'Can You Reply?' Dating Apps, Body Confidence, and Self-Love

'Can You Reply?' Dating Apps, Body Confidence, and Self-Love

By Whitney Levine

In 2015, I started using Tinder, everyone’s favorite mentally-taxing dating app. I was new to the dating game, and as fresh as a college freshman could get.

Around that time, I was only 19 years old, and hadn’t kissed a boy. I was nervous, naive and insecure. Mainly, I wanted attention. I wanted a dumb boy to call me cute and validate my body. Naturally, with this mindset, I swiped on anyone who seemed normal.

This was a mistake.

A few hours after making the app, and a few hours of mindless swiping, I was confused as to why I hadn’t gotten any matches.

Maybe my photos weren’t revealing enough? Or maybe they were just ugly? A friend of mine assured me it just takes time to get a match. Back then, it didn’t happen immediately; it was 2015, so dating apps were still a combination of taboo and weird for young people to use in college.

The next day, I remember waking up to the Tinder notifications, or rather, bubbles of validation. I would eventually get the hang of online dating. My eager swipe-right-on-anyone mentality, though, was catching up to me. I was getting floods of messages from overly aggressive dudes. It was overwhelming to say the least, but the worst came from the ones who’d constantly send me messages, even if I hadn’t replied.

The message that sticks out most to me is from some guy, whose name I don’t even recall. He had sent me several messages within the span of a few hours.

I hadn’t replied because I was out with friends and didn’t notice his persistence until later when I found myself at an In-N-Out. I saw the many messages from him and the last few saying things along the lines of, “Can you reply?” and “You’re not even that cute.” The last message I saw burned into my brain.

While I sat next to my empty burger tray, the words “You’re fat anyway” read across my cracked iPhone screen.

While I sat next to my empty burger tray, the words “You’re fat anyway” read across my cracked iPhone screen.

I was in shock. And for the most part, really bummed that this complete stranger would say such mean things to someone who hadn’t said a word back. My silence prompted his cruelty. 

“What’s this dude’s problem?” My friend had asked when I showed her the conversation (or lack thereof). I knew the exact photo he was referring to, too. It was this one of me at the beach in a two-piece. It was a photo I was unsure to even make my profile picture. In that moment, my worst self-conscious fear had come true. I was told I was ugly, and I believed it because it came from a man.

I immediately unmatched the guy, and took the photo down from Tinder, Facebook and Instagram. I was humiliated. My thoughts were, “Well, if this guy thinks I’m ugly or fat because of this photo, then surely others do too.”

Self-acceptance and body positivity weren’t things that were well-communicated to me via social media and in life. I had spent most of my childhood and teen years hating my body. Looking back, I wish the same body reformation we’ve been going through currently in our society and culture translated back to only four or so years ago. If I had the resources I do now, maybe I would’ve felt brave enough to tell that stranger his words didn’t mean anything to my character, or my inner or outer beauty. I would’ve told him that his rude remarks were a reflection on him as a person.

But I didn’t have that mindset then.

If I were still on dating apps (luckily, I’ve found an amazing guy without the help of one), there are things I would’ve done differently.

First: I would’ve posted photos of myself I liked. I wouldn’t have looked so hard into whether a photo made me face look too round or if it made me shoulders look too wide. I would’ve posted photos for me, and not for a guy. The photos we feel confident about are the ones that radiate most, even through a screen.

Secondly: I absolutely would’ve called that guy out and reported him. No one has control over how I make myself feel about my self-image. If I had this wisdom back then, I would’ve unloaded it on that dude who had no right to make such comments about my body. Hopefully, someone has taught him since then that behavior like that isn’t welcomed. 

Third: The last thing I would’ve liked to have known is that the form of male validation I was seeking isn’t a healthy mindset to have when dating. It’s taken a lot of trial and error to get to this point of self-acceptance that doesn’t require the validation of a man to make me feel worthy or beautiful. Now, I realize that if someone doesn’t accept me for my body, that is their problem - end of story.

Now, I realize that if someone doesn’t accept me for my body, that is their problem - end of story.

Dating as someone who falls between the range of middle to plus size has taught me so much about myself and self-love. I’ve had to cut a lot of men out who weren’t respectful to me because of my appearance, and because of this, beautiful relationships with the people who actually matter have blossomed. I’ve never loved myself more than I do now.


Whitney Levine

By Whitney Levine
Whitney is a writer based in Los Angeles, California who loves concert photography and collecting records. She runs her own online music magazine called mothership.la.
Find Whitney on Instagram @whitnaaay.
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