Carolyn Hax: Don’t go changing to please a man

Carolyn Hax
Columnist May 31, 2013

Dear Carolyn:

I’m in my mid-20s, steady job, returned Peace Corps volunteer, avid traveler, active social life, ambitious, and I like to think, at least kind of attractive. Maybe I could lose a few, but whatever.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I’m also really funny, and I’m not saying this to be arrogant, it’s just always been a trait of mine, and I think it’s starting to become detrimental.

I can’t get a date! I have no problem talking to men, including ones I find attractive, and I’m a pretty confident person, but I think my sense of humor makes me unsexy. It feels like everyone wants to be my friend, but no one wants to become romantically involved.

My friends like to reassure me that a lot of men are “intimidated” by strong, confident women, but I think they’re just saying that to make me feel better. Do I have to change who I am to get a boyfriend? Yuck! What should I do?


(Nick Galifianakis)

Single and Funny

You know I won’t advise changing yourself.

Becoming someone else to get a guy means remaining someone else to keep the guy — plus, you’d be doing all this work for someone who doesn’t think funny is sexy. Talk about pearls before swine.

Two other mistakes to avoid: listening to people who declare that men are intimidated by strong/smart women — good to see you’re already skeptical — and listening to anyone who trots out the other standard line, warning against the “friend zone.”

The first makes a terrible generalization about men. Some men are idiots and some men are bored to tears by idiots, too — even pretty female ones. Duh. And I’m still waiting to hear a valid reason not to take every person we meet as an individual instead of as a representative of a group.

Blaming also gives blamers a pass on any obligation to improve themselves. Yet we all have that duty — to become better people inside, though, not just prettier bait.

As for “friend zone,” that makes a terrible generalization about relationships. Sometimes people know right away whether there’s anything “there,” but sometimes they also spend months, even years figuring out they’re nuts about someone they’ve known all along. (No, this is not permission for defenders of jealousy and control to treat a partner’s every platonic friend as a slow-cooking threat to your relationship. Nice try, though.)

These just-friendships are chances for both of you to get to know each other gradually and well. Take them. Treat each friendship, whether it lasts a month or ever after, not as a romantic failure but as an emotional success. Having someone out there who is invested in our happiness is a victory, even if it’s not the kind of caring we had in mind.

And now I will wrap up this screed against generalizations with a generalization: People who possess charms of even slightly more, ah, specialized appeal — not mainstream buff, not mainstream cute, not mainstream whatever — tend to enjoy more audience appreciation as their audience matures.

So be the most patient, internally self-improved version of yourself that you can muster. If it helps dispose you more warmly to the idea of delayed gratification, consider that where others are kissing frogs, you’re gathering punch lines — a legitimate public service. Besides, a sense of humor puts you at lower risk for getting stuck with a prince.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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