I’ve been in and on and off again relationship with Match.com for years. We met in 2005, and got off to a fabulous start when I met and dated two guys I really liked right in a row. To give you an idea of what successful Match.com endeavors look like: one of them sent me roses when I was in Texas on business and the other once talked to me on the phone for 5 hours. You get the idea – where previously I’d been uncertain about online dating, I now felt reassured – this was a good way to meet mostly normal people, and all from the comfort of my living room couch. For the person who had grown tired of bars and clubs earlier than most – this was exactly what I needed to keep my love life going. Those guys both lasted a couple of months, then fizzled out. Sucked at the time, but it happens – dating is really just a department store changing room – ultimately, you’re trying people on to see how they fit.
So the way it all begins is with the Match.com profile. There are several elements to a complete profile – basic stats, like eye color, height and other things that can be easily communicated via drop down menu choices. Next comes the essay part – where you make your pitch for love and showcase how incredibly witty, interesting and articulate you are. The last part, of course, is the photographs, where you prove that you are reasonably attractive, maybe have some friends, and have left the house, the state or the country once or twice in the last decade. As a writer, I’ve never had much trouble with the essay part, though not sounding clichéd can be challenging – everyone writes stuff like they want someone who works hard but can leave work at the office or that they enjoy gourment restaurants some nights, while others, they like to dine in.
I write the same crap – like “I like watching this cool TV show that everybody watches”, and I’ve got plenty of pictures of me all over Europe or clutching a snowboard in Vermont to show I’m cool and worldly and semi-adventurous. There’s only one part of the Match.com profile that has ever given me pause, and it’s supposed to be one of the easy questions. Body type.
People want to have an idea of what they’re going to be looking at on a first date – so it’s a Match.com best practice to let potential dates know what your body looks like. They have a drop down menu of choices for Body Type, just like they do for smoking and drinking. . I can only imagine how long the Match.com people spent in boardrooms trying to come up with the choices for this menu where you describe what your body looks like in one or two words. I imagine it took a few all nighters, and lots of back and forth with dialogue like “is ‘junk in the trunk’ a good thing or a bad thing?” or “can we please have muffin top as one of the options? Because that would be awesome” before they settled on their current choices. I give them credit though – it’s a hell of a task, coming up with descriptions that seem honest but also are sensitive to those of us who may be a bit heavier than we should be, or aren’t always comfortable in our current bodies.
So the list starts off with athletic and toned. I’ve decided that this category is comprised of everyone from healthy “yeah I ran the marathon last year” types to the meatheads who never leave the gym. I do not fit into this category and probably never will, and that’s okay with me. I would like to be able to run five miles without collapsing one day. 26 miles? Forget it. Next choice – slender. My definition for this category is the annoying people who are skinny without really trying, because otherwise they’d proudly showcase themselves as athletic and toned. Let’s all stop for a second and hate these people, who can inhale an Applebee’s cheeseburger and fries and still not gain a pound. Yeah, this is definitely not me. Moving on. Next option? About average. I figure this category is where most people fall – and where I used to fall when I first started using Match, and weighed a few less pounds. It’s a pretty brilliant term actually – it allows for a wide spectrum of weights and silhouettes, and I figured it wouldn’t send anyone running for the hills the first time they were viewing my profile. Average means different things to different people right? Right.
That worked fine for awhile, but recently, I had to acknowledge I’d gained more weight than I was okay with. Life got away from me a bit – and and I lived in extremes. Things were either awesome – like I was driving across country eating steak and cornbread in Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, or I was watching the stock market crash and worrying about getting laid off while eating 500 calorie scone from Starbucks. I’d tipped past my “scary” number on the scale, sighed and said to myself, “Well crap. Now what?” There’s the obvious solutions -lose weight, get healthy, feel good, but all that’s easier said than done – and as much as I want those three things, if I’m ever in a room with Jillian Michaels I will punch her. But weight loss dreams and goals aside, there comes the all important task of making peace with my current physique. So I look in the mirror, survey the goods and make the list of what’s sexy, the reasonably pretty face, full lips, long wavy hair and the porn star rack. These are some pretty good features, I’ve gotten compliments on all three more than once. My favorite compliment that I’ve ever gotten on my boobs came from a gay guy at my housewarming party. After telling me what a great party it was, he said, by the way, “Your breasts are fierce.” Thank you for noticing, random gay party guest. They ARE fierce.
So I head back to Match.com to find a more suitable body type description. My options are curvy, big and beautiful, full-figured and heavy-set. Out of these, “curvy” is the one that sounds the most acceptable to me. It is true (I’ve fierce boobs to prove it) and I feel it communicates fullness of body in an “I’m pretty godamn sexy” kind of way. So I changed the status, made sure I had a couple of photographs that showed my full body so inquiring parties would have no surprises, and threw it out there.
Since joining the ranks of the Match.com “Curvy” here’s what I’ve learned. One –the men on Match are as vain and worried about their body type listing as we are. I guess I never really noticed before because I’ve never been prejudiced about body types, so I never looked all that closely. But once I was branding myself as bigger, I began to look at how others did as well. While there are lots of “athletic and toned” and “about average” profiles out there, but only once or twice have I ever seen a man’s profile read “heavyset”. The one that overweight guys typically use is “a few extra pounds”. The people that use this usually weigh somewhere between 250 and 300 pounds. Now again, I never care about the weight, but it makes me laugh, because I think of , a “few extra pounds” is as what we all look like the week after Christmas when we’re joining New York Sports Club and complaining that there’s no open treadmills.
Two – at the end of the day, the more I date, the more I remember that it really is all those other things you are – your smile, your humor, your love of 30 Rock or the fact that you’re a die hard Mets fan that makes someone want to wink at you, and not one stupid descriptor that forces you to admit that like everyone else in the human race, you are less than perfect. One night as I was getting into bed after yet another first date – I had a revelation. I’ve gone on more dates in the past three months than I’d gone on in some years. The parts of me I thought were wrong didn’t matter, the rest of me did. The other thing I realized was that over that past month, I’d gone on dates with several different guys, and every one of them had tried to kiss me. For all my worrying about what I looked like physically, obviously all the stuff I had going for me was getting across to these guys. Or some of them anyway. I’m fairly confident that some of them just wanted to get laid.
Lastly – and I forget this one sometimes – some guys like curvy. The last guy I dated from Match had this as his headline: “I like my women like I like my doughnuts. Curvy, sweet and filled with strawberry jelly. Wait, scratch that last part…” He was athletic and toned, on his profile and in real life, and while it was part of what made him sexy, I liked other things more – like if we were standing on an ATM line at TD Bank five people long, he’d go inside and get everyone a lollipop to suck on while we waited. We played each other in poker tournaments and kissed for the first time in front of the Fantasy World sex shop on 6th Avenue. That kiss lasted 45 minutes and it made me see stars. He and I didn’t last either, but for awhile we were that annoying couple who would stop in the middle of the sidewalk to kiss, and that was a happy place to be. I am always grateful to Match.com for giving me these moments, and that is ultimately why we stay together.
That said, I still hope that someday, Match.com and I will part ways forever. I like that it’s always there, always accepting of me for what I am – but I know it just can’t last. So, I keep the profile up, and keep sending the emails out. I am 32, brown hair and eyes. Resident of the great borough of Queens. Employed, bachelor’s degree from Queens College. Social drinker. Smoke? No way. Oh yes, and I’m curvy.
– Jennifer Stevens