When 25-year-old Elise Moreno graduated from college and moved back to her hometown of San Francisco recently, she came to two realisations: First, she’d spent years as a “serial monogamist”, jumping from long-term relationship to long-term relationship without doing any casual dating in between. And second, she was unfamiliar with what it was like to live in San Francisco as an adult. So she decided to tackle both of those deficiencies at once by launching 100 Dates of Summer, a project where she goes on dates with guys and explores new parts of town at the same time.
For Moreno, who has her 30th date scheduled this week since beginning a little over a month ago, the project has been a mix of fun, surprise, and empowerment. “I struggled with depression for a long time,” the graphic designer tells Yahoo Shine. “Once you get out of the house, you can have fun and have a good experience and meet people.” Moreno describes her childhood as lonely: She was overweight and struggled with her self-esteem. And, sadly, some of the hurtful comments came from within her own family.
“My uncles would tell me, ‘You shouldn’t be eating that,’ she recounts. “Or my grandfather, who passed away recently, told me I could be a model if I lost 10 pounds.” And, as a kid, her father told her that overweight women had trouble getting dates and made her “run off” her weight. “In the long run I am thankful for it but at the time it was really hurtful,” she says, adding that the comments exacerbated her struggles with body image and acceptance.
Thanks to a post-graduation trip to the Netherlands (where she went on six dates, including one to the Van Gogh Museum) and a newfound zest for dating and meeting new people, Moreno is more self-assured than she’s ever been. “I’ve changed already so much. It’s been incredible. My confidence level has just skyrocketed. I can walk into a room and not look down at the floor. I have gone on dates with incredible guys who I never thought I would have the courage to approach.”
And while many of the dates have been positive, with some leading to second dates and Moreno writing follow-up posts on her blog, she has also learned from more negative experiences. On one date, during which a guy got drunk and ignored her, she called him out on his behavior instead of blaming herself. “Women shouldn’t have to put up with bulls—like that,” she says.
In addition to dating, Moreno is finding other avenues for improving her self-esteem. She cites women like Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey as influences and loves how Lena Dunham is famously unafraid to show off her non-supermodel body on the show ‘Girls’.
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