Lookism in online dating? Likely.

This exchange between an unhappy online-dating fellow and an advice columnist is telling. It reveals much about lookism and modern life, especially in and around Manchester, England where the Guardian is based. During two sabbaticals there, I learned how vibrant the youth and dating culture is in Manchester. Oasis and many other pop music groups sprang from the city in northern England that boasts the most college students of any city in England.

Lookism advice for the lovelorn?

Angelina Jolie gazes at Brad Pitt

Neither is a victim of lookism?

Dear Abby, I mean, Eva.

Dear Eva,

I’ve been trying online dating for a year now, and before that, on and off. I never once got a real date. Not even a drink [out with someone.] I don’t know why. I love my family, have a lot of friends of both sexes, a good job, my own apartment, keep myself fit, have decent hobbies.

Tried the apps and I had no luck. Changed profile pictures, lost a lot of weight. Nothing.

I occasionally get matches, but it’s rare. I’m a bloke, a bit sensitive. I was talking to a girl, getting on well. We promised to meet after she came back from vacation and I went to Paris. I came back and got blocked. I didn’t even chat to her, as she was still on vacation. Same has happened with others.

Things got so bad that with his consent, I changed my profile picture to one of my co-worker. The phone did not stop buzzing. Lots of offers to meet, the works.

I changed back and blocked them but it was an eye opener. What do I have to do?


Hey, you.

I’m not going to pretend that your photos aren’t important; you know they are, and you believe that you’ve proved this by using a profile photo of one of your colleagues, who I presume you believe to be better-looking that you. On the one hand, I’m not sure that this was a great idea, since you can’t turn your face into his, but on the other hand, maybe it was a useful experiment that proved that the content of your profile is not uninteresting, but you need better photos of yourself.

Yes, you’ve only got one face, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t put up the best possible photos of it. I think a lot of people feel shy about asking others to take photos of them specifically for dating, because it means that you’re, well, online dating. But screw it. It is not embarrassing to wish to find love, or companionship, or sex. It’s human. On a day when you feel good about yourself, get a friend (perhaps this work colleague, since he already know you’re working on it) to take some nice photos of you in good daylight. Smile in the photo. If you want to include some others, get help selecting them from a woman friend. We all have funny perceptions of when and how we look our best. You may be surprised at her choices.

You mention that a few times you’ve had conversations with women that have ended once an actual meeting is mooted. You didn’t share the transcript of these conversations. But in your letter it seems like you are looking for proof that you are unattractive or undesirable; hence, your photographic experiment. I wonder if this is coming over a bit in the tone of your correspondence.

I totally get that it’s tough to put on a brave face when you’re feeling a bit on the back foot about your success on the dating market, but keep this in mind: every single person swiping past has moments of feeling unattractive and undesirable too. The folks who are a bit more successful are those who can put this aside, to allow hope to triumph over experience and not take rejection by complete strangers – which these women are – as something that’s about them.

And last: if online dating is making you feel bad, resentful and downtrodden, take a break. You’re allowed. It doesn’t mean that you’ve given up or that you’ve failed. It just means that you’re not in the mood to meet people that way at this point. Being kind to yourself is the best way to get to a place in life when you’re also prepared to be kind to a partner.



To learn about CLEFT HEART: Chasing Normal, click the Amazon or Barnes & Noble buttons in the margins. Or click the image of the book cover. My coming-of-age memoir has intertwining love stories, mystery, tragedy, and triumph.


  1. Brian McNamara says:

    It doesn’t mean he is not in the mood to meet someone through online dating. It means he does not have a broadly appealing appearance.

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