Playing Jenga with my face and a penis.

I’m 28 years old, and last week I went on my very first date.

It was… I’m not entirely sure what it was. Let’s just say I ended the night slightly confused, but with all my suspicions confirmed. Sort of like a kid who sees Santa leaving a shopping centre in his Toyota Corolla.

It wasn’t my first romantic entanglement by any means. I’ve been in two long-term relationships and had a steady stream of hook-ups and messy one-nighters outside of those. But I’ve never actually done the part that comes between those two extremes. The two boys I loved were my friends before anything else, and I’m pretty sure I tricked them both into pairing up with me before they realised what was happening. “Oh?” I would say, when they asked about that bikini wax I said I got religiously when we were still friends. “I said that, did I?” Then I’d hike up my sexy flannelette pyjama pants and spend the night farting in my sleep.

So relationships, I’ve done. Hook-ups, I’ve done. But a date? An actual, awkward, ‘we both know what’s going on but we’re not going to say it’ date? Never. Something about that has always felt… Off to me. Why admit that you like someone and that you’re hoping they like you? Why would you ever give anyone that kind of power? WHAT KIND OF SICK MASOCHIST WOULD ENJOY THAT?

Not me. I was perfectly happy to continue on with my plan of being alone, waiting for the day a smart, funny man would read something brilliant I had written, fall instantly in love, and ironically wait outside the Mamamia offices with a boom box playing that song from that movie I’m not old enough to remember.

But, then came Tinder. And after a drunken, embarrassingly giggly cliche night with my girlfriends, I promised to sign up for 24 hours. And even though I had ample warning from the moment I started playing, I didn’t realise Tinder was essentially just an online pimp until about hour 23.

But back in the first hour, I was still finding my bearings. I quickly discovered that, in Tinderland, anybody not asking you about the possibility of inserting a range of objects into your vagina instantly seems like a gentleman. That’s how I ended up chatting to someone who enquired about my nipple and its current state of erection. “At least he’s keeping it above the waist,” is actually a thought that went through my brain.

I should have known my standards had dropped dramatically when I actually started enjoying talking to nipple guy. It had only been 45 minutes and Tinder had already broken my brain.

Nipple guy messaged me several times the next morning, and, encouragingly, all of it was civil and nipple-talk free. He asked if I wanted to meet up that night, and with my 24 hour time-limit in mind, I said yes.

At 28 years of age, I had successfully set up my very first date.

Now, I’m not cool in even the most generous interpretation of the word, so while that was the point at which other people would have wondered if sex was on the table, that thought didn’t even cross my mind. When he suggested I come to his house to have a few drinks and watch some TV, I thought, “Yes! Amazing! Someone else who hates going out on Saturday night!” When he suggested I come at 9pm, I thought, “Yes! Amazing! now I have time to drink wine in the shower before I leave!”

So that’s how I found myself, at 9pm on a Saturday night, having very average intercourse with a dude who had charmed me by being polite enough to not mention my vagina. Tinder does weird things to you.

Things started off fine. There was chatting and drinks. I knew immediately that it wasn’t a love-connection, but I was determined to commit to the whole experience. (I’m a writer! I must live life! etc etc etc.) I somehow turned the conversation to feminism, which he very politely endured, considering he was probably confused as to why I wasn’t rubbing my nipple on his face yet.

Then (and in hindsight, I understand that this is the point I should have realised he was really, really hoping for sex), he stood up, cracked a joke about ‘pants-free Saturdays’, and proceeded to take off his jeans. He then sat back down on the couch and kept chatting, like it was totally normal that he was now wearing only underpants.

I didn’t quite know how to respond, to be honest. “I’m not taking my pants off,” I blurted out. “That’s fine,” he said, before continuing on with his very valid point about sexism in the workplace.

Somehow, I still didn’t realise that he was hoping for sex. I didn’t even pick up on it when he suggested watching a movie in his bedroom. “I love watching movies in my bedroom!” I thought. “Dating is fun!”

So there we were, sitting on his bed, watching TV. I felt a little strange about the no-pants situation, but who was I to dictate how he dressed in his own home? I figured I must just be one of those people who is so adept at putting others at ease, he just felt like he could relax around me. “Well done, Rosie,” I thought. “You are so fucking personable.”

But then, just as I was giving myself a mental pat on the back for being so incredible at getting along with people, nipple guy took things up a notch. Without taking his eyes off the TV, my date took his left hand, and started massaging his balls. And just like when he had taken his pants off earlier, he just sat there, eyes ahead, like it was the most normal thing in the world to watch TV with a stranger while fiddling with one’s sack.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was when it finally dawned on me: “Ohhhhh. I’m here for sex. This is a sex thing.”

I figured at that moment I had two choices. I could say thanks but no thanks, and graciously make my exit. Or, I could commit to what this whole Tinder experience had to offer and, well, go with it.

I went with option number two. And as soon as I realised that getting half naked was not just an odd lifestyle quirk of his, things moved pretty quickly. Before I knew it, we were kissing. I had intentionally not shaved my legs as a kind of ‘shameful hair chastity belt’, but once I realised I was about to get laid, my care-factor dropped dramatically.

It soon became apparent though, that Nipple guy didn’t want to get laid so much as he wanted a head job. He kept contorting his body in a way that meant his dick was constantly in my face (a cruel irony, considering I had just days earlier written about my distaste for such activities). He was like an acrobat.

Now, I have no problem speaking up when I don’t want to do something, but I’m of the opinion that if you can do it with a little delicacy, that’s far less awkward for everyone involved. So every time he would try and coax my head in that direction, I would half-heartedly stay there for five seconds before making my way back up.

But then I would blink and there’d be a dick in my face again. He was so quick. We played that weird grown-up version of cat and mouse for about 10 minutes, until it reached a bizarre kind of sexual stalemate:

He pushed my head down. I moved my head back up. We kissed for a bit, and he tried to push my head down again. I moved my head back up. Then he actually got up on his knees and put his dick in my face. So then I got up on my knees and started kissing his face again. And just when I was thinking I had won this drunken strategy game of sexual etiquette, he actually STOOD UP ON THE BED and put his dick in my face.

So this is Tinder, I thought, as I sat on a strange bed and wondered how much higher he could go. Playing Jenga with my face and a penis.

I somehow managed to kibosh the head job idea without ruining the mood (ie forcefully pulling him down from his standing position), and after that I was pretty much ready for it all to be over. I wasn’t enjoying myself, but I also wasn’t not enjoying myself. It was all just a bit… meh. I would’ve been having a lot more fun at home watching Seinfeld reruns, let’s put it that way.

Eventually, we were done (well, he was). And it was perfect timing, since I was getting some serious motion sickness from all the vodka.

I went to the bathroom to get myself together, and also to try and come up with a good excuse for why I would need to leave immediately. I didn’t quite know the etiquette involved. Was he expecting me to stay? How can I leave this place and never come back without seeming rude? I was still trying to figure out what to say when I came out of the bathroom, only to see him fully dressed, holding his wallet.

“Um, I’m really sorry but, I sort have to go,” he said.

He had to ‘go’. From his own house.

“It’s my friend, he’s going through a really bad break-up, and he really wants me to come over.”

I couldn’t believe I was the one getting shafted, when I had been just about to do the shafting.

“Dude, I was about to leave anyway,” I said, picking up my stuff with an air of dignity not quite befitting of someone wearing her underwear backwards.

We gave each other an awkward kiss on the cheek, and I left (after which there’s no doubt in my mind he got straight back into bed). I was so pissed that he had been the one to ask me to leave first, that I was determined to be the one to delete him off Tinder first. And as I was sitting in the cab, I realised that it had been almost 24 hours exactly since I had signed up to what I now understood was essentially an online sex service.

I deleted my account. Then I asked the taxi driver to pull over so I could spew.

And that, my friends, was my very first date.

Dustin Hoffman made me cry today.

I cried while watching a 3 minute YouTube clip today. A heaving snot kind of cry.

The video was an interview from the AFI archives with Dustin Hoffman, in which he discusses the 1982 film Tootsie, where he played a struggling actor who dresses as a woman to try and get more auditions.

The clip ends with him saying: “That was never a comedy for me.”

That’s where I lost my shit.

Why? Because Hoffman had just described the moment that he realised how heartbreakingly unfair it is that women are valued for their looks above all else.

When he was in full Tootsie female make-up for the first time, Hoffman looked in the mirror and realised that he didn’t think he was an attractive woman. That if he met this woman at a party, he would never engage in conversation with her. That’s in spite of the fact he knew this woman was intelligent, interesting, funny and charming (it is him, after all). None of that mattered, because she just wasn’t pretty enough.

And when Hoffman realised the injustice of not only how he’d been valuing women, but how almost everybody values women, he could do nothing but cry.

He said he realised: “There’s too many interesting women I have… I have… (holding back tears) I have… not had the experience to know in this life because I’ve been brainwashed.”

I think I was crying at this point in the interview because I am one of those women. Despite being interesting, funny, smart, successful, talented and engaging, I am completely overlooked by men because most of them value looks above all else, and my looks don’t meet the expected standard.

I don’t mean to generalise here or to put all men into the same box, but this is my experience: 5 years ago I weighed 70 kilos less than I do now, and I received copious amounts of male attention. Now I receive none. None. And nothing about me has changed except my looks. That equation seems pretty clear to me.

If anything, I’m more confident than what I was then, as gaining weight has forced me to explore concepts of beauty and value in a way that I had never even thought about before. My priorities have shifted, and I’m much happier for it.

I have pretty much lived out my journey to self-acceptance on the Internet for the last year or so. It started with an article in which I wrote about how much I hated myself because of my weight gain. I read it now and now and it makes me cry. Coming out of the ‘fatty closet’ was humiliating at the time, but I honestly have not regretted it for one second, because realising how utterly broken I was as a result of my size sent me on a quest to do something about it.

And no. I did not go on a diet.

I started seeing a specialist who helped me realise that I deserved to love myself. The PTSD and eating disorder behind my weight gain was explored, obviously – understanding the reasons behind a 70-kilo weight gain are clearly important. But mostly we just looked at how I can learn to love myself RIGHT NOW, regardless of how I look. I struggled with this concept, as I had always thought that I would be worthless until I had ‘lost all the weight’.

Never mind that I had survived a childhood filled with mentally ill and addicted parents, 17 schools, more houses than I can remember, foster care, DOCs, being split from my sisters, only to grow up and face my own mental health issues as a result of the trauma, getting though that, going to university, getting a degree, supporting myself, and generally ending up a pretty well-rounded individual.

I still thought I was worthless because I had gained weight.

But after writing that first article where my self-esteem had pretty much hit rock bottom, I then went on to write this, and this, and this, and this. Basically, I was going through a complete shift in my thinking.

I was realising that my weight wasn’t a sign of me being worthless, my weight was a sign of me being A FUCKING SURVIVOR. I realised that despite all the setbacks, I was kind of kicking life’s arse.

By learning to place value on qualities other than my looks, I learned to love myself. And I love myself now in a way I don’t even think I did when I was thin.

And that’s why the posts about my weight kind of tapered off. Because it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind anymore. I started to focus on the things I actually like about myself, rather than the things that I don’t. My weight became a non-issue. And, for the first time since I had gained weight in my life, I was valuing myself for something other than my looks. And I was happy.

But.

Despite learning to value parts of myself other than my appearance, I cannot control what other people value about me, and unfortunately, when it comes to the opposite sex, my looks are valued above all else.

This interview with Hoffman made me cry because I know how it feels to be that girl in the bar who is ignored.

I know how it feels to not even get into the bar because of how I look.

I know how it feels to get asked out regularly at one weight, only to NEVER (literally, never) be asked out at another, despite being exactly the same person.

I know how it feels to be valued for how I look, and for men to decide that they’d rather pass, thanks.

And it fucking sucks. Because after coming so far in my quest for self-acceptance, after jumping so many hurdles in an effort to love and value myself for the right reasons, there’s one hurdle that I have no control over: I cannot control what other people value about me. And looks seem to be the most important thing.

I know that getting to a point of feeling great about myself only to get upset about boys not liking me seems a bit lame. I get that. But I don’t think figuring out that I’m not just a visual prop for men and wanting to find a loving partner have to be mutually exclusive.

I wouldn’t trade the woman I’ve become for anything – if someone told me I could lose all this weight tomorrow, but I’d have to forget everything I’ve learned in the last year about worth and value and go back to thinking my looks are what matter most, I’d say no. 100% no.

I would much rather stay this weight and be a self-possessed woman who’s confident in what she values about herself, than lose this weight, find a man, and always think my looks are the most valuable thing about me.

But. Again with the ‘but’. Everybody wants to be loved. Including me.  And it does get tough sometimes, realising that every man I meet overlooks all the great things about me because of my size.

I cannot control what other people value about me, and unfortunately, looks top the list. I have not met one man in the last five years who has proved to me otherwise.

So thanks, Dustin Hoffman, for giving me hope. Here’s hoping there’s more like you out there.