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It's one thing to take time to work on issues that make dating more difficult, but what if those issues are out of your control? Can you still date successfully when you're shorter than average? What if your partner has a fetish for a feature you don't have? How much can you change, and what do you do about the stuff you can't?
It's time to gird your loins and insert your coins. Let's do this.
I'm a 35 year old 5'5 [165cm] white guy and I don't have a clue what I can do to stop being single. I'm fairly good looking and mostly fit, but I keep getting turned down by women. I haven't had a date in years and it's not for a lack of trying.
People keep telling me that I'm a great guy, fun to be around and that I'm handsome and dress well, but I'm not getting anywhere with women. I personally believe that the only thing holding me back is my height. I completely believe that if I was my dad's height, 5'10 [177cm], I'd be married with kids right now.
The most common dating advice given to short guys is to date short women but in my experience short women greatly prefer very tall men. The most recent girl to reject me is 5'2 [157cm] and her current boyfriend is at least 6'1 [185cm]. Seeking to prove my theory about short women right or wrong I asked her how tall the shortest guy she's ever dated was. Her answer, 5'8 [172cm]. The shortest guy she's ever dated was six inches [15cm] taller than her. Oh boy.
Online dating, Tinder, real life, everything seems to go against short men. Please tell me there is some hope out there.
Short end of the stick
Alright, SEoTS, let's start this off by acknowledging two seemingly contradictory truths.
The first is that yes, shorter guys, especially guys who're shorter than average, have legitimate struggles in the dating scene, while taller guys frequently have an advantage.
The second is that being short isn't unattractive, nor does being short have to be a disadvantage. Yeah, I know, it's a little weird, but stick with me for a second.
Let's start with dispensing with the idea that short guys are unattractive or undesirable. You only have to look to Hollywood to see a very, very long swath of shorter-than-average men who are successful leading men and Hollywood heartthrobs. John Boyega and Robert Downey Jr. are 5'8" (172cm), while Oscar Isaac, the Internet's Boyfriend, is 5'7" (170cm). So are Tom Cruise and Usher, for that matter. Kit Harrington and Zac Effron are both 5'6" (167cm). Daniel Radcliffe and Bruno Mars are both 5'5" (165cm), same as you are. Seth Green is 5'4" (162cm). And I might point out that despite being a literal dwarf, Peter Dinklage is a sex symbol in his own right.
Hell, I'm no tall drink of water myself. I stand 5'8" (172cm) in my bare feet — about 2cm below average — and my height hasn't held me back. Needless to say, height ain't everything. Can it help? Sure. But like a Maserati, it may be nice to have, but it isn't necessary to get where you're going. So take heart SEoTS: You're in good company.
But while this is all true, it's also true that guys who don't cross the 5'11" (180cm) mark can have a hard time finding women interested in them. This is especially the case with online dating. Many guys have matched with someone on Tinder only to have the first question be "how tall are you?" So what gives?
Much of the appeal of taller guys is cultural, built on rigid ideas of masculinity and femininity. Height is often correlated with manliness; the taller you are, the more supposedly manly you are. Women who like taller guys tend to like them because it makes them feel protected or more feminine. ('Course, I'd like to see someone tell Tom Hardy or Jason Statham (5'9", or 175cm, each) that they're not masculine enough…)
As a result, women who have very stringent ideas of gender roles will tend to prefer taller guys. On paper, anyway. More on that in a second.
Similarly, one of the reasons why many women have a disinterest in shorter men is that, frankly, shorter guys tend to have an attitude about their height. One of the sicker burns that Nicole Kidman dropped after her divorce from Tom Cruise was that she was looking forward to wearing heels again. And while this sounds like a cheap shot, there's some truth to it; almost every woman out there has a story about a boyfriend or husband who got pissy if she stood even slightly taller than him.
So the first thing you need to do in order to be more appealing to women is to make peace with your height. There's nothing you can do about it, so you may as well own it. Sure, you could try to disguise it by wearing lifts. I did this for a while, in fact; I had a pair of New Rocks that gave me an extra 5cm. But shoes come off and women are going to notice. If they're the sort of person who's going to ditch a guy for not passing a "you must be this high to ride" test, then they're not going to be charmed to find out the truth. On the other hand, a guy who has the confidence to not let his height bother him? That's going to be far more appealing.
But while you may be lacking in stature, that doesn't mean that you can't fill the room. Developing your presence and charisma is a very good way to make you more noticeable and desirable, even if there's some towering Viking in the room with you. There's a reason why people are often described as being "larger than life". In fact, a little posture, some charm and ability to make people feel like the most important person in the room will cause people to actually assume you're taller than you really are.
Of course, before you can charm women, you have to find them… and honestly, online dating may not be the best place for you. While there are many benefits to dating apps like Tinder and Bumble, people frequently focus on matches based on how they look on paper. It's very easy to focus on the things you think you require a partner and end up missing on the serendipity of someone who may not tick all the boxes but is so awesome that you don't care. So in all likelihood, you'll do better meeting women in person where your charm and personality can win them over.
That having been said: The common advice you were given about dating short women is actually a mistake. It may seem like an obvious choice — short women wouldn't dislike short men, no? In practice, however, you'll tend to run into women who like taller men because of those aforementioned gender roles.
Instead, I suggest you consider going in a different direction: Talking to taller women. Tall women get hit with the same gender issues that short men do — they're seen as being too threatening to the fragile masculinity of many guys and so they get short shrift. A guy who is confident enough to not let the height difference threaten him and finds her desirable without trying to minimise her height? That's a guy who's going to be in high demand.
Just don't make the incredibly common mistake of treating her height as something exotic or something you're generously overlooking. "I don't have a problem with tall women," or "Man, sleeping with tall women is like conquering a dragon," and the like are all great ways of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Dear Doctor Nerdlove,
I have been dating my boyfriend for over a year and things have gotten pretty serious to the point where we discuss marriage. I love him and think we would make great partners in life. He is caring, patient, smart and enjoys the same dorky things I do. We both have our flaws as all people do, but he seems accepting of mine and I of his, knowing we can work together on overcoming them and accept those we can't. That's the ideal picture, but truthfully there is one attribute that I am struggling with. I have slowly learned that he has a fetish for very long hair.
I myself have always had long hair, or so I thought, mid-back, but I noticed early on laying in bed he'd ask me to grow it out for him. Soon I started noticing his obsession with looking at pictures and videos online and following women with extremely long hair, I'm talking below the butt down to the feet. At first it only irked me a bit, but then when he'd playfully ask me if I'd grow out my hair for him, I started to feel this tinge of resentment. As time progressed this feeling has grown into a deep insecurity, about something I never on earth thought I'd have to feel insecure about. To top that, there have always been performance issues in bed that he blamed on medication, but now I'm not so sure it's not just because I don't fit his fetish. As I get more insecure I'm also getting more reluctant to initiate sex, which is 70 per cent my job if I want more than foreplay. I don't want to embarrass him or make him feel like I don't accept the person he is, but I hate this feeling.
I am in my late 20s. I thought at this point in my life I had dealt with all my body image issues. Yes, I'd still feel insecure here and there, but I was generally pretty comfortable with myself by now. Suddenly I feel like an awkward teenager again and ashamed of my physical features. He's still wonderful and kind to me, but in my heart I feel like I'll never be enough for him. Sure, hair grows, but the idea of having to change myself for a man makes me feel gross. Let alone the time it would take my, curly, frizzy-arse self to try to manage hair that long. I mean he hasn't said, "You have to grow your hair out or I'll leave you," but he definitely would prefer it.
Should I even mention how much money I've "subconsciously" spent on hair products the last few months? Worse, because I feel like I'll never truly satisfy him I can feel myself becoming jealous. Jealous of all the women he looks at when we're hanging out that have longer hair than I do (which is surprisingly a lot now a days), jealous of the women he follows online, thinking about him possibly messaging them, maybe even meeting up with the local ones, etc. This makes me feel sick to my stomach. I hate who I've become. I hate the feeling of jealousy. I hate feeling suspicious of him and I don't want it to progress any further. When I get the thought to look at his phone I have to slap it out of my brain. I just want to love him, and trust him, and be able to walk down the street without judging every other woman's hair.
I know, the problem is in my head. I know I'm the one who has to change the way I think. He has a fetish. There's nothing I can do to change that. It's part of who he is and if I love him I have to accept all of him, but dammit it's hard.
I know he chose to date me and so that means he should like me, right? But what if he's just settling for me because of the other check boxes. I know it's natural for men to fantasise about other women, watching porn or what have you, and it's not a problem for me usually, but this feels different, it's like I have to watch the fantasising happen live every time a woman with long hair walks by. I feel gross in so many ways and not just about my looks but about how I am acting. What do I do? Is this something I can learn to accept? Do I save both of us the trouble and end it so he can find someone with the features he likes and I can find someone who likes me the way I am? Am I just crazy?
Not the Fetish
Before I get into this, I feel like I need to define some terms. Sexual fetishes tend to be a sexual response to an otherwise non-sexual object or body part. Fetishes differ from a preference in that someone with a fetish usually requires that object or part to become aroused or to actually orgasm. Preferences, on the other hand, tend to be "All things being equal, I'd rather have this."
So a guy who likes large breasts or the look of women in vintage black silk stockings but can get off just fine with a petite partner with bare legs doesn't have a fetish. If he can't get off at all without the garter-belt and silk, then it's a fetish.
Now, let's dig in a little.
As a general rule, I'm a proponent of both partners in a relationship being what Dan Savage calls "Good, Giving and Game". Good in bed, giving of pleasure and game for indulging your partner's interests within reason. Being GGG is good for a relationship's overall strength and both partners' happiness. It helps maintain and balance the sexual compatibility between partners. Occasionally indulging an interest of your partner's, even if it's not really your thing, makes them feel appreciated and loved.
It's the same with changing oneself in relationships. While there's a lot to be said for being yourself no matter what, making changes that make your partner happy — when you dig making them happy — is pretty standard. Dressing a little differently because you know they like how you look in this particular type of outfit? Not exactly a huge ask or a betrayal of your true self. Giving up your career because your partner believes a woman's place is in the home, on the other hand, is pretty huge.
As far as changing yourself in a relationship, asking one's partner to grow their hair out is pretty benign. It's not exactly in the same realm as pestering someone to get implants because you really can't get it up to anything less than a DD. But if you're not someone who has long hair already, it can be something of a pain in the arse. Asking someone to grow their hair out seems like it's no big deal… unless you're the person who actually has to do it. There's more to growing and maintaining long hair than just not going to the salon for a couple of months. Simple maintenance — keeping it clean and free of tangles — is already a pretty significant time-sink, doubly so if you need to blow-dry it. Very long hair — from down to your butt or lower — isn't just a maintenance issue, it's a lifestyle.
So while a preference for long hair isn't quite the same as an interest in watersports or age play, it can still be a hurdle. It demands a pretty significant commitment from the person growing their hair out.
Normally I'd suggest negotiating a compromise. Maybe you could get a Rapunzel-esque wig and wear it on occasion? But this part of your letter leapt out at me:
I'm also getting more reluctant to initiate sex, which is 70 per cent my job if I want more than foreplay.
A lot of your boyfriend's actions could be explained away as not being a problem. Collecting videos and pictures of his fetish is pretty normal behaviour. A low libido or erectile dysfunction caused by medication is also fairly common; SSRIs are especially infamous for killing your sex drive deader than the dodo.
But once is happenstance, twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action cause for concern. If he's not initiating sex and is seemingly only interested in doing what it takes to get you to leave him alone? That's when I start thinking that this fetish is going to be a long-term problem… especially if he isn't being up front about it. If he's consistently not interested in you sexually, then this relationship is already on thin ice.
So I think you need to sit down and have a long, serious talk with him about this. Start with how you're feeling — you know that he's got his thing for long hair and it's starting to get to you. You're worried that he's not attracted to you. Stick to the classic "I" statements: "I feel like..." "I'm concerned that..." to keep this from feeling like you're accusing him of malfeasance. Ask him to open up to you about how he's feeling.
Hopefully he'll realise how his behaviour is affecting you. If he's as good of a guy as you say, then ideally he'll shape up and start putting in good faith effort to fix things. Maybe he can talk with his doctor about finding medication without those sexual side-effects. He'll be less obvious about checking other people out and make a point of being an active sexual partner.
But if he can't or won't change? Then it's time for you to start making some difficult decisions.
Are you a shorter guy with an active love-life? Does your partner have an unusual kink or fetish that they want you to indulge? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. And meanwhile, we'll be back with more of your questions in two weeks.
Ask Dr Nerdlove is Kotaku's fortnightly advice column for matters of the heart, hosted by the one and only Harris O'Malley, AKA Dr Nerdlove.
Harris O'Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr NerdLove and the Dr NerdLove podcast. He is also a regular guest at One Of Us. He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove. Dr Nerdlove is not really a doctor.