I have a lovely guy friend, who I believe to be quite a catch. He’s smart, funny and sweet, has great taste in music and is excellent at uno.
A few months ago, he started dating this girl. She was very nice, except for one thing. She would constantly reprimand him for his choice of clothes, lack of hairstyling prowess and myopathy. She begged him to swap his glasses for contact lenses, and start venturing outside of his ‘lather, rinse and repeat’ grooming routine. Although my friend is a pretty easy-going guy, this started to get on his nerves. He felt upset, unworthy and unloved. It was awful to see somebody with so many lovely qualities take such a punch to his self-esteem.
It surprises me the number of women that think it is perfectly acceptable or even expected to start making over a guy a few weeks after they begin dating. They see the beginning of a relationship as being akin to purchasing a run-down flat, and then renovating it into the stylish home they have always dreamed of. I just can’t reconcile myself to this attitude, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, I believe very strongly in dating people that you are attracted to from the get-go. If you are in a relationship with somebody that you are truly compatible with, you probably shouldn’t feel the need to change them. Sure, everybody has flaws, or a few niggling habits that irritate you occasionally, but there is a big difference between dating somebody who forgets to turn off the microwave every now and then and hooking up with some random guy and then attempting to systematically mould him into the man of your dreams. If you are with somebody who you find so desperately unattractive that you need to alter very aspect of their appearance to feel good about the relationship, why are you with them in the first place?
Secondly, these guys that are being treated as ‘cute little fixer-uppers’ aren’t used cars or vintage furniture, they’re people. Nobody wants to be told that they are unattractive, and I can’t imagine wanting to subject the person that you are in a relationship with to that kind of embarrassment and pain. Nobody ever wants to hear the sentence “you’d be so much better looking if…”, and let’s face it, so many of us spend enough hours beating ourselves up about our appearance, we don’t need our significant other to do it for us.
If the tables were turned, and a guy told his girlfriend, “Gee, those clothes you’re wearing make you look like a hobo”, or, “you’d be so much more attractive if you had a little more cleavage, so I bought you this push-up bra!” he would be crucified and branded as a bastard (and rightly so). So why do so many women think it’s OK to do the same to their boyfriend?
There are several reasons that I think this might be the case. The main one is that women are often given the impression that they are the ones in the know when it comes to grooming and appearance, while men are good at fixing appliances and setting up a new Tivo account. Sometimes, women assume that they know what’s best, and that they need to educate this poor, clueless guy about how to dress and style his hair. Many women see their meddling as an act of love, or a service that they are providing to a man they are smitten with. Others have more selfish motives. Others are insecure with their ability to attract a quality mate that they will settle for somebody that they aren’t happy with, and then try to change him into the guy they are really hoping for.
The fact of the matter is this: most guys are perfectly happy in jeans and a t-shirt, with the occasional shirt thrown in on a special occasion. Most guys like washing their hair, leaving it to dry, and not thinking about it again until the following morning. Most guys don’t want to faff around with a three-step skincare routine, or styling wax, or colour-coordinated wardrobes. Generally, if a guy has made it to his twenties without worrying too much about these things, it is likely that he is happy without them. By forcing these things upon him, you are insulting him, dragging down his self-esteem, annoying him and probably setting him up for a fair amount of teasing from his mates when he shows up at the pub in a salmon-coloured shirt his girlfriend bought for him.
If a guy wants help with his appearance, he will ask for it. Generally, I have found that friends, boyfriends or male relatives will ask a woman’s opinion when he wants to make a change in his appearance, because he values the suggestions that she will make. It’s good enough for him to know that she will offer the advice if he needs it, but won’t cram suggestions down his throat without him asking for it.
So, a few pieces of practical advice for all the girlfriends reading this:
– Don’t buy your boyfriend new clothes, skincare products or hairstyling products in the hope that he will use them. If you are going to buy clothes as a gift, buy things that you know he will wear.
– If you can’t stand the thought of being with your partner exactly as they are, perhaps you need to re-evaluate why you are in this relationship in the first place.
– The only times I believe it’s OK to try and change a guy’s grooming habits is if his current routine has serious hygiene consequences. I once dated a guy who never (and I mean never) brushed his teeth. I tried to change this, but to no avail. The relationship ended fairly swiftly after our first kiss.
– Only offer skincare, hairstyling, fashion or health advice when asked. Don’t barrage you partner with a nagging list of complaints.
What do you guys think? Have any of you given a guy a makeover? Do you think it’s taboo or A-OK? I’d love to hear your comments.