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There’s a phenomenon that occurs with women when they get into relationships.  I’ve seen it in myself.  I’ve seen it in women I’ve known.  I’ve wondered if it was something tied to age, but now I don’t think so.  Which makes we wonder what it’s really tied to.

It’s not something we talk about.  I think in most cases, it’s not something we acknowledge.  If we do, then we rationalize it into something positive.  And it’s not altogether bad.  But it’s interesting from a psychological standpoint.

It’s what I’ve taken to calling (in my head, where I do most of my talking) the Egg Phenomenon.  I give full credit to the film “Runaway Bride” for the label.  While it’s a total chick flick and didn’t get much screen/air time, it was an entertaining movie with a lot of nuances. 

In a nutshell, the character portrayed by Julia Roberts tends to adapt herself to whatever fiance she has, and so she finds herself putting on the persona of mountain climber, hippie, whatever, to mirror her current partner.  The guy she finally ends up with calls her on it, after he has interviewed her former fiances and each states that she likes her eggs prepared just as he does.  When Richard Gere confronts Julia Roberts with this knowledge, she realizes she doesn’t know how she likes HER eggs.  During their break-up, she proceeds, on her own, to try eggs prepared in all different ways, and when she finally returns to him, tells him, without a shred of doubt, how SHE likes HER eggs.

Hence, the Egg Phenomenon.

Now, it’s one thing to try new things because your new partner is into them.  If you’ve never had Eggs Benedict and your partner loves them, try them – you may love them too!  Same goes for sports-related activities – I mean, you never know if you like something until you try, and you may not try something until the opportunity arises.  It’s not as if I woke up one morning and said, “I’ve never tried fly-fishing – I think I’ll go!”  Without being with someone with the requisite equipment and experience, while I’d thought with interest about fly-fishing, there would be no way that I’d throw myself into a freezing creek at near-dawn to tangle fish hooks in my hair.  (And I loved fly-fishing.)

But I have a girlfriend who worked hard to give up smoking and was so proud of herself when she did.  Then she met her husband, who smoked, and within six months she was smoking again. This might not be the best example, because I’m sure it’s hard for a former smoker to be intimate with a current smoker without giving into temptation.  So let’s take it a step further.

Take a woman who loved music.  She pairs up with a guy who doesn’t.  Suddenly, her love of music is sublimated.  Or say she’s a vegetarian, who connects with a meat-and-potatoes guy.  Her veggie lifestyle is consumed by beef before she know it.   Both of these have happened to me. 

Does this mean I’m weak?  That I don’t know myself?  It’s not as if the men have said “Give up music (or vegetables), or we can’t be together.”  I don’t know for sure.  I do know that I have NEVER seen the reverse happen.  I have never been with a man who loved to go dancing just because I did, when he hadn’t loved it before.  Somehow it seems that men don’t do this mirroring thing that women do. 

I think that’s partly what it is – mirroring.  We are most comfortable when we can see elements of ourselves in others.  As women, we focus on making people comfortable.  Unfortunately, it seems to extend beyond certain boundaries, where we slightly morph ourselves to make the men we are with most comfortable, to ensure that they will want to stay with us.  Sometimes, some of those changes we make are ones we wanted, ones we needed and ones that are healthy.  Other times, though, not so much.

I am sure that self-aware men who read this will say, “But I don’t want you to change – I am with you because I liked who you were when I met you.”  And I think that’s true, to a certain extent.  I know that they believe that’s true.  But what they don’t take into account is that this morphing that we undergo (and I refuse to call it a metamorphosis because that has more positive connotations than I am implying) is so subtle and insidious on the part of women that men don’t even really recognize that it’s happening.  They just know they are happy, and grow more and more comfortable with the woman.

It’s a form of shapeshifting.

I don’t know why men don’t seem to do it.  Maybe they are not genetically programmed to make others comfortable.  Maybe it’s a biological presumption that women will please them.  Maybe they’re just not that sensitive, flexible, or aware.  Or maybe they are more secure in themselves than women.  Trying to answer that question could be a Master’s thesis in itself.

I’m no teenager anymore.  That’s when girls who don’t know themselves tend to do whatever it takes to try to keep a guy.  But during this phase of my life when I am alone, I am asking myself a lot of questions about who I am, inside and out of a relationship.  If I were more secure in my own self, would I still morph in a relationship?

Sometimes the shapeshifting is nothing more than a normal compromise of souls, an adjustment to being with someone.  Being in a relationship is all about give and take, and we do make little edits to ourselves to keep a relationship healthy and growing.

But I feel now is the time to ask myself the big question:

Do I REALLY know how I like my eggs?

I’ve been living alone (with the exception of having Kelsea part-time) for almost 20 months now – wow.  Over a year and a half.  It certainly doesn’t feel like it – it feels like much less time.  I lived “alone” off and on before I met Pat, but that was a loooong time ago. He and I moved in together when I was barely 22. That was before I knew as much about myself as I now do.  And so, over the last few days, I’ve been doing some self-reflecting, and realize that I have learned a few new things:

I need to live with a dishwasher.  Yes, a fully automatic, quiet-whooshing, dish-cleaning godlike machine.  I suck at doing dishes, plain and simple.  I don’t have the patience.  I’ve tried the whole zen thing, of doing nothing but washing the dish, but it doesn’t work for me.  I have a tendency to adopt the Berea College Dining Hall motto from my Mother’s time there:  “If you don’t scrape it off, wash it off.  If you don’t wash it off, dry it off.  If you don’t dry it off, eat it off at the next meal.”  Bad, bad, bad dog.

I don’t like dust, dirt and pet hair.  It’s true I don’t like cleaning, but I like having the house clean.  It’s a small house, and not hard to clean, but I still don’t do it often enough – really, just when I have company coming over.  And it’s easier for me to bring myself to clean when I am not trying to convince someone else to clean with me – or find myself cleaning when someone else is just sitting around.

I have too many clothes.  I never considered myself a clothes horse, compared to most women, but with very limited dresser space (and NO closet space), I am coming to realize that I have too many clothes; the good thing is that I’m also finding that it’s easier to get rid of things these days.  And I find that liberating.

I get lonely.  This is new for me.  I always used to greedily relish my time alone.  Now that I have more of it, and I don’t have to be so desperate about it, I sometimes, especially late at night, get lonesome – and a little scared.

Having a TV is not the best thing for me.  When I’m home alone, it’s usually on, mostly for the faux company.  That habit keeps me from achieving a certain peace that I feel is at hand.

I don’t like cooking for one person.  I do like cooking for someone else.

I am capable of discipline.  I’ve always known this, but these days, with no day job to go to, I have to enforce discipline on myself. I didn’t say I was good at it yet, but it’s nice to realize that I’m capable of it without a set schedule.

I actually like living with the right people.

I love bright colors in my house.

I don’t really like going to bed early.

I like coming home to a quiet house.

(Even though I don’t love pet hair) I like living with animals – I miss that. It’s good to have a visiting pug.

I enjoy the sense of freedom and calm that living alone brings – kind of a secret smile, a subtle happiness.

I like sitting on the floor.

I am coming to love myself more and more.

September 2020


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