Almost 30, never dated, where do I begin?
July 2, 2017 5:24 AM   Subscribe

Well, as the title states I'm a woman who's almost 30 and I've never dated. I guess this has been mostly my "fault." I had severe low-self esteem, anxiety, and depression for most of my 20s. For that period in my life, I felt that I just couldn't date. That I just wasn't good enough and no man would ever, ever, ever be attracted to me. I've been working with a therapist for the past few years and I think... I'd like to try to date. But now what? Where do I begin?

I work in a field that has a lot of women in it, so I don't meet very many men. When I do they're usually quite older and married, so meeting men through work is unrealistic.

Online dating seems like the most reasonable place to begin, but is it? Is Tinder or whatever dating app there is better? Is online dating over? I just don't know where to start. I'm a bit afraid of online dating, I'm not sure how desirable I am. I'm not super hot and could probably afford to lose a good deal of weight. Would I be better served by putting off dating until my early 30s so I could lose the weight and become more desirable to men? I don't think that putting off dating until my early 30s would serve me well, though.

Maybe I waited too long.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think Tinder is a good idea for you. There are absolutely people using it to date (rather than hook up) but I would not send you there if you've never dated before -- it can be a bit of a meat market. Maybe okcupid, maybe Even Bumble would be nicer.

I also don't think you need to lose weight before you start dating. People date and fall in love at all sizes. Is it easier for thin people to find people who find them superficially attractive, yes... but there are also many people who find larger women attractive or who just don't have a strong preference about their partner's size.
posted by sea change at 5:36 AM on July 2, 2017 [9 favorites]

I would start out with Coffee Meets Bagel. You get a handful of potential matches every day (I get 1-6 per day) so you don't have to spend ages swiping. Once you're comfortable with online dating, you might try one of the more popular apps. is basically useless if you aren't going to pay for a membership. OK Cupid is good but can be overwhelming, especially if you're new to dating. Bumble seems to be full of men who don't share any personal information about themselves, and expect you to decide you're interested based solely on photos. Tinder can be surprisingly good for regular dating (i.e. not just hookups) but like OKC can be overwhelming.

Good luck out there!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:48 AM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure how desirable I am

Oddly enough, if there’s one thing likely to make you less desirable, it's this attitude. Desirability is complex and doesn't depend on any single factor, but two things that almost everyone finds attractive are confidence and cheerfulness. You don't need to lose weight before you start dating, but I think you do need to learn that you deserve happiness and are worthy of being loved.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 5:56 AM on July 2, 2017 [12 favorites]

I spent a long time unsure of my worth as a potential partner. A thought that helped me was: "I don't need to be desirable to all men, or most men, or even a substantial number of men. I just want to be desirable to one (as yet unknown) man."

As it turns out, I've ended up having a number of great relationships. Serial monogamist here, lol. But the key was shifting my mindset from "most guys aren't into me" (which was and is and ever will be true; I'm weird and not in a quirky manic pixie dream girl way) to "let's see if there's someone out there who clicks with me."

In that vein, I'd recommend OkCupid. Answering lots of their questions about what's important to you in a partner will do a reasonably good job of indicating who you might be interested in. On I felt most of the questions were about things that didn't matter to me (How often do you exercise? Don't care!), but okcupid asks things that get at worldviews and political preferences that matter a lot to me.

OkCupid has a question that asks whether overweight people can be attractive. I've been surprised at how many guys answer "no" to that question, but send me a message indicating interest after seeing my visibly overweight profile. (I tell them we're not a match, and wish them well in their search.) I've also been pleasantly surprised at how many guys answer "yes" to that question.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 6:24 AM on July 2, 2017 [16 favorites]

My anxious brain did a lot better with the concept of dating when I reframed it as a way to put myself out there and meet (possibly) interesting people, not as a way to land myself a boyfriend. I kept the notions of romance and desirability off the table for myself when I was first meeting people because otherwise everything felt too high-stakes ("If this doesn't work I'll still be single!!!"). That stuff was always in the back of my mind, of course, but I tried my hardest to keep it shoved way, way back there so that mutual attraction could happen organically (or not).

Even if you think you might not be desirable now, don't make that decision for people before you even try to meet them. If losing weight is something you want for yourself (and not just for other people's perception of you), you should still try online dating in the meantime, if only to get a feel for what it's like to meet people and demystify the process. And don't forget that in the beginning, you're going to be meeting yourself, too -- you'll be learning what you like in a man, your communication preferences, what kinds of dates you like to go on, what sort of people you're compatible with, etc. I met people while "practicing" and getting to know my "dating self" and it probably made me a crappy date, but on the bright side, those people ended up being obviously wrong for me anyway and I still learned some things about myself. The more I did it, the less hung up I was, and the less my anxiety reared up.
posted by phatkitten at 6:36 AM on July 2, 2017 [9 favorites]

Hi, you are me. I too am almost 30 and have never dated. It's hard.

About six months ago I decided that I wanted to date, as well. Part of the impetus for me is that a friend of mine is getting married in October and I will know pretty much no one at the wedding, so I'd really like to have a date to bring. So far, no dice.

I've registered on numerous dating platforms (okc, match, bumble, tinder) but frankly find them overwhelming and time consuming and scary. But I know many people who have had success with them, so, it might be worth a try. (I even got my okc profile approved by metafilter, but, still haven't had much luck there.)

Have you considered speed dating? I've tried it twice, and it was not nearly as scary as I thought it was going to be. And I felt like it was good practice for an actual date.

So I don't have a ton of advice because I'm in the same boat, but want to say you are not alone, I think it's not as unusual as you might think, and if you ever want to chat or commiserate, feel free to memail.

Good luck!
posted by firei at 6:58 AM on July 2, 2017

Don't wait until some hypothetical point in the future when you've lost weight before dating. First of all, some men might prefer to date the current 29-year-old you rather than dating the 30-something you who weighs less, because they prefer younger and/or heavier women, and others might be indifferent. Studies have shown that when people are asked to specify their ideal female body type, the body chosen by women is significantly thinner than the one chosen by men on average (probably because women are more likely to focus on clothing models as a reference point for attractiveness, while men have evolved to be attracted to women's fat).

Anyway, even if dating now would be less than ideal, it's still a good idea — to get practice and get over your anxiety.

As for which website or app to use (they're all "online dating," by the way), just try free accounts with a few of the more popular ones and see which one appeals to you. Get that decision out of the way quickly from the outset — don't let your decision-making be paralyzed by the array of options.
posted by John Cohen at 7:37 AM on July 2, 2017

Avoid Tinder, I don't think it's your cup of tea. Speed dating might be good?

I don't know anyone who's in a similar position to yours, but from all the girlfriends and close female friends I've had, I'd say that where you begin is by being comfortable with yourself. That's something a therapist can help a lot with - it's worked *really* well for me. Out of the girls I've been most attracted to, the one thing they had in common is they were really comfortable with who they were, and didn't pretend to be anyone else or hide their personality. That's always attractive to the people you want to attract, I think. (I've just met someone like this and I'm completely in love with her. And I don't think she has any idea of the effect she has on me! Keep that in mind.)
posted by iffthen at 8:34 AM on July 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

As someone who rarely dates, I gotta say that OK Cupid is a child's garden of perverse incentives to encourage instrumentality and magical thinking. More capable daters and less boutique personal brands may see enough feedback to control and correct this, but I found it doing nothing for me but thinking shitty and feeling shitty.
posted by wotsac at 8:36 AM on July 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

First, I am a big fan of Bumble. Since the woman is the first to open the conversation, my experience (which may not be universal) is that it cuts down on creepy people by like 90%. (In other words, I don't get tons of junk emails saying "hi cutie you have nice eyes" that have clearly been copied and pasted to everyone. And zero dick pics so far.)

Second, you do not need to change yourself to date. Like others have said, confidence goes a long way. You could also remember that lots of men have their own insecurities too. But waiting on dating til you lose weight is just going to continue this pattern of thinking you're Not Good Enough. And no, you didn't wait too long.

My recommendation is to put your toes in the water. Do some swiping on Bumble, reach out to some guys. Some won't respond, and some will. Maybe even set up a date or two. Remind yourself that first dates are pretty weird. And work with a therapist on how you can love yourself for who you are. I have found the assertiveness bill of rights (link) helpful, and suggest adding something like, "I have the right to feel happy with myself exactly how I am, no matter what others think." You could even write your own version of that kind of statement, and post it somewhere where you can see it every day. "I am deserving of love just the way I am" etc etc.
posted by violetish at 8:57 AM on July 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Do you have hobbies? I feel like going out to meet people in person is way easier than online dating. Using proximity + personality is often a winning formula.
posted by corb at 9:00 AM on July 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

If I were you, I would definitely do online dating -- if nothing else, it'll be a great crash course. You'll talk to a ton of people, meet a lot of people, and regardless of whether/when you wind up in a relationship, it'll help you figure out what you care about in a relationship and who you respond to. It'll teach you a lot about yourself. And there are a lot of cool guys out there who it'll just be straight up fun to hang out with, even if you don't end up falling for them or vice versa.

I don't think that you should wait until you're thinner or until you're anything else. Now is good. I think that trying to wait until you're thinner is just procrastination, frankly. You're probably going to be surprised by how friendly and nice a lot of the men online are. Some of them are just going for a casual hookup or whatever, but a lot of them are going to be there for the exact same reasons you are -- they're interested in dating, they would like a relationship, so they want to meet women they think are cool/fun/attractive and this is a reasonably safe and easy way to do it.

My rules for online dating have been to not reply to any messages that aren't about something in my profile, to try and send a message at least once a day, and to only pursue things with men I actually find attractive (no preemptive "settling" -- it's not fair to anybody).

I've really enjoyed online dating, for what it's worth. I met my previous two boyfriends on OKCupid -- I was with each one for about 4-5 months and things didn't work out for regular relationship/incompatibility reasons. They were actually more put-together and more gentlemanly than the guys I ended up with in more "old fashioned" ways. The dating pool on these sites is not bad, at least in my experience. I just jumped back into OKC about a month ago, and am seeing a couple guys now, and talking to a few more -- just casual for the moment, because I'm trying not to do my usual serial monogamy thing :)

FWIW, I am 30ish and in DC, and the only site I've found worth its salt is OKC. I love how useful the questions are, and EVERYBODY seems to be on there. Oh, and I sprung for the paid package and have really liked that -- you get to see everyone who visits you and everyone who "likes" you that way, which is super useful. But your mileage may vary!

Oh, and it is a time commitment. But still less of a time commitment than actually being in a relationship, or even haunting bars and club meetings for likeminded attractive men, lol. Way less of a time commitment than other Important Life Stuff, like work or friends/family or even keeping the apartment clean. Plus, personally, I don't begrudge the time or effort spent because I think that social/love life stuff should be one of the top priorities in my life (for quality of life reasons). But again, mileage may vary!
posted by rue72 at 1:20 PM on July 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Practice. Maybe a super-cool person with an awesome sense of humor will be the 1st person you go out to coffee with. Or not. Practice listening, maybe do the occasional hair toss, but mostly be your nicest self, as you would meeting a new person. Meeting for coffee/tea, or a drink is pretty low stress. The bumble method seems to reduce the awful feeling of potential rejection and negotiation about whether you like them or they like you. This old could be useful.

Basic safety: don't give your home address, meet someplace fairly public.
posted by theora55 at 6:26 PM on July 2, 2017

Definitely not too old (or too overweight) to jump into the online dating world! Seconding OK Cupid. Get started and there's nothing you can't google or AskMe in terms of etiquette. If you can find a friend who is online dating too to run things past/sympathise/rejoice with too that's great (you'd be surprised how many people are using it-mention it casually to some single friends and see if that leads them to open up about their own online dating adventures)

Everyone gets rejected and flaked on with online dating, so don't take it personally. It can seem weird at first but you get used to it (and doing the rejecting). Also, it's amazing at first learning that someone can seem pretty cool in message form and just so undesirable in person- so don't invest too much in your message exchanges.

Best of luck!
posted by hotcoroner at 3:17 AM on July 3, 2017

When I was single for years and years and years and didn't click with anyone at all and wondered how the hell I found my ex and if I would ever date again, this was my anthem. It helped me feel a lot less panicky about how shitty I was at online dating and hopefully makes you feel a little better, too. I internalized the message and started dating my then smart, loyal, weirdo, lovelorn friend, now husband.

"A cult boyfriend's like a record in a bargain bin, no one knows its worth until a collector comes in."
posted by athirstforsalt at 6:38 AM on July 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Don't put it off and don't worry about your weight as criteria that makes you more/less dateable. You're absolutely dateable regardless of how you look. And by that I mean you look f-i-n-e fine - don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Also, online dating is a really great way to hop in (hobbies or other social interests too, of course, but I think online is great for getting going.)

(athirstforsalt, How the hell have I never heard of "Cult Boyfriend"? What a blast!)
posted by horseblind at 8:40 AM on July 7, 2017

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