Sunday, April 10, 2011

My social experiment - part 1

Back in the olden days of Cheri (ok, 16+ months ago, before surgery), I was living it up as a single gal in the city, enjoying all that the dating scene had to offer. While I wasn't a huge meet-them-at-the-grocery-store guru, I did enjoy online dating, and frequented a number of established websites to try them out. Paid sites, 'find your soulmate' sites, free sites, exclusively plus sized name it, I tried it. As a plus sized girl, I was well aware that the pool of men who preferred plus sized women was shallow, and I was willing to leave no stone unturned in my quest for true love. After months of research (and about 65 dates, by my calculation), I finally settled on using a free site that seemed to have them most members in my area, as well as a constant stream of new folks. I stayed with that site for a little over 2 years, and became very familiar with the community, the members and the protocol for the online dating scene.

So this brings me to my first observation. As a plus sized girl, I did have a steady stream of suitors (from a former NFL player to a vice-president on Bay Street and everything in between). I also had my fair share of rude, out-of-the-blue emails from jerks who just had to comment on how "fat chicks shouldn't be on this site" (yes, that happened quite frequently...I also couldn't get over the "helpful" sort who would send me an email to kindly let me know that if I lost a bunch of weight, I'd be really pretty and men would find me more desirable. Like I hadn't actually noticed that I was carting around an extra 120 lbs!). Overall, I observed that the dating scene could be hard on a heavy gal if she didn't have her self esteem and self worth in check before she posted a profile.

Fast forward to prep-work for the surgery. In my many social-psych and counselling appointments, it was drilled into my head that I would change after the surgery - not just on the outside, but on the inside, too. I would notice that others would treat me differently, but that would be because my own perceptions would be altered, and I would demand to be treated differently - with respect. I have to be honest, I took issue with this concept from the beginning. It was like they were prepping me for personal transformation, but neglecting to acknowledge that society has a tremendous fat-bias that makes life difficult for people of size. No, they said...YOU will change, and you will be treated differently by society because of the way YOU view YOURSELF. I took it with a grain of salt and thought I'd re-visit the issue once I lost the weight.

Fast forward once more to present day. I'm 120 lbs lighter and I do feel like I am treated differently. I acknowledge the fact that I have changed. I'm more confident, have greater self worth and I find a lot more joy in my life now than when I was heavy. But I still think that a lot of that also comes from not being an obese person whom society ridicules and scorns. I wanted to test out this hypothesis both to satisfy my own curiosity and to prove wrong the notion that it's just about my own internal transformation. Hogwash! My hypothesis was that I'm treated differently because of the way I look, and I knew the perfect way to test it. As a long-time member of one particular dating site, I decided to post a dummy post-op profile using a new photo of myself, along with a VERY vague, two-sentence profile description (no small feat for a writer, I might add, lol!) and four measly interests: hiking, walking, reading and writing (man, do I sound boring or what?). As a plus sized girl, I usually got 6-7 emails a week (on average, one a day) from interested suitors. I wanted to see if my average increased based on my new profile. So, I set about posting said profile at around 8 p.m. on a Wednesday night. I used the photo I've posted here, and I chose the option of looking for a "long term" relationship. I also determined that I would only leave my profile up for a couple of hours, and that I would not respond to any correspondence. This was an experiment only - I'm a happily involved woman! What followed was shocking, even to an online dating veteran like myself.

8:15 p.m. Checked my inbox to find 14 emails from potential suitors. Most looked legit and actually typed messages that consisted of more than 3 words, and most were strung together like they had finished high school. Impressive! Only a couple red flags: One marriage proposal from "Latin Lovrrr" and one cheesy pick up line from "Bazzinga!" (The heavens must be crying because they lost an angel...barf!).

8:30 p.m. After sorting through the first 14 emails, I head back to the inbox to find another 22 new ones. Holy moley! As a veteran of the site, I realize that my profile shows that I'm actually online while I'm checking emails, so a lot of men will write with the hopes of using an instant messenger feature to get to know you quicker than email. Thankfully, I had turned that feature off before checking my mail (see, told you I was a veteran!). That still doesn't cut down on the number of emails I get that say "Wanna chat?" 18 in total, along with 2 very complimentary notes ("boy4girl" simply said, "WOW. Beautiful." while "SamIAm" told me I had gorgeous eyes - side note, this experiment was taking on a life of its own and starting to stroke my ego just a bit!).

9:00 p.m. Ok. Finished checking out the 22 emails in time to go back to my inbox to find yet another influx of email. Holy cow. I didn't realize the site had installed a new "So-and-so wants to meet you" feature! There are 8 of these in my inbox, along with 13 more regular emails, although some are second emails from impatient men who had already asked me to chat. So deduct 4 that say "How come you don't wanna chat?"...they don't really count. To be honest, I'm starting to feel like fresh meat at a meat market, and it's not a comforting feeling. I'm getting a little bored with the experiment, since it's already kind of proved that I was right - way more action for a skinny gal than a heavy one. Take that, staff psychiatrist! I log off to focus my attention on Glee :)

11:15 p.m. I decide to check the 'ol inbox one last time before going to bed. Oh my god. Counting the ones I've already opened, there are 87 emails in my inbox. I now understand why the administrator on the site always warns that some people may not even read your email before they delete it. I always thought it was rude, but if I got 87 emails in a few hours, I can see their point. Overwhelming is an understatement. The sad part is, some of the emails sound very genuine, and they seem like stand-up guys. Guys I would give a chance if I were, in fact, in the market (which I'm definitely not). I start to feel guilty for leading them on a wild goose chase. The poor schmucks are just looking for love and I'm the epitome of false advertising. I decide to delete my newly-created account, pronto. I go through the motions, get to the last page, hit delete, and am stop-signed by a giant red message: YOU CANNOT DELETE YOUR ACCOUNT WITHIN 24 HOURS OF CREATING IT. Oh, lordie. I have to leave this thing up until 8 tomorrow night??? I give up and go to bed, feeling like a heel.

Want to know what  happened next? Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon!!


Cynthia said...

Wow! That is very, very sad, indeed. Speaks volumes, doesn't it? Now you know why I don't do online dating. :)

Kelly said...

Good for you Cheri!!