What guys should -- and should not do -- on online dating apps.

The Not So Definitive Guide for Men to Creating Dating App Profiles

What guys should -- and should not do -- on online dating apps.
Oh, dating in the app age. Remember a few short years ago — you know — the good ol’ early 2010s when you’d plunk down cash/card and go through the exhausting getting to know you questions on eHarmony? Or, the mindless browsing of profiles on Match?

Gone are those days.

Er, well, not gone, but definitely not as prevalent as the new kids on the block like Tinder and Bumble.

After a year of swiping, I’ve noticed a few things I’d like to share with the male population: some tips to make me actually want to swipe right. And, once you’re there, how not to blow it. And, I don’t mean the sexual way. I mean the you-have-nothing-to-say-way or the pen-pals-for-life way.

So, let’s start at the start.

Your Profile

Gentlemen, first, you need to establish why you are on the app and what you are looking for. There tend to be three types of men on the dating apps:

  • Those looking to get laid
  • Those not specifically looking for an actual relationship for any number of reason (i.e. they’re picky, just got out of a relationship, etc) but won’t be opposed to it if they meet a great girl, but will also likely to be looking to get laid initially as well
  • Those looking for an honest-to-goodness longterm relationship

Men. If you’re the latter, let’s examine your profile.

(Note: There’s also a fourth kind of man on the apps, those looking for a plus-one in their romantic relationship. But since that is a less mainstream and more specific polyamorous type, we’ll stick with one-on-one dating lessons.)

What Photos Not to Post on Dating Apps

Now, as a 37-year-old woman who has dated my fair share since moving back from the dating wasteland of Thailand, when I look at your profile, I will swipe left 99 percent of the time if you have any of the following photos:

  • Shirtless  (if you’re not at a beach or pool and, you know, being casual, not flexing your guns for the camera) – personally, I’d rather wait to take off your shirt myself than see in a profile. Also, it makes me wonder why you feel that your shirtless selfie (or shirtless bathroom selfie — even worse.) is necessary when someone is deciding whether or not to drop you a line initially. If you’re proud of your body, awesome. Love it. Confidence is rad. Write about how you like to workout. Or, even better, don’t because it seems every. single. man. writes about how he likes to workout and stay fit.
  • Petting a tiger/riding an elephant – first off, I’m super against both of those things, as are many other women. And also, again, every. single. man. posts photos of himself with a drugged tiger or cub or exploiting animals. Let’s leave ethics out of this convo and ask some simple questions: Do you want to be cliché? Do you want to fall in line with every other guy, or stand out? It’s awesome that you like to travel. Write about it. Or, again, don’t because – I’m not exaggerating – all the men like to travel. I’ve never read a blurb from a guy that says “traveling sucks. I never want to leave my backyard.”
  • Holding a fish. Or dead animal. Again, you’re looking for a female right? Most girls do not want to see that shit, not now, not if they’re married to you 20 years. As someone who loves all the living things, nope. Swipe. We get that you are outdoorsy, but I don’t want to see some dead fish in your hands or you proudly holding up the a deer you killed by the antlers. Unless the woman likes fishing or hunting, it’s more cliche than anything else.
  • Triathlon/marathon/scaling the world’s tallest peak. One of these is fine. Your entire portfolio of images composed of your athletic feats is 1. overkill; 2. intimidating. I love someone who is athletic, and I’m sure other women do, too. But, just pick your best shot. One. Photo. And if you only prefer women on a similar athletic plane, make that known in your bio.
  • Selfies in a bathroom mirror. (FYI — 99 percent of my single girlfriends report this gets an immediate left swipe.) Come on. Someone can take a photo of you at some point in your life when you look good. Let them take it. Also, we judge the cleanliness of your bathroom.
  • Pics of you with kids. If you have a kid, I’m going to go with the opinion of don’t share it (or at least blur out the little one’s face). There are creepers on the internets and apps. You never know who is looking. Also, I get posting pics of you with your niece/nephew/friend’s kid to show you like kids. But, you can always tell us you like kids versus stealing one for a photo shoot and then adding a disclaimer: child is not mine.
  • Filtered pics. If you are going to filter or photoshop your photos, do it so we don’t know. I’ve seen so many photos where the filtering/tweaking is just bananas. Also, snapchat filters for your profile pics? Nope. Ladies – if you’re reading this – same goes for you.
  • You partying excessively. One pic with a beer is fine. Six photos where you are downing shots, beer, wine, whatever … it starts to look like the only thing you are serious about is partying. And, if that’s the case, I hope your profile states that versus looking to settle down. I’m 37. I like to go out and drink. On occasion. But, every photo of boozing makes those warning bells go off.
  • You with a bunch of hot women (hey, it’s a thing on these Vegas profiles). We are women. If we see you surrounded by a bevy of beauties, it leads us to draw a few unsavory conclusions: 1. You are a player. 2. You expect to date a super model. 3. You’re a player. 4. You want lots of easy sex with lots of “10s” and probably have no soul.
  • You in bed. Immediately, I wonder who you sent that photo to before you were on a dating app. Also, it looks creepy and lazy. Two things which shouldn’t go together for a first impression.
  • You 10 years ago. Um, catfish anyone?

What Photos to Post on a Dating App

And now for what photos will get women to swipe right:

  • Smiling photos that aren’t selfies in a car while you’re driving
  • Smiling photos that aren’t selfies of you doing something you love (that isn’t showing off your deadliest catch or latest kill or exploiting an animal)
  • Photos of you with cats or dogs. Because cats, dogs and men together are so cute.
  • Photos of you with friends (but not every photo. We want to see you on your own, too. And know who you are in the group.)
  • A full-length photo
  • If you like to travel, a photo of you traveling
  • Photos that are recent. Like, really recent. If you have to write that you no longer have a beard, etc. how about just uploading a photo with you sans beard?
  • Photos that really show your personality. You’ve got 100 or so words and a handful of pics. Choose wisely.

What Not to Put on Your Profile

The worst thing you can do is leave you profile blank. To me all women, it shows that you’re not serious in meeting someone. It also shows that you’re maybe a little bit lazy. Swipe. Left.

Typical profiles I see go like this:

I like adventure, work out and stay fit, love to travel, work hard, play harder, whisky, dogs, 6’2. We can tell everyone we met at a Whole Foods. (Note: what women request height? I’m sure some do, but I don’t know any who claim height is a deal breaker. I’ve never asked. In fact, some of the greatest men I have dated have been shorter than I expected, but it didn’t matter because they were so rad, it was all good.)

Stand out and skip mentioning things in your bio that everyone loves. These include: “having fun, traveling, hanging out with friends, my pet, good food, good drinks, good conversation, loving life,” etc., etc. So you like fun and traveling and friends? Groundbreaking? Nope. Does it make you blend in with 1,000 other swipes? Yep.

Or just:

Vegas local.

Simply writing where you are from gives us ladies nothing to go on. I automatically assume if you write that, then you’re looking for a little fling and that’s it.

Or:

“Best guy ever.” — New York Times

“Hot and funny.” — LA Times

“A keeper.” My mom.

 

The quotes? The first time I saw it, I thought it was cute and original. The. First. Time.

What to Put on Your Dating App Profile

First off — what do you want out to get out of the dating app? A relationship? A hookup? A new friend?

Save us time and spell it out. There’s nothing worse than getting into a convo with someone who seems awesome and then having them bust out with peaches and eggplants.

The guys who are honest and disclose they only want hook-ups — thank you. Really. Thank you. Because I know you’re not for me. You’re for someone. Just not me.

I know there are only 100 or so words on Bumble and you can do a bit more on Tinder, so break it down to this:

  • Where do you live? In Vegas, we get so many tourists, I never know who is here full-time or just breezing through
  • What do you want?
  • What makes you cool?
  • What do you like to do?

An example of a dope profile I’d swipe right on:

Las Vegas local who gives a shit about animals, seeing new places and hitting lesser known locales. Digs whisky, foreign cities with character, and good vibes. Loves veggies, wine and looking for a long-term partner-in-crime. Not allergic to cats.

I mean, that’s the guy I’m looking for (so, if it’s you, holler).

Communicating in App

Now, for the communicating. With Bumble, it’s ladies who take the lead. So, depending on how creative we get, it’s up to you to continue the convo. Responding and not leading to another question likely results in the end of the chat. I assume that if we match on one of these apps, you actually want to talk to me. Therefore, let’s talk.

On Tinder or other swiping apps, if you message first, please please please don’t start with any of the following:

“You’re hot.”

“Hi sexy.”

“Hey/Hi/Yo.”

Engage. It’s the best way to get a woman interested. If someone messages me that without anything else, I don’t respond. Because, why? Dating is a dance. And that first impression via messaging is important.

Take a minute and read her profile. Determine a question that shows you read her profile and ask. Then, start the convo. The best convos span a little, dig a little and then lead to asking for a number and, ultimately, asking the woman out.

What guys should -- and should not do -- on online dating apps.

Also, if it’s clear from a profile that you aren’t what the woman is looking for, stop right there. For reals.

Pen pals are fun. If we are actually getting letters in the mail that are handwritten. Pen pals on dating apps are a waste of time. If you have no interest in asking a woman out, then there’s no point in continuing a conversation. Let it go.

Not interested? Get back together with your ex? Meet someone else? Please don’t ghost. It’s so damn rude if you are mid-convo. Instead, a simple: “Hey, you’re rad and all, but I think right now isn’t the best time for us to continue getting to know each other.”

End. Of. Story.

If you reach out to a woman and she doesn’t respond immediately, don’t follow-up to check on her. Give it a day or two or three. And, if she still doesn’t respond, definitely don’t message her and be all “hey, are you not interested or what?” Starting to send numerous unanswered messages is your kiss of death. Promise. Chill out. Let it be. If she’s into you, or interested, she will respond.

Sometimes, we get a little swipe happy and may swipe on someone we didn’t think was a match. It’s not a rule to respond to every person who messages, just like you don’t have to respond to every message you get. I get the hint. You get the hint. Hopefully, others get the hint, too.

Go forth, into the wild west of dating apps where no rules apply, but really, they should. And men, please let us know what you like/don’t like on dating apps, too!

Title photo via Flickr Creative Commons: NASA GSFC

Featured Perspectives The Dating Life
Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

All the Reasons 2016 Did Not Suck

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.OK. 2016. We get it. You wanted to test our collective patience. Tolerance. Compassion. Slow. Clap. You did. For sure.

I’ve found that this year, people have clung to the idea that all 365 days have been so horrid that the negative energy we are putting out there is making it even worse. I actually removed social media from my phone for a hot minute because I couldn’t take the general gloom and doom everyone was putting out into the universe. While most people are posting memes about how 2016 sucked (and, in terms of our great nation and well, the world, sure, it did and hot damn, really, can we stop losing all the celebrities we grew up with amiright?), the year actually didn’t suck for me. At all.

Even if it did, I’ve learned a lot about dwelling on the negative and the importance of celebrating and focusing on all the good, so today it’s all about the reasons why 2016 did not suck. In fact, it was epic for me.

Shall we?

I got re-acquainted with American life.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

I moved back to the US after almost four years of living abroad in December 2015. If we’re nitpicking, it was Dec. 15, 2015 in the evening. My mom and I flew from Madrid to Newark to Las Vegas with my cats tucked neatly into the United Economy Plus cabin. I smelled a bit of urine, thanks to Penelope, my sweet little girl feline, who promptly peed before we even taxied down the runway in Spain.

The day after arriving back to the States, I was thrust FULL FORCE into that good ol’ American life … and the American necessities I had forgotten about while living abroad.

You know what I’m talking about — the throwing of money into the air like I’m a damn rapper. Rent. Electricity. Cable. Phone plan. Gas. Car. Car insurance. Renters insurance. Car registration. Business license. Clothing. Groceries (hot damn is produce expensive in the States for shit flown in from other countries). Parking. Movers that duped me (although I pulled a total badass move and got refunded because I threatened to reign down a hell like they had never seen before if the assholes did not refund me the money the stole for a move they lied about).

So, yah. That shit was fun.

But, I also got re-acquainted with the things I loved about American life before I left. Namely the people and having some consistency and roots. I promptly went out and bought a couch and unpacked my belongings and displayed my wares from all the years of traveling and living abroad.

It felt damn good to unpack and not worry about a visa. Or not speaking the language. Or whether or not I was going to have someone to talk to for three years (because when you are home, there are people who are nearby and will talk to you!).

Quickly, I fell in love with being an American again. I loved getting into my car and driving and knowing where I was going. I loved talking on the phone with a friend and then actually seeing them in the flesh versus Skype. I loved going on dates with people who understood my culture.

A lot of people talk about how hard re-entry is on them. For me, other than the enormous price tag associated with re-establishing my life in the States, I didn’t have any problems getting re-acclimated to life here. In fact, I was so damn excited to start life in Las Vegas that my heart felt like it was going to burst with sheer, unadulterated glee.

I quit smoking.

It’s nasty. It’s gross. It smells bad. And damn, I smoked for most of my adult life. Sure, I took breaks, but living abroad was basically permission to be a cancer chimney. Cigs were cheap. Everyone smoked. And by everyone, I mean the people I noticed who would further my argument that the entire country smoked (clearly, no entire country smokes, but still …).

But, on Jan. 4, I quit. Had my final cigarette the night before and then broke the remaining two in the pack and tossed them into the garbaaaaage.

It sucked. Damn, it sucked.

I remember standing in my closet a day later, rationalizing smoking a cigarette. Just one. And realizing, in a fit of tears, that if I succumbed, I wouldn’t be a quitter; I would be a quitter who quit quitting and, in turn, would break my parents collective hearts and likely get emphysema and feel my lungs turn blacker than night.

So, I fought it.

Also, people in the States do a really good job of making smokers feel like lepers. You know what I’m talking about: you’re outside, smoking a cigarette and someone walks by, about a million feet from you and dramatically waves their hand in the air, fake coughing. Yeah.

I had my heart broken.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

I think everyone needs to have their heart broken, truly broken, at least once so they can open their damn eyes and take a good look at themselves. This heart-break was the catalyst for me getting all my shit together. For opening my eyes and seeing me. For seeing others as they really were.

Having my heart broken also made me realize that I needed to love myself more than anyone else. And, had I done that in the first place, perhaps my heart would not have been broken.

Therefore, heartbreak = learning to love ME. Because, let’s face it, at the end of the day, the most important person who will ever love you is YOU. Plus, you won’t break your own heart, although you may do a number on it until you learn how to love yourself all the way.

I got ghosted.

No one likes to get ghosted. Seriously though — I didn’t even know what “ghosting” was until I got back to the States. I saw angry comments about people who were “ghosted,” but like “Netflix and Chill,” I didn’t really know what it meant. Until I was in mid-conversation with a guy I had gone out with a few times and never heard from him again. Ever.

“Maybe he died,” my friend had tried to convince me.

“No,” I had sighed. “I think he did this thing where he just decided to stop talking to me.” (Hai, ghosting.)

“Or, maybe he died,” she offered again, smiling.

Ghosting is nasty, but as another friend eloquently explained to me one day, that ghosting isn’t about the person being ghosted. It’s about the shit the other person has going on. The insecurities. The issues. The (although I hope not) relationships they may be in.

It taught me not to take shit like that personally. And, let’s be real, it is super hard not to take that shit personally. But, I learned a lot from that incident. I’ve been ghosted since, but it hasn’t bothered me. OK, one time it did, but whatever. We’re allowed to have those rare instances of feeling bad about ourselves.

So, either it was the ghosting, or it was the wise words from my friend about the reason people ghost. Either way, it helped me become a stronger, more kick ass woman.

I became a certified business woman.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

Remember how I wrote about forking over all the money for all the things when I returned to America? Well, I forked over a ton for starting my own business, Vegans, Baby. I had to get a license (hence, becoming a legit business woman). Then, I had to hire a lawyer and trademark my logo. Then, I did some advertising. Then, I got work. So, yah. Business. Woman.

I learned how to practice gratitude.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

A long time ago, my mom gifted me with a gratitude journal. She saw it on Oprah and sent me a little purple-flowered covered journal. I wrote in it all of a week or so, and then never thought about it again. That was in 1997. Yeah. Long. Time.

I adopted the practice again in April when I was at my lowest. I needed to change my thinking. I needed to stop dwelling on the negative and focus on the positive.

Each day, I pen at least five things which I have taken place in the day that I was grateful for. It could be anything.

I am grateful for this gorgeous pre-summer weather.

I am grateful for my column running in Vegas Seven.

I am grateful for my friends who love and support me.

I am grateful for being rejected, because it isn’t a rejection, it is a redirection.

I am grateful for my client and our meeting.

Doing this dramatically changed my outlook on life.

I changed my story.

Like practicing gratitude, I knew I needed to change my story. For more than 30 years, my ass was negative. Super negative. I told myself I would never find love. I would be single forever. I manifested all this negative shit because my story was so negative.

It took my friends and my therapist to help me change my story. I let go of the things which no longer served me. I let go of my past. I let go of those negative stories I told myself. I changed my story.

I wrote in my manifest journal my new story.

I am loved.

I have everything I need.

I let go of my past.

The relationship I need is on its way.

Changing my story was powerful. It opened me up to successes I never thought possible, both personally and professionally.

I learned about boundaries. And how to unclog that throat chakra.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

I’ve always walked a fine line with boundaries. When I first learned how to establish them, it came across as bitchy because I was trying to be strong and stand tall. Except I was crap at it.

It took a reiki session with my friend who helped explain to me how to honor my truths. How to speak kindly, but firmly. And, then I did. All. The. Time.

I  burst that throat chakra right the hell open and never looked back. I honored myself for the first time, and it felt incredible. Powerful. I stood my ground. I established how I expected to be treated. When people hurt me or treated me in a manner which I deemed unacceptable, I no longer worried about how they would perceive me or if would upset them by speaking my truths.

Instead, I was authentic. I was true to myself. I spoke how I felt and did not hold back. It was never mean or hurtful, but it was honest. Those boundaries don’t always go over so well. After all, when people are used to treating you a certain way and then you turn around and break that pattern, it can cause some problems. But, for those who had problems with me laying my boundaries, I realized something: I didn’t need those in my life who couldn’t respect those boundaries.

This carried into both professional (no, I am not willing to have my brain picked beyond a quick coffee, I’m sorry) to personal (I appreciate your attention, but it is a bit too much for me at this time, I need some space).

Once I started being authentic and establishing my boundaries, I felt more empowered, stronger, than I ever have before. And, something else happened, too (see below).

I made friends with positive people … and cut the negativity.

When you are positive, you attract positive. Same thing goes for negative. But, I realized that the more I was with those who were negative, the more it would weigh me down. I tried to encourage those who were negative to embrace a more positive attitude. If they couldn’t do that, I kindly exited stage left.

Once there was positive in my life, everything started to flow. Kindness. Love. Work. Happiness.

I got involved more than I ever have before.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

“Find your niche,” my mom would always advise.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I’d always muster. But, I didn’t want to hear it because I wasn’t ready to hear it. Well 2016 I was more than ever before.

I’ve found my niche before (see travel blogging, responsible tourism), but this year marked an even greater niche and even greater involvement.

With Vegans, Baby, I got deeply involved in the Las Vegas vegan community. I set up monthly meetups. I set up special events. I started serving as an expert on vegan life and general lifestyle topics on television and in publications.

I. Got. Involved. And, with that involvement, I met incredible people who are now in my life. I was a part of amazing events. I no longer felt that impostor syndrome I have felt in years past because I was doing stuff. A lot of stuff.

I figured out how to relax, breathe and meditate.

Why 2016 didn't suck. A look at the personal moments which made 2016 amazing.

Like practicing gratitude, I realized I needed to learn how to become more mindful. I had tried in the past and read books on being present, but never really was good at it (although that is strictly interpretation). This year, with some serious positive influences in my life, I learned the art of being in the moment. Of meditating. I set up a meditation area in my apartment. I started reading more about being mindful and really paid attention. I took note about energy and realized it wasn’t something super abstract: it was in my face and the more positive my thoughts were, the more positive my life was.

Now, I meditate daily. I practice my breathing daily.

I even took a two-week trip to Mexico and relaxed. I’ve never relaxed in previous travels. But, in Puerto Vallarta, I wrote. I took time for me and walked and explored. I put zero pressure on myself to have a certain type of vacation. All I wanted was to be. It set the precedent for any future travel.

I took the time to learn how to love myself and others, truly.

The most important thing I have learned in 2016 is how to practice loving kindness. To myself. Towards others. For the first time … ever … I love myself. Truly. Madly. Deeply. I accept who I am and, while sometimes the negative chatter can fester, I put it in its place quickly. I see people and their beauty and love without apology.

So, yeah.

We can all sit and dwell on all of the reasons 2016 sucked. OR we can all make a list of things which happened this year for which we are grateful. I choose the positive because the negative shit going on? We can’t control that. But, we can control how we react. React with kindness. React with love. React with peace.

Featured Perspectives
Let's talk about the tough subject of sexual assault

Let’s Talk About Sex(ual Assault), Baby

Let's talk about the tough subject of sexual assaultHe walks into the apartment, naked save his coach’s cowboy boots and a welcome mat he is holding, wrapped around his penis.

I’m 17, heading into my freshmen year of college. My friend and I are sitting on the couch in an apartment rented by members of a professional roller hockey team, the first of its kind in Maryland.

After a summer of my dad serving as a referee, I’ve gotten to know some of the players on the team, and this particular night, we’ve celebrated their win with drinks at one of their apartments.

As someone who grew up watching hockey, and writing about it in high school (one of the first players I ever interviewed was Wayne Gretzky), I felt incredibly important, incredibly special, to be hanging out with these professional athletes at a tender young (and naive) age.

Dan, the naked early-20-something athlete, heads into the bedroom.

“Diana,” I hear him yell from the bedroom. “C’mere.”

So, I do.

Why? Because I’m 17. And, this man is a professional athlete and in my mind, I’ve already created a long-term relationship where we get married, he plays in the NHL and I write about it, and we have 2.5 kids, a dog and when he wins the Stanley Cup, we retire somewhere exotic.

Except, that’s not what happens. At all.

Instead, I walk in the bedroom, and he is laying on the bed. Dick in his hands.

“My cock is so big, isn’t it,” he asks me as I sit there. Frozen.

What do I do?

I’m so uncomfortable. I sit on the bed and have no clue what I’m supposed to say. What I’m meant to do. I’ve never been in a situation like this.

“Um, yeah,” I fumble.

Then, he’s on me. He pushes me off the bed and to the floor, where he sits down next to me, as I lay there, shocked.

Dan takes my head and pushes it into his crotch.

“You know you want to suck it,” he says as I use my strength to push up and away, despite his hand on the back of my head.

I get up quickly, retreating back to the room with my friend and the other players. I tell her what’s happened.

“That fucking bitch,” he screams, storming into the living room, his face red and the veins popping at his temples. He points at me: “You fucking bitch,” and then grabs a chair to hurl at me.

The other guys grab it from him and we leave.

I’ve told exactly one person this entire story: my therapist.

And, I didn’t tell her until the summer of 2015, when we were trying to dissect why I tend to fall for men who are closest to me — the most recent being my best friend of a few years.

“So, that happened,” I tell her, as I finish recounting the story, tears rolling down my face because suddenly, I feel. I feel for the young Diana, who was embarrassed. Ashamed. Thought she deserved it. I feel for the woman I am, and how this incident impacted my growth as a woman. “But, that’s not the only time something has happened to me.”

Then more comes out. And more.

“Diana,” my therapist says, looking straight at me, sympathy I can detect in her eyes even though our Skype connection between Las Vegas and Madrid is spotty.

“Yeah,” I say quietly, “I guess it explains some stuff.”

In a sick twist, a session where I thought nothing was going to be discussed turns into a chilling breakthrough as I unwrap the secrets of my past. Secrets I was ashamed of. Secrets I thought I deserved to have happen to me.

“Diana,” she repeats. “You were sexually assaulted. Numerous times. This isn’t something you brush off. This is something that changes your life. And, it changed yours.”

I cry again. For so long, I wasn’t sure why I fell for the assholes. The ones who I felt I had to impress. To make them respect me. And then, I wasn’t sure why I always fell for my best friends. The ones who loved me, and treated me kindly and cared for me, and in return, I loved them (too much) back. They were safe, whereas the ones before — and the ones who assaulted me — were not.

Those patterns had been present since I was 12. Since the first time I was thrust into the sexual spotlight. Back then, I had dreams of winning an Emmy for acting in a soap opera like Susan Lucci. I was cast in my first non-school play, at a local playhouse, and that’s the place I lost my innocence.

The stage manager sat with me stage right, as he downed some cheap beer and I sat clad in flannel pajamas and a robe, watching the second act of the play.

“You’re cute,” he had said, moving his stringy chin length hair from his face. “I like the way you look in body suits.” (Yes, it was the early ’90s, and yes, body suits were most definitely a thing.)

Um, ok. I knew he shouldn’t be saying those things, but what was I supposed to do?

“Are you a virgin?” he asked.

Holy shit, this is uncomfortable. I smiled, because I didn’t know how to handle the situation, and shook my head “yes.”

“Well, when you’re ready to have sex, you let me know. It’s a gift, and I’d like to help you.”

I sat there, nervously laughing because: what the actual fuck? I was 12. What was a 12-year-old who has never even kissed a boy, supposed to do with those words?

I took my bow that night and knew something wasn’t right. Something, in fact, was very, very wrong. He had no right to speak to me that night. Yet, he felt there was no problem with it.

The next day, I wrote a note to my friend telling her what had happened. At 12, I used the words “I was sexually harassed” in a fucking note. No 12-year-old should have to do that. Ever. And, no 40-year-old man (and I use that term really fucking loosely) (with a wife and kids) should ever speak to a kid like that.

That set the stage for the rest of the shit I endured. I’m not pulling the victim excuse, it simply showed me how I should expect to be treated. I didn’t know any better. I knew it wasn’t right, but when other men would say inappropriate things to me, I shrugged it off.

Men.

It was the culture I was used to. A culture that told boys, told men, it was OK to tell a woman all the things you want to do to her,  to go ahead and grab a woman’s tits, or her ass, or her pussy. It’s ok because it’s what we have come to accept.

Let me say this: it is NOT OK.

Not one, tiny, little fucking bit.

At. All.

For most of my teen and adult life, I put up with the shit because there wasn’t anyone really taking a stand, telling these people it was not ok. That it was damaging. That it was putting little girls into dark places. That it was setting the stage for their development and for how they were to be treated in the future.

When I was harassed the year after the crotch incident, I felt my blood boil. Despite warning bells going off in the pit of my stomach, the following year I accepted a position as the assistant director of PR for that hockey team. I set aside the assault from the previous summer and focused on my career and my goal to become a director of PR for an NHL team once I was done with college. This opportunity was a foot in the door.

One day, I was at work and the equipment manager for the team I did PR for told me my boobs looked like they were going to pop out of my shirt. The men on the team treated me like I was a groupie. Like I had nothing of any value other than my womanhood to give to the world.

There was an afternoon where the coach yelled at me because I refused to go into the locker room and talk to one of the players while they were changing from practice.

“Get your fat ass in there,” he had said. Side note: that coach happened to be a former Capitals player and a real disrespectful asshole.

I stood my ground, but I could feel myself grow more and more ashamed. Instead of going into the locker room, I ran outside of the arena and sat in the parking lot, sobbing.

Guys, the shit goes on. The stories go on. The thing is this: it doesn’t just happen to me in America. I’ve been sexually assaulted in Spain. Bosnia. Turkey. Hell, I was just flat out assaulted by an old western man in Thailand when he called me a bitch and I told him that was unacceptable.

Because standing up for myself and demanding respect and setting boundaries is not acceptable in our culture.

“I respect women.” Yet, I force myself on them.

I am going to respectfully not get into any conversation about politics at this moment, but simply pull from the current events to discuss the important subject of sexual assault.

Let me say something very clearly:

You cannot say you respect a woman and also say that you walk up to women and “just start kissing them” or “grab their pussy.”

Respect and unwanted touching/kissing do NOT go together. Someone who respects a person does not touch them in any sexual way without permission or consent.

But, this conversation gets even scarier.

Victim shaming, denying people of their truths, justifying assault … it all makes me sick.

(Ed. note: originally, I had planned on including nuggets from social media regarding the current events, but have decided for the sake of peace and to keep this strictly talking about assault, I will not include them. I am including this video simply because it tackles what sexual assault is — and what it is not. Skip to the 7:45 mark to get my point.)

 

On the plane the other day, I was sitting next to a loud mouthed woman from Long Island. She asked where I was from and I told her Vegas and we started talking about assault. Well, her being OK with it.

“Well, I don’t care. He can grab any woman’s pussy he’d like,” she said.

Wait, what?

“I don’t care.”

Did she really say that?

“So, if a man walked up to your daughter and grabbed her pussy without asking, you’d be ok with that?”

She faltered, rolled her eyes and said no and then brought up the fact that women came forward way after it occurred, and that they were likely lying.

(Because, of course, if a woman is assaulted, they would report it immediately, right? Wrong.)

As a victim, I think it is important to point out that women don’t often come forward. It’s scary. It makes them vulnerable, open to attack. But, when one person starts to speak, dominos fall. Then, another. And, another. And soon, it is a very important — and necessary — dialog.

The past few weeks have drummed up a lot of feelings and memories I already tackled last year when I finally forgave myself for what happened to me and realized these moments of harassment and assault were not my fault. It’s been shitty — really, really shitty — not only to relive them again, but also to read people’s comments about how these women are lying, or how they deserved it, or (this is the worst) that assault is ok. It is a part of our culture.

One more time: It’s. Not. OK. It will never be ok.

I hate that I am writing this post. I hate that the things which happened to me, happened to me. But this is an important conversation we need to have.

Many of the people who speak out against victims, who make this issue small, have likely never felt what it’s like to have their head shoved into a man’s crotch. To have their breasts fondled. To sit in a car with their boss and have him place his hand on their leg. To be thrown onto a bed and expected to have sex. To be disrespected. To be violated. To be told that what happened to them is ok, because boys will be boys.

As far as I’m concerned, each and every day since this hot topic broke, I’ve had to relive my assaults. To think about them. To dredge up the past and the feelings and the moments, and it’s a terrible fucking thing. It’s a painful fucking thing. And I don’t want to be told that the way I feel is wrong, or that I should be worried about other topics.

That’s not the issue here.

The issue is sexual assault and how people think it is justifiable or chalk it up to “locker room talk” and accept it. I wonder if those people commenting had a daughter, a sister, a wife who was a victim, if there wouldn’t even be a comment?

Sexual assault happens once every 109 seconds to a person living in the USA. That’s once every two or so minutes.

WHAT?

Until recently, there hasn’t been much of a conversation about it. But, now, there is. It sucks that it took a hot mic and a complete asshole to get this conversation going, but now it is.

It has empowered me to share my story. I want it to empower other women, too. Share your story. Stand strong. Stand together. And, let’s help to raise awareness about this cultural problem and set the record straight. Let’s change the future.

If you’d like to share your story, you can do so below and not use your real name. Help keep this conversation going.

More statistics can be found on RAINN’s site, along with support for victims of sex crimes.

Featured Perspectives

Sober in Spain?

A personal story about going booze-free (and eating clean and working out all the time) for a month ... while living in Spain“So, my good friends are leaving tomorrow, and then it is basically just me … alone in Spain,” I explain to my therapist. “I know I’m going to be so lonely.”

She listens patiently, casting a sympathetic glance at her computer screen, thousands of miles away from me. I sit, sprawled on my bed in Madrid, Lucky in my lap, as I fight the fear of once again being alone in a foreign country.

It’s a shitty feeling, sometimes, being an expat and starting a new life in a foreign land.

“What are you going to do?” she asks me from Las Vegas.

I ponder for a moment, looking down and stroking Lucky’s soft orange and white fur. I sigh.

“I guess I can just focus on me,” I announce. After reading The Power of Now, I’ve had a reawakening of sorts, getting out of the mindfuck I constantly let play out in my head. “I can work on being the present and working on me and becoming comfortable with me.”

I quickly calculate how long it will be until my friend returns to Spain.

“So, it’s like 40 days of really only having one or two people in my life. And they have lives, so I need to learn how to operate without looking to anyone else for entertainment or my happiness.”

“I love it,” she says, smiling. “Like 40 days and 40 nights … of just focusing on doing things for you.”

We disconnect from Skype and I feel … better. Not great, but better. Resolved. The next 40 days will be about me. If I’m alone, it is because I choose to be alone. Not because I am alone.

That night, over wine, I tell my Madrid friend about my plan.

“That’s good,” he says. “I like it. What are you going to do?”

“I guess I will just focus on me?” I muse, sipping my wine.

The next day, he messages me. “I’m doing this with you. Let’s not drink starting now. Eat clean. Work out. I’m in.”

Wait. What? Not drink? Eat clean? Work out?

A personal story about going booze-free (and eating clean and working out all the time) for a month ... while living in Spain

Me and my best friend. And the guy who works at Hedonism in London.

I think to the pizza I was dreaming of ordering in a few hours. The wine I was going to buy to wash it down. A weekend of lazing around … because I can. Forty days with no pizza? With no wine? What the actual fuck is that?

“We’ll start Monday,” I type back.

“No. Now, or you won’t do it.”

And, he’s got a point. Over the weekend, I teeter. I don’t drink, I don’t work out, but I order pizza as my parting comfort food for the next bit.

Can I really go a month without drinking? Since I’ve been of legal drinking age (and before), drinking has been a part of my life. Going out with friends? Beer. A girls night-in lamenting about being single? Wine. A party? Shots. Hell, the longest I have gone without booze was a few months earlier, and that only lasted two weeks. And that was because I was in Delaware with my parents and they don’t really drink. A month? In Spain? Yeah, right.

That Sunday night, my friend and I meet at an intercambio. I arrive early.

If I get one glass of wine before he gets here, he won’t know. Plus, it’s an intercambio. Everyone drinks. I have to have a glass of wine if I’m going to be social.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown more introverted. The idea of massive gatherings with people talking from all directions actually gives me a knot in the pit of my stomach. I’ve never done a gathering like that without alcohol to alleviate that feeling. Even in small groups, I tend to go off in my own mind when things get too hectic. The idea of being at an event like this without alcohol makes me not want to even be there.

Yet, for some reason, I don’t order the glass of wine. I’m not sure if it is because I don’t want him to disapprove, but I know part of it is we’ve got a deal, and I want to hold up my end … even if I don’t want to.

When he arrives, he asks if I’m getting wine.

“No,” I sigh, scowling. “I’ll have a stupid fruit smoothie.”

You know what? I make it through that intercambio without a drop of alcohol.

Three days. Done.

Getting through the week without going out to drink is pretty easy. I’ve got him, and he’s not drinking, so instead we go out and drink water and just talk. It’s a weird feeling at first. People look at me when I decline a drink.

“Seriously?” They ask, and then try to convince me to have just one glass of wine or beer.

“Nah,” I always respond. “I’m not drinking this month. I’m getting healthy.”

The more I say it, the more I believe it. Suddenly, I’m hitting the gym five days a week, doing at least a spin class every day, and then arms/legs a few times a week.

I’m eating clean. I’m eating vegan. I’m going to bed at a normal hour. I’m learning Spanish. I’m declining invites out because I’d rather (gasp) stay in and write. Or work.

I look in the mirror and watch as my face grows thinner. As the alcohol padding around my stomach begins to whittle away. As my arms become more defined.

About half-way through the month, something strange happens. One day, while I’m sitting on a spin bike, getting ready for class, that feeling of embarking on torture for 50 minutes disappears. I’m excited. I look forward to the class. To getting off the bike, covered in sweat, walking outside into the Madrid heat and feeling it evaporate in the air. To going home, to writing, to hanging out at home, making a smoothie …

Then, it isn’t about counting down the days until I can drink again, it is celebrating how long I haven’t drunk and marveling at how easy it has been.

What have I learned about myself the past month?

For starters, I have willpower. When I want set a goal, even if it is hard (like not drinking, eating clean and working out five days a week), I attack it. The people who tell me I have “amazing willpower” make me smile. Part of it is willpower, but more of it is how incredible I feel being so kind to myself.

It’s the first time in, well, ever, I’ve been so incredibly good to myself. I feel energized. I feel strong. I feel … happy.

I’ve also learned I can be social without alcohol. Granted, I don’t really enjoy being around super drunk people and having them ask me the same question repeatedly because they are too drunk to remember they’ve already asked me a billion times, but I can go out. I can sit around as everyone else sips wine and enjoy the refreshing, cold water I drink.

Even better, I’ve learned I can live in Spain and not drink. When I first arrived here, when I told another friend of mine I wanted to stop drinking, she looked at me with shock.

“Um, it’s Spain, that’s impossible,” she had said. “Everyone drinks.”

It basically gave me permission to just go out and get shit-faced. Because Spain.

So, today marks one month of being sober. Am I going to go celebrate with a glass of wine? Or go catch a nice buzz? Nope. I’m going to hop in the shower (because I’m gross from my two-hour workout), make a fruit and veggie drink in my NurtiBullet, and then do some writing.

Will I drink again? Sure. But, after this month of not drinking, I’ve decided it doesn’t need to be as big part of my life anymore. I’m so much happier feeling good. And not hung over. And knowing instead of hurting my body, I’m doing something good for it.

Will I continue to work out like a fiend? Yup. I love it.

As for the pizza … well, I had one slice the other day. Hey, there are some things I just don’t want to give up.

Diary Featured Get Your Shit Together

Fear.

Fear

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: OC Always

[Ed. Note: For purposes of dramatic intention, I have included many swear words. If you are offended by a potty mouth, this isn’t the post to read. Then again, this post is designed to challenge readers, so maybe give it a read and just self-censor. – DE]

Fear.

Fear is a motherfucker. It is the shit which paralyzes us. Which turns us from wide-eyed, 20-something go-getters, to older, less riskier versions of ourselves.

It keeps you from doing things. It keeps you from engaging. From taking steps. From saying, “you know what, I am scared shitless, but that is OK.”

Fear roars in our heads when we can’t sleep. It keeps us from those eye-opening moments wherein we have honest dialogs with ourselves.

Those inner conversations can often go something like this:
“I’m really unhappy in my job. I know XYZ would make me happier, but I have security. I have vacation days. I have health insurance. I’m not prepared to turn my back on that, even if it means I’m not happy where I am.”

Or …

“The place I live isn’t really for me. I think I would like to live in XYZ. But, I don’t want to start fresh and not know anyone. Therefore, I will stay here, even though it isn’t really what I want or what I think is best for me.”

And …

“My dream is to do XYZ. But, there is a lot of work to accomplish this. Maybe I will start later. Today isn’t the right day. I need to get ABC sorted first.”

Maybe even, fear keeps you from realizing the possibilities of relationships. Something like this:

“I’m scared shitless of getting into a relationship with someone. What if it doesn’t work out? Then what? I’m alone.”

Fear keeps us from taking chances. From accomplishing our things because we can think of a million reasons why we shouldn’t.

Fear keeps us from saying stuff like:

“I am unhappy in my job. I really enjoy XYZ and think I need to make a change. It won’t be easy, but I want to see if I can make this dream a reality.”

Or …

“The place I live isn’t really for me. I think I would like to live in XYZ. Sure, I have to start fresh, but it will be challenging and the reward will mean I am in a place I truly want to be.”

And …

“My dream is to do XYZ. I know it is a lot of work to get from Point A to Point B, but imagine how amazing it will feel once I do!”

Maybe even …

“I’m scared shitless of being in a relationship. But, this one? What if it can work? Not everything ends messy … not all kisses are throw aways. And, if the relationship doesn’t work, I think I am a better person for having experienced it.”

The truth is

Fear keeps us from moving forward. It keeps us from taking the steps we so desperately need to take to have the lives we want. It keeps us from our goals, from our dreams, from love … because sometimes it is easier to just accept.

To say, OK. This works. Even when it only kindofsortof does.

Fear.

It can immobilize us. Keeps us stationary. Even if we think we are moving forward, the truth is, we are just spinning those fucking wheels. Taking each day like we did the previous. Doing the same things. Having the same routine.

Why not change your career?

Why not pick a new place to live? Or to travel to?

Why not love?

Struggles are a part of life, but if you never swallow that fear, the only true struggle you will own is that of regret, later, when you look back and realize the error of your ways. When you look back and say to yourself, I could have … I should have … I didn’t.

Open your eyes.

Open them fucking wide.

See what is in front of you. Beside you. Embrace it. Love it. And take that step. Open your heart wider. Open your mind wider. Love larger.

Look fear in the eye and say:

“Fear, I give zero fucks about you. I’m going to try. I’m going to give. I’m going to learn. And, if things don’t work out, you know what? It wasn’t fear that kept me from living. I tried opened doors I never imagined. I experienced something I never would have had I kept living in my mind, kept listening to your shitty, seductive words of staying stationary. I fucking lived.”

Featured Perspectives

Dating in Thailand: you’re f#%^ed. Definitely not literally.

dating in thailand

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: ngmmemuda

I used to joke with my married best friend here in Chiang Mai about dating. Wouldn’t it be great to write an anonymous blog about dating in Thailand as a western woman? I mean, the possibilities (ha)! That’s when she uttered this gem of a title: “You’re fucked. Definitely not literally.”

We had a good laugh about it that ended with that heavy sigh on my end. The sigh that means, “that’s funny as shit, but dammit, you are so right.”

So, with TCZP, I decided I would put myself out there, see what could happen. Even though I am perfectly content being single and not in a relationship. In fact, I don’t really have any desire to date. BUT, a part of this project is dating and meeting men on different online sites since meeting them here in my free time is pretty much not an option since when I’m not working, I’m working out. Or sleeping. Or spending time with people I care about.

A brief examination of the dating options in Thailand for western women seeking a western man:

OK Cupid

Since March, I’ve been fielding requests on OK Cupid for dates. Although I specifically state that I am interested more in learning about what men are looking for living here than a relationship, and that the date must be with someone who either lives here or is visiting longer term, it hasn’t stopped people from all over the world messaging me with ridiculousness.

Like these gems.

Some of which are just arrogant drivel that simply attempts to tell me I am wrong and can be better XX ways:

“I don’t know what’s worse: You writing about yourself in third person or you writing about being fat although obviously you aren’t. Well who am I to judge. Maybe you just master the angles. In that case I am sorry that you feel bad. And for me making fun of that. So I’ve read your post almost completely now. Never really hard from anyone that thai people would talking like that. Anyway. It shouldn’t be too hard to meet western men. A lot of them are actually no sexpats who would enjoy spending time with caucasian gal. So, enjoy your stay! And the best of luck. Maybe cut down a little on that ‘I am a writer and I am living my dream in thailand” crap and write some interesting stuff about ya. Just saying. Well anyway, I just came here because the pictures were cute. So there you have it.” [SIC] [SIC] [SIC]

Mind you, I responded to not one of those messages. And each sentence was an instant message.

One guy offered to fly up to see me from Bangkok, which just made me uncomfortable, particularly since we had exchanged maybe two lines of communication before the ask.

Then, there are the ones from somewhere far away, largely from India, that tell me they would like to get to know me better.

And, of course, the pervs who want me to read their erotica and tell them what I think.

So, delete. Delete. Delete. And delete some more.

After deciding that I don’t really give a shit knowing what men are looking for here because I see the men here and they are not men I want to date  … EVER … I decided to move on over to the dark side: Tinder.

Tinder

Tinder, as most of you may know, is  basically an App that lets you pick and choose potential “dates” based pretty much entirely on appearance and a super brief description. That’s it. And, in the not nice terms, it is largely used for people to go and have random sex and maybe, just maybe meet a suitable match.

Of course, the men I meet on Tinder here are in town for a quick jaunt mostly, and either the convo goes downhill quickly or I lose interest and have no desire to take a night off from the gym or my quiet days to go and have conversation with a passerby.

Things changed when I went to Europe though. The guys on Tinder there are locals. They stay put, and — joy of joys — they want to date a western woman. I was the one passing through, I held the intrigue and for the first time, guys were messaging me and asking me out, versus just engaging in mundane conversation of “how long you in town?” blah blah filler.

But, even those men living in Europe seemed to only want one thing: sex.

I mean, I started getting messages without even so much as small talk telling me they were staying at such-and-such location and did I want to come over because they are good kissers?

What? The? Fuck?

And, no. Just … no.

Then, I met someone on there who was engaging. Seemed cute. Seemed to have his shit together. The only downside was we never got to meet when I was in Europe, which meant the conversation continued with 5,000 miles between us.

Let me tell you this — 5,000 miles between a potential match kind of opens one up to being more up front. Because what’s the worst that can happen? You stop e-mailing? So, I let loose. I opened up like I had never opened up before. It was a whirlwind and soon he was planning to come here to meet me.

But, there were warning bells going off in my head. Friends waving red flags to me. (I’m not going to get into it because it is all personal, and while I am fine opening up about me, I am not fine with talking about someone else on here and their personal life confided to me.) At the end of the day, I decided it wasn’t a relationship I wanted to be in so I ended it.

JDate

As someone who would like to end up with someone of my own religious upbringing, although I am not really practicing, my best friend suggested I check out JDate. In Thailand. Which kind of made me scratch my head a little, because really? JDate exists in Thailand?

Guess what?

It doesn’t.

Sure, there is a drop down menu that lets the user click on “Thailand” but then nothing comes up with the actual listing for cities.

JDate fail.

Expat Dating Sites

I also looked at the expat dating sites on the fabulous inter webs. After doing some inputting, my results were handed to me. About one page of men my dads age. So, nope on those. Apparently, the expat dating sites in Chiang Mai are not utilized by the eligible bachelors my age.

Match.com

Match.com, back in the States, was my go-to. It was less annoying than e-Harmony and the quality of men was far better than OKCupid, Plenty of Fish and others. So, I decided to take a little swim through Match the other week. Similar to the expat dating sites, Match.com is definitely not utilized by many foreigners here looking for a western girlfriend. There were about 10 results for Chiang Mai within my age group. I didn’t even narrow it down to any deal breakers or anything. I just entered in the ages. And, yeah …

The friend of a friend

This. This is where I made the ultimate mistake. I met a friend of a friend. A friend of a friend who was in town for only a short while. This FOF, however, was super cute. Super polite. And wanted to spend time with me. For a long weekend, we spent a lot of time together, going out, eating, drinking, canoodling.

One night, laying together, I asked him if he had a wife or a girlfriend. He said “no” and then kissed me.

Cue melting.

I mean, a nice guy. Single. Handsome. Heaps of vacation time at the ready. There were no wedding bells dinging in my mind or anything serious, but someone who comes to town and can hold a conversation and is nice and nice to spend time with? Yes, please. Even if it is not often. It’s … comforting.

This shit doesn’t exist in Thailand for me. I barely get a hug, let alone a kiss. So, this was big. Temporary, but big.

And then, the shit hits the fan.

If you don’t know a lot about Thailand’s tourism industry, please, let me enlighten you for a brief moment. There are the beaches. There are the elephants. There are the treks. And then, there is the sex tourism. I cannot name more than one or two men I have ever met here who have not had sex with a prostitute while in Thailand. (Unless they are traveling with their significant other, but that’s a different breed of tourist.)

Turns out, not only was this great (!) guy down in the seedy sex tourism city of the south, but also married. Of course, I didn’t know that until after we had promised to keep in touch and perhaps see him on his side of the world, and when he comes back here to visit.

The shock when I read that was mind-boggling. The fact that he lied. It felt like I had been slapped in the face over. And. Over. And. Over.

Not to mention the sheer disgust when I learned from my friend that this FOF planned this trip to be top-secret. I wanted to scrub my entire body raw and vomit glass, that’s how furious I was. I am not that girl

So, moral of this long story? FOFs are now out. Unless they come highly recommended, but most men I know here would rather their buddies get laid than ruin the chances. And, I’ve never met a FOF through a female here and don’t really even know any females here.

Yes, it is a sweeping generalization, but I am keenly aware that Thailand gives men –either in or not in relationships — permission to act like sex crazed teens and while they can do whatever they choose, I’m not going to take sloppy seconds after some hooker in Patong.

In conclusion

Dating in Thailand: you’re fucked. Definitely not literally. Except for very special occasions. This little portion of my project is officially over. And, I am oh-so glad to just be done with even trying to figure the shit out. I much rather just go back to working on me and making myself happy.

Single life for this girl is just fine. Fine. And far easier. And sparing my feelings. And pain-free.

 

Diary Featured The Dating Life

Being fat in Thailand

Being overweight in Thailand

“Oh, why you so pom pui?” People ask me. Strangers. Friends. You name it.

Pom pui.

You’d think one of the first words I would learn in Thailand would be how to ask someone’s name, or how to ask for directions. But, nope. One of the first words I learn other than “drunk” is pom pui or “fat.”

And that is because everyone asks me why I am fat. Or tells me I am fat. Or says I am soai  (beautiful) followed by pom pui. 

Fat AND beautiful. Now, that is a nice backhanded compliment. Thankyouverymuch.

Unlike in Western cultures, weight here isn’t one of those hush-hush things. It’s an in-your-face thing. Comments people make here that would make me cry if someone Western was saying it simply roll of my back. Or, they try to roll off my back.

But.

After awhile, those “you’re fat” comments begin to take a toll.

Skinny is everywhere in Thailand. If you’re above a size 8 (and I think I’m being quite forgiving when I say that), you won’t be able to find cute clothes. I’m a size 10 or 12 (depending on the day), and yeah, shopping at the department stores leaves me feeling defeated when I look at a pair of pants that can’t even fit an arm through the leg, let alone my ass.

The only place I can shop is Tesco Lotus, and then it is clothing that is more like a tent than anything cute and form-fitting.

I’ve always battled with being overweight, and here in Chiang Mai, it is a constant reminder of those battles.

The Skinny Syndrome and Las Vegas

When I lived in Las Vegas, I lived in a world where beauty was directly attributed to a tiny waist, big bust (check), spray tan and hair extensions. It had nothing to do with anything else. You got further in Vegas if you were skinny, and I was not a fool.

Even when work asked that I get a headshot, the photographer worked magic.

“I’m just going to make your nose a little smaller, your eyes a little bigger, your teeth a little straighter, your face a little smaller … oh, but you are beautiful,” he said, as he Photoshopped me to a younger illustration (or caricature) of myself.

After only a few months in Sin City, I began to do PR for a doctor who shall remain nameless because after years of following his business, I think he is the most unethical doctor I’ve ever met or heard of. This good doctor had a weight loss program that basically was a cocktail of diet pills and seizure pills that resulted in the heaviest of people transforming quickly into slimmer versions of themselves.

As I sat on the table after getting an EKG done, he looked at me and said “You’re going to be blown away by how fat you are.”

I kid you not.

Sure, I was tipping the scales at 200 at that time, but for a doctor to tell me that broke my heart. And yes, it is his job, but to say so in such a callous way …

He handed me two bottles of pills, a Phentermine concoction for the mornings and Topomax for the evenings, and prescribed me a weekly fat burning shot.

The shit worked. Within six months I had gone from a size 16 to a six four. I had gone from fat to toothpick. It was a miracle drug, but it had its prices. My vision became blurry. My heart would race like I had just snorted an entire eight-ball of coke for breakfast. I was skinny, but it wasn’t me.

As the good doctor put it, I was now sexy. I had newfound attention from men. I had gone from the ugly duckling in the corner watching all of the couples snuggling to the girl with guys at her side. I had gone from the girl who hid her body behind enormous, billowy shirts to the girl wearing tight dresses. I had the body I had always dreamed of.

Until I didn’t.

After nearly a year of taking the pills, I decided to stop them. Cold turkey. Within months, my weight shot back up and I was back to the loose clothing.

People would look at me with their brow furrowed, casting me their deepest sympathies for my weight gain. I was back to being the girl in the corner.

It was then I made the conscious decision that I would not let those stares ruin me. I would not let those stares define me and my body. I would take control. I enrolled at the gym and started working out. I didn’t get back to a size four, but I made sure I could have control over my weight.

The thing about weight-loss is, you have to be all in, or not at all.

I had worked out for about six months when I started to get depressed, and soon even lacing up my sneakers was a challenge. So, instead I ate. Papa John’s. McDonalds. I drank. I did whatever I could to camouflage my insecurities by doing something I could control — my intake of food and drink.

But, when your intake trumps your exertion, you gain weight. So, I ballooned back to the weight I was when I arrived in Vegas.

It’s all about control

It wasn’t until I left Vegas and relocated to Atlanta that I finally was able to control my weight again. For at least six months. Then, depression again. Weight gain again.

I thought traveling would make me skinny, so when I set out for my career-break, I decided I would lose weight. I lost a little — there’s something to be said for walking places with a huge backpack on your back that causes those calories to just burn, burn, burn.

I returned to America a smaller version of myself, but still not happy. I looked in the mirror and saw a fat, fat girl who hated herself for not being able to control her own body.

Of course, the normal lose weight-gain weight battle once again ensued upon my arrival back to Vegas. I was up to five days a week at the gym, busting out an hour of cardio a pop, followed by yoga or pilates. I was counting calories. Cutting down on the booze. And, then, I wasn’t. Again. Because it is all cyclical.

The expat life

When I moved to Thailand, I was the heaviest I had ever been. Standing in front of the mirror in my room at Smith, looking at myself naked … I would burst into tears.

I. Am. So. Fat.

Thoughts would race through my mind. I will never find someone to kiss me again. I will never find someone to sleep with again. I will never find someone to love me.

The worst part about living in Thailand and being overweight, is living in Thailand and being a western women. The chances of finding a guy are nearly zero.

I’ve always operated with the belief that beauty is everywhere … that I shouldn’t have to be skinny to fall in love or to have someone fall in love with me. That no one should be anyone they are not … that as people, we are all gorgeous, whether skinny, fat, short, tall, etc. I’ve dated men who I wasn’t initially attracted to, but as I got to know them, they turned into the world’s hottest people.

Attraction is important, yes. But, there are other things, too. And, I always held tight to the belief that people would like me simply for me. For my heart. For my mind. For my passion. Not because I am or am not a size four.

I guess I’m not everyone.

Even as the pounds began to fall off — a total change in diet (cutting out meat), along with sweltering heat and sweating my weight out of me daily — dropped the scale about 20 pounds. But, it didn’t matter. People saw me the same. Fat. Pom pui.

And soon, it became just a part of my life. Everyone commenting (and I mean everyone — strangers, friends, people I see everyday and can only exchange bits of broken Thai or English), even when their comments were not asked for or welcomed.

I have no idea why anyone thinks it is ok to tell someone they would be so much prettier/better/etc. if they weren’t fat.

Sometimes, it boggles my mind.

I don’t look at them and say, “you know, you would be better if you pulled that stick out of your ass and completely rearranged your face?” It would certainly not be met with an understanding smile. So, why the double standard? Why is it OK for someone to give you their opinion about what makes you “not worthy” of being loved? And since when does weight become the single most important factor in any part of life?

I know people here don’t mean it to cause pain. It is either no big deal since calling someone “fat” is normal, or they tell me because they think it can help me become a better me. But that doesn’t mean it just rolls off my back. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact my self-esteem. Or the way I feel about myself.

Today, I’ve grown accustomed to being “fat” even though my weight continues to drop. Men here still don’t look at me. And, I still get judged as to the person I am based on my clothing size.

Is it disheartening? Yes. Is it defeating? Yes. Is it life? Sadly, so long as I live  here, it is. No amount of weight loss … no amount of lifestyle change will ever amount to me having the Thai version of a perfect body.

While it used to make me sad (hence, staring at the mirror in tears), today I look at myself and think “fuck you. Really. Fuck. You. If you don’t like me for who I am, cellulite and all, then please. Do me a favor. Fuck yourself and go find a skinny woman who will be your everything.”

Because I am worth more than my weight.

At the same time, I want to give myself a chance to kick this once and for all. I want to look in the mirror with confidence, even if the people around me don’t see the beauty I possess, regardless of whether I am 100 or 200 pounds.

It is one of the reasons why I started The Comfort Zone Project — because I want to push myself to be the best version of me I can be, and give myself the best version of the life I am living.

I enrolled in a gym. I hired a personal trainer. Drinks are cut down to twice a week. Smoking is going to stop.

Either I will be a fat girl in Thailand and embrace the shit out of it, or I will do my damned best to be the not-so-fat girl in Thailand and love myself. Because, you know what? I deserve it.

This post originally appeared on d travels ’round.

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