Carolyn Hax: Why's this guy sweating the small stuff?

(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)
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By Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 14, 2009

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

So I've been casually dating this guy from work. There's so much chemistry between us, he's funny and smart, and I think I'm starting to fall for him.

But something he said at dinner irked me -- he made some comment about how un-sexy sweat pants are, and how if the person he's dating ever wears them, it's a "deal breaker."

Well, so far he's never seen me in sweat pants. But I wear them; they're comfortable around the house. I asked, "What if a person is feeling sick or just lounging around their apartment?" He made a grimace that said, "Still not okay." I just feel unsettled now. He does pay a lot of attention to what I wear and suggests clothes that will make me look better. Personal quirk or red flag?

Confused in Manhattan

If his willingness to dress you to please himself bothers you; and if you don't see yourself just saying, "Bite me," and wearing your sweat pants anyway; and if he doesn't like you just as much (or more) for your ability to be your sweat-pants-clad self without apology, then his little problem with sweat pants is a bigger problem.

Certainly, a "funny" guy can make a mock-proclamation on loungewear without risk of being labeled a pig.

I suspect, however, his "deal breaker" will emerge as a deal breaker for you. That's because you didn't just respond, on the spot: "Well, I wear sweat pants. Should I ask for the check?" You seem unwilling to risk his displeasure, and that's bad footing no matter what he thinks of your pants.

External pressure comes from two sources: another's will, and your own perceptions. Whether he pressures you or not, if you perceive pressure, it's there. And if it's in your nature both to regard other people's preferences as pressure to conform, and to yield to that pressure, then someone with controlling tendencies will push you around, guaranteed. You need to be particularly mindful of this vulnerability when it comes to choosing a mate.

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