February 25th, 2011

Dater Unknown: Photo Advice That’s Not Really About Photos

A few months ago I responded to a comment that I was going to write a ladies’ version of the “Photos to Avoid if You Wanna Make Out” and to stay tuned. I was looking forward to providing you with enlightening guidance, but then two realizations happened:

1. Before Looking at Photos: I’m a girl’s girl. I like us. So I was feeling very “kumbaya-write-me-in-3rd-period-LYLAS” and frankly felt like I was talking trash.

2. While Looking at Photos: A dude should be writing this. I am way too “oh, she seems so sweet!” and “I wonder where she gets her hair cut” to be writing this objectively.

YET. I’m your (self-proclaimed) sensei of online dating picture guidance, so I wanted to give you something more than “Umm, we’re perfect.” Here are some thoughts I had:

1. Calm down. You know when an acquaintance sends or posts a Picasa album that has 239802934 pictures on it documenting their trip that was amazing and totally out of your price range and, oh yeah, you didn’t go on? But you look through it because you are both masochistic and a good friend? Dating sites are not the same deal. A picture of you on a camping trip? Sure. The entire snapfish album of your Garner State Park trip a few summers ago, including ones that are just of a sunset? Yikes. A picture of you having a good time last weekend? Okay. Entire photo essay submission of that zany night you went to Howl at the Moon? No, I’m good, thanks. Darling, just choose a few that you like and leave some mystery—and some space on the dating sites’ servers.

2. A Thousand Words. So. A few choice women I saw took pictures of a framed photo that was on a desk or wall. And posted that. Sweetheart, just don’t do it. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture of a picture says eight: “This is not what I look like today.”

3. Subtle. Listen, women’s bodies are beautiful. Yay boobs. But you know what else is pretty? Your head. The thing that thinks and speaks and laughs. A few ladies posted pics that were ONLY of their cleavage. Show off your good time girls if you want, but show your face too, my love.

And then the cursor sat blinking at me. I normally don’t have too difficult a time ticklin’ the ivories of my laptop, but I really didn’t have much else to say. Keep in mind, I didn’t read the entries at all, so these women could be Glenn-Close-in-Fatal-Attraction-in-training and I wouldn’t know. I looked strictly at the photos. And here’s the deal—I was proud of my girls! Sure, there were some creepshows, but for the most part I was weirdly happy with what I came across.

So I did what I normally do when I need to think about what I think. I ate some chocolate, drank milk out of the container standing up in front of the fridge, and then took a shower. As I shut the fridge and went to start the hot water, I started pondering.

Self: I’m tired. Why didn’t you buy more Irish Spring?
Self: Shh. Don’t think that out loud. That’s dude soap aisle soap.
Self: Who cares? It’s not like it’s Axe or Just for Men. You know you love the smell.
Self: You’re right. Okay, what are you writing about?
Self: I don’t know what to say. I just feel proud of them. I love that these women are putting themselves out there, taking a risk. I hope they are proud of themselves. And I hope that they stay true to themselves.
Self: Sounds very “I wish for world peace and a unicorn to ride to work and lots of hugs and kitten stickers for everyone. ”
Self: Fine. But I was thinking more along the lines of a sex change.
Self: Wait, what?
Self: You know what I think of when I think of taking risks and being true to who you are?
Self: Buying Irish Spring and not apologizing for it?
Self: No. That one yoga class in Seattle.
Self: Oh yes. YES. Oh, and all the clean towels are still in the laundry basket in the living room. Not it on getting them.

In the winter of 2010, life was a grind. I was pretty miserable. I was living in Seattle and unsure of what lay ahead or how I would get there.

Working at a behemoth software company, I worked a ton, and everyday around 2 PM I would hit a wall and just check out. I felt like I was a donkey that somehow found herself working summers in the Grand Canyon giving rides up and down, down and up, and she had had enough. Everyday she stopped abruptly on the trail at 2 PM, causing the Purell bottles and granola bars in her rider’s pockets to spill out on the ground. “Come on, let’s go,” the rider would say louder than she’d like (note: rider in my case was that fat hussy called Outlook). But the donkey just stands and looks blankly ahead. The rider makes that giddy up noise we all use when in any kind of saddle to sound like we know what the hell we are doing—which then prompts the donkey to throw the rider off and go get a frozen yogurt.

I know, I know. But folks, FOLKS. I was dying to care, dying to feel any sort of sense of urgency, and dying to know what I should do. My brain refused to contemplate the things at hand—both at work and at home. It was all too much. Instead I would zone out to paralyzed thoughts of “maybe everything will be fine,” “maybe I just need to switch jobs or go to grad school,” or “maybe summer just needs to hit”.

Too many maybes. I yearned for an unequivocal “Hell Yes” and my actions that would follow.

One day after hitting my 2:00 wall I decided I was going to a yoga class that day. It was a place to think and remember what sweating was like, considering it was the Northwest in January. Plus, I was going to be donning a bridesmaid dress in a few weeks and each hand had been holding a cocktail or a cookie during the holidays.

So I walked into the yoga class with a purpose. My purpose was to just stay in the 105 degree room, not even worry about doing each of the postures well, and try to relax. I walked in and the room was packed with bodies—the regulars, the New Year Resolution-ers and me. I was looking for a place to lay my mat, and a nice woman moved her mat over to make room for me.

As soon as I finished unrolling my mat, the instructor walked in singing Erasure. I recognized it immediately as “A Little Respect”. Walking around the room, checking the heat, she said, “I can’t get Erasure out of my head! Who here knows Erasure?”

In a sea of many, only two lone hands were raised. One belonged to me and the other belonged to the kind woman next to me. Two? Only TWO? I want to scream to the room, “1. Know them? Umm, I only want to walk down the aisle to the entire The Innocents album. 2. Was everyone in here out of the country the past 2 decades?

Instead, I turn and give a little “we are SO the Cool Kids in the class” smile to my fellow Erasure lover. As I smile, something catches my eye and I realize that the nice woman next to me used to be a he. She’s wearing a cute sports bra filled with solid As, has zero body hair on her arms and legs, not to mention zero body fat, and rocking some magenta yoga shorts. Unless you were really close—as we were—you would not realize. She was adorable, comfortable, and inspiring—she found her YES.

I turn around and throughout class feel rumblings of the exhausted Grand Canyon donkey getting up and dusting off (to the tune of a certain famous 80s duo, of course). And I smile at the significant advice tacitly received. Be true to yourself and dare to take risks.

— Dater Unknown


Mary — Friday, February 25, 2011 11:42 pm

Very nice.

Whitneu — Saturday, February 26, 2011 8:45 am

I think I’m addicted to your writing. You have a knack for finding the absolute funniest way of saying every single thing.

Eileen — Saturday, February 26, 2011 5:56 pm

I LOVE ERASURE!!!! I would’ve been right there with you and the she/he…although the she/he sounds like one very attractive woman. No hair on the body? I am more masculine than she/he!

groggette — Wednesday, March 2, 2011 4:50 pm

not “the she/he” Eileen, just she. Regardless of whether this woman was actually trans or just a slightly masculine looking cis woman, it’s just “she” and “her”.
She’s a person for fucks sake.

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