Until just a few months ago, I had never even been on a date. I think we all expect to be nervous before a date. You know how it goes: Will they like me? Will I like them? What if I do something embarrassing? The list goes on. But for people who have been taught to be self-conscious of their bodies, an experience that should give you light butterflies, can turn into a gut-wrenching ordeal.
Before my first date, I was terrified. I didn’t eat all day because I felt sick, and when I got the train to go and meet my date, I was almost shaking with the nerves. But I still went, and on the whole the date went fairly well. Nothing came of it, but it was a step forward for me, and it started off my journey into the world of dating. A few months down the line, and the dating experience has taught me a lot, not only about other people, but also about myself. So here are the five main things I’ve learnt along the way, and that I think are important for us all to remember.
Lesson 1: You are worthy.
One of the things I struggled most when it came to dating was my weight. I've only been on a few dates, and they've all been with people I have met through online dating (as is the way of the world now), so we’d only ever seen each other through photos. I was very careful to include photos of myself on my profile that were full length, because I didn’t want any one to accuse me of looking different in real life. But despite that, when I first started dating, I treated my weight like it was a hurdle I had to overcome. I even got into the habit of ‘pre-warning’ my dates that I was fat, before we met: saying just so you know, as if I had some deep dark secret that I had to break to them.
It took me a while to realise how ridiculous that was. It was like I was saying to them, and to myself, that I wasn’t good enough. I was apologising for being me, as if I wasn’t worthy of being liked for who I am. It’s important to remember that everyone has body insecurities, and it’s completely normal to worry that someone might not like you, but never apologise for being yourself. If your date doesn’t fancy you, it's nothing personal: you simply aren’t meant for each other. You deserve someone that sees your full beauty, both inside and out!
Lesson 2: You are allowed to have a type.
If I hear one more person tell me that I can’t be fussy because I’m fat, I’m going to eat them.
That’s a bit unreasonable, you say? Well no more unreasonable than saying I’m not allowed to find certain qualities in people more attractive than others, just because I weigh more than the average person. I don’t walk down the street and expect every single person to fancy me, because I’m not going to be everyone’s type. In just the same way, we are all allowed to be attracted to some people and not others, regardless of our own looks.
Whilst I don’t really have a specific type because I’m much more attracted to personality than looks, it doesn’t mean that I’m not entitled to have one.
Lesson 3: Never edit yourself.
As I said before, I always included full length body pictures in my dating profile, because I wanted to make sure they knew what I looked like in advance. Even after I learnt to stop apologising for me being myself, I still kept those photos. It stopped being because I needed to ‘pre-warn’ my dates, or any other such nonsense, and became because I was embracing myself. If you want to find someone you're compatible with, then you have to show them your full self.
Not just physically, but also on a personality level. It can be easy to fall into the trap of censoring yourself, overthinking what you should say and how you should act, in the pursuit of being more ‘likeable’. But what is the point, if they can’t get to know the real you? One thing I’ve learnt to work on is my shyness; I get so anxious on dates that I start over thinking everything, right down to the way I’m sat and the tone of my voice. In the end, I just end up saying barely anything at all, because I’m so focused on those little details - I just can’t relax into conversation. But what's the point of changing yourself? If the person you’re going on a date with can’t accept the whole you, then why would you even want to be with them?
Lesson 4: You are allowed to eat!
Seriously. Eat the food. There is no point going to a nice restaurant, and ordering that dish that you love, just to sit and play with it, and watch regretfully as the waiter takes away a half-full bowl of food. Hell, order dessert if you want to! At the end of the day, no matter your body shape or size, you are allowed to eat food. Plus, if you’re on a date with someone that expects you to eat a salad when all you want is a big fat juicy burger, then it’s just not going to work between you in the long run, is it?
Lesson 5: You don’t have to be perfect.
Picture this. You’re sat in Pizza Express, on your very first date. You’ve gone to the trouble of a face full of make up (partly because you want to make a good impression, but mostly because it makes you feel fabulous), and all of a sudden your masterpiece turns against you, and you can feel some mascara in your eye. Imagine, your date is sat across from you, making full eye contact as they earnestly try and tell you about themselves. And there you are, coming across as completely rude, digging around in your eye to search for the itchy little culprit that has managed to burrow halfway into your soul by now. And what do you do? You manage to completely pull off your clearly-not-properly-glued-on false lashes! Then you both just sit there, staring in horror at the little black spider held up in your hand.
What do you do at this point? Apologise profusely? Run to the bathroom and try and find a way to escape your embarrassment? No!
You swiftly reach up, pluck the eyelashes from your other eye, pop them in your purse and turn to your date and ask ‘So what were you saying about your grandmother?' We are all human! You’re allowed to knock drinks over, or smudge your lipstick, and yes, even pull out your eyelashes! You don’t have to be perfect to be worth dating, you just have to be you.
All in all, I think the most important thing to remember is to have fun. Embrace the chance to meet new people, and have new experiences. But most importantly, embrace yourself. Own who you are. Everything else will fall into place in its own time.