Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Representative Has Left the Building

By: Guest Blogger NINA LOVEHALL

Comedian Chris Rock once said that when we are initially dating, we are not our real selves, but instead we send our "representatives" out on the dates for us. This representative is kind of like the person we become on a job interview-- just with a lower cut blouse and higher heels--who help to make us look and sound good to help us seal the deal. (But at least on a date you can have a cocktail to calm your nerves.)

I know of people who are transitioning from their representatives to their real selves, and it's not only been a revelation to the people these folks are dating, but it's been a revelation of self when the mask comes off.

If you are fortunate enough to find someone special enough to let down your guard, it can be both a great relief, yet extremely scary. You've put in the work, you've snatched up the person of your dreams, the representative has done her job and now that she's left, it's just you and him. For real. So he knows that sometimes you are terribly forgetful or that you always leave the cap off of the toothpaste, and eek, he even knows you own a couple pairs of granny panties.

So my question is... are we liars out the gate? And do we adjust our bad habits or try to hide them according to the likes and dislikes of the people we like, in order to get them to stay?

I know women who started cooking more often because a guy they liked loved a home-cooked meal. But during a usual week, hidden cameras would probably catch them eating out breakfast, lunch and dinner, five out of seven days in the week.

"But I don't want him to think I'm not wife material," she says, trying to keep up the lie.  

I know men who aren't necessarily neat freaks and don't mind clutter as long as it's not pizza boxes and beer bottles piling up throughout the house, who find themselves scrambling to powerwash their entire homes because a neat freak gal they are interested in is stopping by in an hour to watch a movie.

"I don't want her to think I'm nasty," he says.

The prevailing theme in all these examples is fear. Folks are afraid of their faults, and folks are afraid that the people they've worked so hard to get to see them in a really great light will realize the gig is up, you are a fraud, leading them to walk out of your life forever. But a good question is, did these two misrepresent themselves in the first place? Or are they trying to adjust to what their significant other likes?

I don't like smoking.

But I even dated a smoker once who declined to share upfront that he was a smoker. He kept up the facade for a couple months before I confronted him about the pack of cigarettes I found in his car. Then he assured me that he only smoked when he went out for a drink or after a meal. I continued to date that person for a long time (I really liked him), yet I reminded him every so often (trying not to nag) about how smoking is a nasty, unhealthy habit, and I hoped he would give it up one day soon. To his credit, he constantly kept mints on hand, and he never smoked around me. Obviously, he wanted to keep me.  So I see how the other side works, too.

Believe it or not, smoking didn't end that relationship. Even though I didn't like his smoking, I liked him more. And he liked me enough to smoke on his porch when I visited (even in the winter). So was it fair of me to want him to quit? Was it fair of him to fight his urge after we've had a nice meal out, knowing he's trying to get through dessert while jonsing for a cig? Or were we both just making "reasonable" sacrifices to make it work?

TALK BACK: Will individual bad habits (we aren't talking drug abuse, porn addiction or other obvious bad, bad stuff here) eventually break a relationship? Or can people find a compromise? In other words, if you know it's something your partner struggles with, will you try to work past it as long as you see some effort on his end?

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