Last week, I went on a blind Tinder date.
I know SUCH a shocker. But trust me. It gets interesting.
We went to a bar and ordered ourselves a couple of drinks. As we shot the breeze about our likes and dislikes, he became more and more quiet. When I asked him a question about where he was planning on traveling this summer, he stammered. “I’m sorry, but I just don’t think this is going to work. You are just really intimidating.”
Intimidating? What the heck does that even mean?
Now, this is not the first time a man has called me intimidating. I myself have been called intimidating a lot throughout my life. It all started with my father. He was trying his hardest to console a bleary eyed teenager (aka me) who didn’t have a date to prom. He told me that it wasn’t my fault that men didn’t want to date me. “They just find you intimidating,” he said. Now, he totally meant it as a compliment. He’d raised a strong, outspoken young woman who had big dreams beyond the walls of high school. I tried to take it as such. I was strong. I was determined. I had the world on a silver platter and no one could stop me. Intimidation was affirmation.
Except it was not. As I got into college and entered the realm of online dating, the men I’d go out with started calling me intimidating as a way to weasel out some sort of commitment. And that was hard. I realized that the opposite sex didn’t always see my confidence as a positive thing. I felt every time I brought up some aspect of my life, it was a time bomb that might cause him to run away. And in talking to my queer friends, I found that this phenomenon seems to mainly occur in heterosexual relationships. The queer men and women I spoke to had never been given the excuse of intimidation as the reason why they weren’t finding dates (though, admittedly, my findings are 100% anecdotal).
I was starting to feel desperate after the fifth instance of this happening. So, being a woman who desired to mold and fold herself to become “the girl he wants to date,” I consulted the ultimate source of advice in any situation: Google. I searched what men found intimidating in a woman, all in an effort to fix it in myself. If anything could tell me what was wrong with me, it was the Internet. The answers I found from various blogs enraged me. Some answered, “If she’s better looking than me,” while others brought up words like “smarter,” “stronger,” “funnier,” and “outspoken.” Women who made more money than their male counterparts or seemed more successful in general, were looked down upon. Basically, if a woman is better than a man she’s dating in any aspect of her life, she’s automatically cast as “too intimidating.”
Naturally, I was incredibly upset by this. Characteristics men evidently considered intimidating were fundamental parts of me. I’ve always been incredibly driven in my career. I worked in a field, data science, that consisted of predominantly men. I’m not afraid to speak up if something pisses me off. I’m independent — I live alone, I support myself, and I don’t need anyone to help me change a lightbulb. (Yes, this is one of the things certain men found intimidating.) And I like these parts of myself a lot.
So, the question was how to change myself to have someone else love me? Being the person I was, I started to try to tone down my personality. I’d ask my date a lot of questions about his life, so that I wasn’t talking about my job or my studio apartment all that much. If I disagreed with him on anything, I would just smile tightly and change the subject about sports or his career. I tried to make myself appear smaller so I wouldn’t overshadow the man I was out with. And you know what I ended up with? A string of egocentric assholes who wanted to keep me small so that they felt bigger.
It took me a while to understand that, by covering up my supposedly intimidating attributes, I wasn’t making myself more appealing. I wasn’t being true to myself. It’s an odd realization to make, because part of what makes dating so complicated is the idea that you need to perform for the person sitting in front of you. People have written over and over again how first dates are like interviews. It’s a show, and you have to put on an actor’s portrayal of yourself so as to not scare away the person across from you. I believe that to a certain extent. I am not going to tell you about all of the guys I’ve been with or my relationship with my parents all on the first date. But I also believe that you need to still be yourself, not the person that person wants you to be. At a certain point, the acting has to stop. Then what kind of relationship will you be left with?
It was then that I gave myself the freedom to stop caring about being intimidating. Instead, I decided to just be myself — loud mouth and all. I embraced my independence, my outspoken nature, my smarts, and, also, the flaws that make me me. I quit hiding parts of myself from my dates so that they could really tell who I was, and this made me a better dater in a lot of ways. It allowed me to fully discuss my standards and what I was looking for. And most importantly, it made me realize that the person in control of my dating life was me — not the person sitting on the barstool next to me.
So, to all those men I went on dates with who thought I was so intimidating, I’ll say this: I’ve learned to lean into those parts of myself. If a man is worth his shit, he’ll never make you feel like you need to hide them. To all the women out there who struggle being their whole selves: consider your intimidation the best fuckboy filter on the planet. Don’t stop being intimidating. Just stop dating people who call you intimidating. They suck.