Pretty as a Picture

Once upon a time, I had these magical breasts. They were pretty awesome, and I spent lots of time dressing them in nice clothes. They were so magical, however, that soon after the birth of my second son, one of them created the most aggressive cancer the three separate oncologists I visited had ever seen. They performed something called a KI-67 test, which measures the percentage of cancer cells dividing. Anything over 20% is considered high. I had 90% dividing. That right breast was certainly quite the over-achiever. The left one appeared to be harmless, but I knew then they were not to be trusted and had to go. On October 1, 2015, my then-husband took this picture of me with them for the last time, and I headed to the hospital to bid them farewell.

The night before my bilateral mastectomy

What does any of this have to do with dating, you ask? I thought nothing. While the old ones were pretty nice, I got these new optical illusion breasts in their place, and they filled my clothes just as well. When they took my breasts, they were kind enough to leave the rest of me, including all my brain cells, though chemo did do a number on those for while. Basically, while I lost some tissue, I also gained a greater appreciation of life, a deeper sense of self and a new level of enthusiasm about experiencing the world around me. In the end, I felt cancer made me a better person.

Because they aren’t a big deal to me, they also never seemed to be a big deal to anyone else, but the online dating world, even with its benefits, is by design a shallow place. So recently, as my experience came up in conversation, the man I was out with laughed at the description of my reconstruction. Granted, 3D nipple tattoos are not the hottest new accessory right now, but they are pretty cool and the perfect add-on to optical illusion boobs. I wasn’t bothered by the laughing. I was more surprised when he later commended me on my bravery. Was he referring to my bravery in the face of spending weeks thinking I was going to die and leave behind two little boys? Perhaps he was referring to undergoing five different surgeries to remove and reconstruct my chest? The 12 sessions I spent in the cancer center undergoing chemotherapy while taking business meetings by conference call and enduring the pain of dry ice caps on my head to keep from losing my hair? The fact that I continued working full-time, including business trips, while undergoing it all? Nope…he was commending me on my bravery for walking around confidently with optical illusion boobs.

And then it hit me. In a dating world where our desirability is often solely based on how good our pictures look, should this be surprising? You hear about people putting up pictures that are old, heavily filtered, photoshopped or someone else entirely, but do we consider why that is necessary? Because in a world where how hot you look is often the only deciding factor on whether someone even bothers to read your profile, people feel they need the hook. Maybe they are so confident in their in-person abilities that they hope you won’t notice that in their pic they were 40 pounds lighter, 15 years younger and those dog ears they were sporting were actually just the result of a Snapchat filter. Chances are though that the need to misrepresent your physical appearance also translates to a need to misrepresent yourself in other ways, causing you to attract someone who is not interested in the real you anyway. Lying about who you are in any way will ultimately only lead to disappointment and wreaks of insecurity.

So how do we find any meaningful connections in a place that seems obsessed with what’s on the outside? By being clear about what you type of interactions you are looking for and being unafraid to filter out anything that doesn’t meet that. Maybe you are just looking to hook up with hot people. If that works for you, awesome. It’s easy for you to filter.

For those of us looking for anything more than that, it can be a little trickier. I know many men who contact me don’t read my profile. Usually the ones I’m trying to filter out. That’s okay, because within a few messages, I can pretty quickly assess what they are in the market for and decide if we are on the same page, and usually without even asking. Why don’t you just ask? Because people often say what they think they should say and not what they really mean, so I have my own methods. Those are patented Compass Date trade secrets though. 🙂 You don’t have to know everything about a person before going on a date with them, but you should at least figure out what they seem to be seeking before you waste time on a person who is more concerned with what’s in your clothes than in your head. If you are seeking something more meaningful, it’s better to focus on quality over quantity than to waste time with the enormous number of people online just looking for a hook-up.

So did my filtering process fail with this one? Not at all. He was indeed looking for something more substantial, and I went into the experience accurately representing myself in every way. While he did not accurately represent himself in pictures, I think he did a great job of showing me who he was in person. Filtering is a process. It doesn’t all happen in a split second decision. Be mindful about who you are and what you want every step of the way. Only with that mindset will you find success. And I will find mine while sporting awesome optical illusion boobs.

Author Ela Kaye is a marketing writer and brand consultant who specializes in using her skills to connect people. In addition to serving as Lead Consultant at Compass Date, she chronicles her ramblings on modern dating, self-discovery and finding your like-minded human(s) on the blog “True North.”

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