Why I stopped cropping my body out of my photos for dating sites

The emerald green lake is the perfect backdrop for my photo. I hand my phone to my friend and she proceeds to snap some pics of me by the water. I swipe through the results, instantly disappointed. Most are unusable: My hair is blowing over my face. I’m moving too much, causing a blur. Mainly, she has caught my full figure inside the lens, and that is nothing I want to share.

I take matters into my own hands. I grab my phone, angle it just right, and press. Voila, a selfie, letting me zoom in on my “best” features while carefully cutting out the other “less desirable” ones. This has become my new regimen—one I’d expect from my teenage niece, but not what I ever thought I’d be doing as a 40-something woman.

While many men like full-figured women, my body type was not often desired when I was an adolescent.

Tugboat, trapezoid, pear. These were just a few nicknames doled out throughout the years to refer to the shape of my body—one that is traditionally “normal” until below the hips, where it’s as if someone has taken an air pump and inflated my hips, buttocks, and thighs. Once, when I was happily swimming with a group of friends, a man I worked with looked at me, then loudly said, “Such a pretty face—shame about the body.” It would take me several hours—and a burst of newfound courage—to finally get out of the pool. I wished for the power to crop my thighs right out of his periphery.

I take a few more shots in hopes of getting the perfect profile image to use for online dating sites. When I return home from the lake, I adjust, crop, and suddenly, it’s the perfect picture. While it is, in fact, me in the image, foolish grin and all, I realize that I feel deceitful. Perhaps not as false as bald men only posting photos of themselves with full heads of hair, but it feels false just the same.

These pictures get a lot of responses. “You’re hot,” says the 25-year-old from Queens. “Why are you on this site?” messages another. “Beautiful,” is fairly common. I smile at these empty comments but realize I need to change how I am representing myself. Maybe I need to get a selfie stick and go full throttle. Let them see me, “flaws” and all, but I can’t. Not just yet. Online dating is hard enough—being in my 40s makes it near impossible.

I send a few messages back and forth with a man, and a casual date is set up. I panic. My gut tells me this is not the way to meet someone—that I’m a people person and need it to happen more organically. But my heart, which has been broken, pounded, and nearly removed from my body by heartbreak, wants to at least give this a try. I begin to try on outfits in preparation, but none of them can truly hide what I look like. I put on the jeans, which somehow no longer cover my stomach but expose it. Then I try my favorite dress, which apparently no longer fits. I end up in black pants and a black top. If I remain sitting down on the date, they will never know about my hidden bottom, I tell myself. Still, I am panicked.

I’m not always this insecure. Some days, I waltz into a date with the confidence of Beyoncé, and most of the time, it works. But every now and then, a guy looks so disappointed that I want to crawl under the table. On those dates, I sit there, smiling, hoping I don’t have to get up to go to the bathroom, fearing what he will think when he sees my entire silhouette.

I often never know what these blind dates think of me because I rarely get the chance to go on a second date with them—even if they text me right away to tell me what a great time they had. Perhaps I would save all of us a lot of time if I’d post full body shots on my profile—perhaps we all should. With social media only showing the best parts of our lives, wouldn’t it be refreshing to just show the whole thing?

I have been struggling with my weight and body image since I was a teenager. No amount of exercise and deprivation will ever truly render me thin. I have grown to accept it. But do I love my body? I’m not there yet. I am not sure if I will ever get there. Being different is something I can embrace in many facets of my life. But being a size 12 for most of my life has never felt ideal to me. And that right there is probably the greatest detriment in my life. If I don’t know how to love my body, how can I expect spongeworthy876 to love it?

I include the caption, “Unapologetically curvy.”

After some time, I decide to try something new. I add a full-body picture to my online dating profile and include the caption, “Unapologetically curvy.” I feel like a woman in those Dove commercials—full figured in my skivvies and running in the streets for all to see. When it loads, part of me wants to wrap myself up in my favorite long sweater and hide my body, my imperfections, my vulnerability. I am tempted to take the picture down. But I keep still. I leave it online. This is me. All of me.

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