Saturday, October 6, 2018

I Feel Pretty?

I read this critique of the new movie, "I Feel Pretty" (starting Amy Schumer) with much interest.  This is a subject that is difficult to talk about, because no matter what your position on it is, your opinion will be interpreted differently based on how closely you align with society's definition of beauty.  I'll be honest, when I see a woman who is both thin and beautiful talk about how what's on the inside is more important than what is on the outside, I can't help but think, "Easy for you to say, you've never been held back or negatively judged based on your looks."  In fact, "pretty privilege" is a real thing (research shows that attractive people earn 13% more than their less attractive peers) and the $445 billion a year beauty industry isn't going to sit back and let us believe that looks don't matter anytime soon.

The reality in the dating world is that looks do matter... more than anything else.  Lets face it, in this fast paced, digital, immediate gratification age, more and more people are turning away from old fashioned methods of meeting people to alternatives such as online dating sites and speed dating events.  The common theme?  Get exposed to a lot of single people in a very short amount of time and decide who you would like to get to know better based on very little information.  You can't determine whether a potential partner shares your values, has a compatible lifestyle, or common interests with you in a few clicks or brief moments.  But you can quickly determine whether or not you find him or her attractive - and that becomes the determining factor as to whether or not you decide to find out more.

"I Feel Pretty" sells the idea that success, personally and professionally, isn't based on your looks, but on your self-confidence.  In the online dating world, I'm going to disagree.   True confidence is difficult to portray accurately in a profile pic and a catchy headline, so unless you are attractive, very few will click past your photo to find out your personality.  This is most likely the reason that old or edited photos that only minimally resemble the actual person behind the profile are practically an epidemic.  When I set up an online dating profile, I use recent photos.  They may be edited to correct color and lighting, and they may involve strategic poses that highlight my best features, but they really are me.  That being said, when someone meets me in person, I obviously can't spend the entire conversation frozen at that exact, portrait-perfect angle that hides my flaws... but I won't feel bad about that because if the person I am meeting took the time to read my profile, somewhere in there they would have found an admission that I do not have a super model's body.  In fact, I put more effort into not disclosing too much about other aspects of my life in my online persona, such as what I do for a living or where I live, than I do in trying to hide details that will be pretty obvious to anyone who meets me in real life - namely, that I am a 5'4" 48 year old single mom who wears size 16 jeans.

And this is where my experience doesn't match the feel-good assertion that confidence is sexy.  It takes a confident woman to be upfront about her size and while I won't sit here and pretend that I am completely content with it, I will say that I am fully confident that I have enough to offer a potential partner that my weight, something that fluctuates on everyone, shouldn't be a deal breaker. Yet, in every case where I remained friends with someone after an online connection didn't blossom into romance and they moved on to make a romantic connection with someone else, that someone else had a body that was much more aligned with today's beauty standards than mine.  Of course, I am sure they are also lovely people... or at least I hope they are... But if their looks are the only thing they have to offer, the pursuer will eventually find the relationship less than fulfilling.  I can admit that I have been guilty of trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole by trying to make a relationship work with someone I found incredibly attractive but really wasn't compatible with in any other way.

One such attractive potential partner made an interesting point to me.  He said that attractive men have endless options... there are far more attractive women hoping to connect with an attractive man than there are attractive men trying to connect with attractive women.  With such a lengthy waiting list, he didn't have to tolerate the slightest personality quirk in any woman he met because there was always someone else on the list who was just as attractive and didn't have that quirk.  And this was a man who was attractive, but far from financially stable or emotionally available.  Imagine what an attractive man with a good job who genuinely wants a committed relationship has to choose from.

I chatted with another friend last night who talked about a woman he was dating "casually" but he was still looking for another partner because she wasn't attractive enough to be seen in public with.  He then went on to point out that my options will drop dramatically in two years when I turn 50.  I won't lose faith, though... this simply tells me that online dating is not the place for me to find the kind of man that I want to spend my future with.  And even at almost 50 years old, I am confident that I have enough of a future ahead of me that I can take my time finding the right man to share it with.