Dating Mistakes: I Changed.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Kaleigh Somers. She blogs here and tweets at @kaleighsomers. In February, she wrote “A Walking Contradiction” for us. How have you changed for a guy? Has it happened without you noticing? What has happened to you when you dated before you knew who you were? – Lauren
I have only ever seriously dated one lousy boy. He was enough, though, to turn me off to all the almost-somethings who followed him.
The problem, of course, started years before that. Back in fifth grade, if I’m being honest with myself.
My then-best friend ratted on me to my mother.
“Kaleigh was flirting with Eric,” she told my mom, standing in our kitchen one afternoon when I’d invited her over. And my mother frowned and I swore up and down this wasn’t true.
I wasn’t flirting; I was just a giggler. Was it my fault everything he said was funny?
I remember my awkward, crooked-tooth self leaning over, even then, like maybe seeing down my shirt might change his mind about me. I don’t think it was intentional, or even something on my radar, but he stood with that awful boy band bowl cut hair in front of me and every move I made, every laugh that escaped my lips, was exaggerated.
That moment in math class is cemented in my mind.
That little act of mine continued straight on through middle school and all of high school as I fell, schoolgirl style, for popular boys who were too nice to completely ignore me as a human being. I knew only how to laugh at boys’ jokes—funny or not—and smile like my life depended on it.
It never worked, clearly.
And then I got quiet, just at the end of high school, and some boy I’d known since eighth grade, some boy I’d overlooked back then because I was too busy giggling with someone else, decided he couldn’t take his eyes off the only quiet girl in the group of seven loud mouths.
That’s what he told me then, at least.
But it didn’t take long for me to make the biggest dating mistake of my life: believing, without a doubt, that part of the process of dating was changing yourself to be someone the other person decided he liked better.
He liked me, but maybe some additional altercations would make me really sparkle and shine.
I was like a prom dress that looked great on the rack, even better in front of the mirror, but oh, how nice it would be to tailor it just a bit here and add a little embellishment there and maybe, yes, don’t move a muscle.
Just hold still while you balance on an impossibly small tightrope between what you are and what he wants you to be.
That is the lesson I steered away from admitting I’d learned in the fourteen months I spent chained to his side. Later, when we were broken up, my friend confided in me.
“You were the closest he’s ever going to get to perfect and he still tried to mold you into someone else,” she said. “He was so controlling, Kaleigh.”
I didn’t believe her, of course. By then, I was too wrapped up in trying to be perfect, still trying to be the one he might want, but for myself this time. I thought he’d found how to make me better and I needed to follow that formula if I ever wanted some other boy to give me a chance.
What a horrible, horrible mistake.
Nobody told me you chose someone, loved someone, because they are who they were the moment you first called them up and asked to go out to dinner and a movie. Nobody told me you chose someone to spend forever with because she stood her ground and knew who she was.
That’s why, I think, I’ve been hesitant to jump back into dating. I know I don’t know that girl anymore, and I know I made a mistake trying to change myself for the sake of someone else.
I think it’s the reason so many women my age are trying to run for the hills the moment the word ‘date’ comes up. If someone offers to set me up, instead of outright asking not to be, I just pray they’ll forget.
It’s been two years since I tried to be that girl, the one who fit his new girlfriend mold, and I’ve tried to push myself into dates that don’t fit.
Boys who like me because they think I’ll change for them. Boys who want to call me up in the middle of the night because they’re lonely, but can’t commit. Boys who tell me they’re proud to drink a case of beer in a day’s time.
I have had to promise myself, and will continue to, that I’m not going to change for those boys. I’m not going to alter the girl I am for a man with whom I fundamentally disagree. It no longer makes sense to me, and I wonder how it ever did.
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