Tinder dating as a plus-size woman
Swipe right if you like bad jokes, hate Game of Thrones and won’t comment on my “pinchable cheeks”
Thinking I’d make friends on Tinder was as naive as thinking parents only have sex once in their lifetime, to produce you. I was new to the game but had heard plenty of Tinder dating to know what to expect. I had moved to a new city and the only people I knew where the ones I worked with. Ten hour workdays plus cooking and errands – between paying bills and rent, I was too broke to head to a pub (where I’d know nobody) and too tired to make the effort. I turned to Tinder dating.
I’ve been the same shape from age 9 to 29. Like a darker, less funny Kung Fu Panda with frizzy, untameable hair. There wasn’t enough besan in the world to lighten my complexion, my grandmother did try though. People have always wondered where and how I got the confidence that I have – even though it’s not a lot, honestly. I don’t know any other way either. I was bullied and shamed, but there was no changing what I looked like so I just went with it.
Let’s be real, kids are jerks. It’s not totally their fault, they have no filter at that age. When I was younger I felt the need to compensate for the way I looked. I studied extra hard to be the ‘smart one’; was boisterous and witty to be the ‘funny one’. As if amplifying these traits would make my personality more appealing to make up for the rest. I guess it worked because after a point I didn’t worry about my appearance much, whether others said anything or not.
Though I’m confident, I’m not the kind of person who’s comfortable going up to guys and talking to them. The distance that online dating placed between me and prospective love interests (or casual encounters) served as a shield. I had been in one serious relationship before which lasted 4 years. My ex-boyfriend was a childhood friend who already knew me. Someone I was comfortable with. The thought of being out there again was scary.
My Tinder bio read something like ‘I may be fat but the world’s still turning’. I tried to make it a joke (clearly I’m not as funny as I think I am). There was no hiding it. I didn’t see the point in trying anyway. Whoever I decided to meet would see it eventually. Settings turned on to meet both guys and girls (I thought female friends who don’t only talk about work would be nice) I realised that on average the conversations centred around my body.
“I wish I had the confidence to post pictures in shorts. You’re so inspiring!” said one woman. How was I supposed to respond to that? “Happy to be of inspiration… I guess?”
Positive or negative, people seemed to feel the need to comment on my body. This was consistent across genders, though the men were more negative – shocker. If I were 15kgs lighter, no one would bring it up, would they?
“I appreciate you putting full-body pictures, at least you’re not trying to catfish some guy into a date,” said one chap before I hit ‘unmatch’. Others dove straight into fetishising. From “I’ve never been with a big girl” and “I like women with meat on their bones” to “Do you want to hook up tonight? No? You’re 30, you should be grateful someone wants to touch you. Fat bitch.”
Not all was bad. Some made conversation without mentioning my big breasts or how I “must be fun to cuddle”. One stood out from the rest. We connected over text. A series of date and six months later, we’re still dating.
I didn’t think I’d get a relationship off of Tinder, a platform built to judge people based on photographs. It’s promoted as a ‘dating’ site but people are there for sex. I hoped to find some kind of relationship on it – friend or otherwise – but not a commitment. Behind the screen, I didn’t have to be the funny one or the smart one. I could be anyone. Even my snake-loving, Game of Thrones-hating, khakhra-eating self.
I asked Varun* once about what he thought about my Tinder pictures when he first saw my page. What made him swipe right. He brushed it off, didn’t see the point of dissecting these ‘what if’, ‘why not’ and ‘how come’ introspections. “What is the point of it? How does it matter?” he asked.
I sometimes wonder if we’d have ever spoken to each other and connected if we met at a party or bar instead. Maybe he would have been wearing the GoT t-shirt he pretty much lives in and I would have been compelled to criticise its bad casting. Or my one purple fingernail would have piqued his interest from afar without me already explaining the story behind it.
It’s nice to know that we’re the exception not the rule when it comes to the perception of Tinder dating being a sleaze fest. If anyone from the company reads this, I’m happy to be your walking advertisement to show that we found love in a hopeless digital place – only if you can convince Varun* to trim his beard.
*Name changed upon contributor’s request.
As told to Sara Hussain