[Bella’s intro: Impression management is part of all of our lives. We change who we are with certain people, often in the hopes that they will like us more. Sometimes we just edit our self-presentations; other times we lie. We can act like chameleons with anyone but the temptation may be especially great with potential romantic partners. In our research on lying, for example, my colleagues and I found that people lie more often to romantic partners than to friends.
As someone who is single at heart, I don’t blog about dating. When Danae Matthews sent me this essay, though, I wanted to share it here. She describes the challenge of being authentic in the context of dating, but her bigger points are relevant far beyond the domain of romantic pursuits. I thank her for her contribution and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.]
This Is Me. For Real, for Real: What Single Has Taught Me
Guest Post by Danae Matthews
When I was 17 years old I got into my first relationship with someone older than me. In that relationship I was a myriad of things. I was into metal. I was submissive. I was jealous. But I was also the perfect girlfriend. I was the perfect girlfriend because I was the epitome of everything that my boyfriend wanted and needed me to be. That relationship was easy.
When I was 21 I found myself in another relationship. This person slightly intimidated me so I presented myself as a woman of the world, with a host of interests. I read the news. I loved talking about politics. I was a fabulous listener. And if asked I wasn’t looking for “anything serious” either.
But in truth, being whoever someone wanted me to be in different relationships got me nowhere and was an impossible feat. I was never able to maintain interest for an extended period of time because my true colors always had a way of showing through. I had a remote amount of interest in everything that those lovers did and a greater interest in their physical attributes (and maybe in the idea of just having a boyfriend).
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out with guy friends and witnessed women hopelessly attempting to hit on them. The go to line? “I love sports.” Then the woman will bring up her favorite team and a little known fact about the best player. Derek Jeter and his inflated salary seems to be a go-to for many. This seems to work for about half of the women that use it.
I’m not saying that women can’t have a genuine interest in sports. Some of my girlfriends really do love our local team. But I know for a fact that the reason that this is so common is because this is what we think that men want. We think that men want a woman who can get down with them on relatable subjects. If we meet a guy who is super political, we become experts on the 2012 election. If we meet a guy wearing a Doors t-shirt, suddenly we know everything about 1960’s American rock. So many of us are chameleons of interest.
And yet, personally, I never have been in a bar and mentioned the newest book I downloaded to my kindle and had returned genuine interest by a male counterpart.
Somewhere in my attempt to trick someone into dating me I lost what was important: me. Who exactly was the person that I had become? Sure I knew what I looked like, knew my own name, but the finer details became fuzzy. Did I like sports? Was I interested in politics? Did I like drinking beer? Gin? Wine? Christ. How long had I been drinking gin??
Not to say that I was a complete mope. I was always a ballbuster, always sarcastic, always a little too realistic. But all in all when it came to being single, I was rationalizing my constant concessions as “trying new things.” Was that worth it? Was being with someone worth not being who I was? Quick answer: no.
So I’ve started a new trend for myself: start being the same person in every single situation.
The truth is that I don’t want to talk about politics at a bar. It’s not that it doesn’t interest me. It’s just that I came out to relax and have a good time, not to have you yell at me over the music about Occupy Wall Street. So I’m not going to pretend I want to talk about that. I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings, but I don’t care. Let’s talk about YOU. Let’s talk about ME. Let’s talk about how good I look. How good you look. Let’s talk about our common interests. Let’s talk about how much we both love New York in winter. Let’s talk about our favorite steak houses in the city. What you’re drinking. Turns out I’m drinking beer. And you can buy me another.
Because this is me for real for real, and I don’t need to pretend I am anyone else.
The author of this guest post, Danae Matthews, is single in San Francisco. She writes for an on-line women’s health resource Women’s Health Base.
Young woman photo available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 1 Dec 2011