Saturday, 24 September 2011 10:04
In his top 40 hit, "Just the way you are,” Bruno Mars sings to his paramour: “There’s not a thing that I would change, ‘cause you’re amazing, just the way you are.” Ah, if only all men felt the same and kept their change requests to themselves — but they don’t!
Recently, I spoke to several women whose dates thought it was perfectly fine to ask them to modify their hair, personality, weight — and even their friends. Clearly, these guys aren’t buying into the conventional wisdom that says you can never really change anyone. Nor do they seem to get that, when it comes to dating disasters, certain requests for a date to change something about herself or her lifestyle are right up there with being egregiously late, insulting the wait staff, and obsessing over an ex during your outing together.
But their audacity made me wonder: is it ever OK to ask a date to change something if it truly bothers you? These ladies reveal how they responded to these types of requests — and how they learned that the right timing and methodology can make all the difference between making a minor adjustment and a major dating faux pas.
Request #1: Why don’t you grow your hair longer and stop wearing so much makeup?
“At first, I was completely taken aback,” says Washingtonian Stacy, 29. “It was just our third date, and we were having drinks at his place after a party. While we were getting cozy on the couch, he asked me if I’d ever thought of letting my hair grow longer and losing the ‘pageboy style.’ He said [that] long hair would make me look more feminine. He also commented that I really didn’t need to cake my makeup on so thick. Talk about bringing me out of the romantic moment! I responded: “I’m not some cult wife who’s happy to do her man’s bidding and fit in. I like my hair and makeup as-is.’ He quickly backpedaled and explained that what he meant was [that] I looked great au naturel.”
Request Status: Denied.
Takeaway Lesson: Telling a woman she looks great without makeup is flattering; telling her that she “cakes it on,” however, is not. Guys, try leading with the flattery first before making such requests — and maybe you’ll get your subtle message across clearly without you having to actually spell it out for her.
Request #2: Could you tone down your personality?
Virginian Mary Ann, 34, recalls that “our first few dates were perfect. It was just the two of us doing simple, quiet things, like a hike in the woods and dinner. On our fourth date, we attended a charity event where I saw a number of acquaintances [I knew]. I guess I was acting spirited… at one point, (my date) Brad leaned in and I thought he was going to whisper something sweet and sexy in my ear. Instead, he asked me if I could tone down my personality — that I was so loud. I was quiet for the rest of the evening and didn’t say anything. The next day, I asked two friends who’d attended the event if I’d come off too brassy or boisterous, and they said no. They thought he was [being] overly controlling.”
Request Status: Denied.
Takeaway Lesson: While Mary Ann’s date might have won the battle on this date, he lost the war to win her affection. Brad got what he wanted; she quieted down for the rest of that evening, but his request for date number five was rejected. “I told him that having fun with friends is important to me, and that means laughing and carrying on sometimes,” says Mary Ann. “It’s not something I’m willing to compromise [on], and I don’t want [to date] a guy who doesn’t like that side of me. Brad admitted [that] he really doesn’t like being around gregarious people.”
Request #3: Will you cut off all contact with anyone you dated in the past?
Mary, 28, from North Carolina, says: “I told the man I was dating for several weeks that I was planning to see a few friends for dinner. He asked, ‘who?’ and I thought: This is nice, he’s actually curious about my friends. But when I mentioned a couple of guys’ names, his face got very serious and he asked me if I’d dated either of them [in the past]. In fact, I had dated one of them in college, but it was casual then and certainly platonic now. I couldn’t believe it when he told me he couldn’t see me anymore if I was still hanging out with past boyfriends. I was insulted that he assumed I had poor boundaries with my pseudo-ex, with whom I still share many mutual friends. It turned out that he didn’t really like me hanging out with any guys — period! I told him that my friends are non-negotiable.”
Request Status: Denied.
Takeaway Lesson: Accepting another person’s exes is, of course, a challenge for most daters. But the thing to remember is this: all exes are not equal. There’s a world of difference between prioritizing your romance, keeping clear boundaries with other men and seeing an ex from years ago on a casual, friendly basis now and then.
Request #4: Would you try to lose some weight if I paid for it?
“One night at dinner, my new boyfriend was [acting] nervous and I asked him what was wrong,” says Floridian Marissa, 38. “He asked me if I’d consider letting him pay for me to join his gym and kick-start a workout program with his trainer. I looked at him incredulously and he said that I looked good, but could look so much better if I slimmed down and toned up. I’d known this guy for one month and he was basically telling me [that] I was a fattie and out of shape — while we’re at this really nice restaurant having dessert! It was so demeaning. We kept dating for a few weeks after that, but the steam went out of the relationship that night.”
Request Status: Denied.
Takeaway Lesson: This was clearly a case of asking “too much, too soon.” As Marissa says, “it would have been one thing if he’d just invited me to come to his gym and work out with his trainer or invited me on a hike because fitness was one of his passions and he wanted to share it!” Instead of getting her excited about something he cared about, her date chose to zero in on what he perceived to be Marissa’s physical flaws and made it clear that she wasn’t OK without changing in order to please him first.
Request #5: How about using a different perfume?
“On our last date, my new guy slid a beautifully wrapped gift into my hand,” says Marylander Tara, 33. “I opened the gift — a new bottle of perfume — in front of him while he watched and said, ‘I don’t want to offend you, this is nothing against what you’re wearing…’ He then said that perfume was very personal and he’d understand if I didn’t want it, but that he loved the scent and thought it’d smell amazing on me. It was so sweet! More than the gift, I was touched by his concern about how I felt. The truth is, I love different perfumes — I don’t use just one. So I was happy to try it; I really liked it and I still use it today. He seems so grateful that I considered his request. It was a total win-win situation.”
Request Status: Approved.
Takeaway Lesson: Guys, follow the lead of this man’s respectful approach before making your request. It was accompanied by a gift and came with no strings attached. How you handle a request for your date to change something is just as important as what you’re asking for… at least in some cases, that is!
For the other side of the story, read 5 things women asked their dates to change.
Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for Match.com since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Send your dating questions and comments to him at Dave@Davesingleton.com.
By Dave Singleton
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