Recently, I was complaining to a male friend about feeling ignored on an online dating site.
“Do you have a bikini shot posted?” he asked. “A lot of women in Dallas do.”
My head popped off, and I gently retrieved it from the floor, where it had landed. No, I did not have a bikini shot posted. I also did not have a picture of me curing cancer or making out with Danny DeVito, which is to say that there is no such picture. For days, I seethed about this exchange. It felt symbolic of the ways in which I sometimes do not fit in here. It’s important to note that I was not mad at my male friend. I was angry at Those Dallas Women. Those Dallas Women with their giant wedges and tiny glittering skirts. Those Dallas Women who’d gone and turned my dating site into a wet t-shirt contest.
The following week, I logged onto Match.com. I wanted to see for myself how Dallas women presented themselves. I found pages and pages of beautiful women sipping margaritas and pledging their love for the Katy Trail. Why I had not done this before, I cannot tell you. If you are applying for a job, it’s a smart idea to study the other applicants. And dating sites have become astonishing databases of wisdom about a place, in which users publicly answer questions on anything from their political beliefs to their masturbation habits. Match.com, the country’s largest dating site, has also been based in Dallas since 1999. Skimming through its pages is like an anthropologist’s dream.
I spent time on Austin and New York profiles to have points of comparison, and my summary of our city’s key differences can be boiled down to this: God, sports, and cleavage. Dallas girls talk about the Cowboys and the Mavericks, while Austin girls talk about bikes and hiking. So many Dallas women were looking for a man of faith, and Match.com says that 22 percent of DFW users identify as conservative or ultra-conservative (much higher than the rest of the country). I noticed something more subtle, too. While New York women launch their profiles by telling you what they do for a living, Dallas women tend to tell you how they behave. I’m smart-ass and funny. I’m caring and sweet.
The biggest cliche—confirmed by men I spoke to for this article—was some version of this: “I’m just as comfortable in a dress and heels as I am in jeans and flip-flops.” Over and over, gorgeous women bragging on their ability to wear multiple kinds of footwear. Maybe it reflects the city’s mix of glamour and Southern casualness, but I suspect every city has some version of this high-low contrast. Women like to puncture the notion that they are high-maintenance and tout their ability to be whatever you want. I can be casual or sophisticated. I can get gussied up, but I can still get dirty.
I actually didn’t find many bikinis in my search. Or, rather, I found a few, but they weren’t the full-on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cheesecake images I had imagined in my mind. Parted lips. Sand in hair. They were sweet pictures of women hanging out by a pool, cropped at the waist or wearing some kind of a cover-up. (When I did a word search for “bikini,” I found many profiles in which women said, “I’m not going to post a picture of me in a bikini.”) However, women were less shy about flashing some boobage, and on the subject of low-cut tops and exposed flesh, Dallas certainly distinguishes itself. At times I felt like I was staring at a Victoria’s Secret catalog. “Dallas women have good boob marketing,” one guy told me, which is a phrase I plan to keep.
But I did find one other cliche. Women often describe themselves as “not your typical Dallas girl.” It was so common it was almost funny, all these women vying to be different by saying essentially the same thing. I should confess: that phrase was on my own profile (until I saw it everywhere else). And while I recognized it as canny counter-programming—I’m not like the other ones there—I also took it as a genuine expression of otherness. Those women weren’t wild and crazy, but they were all just a tick off the norm: they were readers and liberals and adventurers. They listened to The Black Keys and NPR. They were, in fact, a lot like me. And I began to wonder if one of the most common feelings of living in the land of giant wedges and tiny glittering skirts isn’t the quiet suspicion that you do not belong. That you are not one of Those Dallas Women who has come to represent us in every reality show, every photo spread, every nightclub.
I saw profiles of incredible women that day. Women with fascinating backstories. This one brunette named Kacy absolutely captivated me. She had an artist’s quirkiness, and I had a crush. Maybe one day I’ll build up the courage and ask her to be my friend.