How Do I Become More Than “The Funny Fat Friend”?

How Do I Become More Than "The Funny Fat Friend"?


Estimated reading time: 16 minutes


So, I’m a 35 year old male. I’m overweight but I’ve been slowly losing the pounds over the past few years. I live alone, have a decent job, and make ok money. I dress nice, shower, shave, the usual, and try to be presentable whenever I’m out in public. I don’t really struggle with talking to women or socializing and I basically get along with most people. I’d also consider myself decently confident and I’m not afraid to make a move on someone I’m interested in.

Now, this might all sound fine, however, I think this might actually be the root to my lack of success with dating. To put it into words, I feel like I fly under the romantic radar of women. Like, they just see me as nothing more than a “funny fat friend” or maybe even in a more brotherly sense. For a quick example, a woman I was into and flirting with, said I was “gentle and wise.” It was a nice compliment but is something you’d say about your grandfather. And I here stuff like this all the time. “oh you’re so funny”, “oh you’re such a good guy”, “you’re so sweet”, blah, blah, blah. You get the point. I even get this from women I’ve only known for a few days. I’m always treated like nothing more than an old friend or a favorite uncle. In over ten years, I haven’t had a woman see me as man worthy of being desired.

On the other hand, and to really add some irony to the mix, I am constantly getting hit one by gay men. Even just the other week, I got an unsolicited phone number from a guy at my job. He even came back to tell me how handsome he thought I was. Usually I just take the bit of flattery and move on with my life but this last time actually really got to me. It just seemed like some cruel joke. I really try to put my best foot forward, be myself, and all the stuff and I only manage to attract men. That combined with constantly being pat on the back and being told how great I am while, simultaneously striking out at every chance I get, is actually really starting to drain on me.

So how do I break out of this? I’m obviously gonna keep trying to improve my weight (and I do think that does play some role here), but what can I do now? I’m not getting any younger and I would like nothing more than to find someone, maybe start a family, and just share a life with someone I love.

– Thanks

Chubby Comic Relief

Alright, CCR, I suspect I know what’s going on here.

There’s a reason why women say they love a guy with a sense of humor – and it’s not because it’s just something they’re “supposed” to say. The ability to make someone laugh is probably one of the most valuable traits someone can have. A strong sense of humor is correlated to high emotional intelligence, pro-social personality traits and overall social awareness – highly desirable traits in a romantic or sexual partner. This makes sense; knowing how to make people laugh in a way that makes them feel good requires knowing how to read the room, how to gauge what would be appropriate to joke about, what to avoid, etc.

It also triggers what’s known as “the Reward Theory of Attraction” – that is, the tendency to prioritize relationships with people who make us feel good in their presence. Making someone laugh triggers serotonin and dopamine production, which relieves stress and increases overall feelings of well-being. Small wonder why we like being around funny people, especially when it seems like everything is chaotic and horrible.

This is why it’s not surprising why people like Ryans Reynolds and Gosling, Kumail Nanjiani, Randall Park and others are all charisma-factories of diverse flavors; they’re legitimately very funny people on-screen and off. Part of why they tend to have massive amounts of chemistry with their co-stars – chemistry that even we the audience get caught up in – is because they can wield that power effectively. Humor is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to flirting because of how it makes us feel, even second hand. 

But here’s the thing about humor, especially humor when you’re flirting with someone: you have to know how to use it and how to use it the right way. One of the mistakes I see a lot of people make – one I have made myself, especially in the early days – is that they tend to fall into one of two traps.

The first is someone who isn’t flirting, so much as practicing their tight five with a very small group. That is: they don’t feel like they’re actually interacting, so much as just doing bits. They know they can make people laugh, so they just go for the laugh, rather than actually, y’know, flirting.

The second is someone who’s using their humor almost defensively. This is something I see a lot from folks who feel like they’re not conventionally attractive or who are some form of social misfit. Fat guys especially are prone to this; it’s frequently something they’ve developed as a way of warding off bullies and assholes – “I’ll make fun of myself first, so other people can’t use it against me”. This is also where you find the folks who use self-deprecating humor almost exclusively… and it becomes clear pretty quickly that those jokes aren’t really jokes, so much as self-loathing or bids for pity disguised as jokes.

Now, based on what you’ve said… it sounds to me like you’ve got a little of column a and a little of column b going on. Guys who get the “oh you’re so funny!” line in a way that’s more platonic than flirty do so because they’re not flirting, they’re just telling jokes. And while those jokes may be making the other person laugh, the point of flirting is to convey interest in the other person and to encourage interest back. And they’re not doing that.

If you watch some classic banter-y flirting between two people, you may notice that the undercurrent of the humor is overt romantic or sexual interest; they’re saying “hey, I like you. I find you attractive. I want us to go off and have fun together.” The humor is both the delivery mechanism and the force multiplier of the humor. When Robert Downey Jr. is roasting former co-workers and celebrity look-alikes with Michelle Monaghan, he’s framing the two of them as a mini-conspiracy; it’s them vs everyone else at the bar, and they’re having a much better time together than the rest are. When Ryan Gosling is talking about taking Emily Blunt to a beach but having to be careful about having too many spicy margaritas because it makes him make bad decisions, the “bad decisions” are very obviously “we’re gonna bang”. Calling it a “bad decision” is framing it as something naughty and taboo, a “we shouldn’t be doing this”, with a subtle undercurrent of saying “you’re trying to get me drunk and take advantage of me.”

That’s part of what makes it flirting, rather than just jokey-jokes. It’s emphasizing the connection between the two people, with the unsubtle implication that there’s a connection there. The same with using humor to drive compliments or sexual interest; the humor is part of the flirting, not the sum totality. It’s how the message is conveyed. Otherwise, it’s just jokes.

And if those jokes are at their own expense? Then they’re telling the other person that they don’t see themselves as a valid potential partner, never mind encouraging the other person to see them that way.

This, I suspect, is a big part of the issue you’re having. If you’re making her laugh, but you’re not using that laughter as part of how you’re showing interest, then you’re not flirting.

The other part, I think, comes from how you see yourself.

It’s pretty clear that you see your fatness as a net negative, something that drags your sense of attractiveness down. Now, I’m all in favor of folks working out and getting into shape… but fitness comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, just as attractiveness does. If you’re treating your weight or your build as a negative, something that you feel you have to apologize for or make up for, instead of something neutral at worst? That’s going to be a problem.

Flirting, in its way, is akin to pitching yourself to another person. Nobody’s interested in a product that’s advertised as “it kinda sucks, maybe try it anyway?” The same goes for people; an attitude of “it’s ok if you don’t like me, I wouldn’t like me either” isn’t going to win a lot of hearts, nor remove clothes. There’s a reason why “pity fuck” is a negative term, after all; it’s certainly not something that’s going to make a person interested in the possibilities of a relationship.

I suspect the reason why a lot of your flirting is going nowhere is because you’re not coming to this from a position of “I’m desirable, you should like me”, just from “you’re hot, please like me.” Those are two very different feelings and one is far more attractive than the other. This is how you end up being “funny and sweet”, but not the “funny and sweet” that ends with “and I want to eat him.” It’s how you can be flirting and still give a platonic, brotherly vibe rather than a sexual one.

Part of what gives people charisma is confidence in their own desirability and their willing to convey that confidence. Look at some of the outfits that celebrities were wearing at the Met Gala. The looks that work best weren’t despite being outlandish or just because they made someone look like a Final Fantasy summon, it was both the outrageousness of the outfit and the “Damn right I look good” attitude of the person wearing it. If they didn’t have that attitude, the outfit would be wearing the person, instead of the other way around.

If you honestly don’t see yourself as an attractive person and are willing to convey that you see yourself that way, then they’re not going to do the extra work for you. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should they? They’re going to be missing the part of the message that says “I think you’re hot, you should come do bad things with me because I’m worth it”.

Don’t forget: you don’t need Adonis Creed’s body to be desirable, nor does anyone genuinely expect you to have it. Women, much like men, love bods of all shapes and sizes. You can be sexy while looking how hugs feel just as much as if you have abs someone could do laundry on after the apocalypse.

So part of what you need to do is make sure that when you’re flirting with people, you’re flirting properly, not just doing bits. But you also have to be conveying your own attractiveness in the process. This is why it’s important to love yourself and recognize your own attractiveness and desirability even if you would like it if there was a little less of you to love. Start learning to feel it, and then you can convey it. When you can do that effectively, you’ll be getting a lot less “you’re nice” and a lot more “niiiiiice”.

Good luck.

Dear Dr. NerdLove:

I started going out with a classmate of mine and started to develop feelings with her, so as you would expect, I asked her on a date! Unfortunately, she told me that she wasn’t looking for anything serious since she had just gotten out of a relationship, but would love to go out with me. Firstly I accepted that as a rejection and prepared myself to move on, but talking to a friend of mine, she convinced me that something could come of this. So we started to go to “dates” (probably just for me) more often. But as time passed on I started to realize that this wasn’t going anywhere and decided to move on.

THE THING IS, in the beginning of the year we bought tickets to a concert by a band we loved however it was in another city, so we decided to travel together, rent an AirBnB, and stay a few days to enjoy the big city (since we live in the interior of the country). After some time looking for places she suggested that for us to pick a place a double bed, since it would be cheaper, and I accepted. So yeah, as you may have already guessed, this recipe didn’t work out very well, or it did, I don’t know. The thing is we hook up, and it was incredible.

So a few days after the trip I decided to have “the talk” with her. To which she responded by saying that she did like me a lot but didn’t want anything serious given that she had plans to move out of country. So, again, I accepted and decided to move on (I THOUGHT). Because, we continued flirting with each other and before I realized, we were hooking up almost every day. But THIS TIME I was aware that it was completely casual.

Actually, it wasn’t that easy, At first I just kissed her, and a little while later we talked and I discovered that she was actually holding back, as she didn’t want to hurt me, given that I had told her I wanted something more serious, which I replied by saying that wanting to stay in this casual relationship was a choice of mine, and that I was actually liking it a lot. So with all barriers removed, we started “dating”, and by that I mean doing all the stuff that people in serious relationship do. We cuddle even in front of other people, and of course mainly when we are alone and everything seems perfect.

BUT here’s the thing, as I talked earlier I wanted something serious, this being the only “problem” of the relationship. Because by knowing her, I knew she didn’t go out with anyone else. So, with encouragement from several of my friends, I decided to have “the talk” again. To be honest, I was unsure if I really wanted it, because college has been really hard lately given that we’re in our final year and everything.

We bought tickets for a Van Gogh art exhibition, very romantic, and things didn’t work out very well, I ended up having to do some experiments at college and went straight from there. But even after all that, It was a nice date, We went to eat something and at the end of the date I asked her if she hadn’t changed her mind about wanting something serious, which she replied with a “I don’t know”. And now I find myself in this situation, should I jump out of this relationship given that it’s not the serious relationship I’m looking for? Or am I worrying too much about labels?

Relationship Upgrade

Here’s an important question for you, RU: what does a “serious” relationship mean to you in this context? What is going to be different if you have a label on this that proclaims it to be a “serious” relationship rather than a “casual” one?

I ask because right now, it seems like the biggest difference to me would be the implication that there would be a future to this relationship past graduation.

Here’s another important question: is that label more important to you than what you have now? Because if I’m being honest, it sounds like you’re about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The problem here isn’t the question of what this relationship will be in the future. The problem is that you keep asking the question because you don’t like the answer you’ve gotten. Your cuddle-buddy, snugglebun, friend-with-benefits… whatever you want to call her right now has been clear and consistent. She’s gotten out of a serious relationship and, while she didn’t want to leap into another one, clearly enjoys the time you two are spending together. It seems that what she would really like is something simple, easy and drama-free – the Pete Davidson Special, if you will. Except you keep fucking up that vibe by not listening when she says “this is what I want, this is what I can offer.”

This is why it’s a bad idea to agree to a casual relationship when what you want is a serious one. I’ve been there and done that and I’m here from the future to tell you that this is a very fucking dumb thing to do.

Trust me: I get it. There’s the part of you that decided that half a girlfriend was better than none and if being casual was the only way to be with her, then so be it. But agreeing to a casual relationship when you want more is always a mistake. I realize that when it feels like the choices are “casual” or “nothing”, then casual seems the better decision, the truth is that it’s actually worse than nothing in many ways. That feeling like there could be more, that there should be more than what you currently have? That’s how you end up being unable to enjoy what you have in the present because you’re hung up on the future – the future without her in it. Because what you’re hoping for is that there’s some way to finesse this, to change her mind or otherwise transform this to something that it’s not. But like a hero in a Greek tragedy, it’s that attempt to change your future that’s going to ensure that it’s not going to come to pass.

Right now, you’re getting most of what you might expect from a more serious relationship. You’re going on dates, you’re sleeping together, cuddling and generally having a good time. While there’s no expectation of monogamy, you’re both functionally monogamous, seeing as neither of you are choosing to date anyone else. Right now, a label isn’t really going to change any of that; it’s not as though calling something “serious” has prevented a break up, nor has it prevented people from hooking up with someone else.

The more you push at the label issue, however, the more likely you are that you’re going to lose what you already have. And the more you worry at this like a dog with a bone, the less able you will be to enjoy what’s right in front of you.

If everything is fine except for the label you’ve put on the relationship? Then my advice is to shut up and enjoy what you have, because the alternative is not just losing it but not being able to appreciate it while it’s there – basically losing her twice.

If commitment is something you absolutely need and not having it will be like a rock in your shoe? Then yes, it’s time to bounce. It’d be better to leave on a high note than to let things curdle because you settled for less than you could happily accept. But if it isn’t, if you’re willing to let this be what it is, for however long you may have it – knowing that there’s likely a hard end point? Then stop worrying about the future and start living in the moment so you stop missing on the present while you borrow trouble from the future.

And I’ll let you in on something I wish I knew when I was in your shoes: the best way to change her mind isn’t to constantly call the question in hopes that maybe this time will convince her. It’s to enjoy what you have and be the best, most drama free and enjoyable not-quite-boyfriend you can be. Doing that will vastly up the odds that she’ll be more interested in getting more serious before she leaves, or being willing to pick up where you left off when she gets back. But if you keep poking at her and not listening when she gives you the answer? You’re going to lose everything.

The choice is yours.

Good luck.