you always like to see yourself in the "superior" position with her as a professional/intellectual/social subordinate, then that might be something you should work through.
posted by deanc at 3:17 PM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

@masquesoporfavor is right that you've framed this as a bit of a false dichotomy between 2 types of women: EITHER she's 1) A socialite with a great job who makes witty conversation and has a bangin' bod, OR she's 2) A nice woman with whom to cuddle and play Mario Kart.

As if those are the only 2 kinds of women on earth from which to choose. How about BOTH?

Instead of approaching this with Either/Or thinking, why not frame this as a Both/And? As in: "I'd like to date a whip smart, gainfully-employed, introverted woman with curves, who has good social skills whenever the situation demands them (such as in her career, or when visiting with parents), but who is generally happiest at home cuddling with me in front of a video game."

@Sudo's comment was also spot on, especially the 4th paragraph: "It's easy to feel like you should be patient with flawed people (which is a way of accepting that you need to be patient with your own flaws). But it's so much easier and better for yourself and the other person if both of you guys are in a reasonably healthy place." Amen.
posted by hush at 4:00 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Definitely take the middle road. Assuming you have a healthy, functional relationship with your parents, these are the people who love you the most in the world, who know you much better than you think, and who only want you to be in the best, most fulfilling relationship you can have. They have years of experience on you in all aspects of life, and they have pointed out some patterns that you yourself have conceded.

And besides, you *do* want a partner that challenges you and who doesn't match all of your own insecurities. Perhaps if you were in an exploratory dating phase and just having fun, a girl who sits in her jammies and plays Mario Kart with you all day while you duck all social events would be awesome sauce, but since you say you would like to "invest" in a romantic relationship, with all the time and energy that goes with it, you deserve to be a little pickier.
posted by madonna of the unloved at 4:01 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think they really are talking about the girl you're dating. It's their indirect way of talking about improvements they'd like to see you make in life---like being more outgoing, etc, because they don't see you challenging yourself or growing. They see you stagnating in your comfort zone due to fear.

They think the only way they can get you to try to grow personally is through a woman. And they're being indirect because they don't want to hurt your feelings.
posted by discopolo at 8:52 PM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

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