This morning as I bought groceries–consisting of a large tub of Nutella and kitty litter (unrelated)–I handed the cashier my debit card that has a photo taken of me when I was an 18-year-old with bleached blonde hair. She stared at me up and down, in my leather jacket with my jet black hair, and asked for my ID. I handed her a driver’s license which was taken when I was a redhead. This woman thought I was an impostor and did not want to sell me my kitty litter and Nutella. “Three different people!” she exclaimed. “No,” I answered, “just three different hair colors.” I had an angry cat at home annoyed at her dirty litter box and myself just wanted a spoonful of Nutella. Take my money already. She accepted my debit card and I went home, contemplating how often I do change my hair and style. I am intense; I enjoy intense hair colors. That’s just me.
My hair was naturally blonde until about 9th grade, likely brightened by the sun exposure spent living in the Caribbean. When it began to fade to what my hairdresser described as “mousy brown,” I dyed it to keep it blonde. I have gone through many looks, many phases, likely induced by life and environmental changes as well as a love for adventure and self discovery. I embrace this. (Except for the three new ear piercings I’ve gotten lately. Someone needs to stop me with this newfound addiction. I am not 13.)
Scrolling through Facebook photos in curiosity of my various looks, I couldn’t help but notice that my partners often had similar styles. Am I one of those people who transform themselves to match their boyfriend, I wondered. It’s a common observation that couples often end up dressing alike, and a natural occurrence. For instance, say you’re dating a dude who doesn’t care about fashion and prefers less makeup on women. Why not take advantage of that, and lighten up on the money spent on manicures and time spent in front of the mirror? Or perhaps you’re in love with someone who has a passion for fine dining and cocktail bars. Naturally, you would spend more time on dressing well. Simple changes to please your partner I see no issue with.
The key, of course, is to not lose yourself. The ugly truth is many relationships don’t last. You move out of the I’m-in-love-I-will-do-anything-for-you stage and sparks fade. So limit outward appearance changes to pubic hair shapes or the amount of eye liner worn; don’t move to the next level and get a tattoo for someone, or generally alter your body permanently. Statistics show that most women (I’ve known some) who get breast implants at the suggestion of their partner end up eventually having them removed. While I’ve never had plastic surgery, I can safely say my first tattoo (a tiny Rasta-colored peace sign) and the massive black-ink Hindu goddess Kali on my thigh are the result of my own personal growth and change than the suggestion of any partner. Hold that thought. I blame one man: David Bowie. Thanks to you I have a lightning bolt on my back that is sometimes mistaken for the Gatorade logo.
The truth is we do change and become more like our partner, just like we would a best friend. It’s only natural when you spend so much time with someone. You learn from one another. On the flip side, a very wise friend of mine once told me that we seek out those who fulfill our current needs. While the romantic in me wants to hold onto the belief that all my relationships have evolved from love, on further contemplation he made a fair point. When I was in my blonde, carefree hippie phase in college, frequenting festivals and collecting bongs, I dated someone who smoked a lot and took me to Bonnaroo. Later, new to New York City, I found myself with someone older who had an amazing group of friends and knew the city well. Both these partners are my longest relationships to date and I still care for both of them deeply, and very much loved them, such assumptions are only observations, not meant to downplay the connection shared. The first one ultimately ended as college did when we moved to different cities, the latter in a chaotic mess due to personal issues and changes in lifestyle. Stuff happens.
I support personal appearances both inner and outward, both as a means and byproduct of self-discovery. Yet, when done on purpose to match or please a partner you run some serous risks. The first is you are lying to yourself and them. Don’t pretend to like sports if you loathe them, or else you’ll be doomed to a relationship of fake cheering at baseball games. Acting is exhausting. Certainly don’t make any drastic physical appearances you aren’t confident about, because relationships disintegrate quicker than breast implants. Thirdly, there is much fun to be had in learning from one another. In my most recent relationship, I can be certain he had never attended a sound healing ceremony before, and, while I hate guns, I found myself looking forward to learning how to shoot skeet and discovered a love for rock climbing. No one wants to date a copy of themselves, you might as well stay home and masturbate.