Love In Lines, Relationships

[Love In Lines] To Thine Own Self Be True – Vanessa Tai

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Recently, I read an xoJane article where the writer tried to figure out exactly why she’s been single for the past seven years. Some of the reasons she thought contributed to her long-term singleness included being an “open and self-deprecating book on first dates” (she would bring up her weird clubbed thumbs, or her dependence on anti-depressants ), a propensity for falling for men who weren’t attracted to her, and even the fact that she was overweight. “However”, she writes, “If my weight truly is playing a preventative part in this dating shitshow, it’s probably not the number itself or how it looks on my frame. It’s the insecurity that has come with not feeling I look my personal best.”

In her article, the writer also mulled over whether she should make any changes to her lifestyle/personality in order to get out of this dry spell. While she’s not sure if the reasons she cited in her article are truly the reason why she’s still single, she’s adamant about not deviating from her natural self just so she can appear attractive to someone she’s attracted to.

Misguided Dating Advice 

What I felt like doing to that douchebag date.

What I felt like doing to that douchebag date.

I can certainly relate. Over the years of being single, I’ve come across plenty of (well-meaning or not) people who tried to give me advice on how to better attract the opposite sex. A male dating coach that I interviewed for a story told me I needed to grow out my hair, and behave more feminine-like in order to be attractive to Singaporean men. Another time, I had a disastrous first date with a guy I met online simply because I “made the mistake” of telling him I’m a supporter of AWARE’s work. He went on an anti-feminist tirade, which only got my blood boiling and sparked off a rather heated argument in the middle of P.S Cafe. Needless to say, I quickly wrote both of them out of my life (only to use as fodder for articles like these).

Singletons, perhaps you’ve experienced something similar? Maybe your well-meaning friends have advised you to play down your career achievements when out with men, or your mum has nagged you to lose weight “or you’ll never find a man”. Whatever it is, you’ve been made to feel you’re either “too much” or “too little”, and that you have to work hard to achieve the affections of a man.

Do We Really Have to Change Ourselves In Order To Snag A Man?

My first instinct would be to say, “No, of course not!” Why should you change something that’s so fundamentally you just to get someone to love you? If you change, and that person falls for you, does that mean he’s in love with someone that’s not authentically you? And what happens if you “fall off the bandwagon”, so to speak?

However, as I wrestle further with the issue, I realise it’s not so cut and dry. First, it’s not that easy to effect a change. As someone who’s tried to change the way I speak (I’ve been told that my voice is too low and monotonous), I can tell you it’s easy to fall back into old habits when you’re not consciously making an effort to change. Second, even if you really make a permanent change, there’s no guarantee that men will suddenly come a-knocking. And third, even if they do; if they fell for the quieter, more gentle and feminine version of you, are these really the type of men that you want to spend the rest of your life with? Don’t you want to be with a man who celebrates your true self, foibles and all?

Stay True To Yourself

Let your true self shine!

Let your true self shine!

At the end of the day, the crux of the matter doesn’t lie in why you’re making these changes, but the type of changes you’re trying to make. If you’re trying to improve yourself by exercising more, attending a personal grooming course or learning how to be a better conversationalist, I guess it doesn’t matter as much if your original intention was to snag a potential mate. That’s because you are bettering yourself in the process, which helps to boost your self-confidence.

But what if you’re making changes like dumbing yourself down during dates so as to pander to your date’s ego, or if you find yourself suppressing “negative” emotions like sadness or anger around men so as not to appear “unstable”? I think you’ll soon find yourself tired and frustrated, because you’re not giving your true self the freedom of expression. Even if you eventually find a partner to settle down with, how long can you keep up this charade? And even if you can keep it up, how happy will you be?

Perhaps I’m idealistic. Or perhaps I’m still on the lackadaisical “take it as it comes” side of my 20s. But I don’t see myself making drastic changes to my personality and the way I do things just so it’ll get me more suitors. Men will come and go, but I’ll always have to live with myself, and I don’t think I can settle for anything less than honesty.

Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Vanessa Tai talks about navigating the often-confusing world of singledom. Stay tuned for more!

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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5. [Love In Lines] The Fear Of Getting Hurt

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