I love complimentary bread at restaurants, but my dates usually look at me like I should be on My 600 Pound Life when I reach for it. I should clarify, the look I get on many dates is half-appalled and half-admiration for being so brave. I’m basically the Kellyanne Conway of eating carbs. If I was a character in the movie IT, Pennywise would show me a plate of kale or broccoli rabe—my worst fears—before he hacked me to death.
The gay aesthetic is a moving target. If you think “eating right” gets you to Emerald City, think again! If you want a boyfriend, you better swap your fabulous ruby slippers for some high-tech sneakers, recruit the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tinman in short order (they better be hot) and lift heavy weights on your way down the yellow brick road. Glinda totally told me I could go back to Manhattan at any point, if I clicked my heels three times and said “there’s no place like the gym.”
Here are some pearls of wisdom I’ve amassed on my journey to see the Wizard of Body Shame.
The Gym Hierarchy
On more than one occasion, men have lost interest in me because of the gym I attend. Dates and app chat regularly start with: “So, where do you workout?” Little did I know, there is an important hierarchy of gyms. Here I was thinking it was enough to go to one.
At the pinnacle of the pyramid is Equinox, where trained koalas collect and rub eucalyptus leaves all over the towels. The koalas then roll around on the towels embedding a feeling of cuteness in them. Cut to me in my gym, hoping the fresh towels are dry and haven’t been used by some guy to exfoliate his feet.
I’ve been on dates with several aspiring “actors,” living just above the poverty line, who proudly open with the fact that they go to Equinox despite a membership fee they can’t afford. That’s because gym membership is currency, and that makes me broke.
Being Sans #Squad
The gay workout cult travels in packs or #Squads. They are fierce (like wolves or lions), but also ridiculously cute (like dolphins). I think they might actually be electronically chipped (like dogs), to help them find one another more quickly. They work out next to each other in perfect synchronicity. You just know that members of the group are disowned if they finish a push-up too quickly or don’t wear pink on Wednesdays.
The #Squad are also clad in the specific branded clothing of the place they work out in, emblazoned with words like “gladiator,” “legend,” and “warrior.” I should really make my own shirt bearing words like “help?” “imprisoned by the gay aesthetic,” and “I don’t belong here” because these words resonate with me to my core.
The #Squad feature (à la Nicki Minaj) in each other’s dating app photos. They have their own thing going on, but they cross-promote and feature like hell. They elevate one another to new dating heights. In the photos, the #Squad are inevitably having the time of their lives. They are laughing in swimwear on a beach in Fire Island or reclining on inflatable swans in luxurious Hamptons backyard pools. I’m pretty sure I’m eating a burrito in one my photos.
The #Squad also list “Working out” and “Going to the Gym” as their hobbies and make heavy use of the muscle and weight lifting emojis in their bios. My hobbies include taking quizzes to see which Mom I’d be in Big Little Lies.
My #Squad application is still pending. No surprises there!
The Mandatory Gym Photo
I’ll admit it. I recently and reluctantly deleted all the photos of food on my Instagram. I was told by the dating Gods that photos of food sent the wrong message. Photos of you at the gym are the right message. The strange thing is that the photos that these men post of themselves working out at the gym are not selfies. They are actually taken by someone else.
Are broke actors hiring professional photographers to take photos of them mid-workout? Do #Squad members pass their phones around? Are minimum wage koalas working overtime to snap them? Suffice it to say, that my attempt to take one resulted in a photo of a shadow of a man looking confused and contemplating his future alone forever. In a nutshell, it was the opposite of sexy.
Some dating apps even ask for your body type. I’m still waiting for the “binge eater” and “perpetual yo-yo” options.
“Can I see more of you?”
Don’t think for one moment you can avoid providing a photo of yourself practically naked on your dating profile. Yes, a #Squad member may match with you, but they are going to ask you in roughly a millisecond: “Can I see more of you?” This is code for: “Send me a goddamn body pic, like yesterday. Stop wasting my time!” So, make sure you have suitably degrading photos of yourself to share.
Most guys don’t even respond when I reluctantly oblige to share a photo of me in my speedos. Even worse, when I buckle and send a naked pic, I’m either ignored or responded to with “LOL” or the emojis that look scared, confused or disappointed.
These episodes usually end with me telling my inner-child: You is kind. You is smart. You is important.
Something I Forgot to Tell You
To my last date who mockingly asked me if I even go to the gym, I have something to say: Just because you lift more than me doesn’t mean that you are better than me. Don’t take the wind out of my sails to make your protein-powered ship go faster. I have a lot to offer and I’m not just talking about my loyalty card to Olive Garden and my McDonald’s App. And, guess what? I love myself, just as I am. I’m not going to apologize for wanting to walk down the aisle to Taylor Swift’s Blank Space at the Madison Square Park Shake Shack location.
Oh, and you know the protein shake you were guzzling down on the side of the street before we met? It’s not FDA-approved and its obliterating your liver and kidneys. On the plus side, you’ll soon be glowing in the dark.
Let’s be kinder to one another. And, carbs. Let’s be kinder to carbs. They are an innocent victim in all of this.