Today I want to have an interesting (and potentially controversial) discussion.
Here are my questions:
- To what extent should you have a say in your partner's appearance?
- To what extent should you change your own appearance to please your partner?
Emmy at Love Woke Me Up This Morning posted a similar question a few weeks ago:
"Is there really anything wrong with wanting to look nice for your hubby, with clothes he likes or a hairstyle he enjoys? ... On the other hand when do you draw the line? Is there a line between sacrificing who you are for a man and simply wanting to make him happy?"Since the topic of what you do with your own body is a potentially volatile one, let's step back a minute and look at a different example.
A friend of mine in college once took me home to her parents' house on a weekend when she was filming interviews on relationships for a class. I got to sit in on her interview with her parents. During the course of the interview, her mom said that she tries to keep the kitchen clean because although she's naturally a messy person, she knows it's important to her husband to have a clean kitchen, and that's a way she can show she cares about him.
Afterwards, my friend said to me that she'd always figured her mom tried to keep the kitchen clean because her dad might get annoyed and complain otherwise, and that her mom was just trying to prevent an argument. It hadn't occurred to her that her mom was doing it as an act of service and love because she knew it was important to her husband.
With that in mind, here was my response to Emmy's question:
"I think it is more about the motivation: Are you doing it as a way to serve your husband out of love, or because he is controlling and expects obedience from you? There's a huge difference. As long as you feel like you have control over your decisions, then I don't see a reason why you shouldn't dress one way or another."So if you say, "I'm wearing my hair long because my husband likes it that way," should I assume that your husband is controlling and dictates every area of your life? No. It may very well be that you don't care how long your hair is, so you decide to do what your husband will like.
Usually we think of women changing their appearance to please men, but what about the other way around?
Here's something you may not know: When I first met Mike, he had a 'fro. A big old curly white-boy 'fro. He'd gone to a Catholic all-boys high school for four years where he had to keep his hair short, so when he graduated he decided to see how long it would grow. (The answer: Long enough that at the end of our freshman year of college we both donated to Locks of Love.)
This was, honestly, something that made me resist dating him for a long time. I have always disliked long hair on guys, and I thought it made him look ridiculous and unattractive, despite the fact that I liked most everything else about him.
Eventually I got over it and got used to his hair, but once he cut it off I made it pretty clear that I found him much more attractive with short hair. And he was fine with that because he wasn't particularly attached to the 'fro. (Though he does like to threaten to grow it out again when he turns 40, I think just to needle me.)
Then it was the facial hair. I generally dislike facial hair, and Mike has never had any sort of permanent facial hair as part of his look, so it was really just an issue of when he wouldn't shave for a few days and looked kind of scruffy.
I resisted saying anything about it for a long, long time. I didn't want to be a "controlling" girlfriend. I didn't want to tell him what to do or how he needed to look. I was very protective of my own body and felt it would be hypocritical to say anything about his appearance.
Finally I couldn't deal with it anymore. I told him, "Look, I'm tired of feeling guilty about this. It's just a straight-up fact that I find you unattractive when you haven't shaved for a few days. You totally have the right to do whatever you want and look however you want, but just know that I am not attracted to you when you look scruffy."
He thought about it and said it wasn't a big deal to him, and he'd try to shave before he took a shower every day. We've been together 7 years now, and sure, it's not every single day, but it means a lot to me that he tries to honor that.
By the same token, I could be perfectly happy never shaving my legs again, but I do it because I know he likes it, and it's not a huge burden on me.
I want to know your thoughts on this. How much do your partner's wishes dictate your appearance? How much have you shared your opinions with your partner on their appearance decisions? And how do you make that distinction between "control" and "service"?