As we established yesterday, Kanye West has gradually been molding Kim Kardashian into his beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy of What Kanye West’s Girlfriend Should Look Like. And while I generally have little empathy for that bionic fame-eater, I must admit it made me think back on my own stylistic evolution, a personal development which was largely caused by being in a controlling relationship with a Kanye of my own. Yes, that’s right…I’m talking about Bad College Boyfriend.
When I first met Bad College Boyfriend, I was still dressing largely how I did in high school: like a mall Goth who was really into faeries, with an occasional dash of club kid thrown in. You guys have already seen some photos from this phase of my life, but here’s another one just for fun:
Naturally, Bad College Boyfriend took this is a sign that I was a silly little girl who deserved to have her heart treated like monkey meat, but after I chased him for a while, he deigned to give me a chance to show him I was cool “on the inside.” But seeing as BCB was a sophisticated urban whimpster, some changes needed to be made in my appearance before he could introduce me to his friends. This was easy enough to do, because I was so crazy bonkers in love with him that I did pretty much everything he said. If he didn’t like the dress I was wearing, I’d take it off immediately and never wear it again. Fuck that dress! I might have liked my Hot Topic clothes, but I liked BCB a whole lot more. So I became his indie rock fuck-child. As you can see, it was quite the healthy relationship.
By the time I was done dating Bad College Boyfriend, I looked like this:
By this point, I’d realized Bad College Boyfriend was, well, bad, and excised him from my life. But there was a problem: I liked the new way I looked. I was 22; I didn’t want to be a mall Goth anymore. I no longer walked around picturing myself the plucky protagonist of some splendid punk-torian romance. My favorite music was no longer Marilyn Manson and Mindless Self Indulgence, but Sonic Youth and Sleater-Kinney. I’d sort of decided I wanted to be a journalist, and journalists need to blend in a little. One might argue I traded one uniform for another, and one might be right. But the way I looked fit with my (slightly) more grown-up personality, and for the first time, I was starting to feel comfortable in my own skin. And it took me way less time to get dressed!
Was it shitty that I changed as the result of a controlling relationship? Of course it was. As a feminist, I’ve wrestled with this idea quite a bit. Maybe I would’ve made those changes anyway, but it would’ve been better if they’d been my own idea. But I’ve since come to the realization that just because a relationship was ultimately unhealthy, doesn’t mean you can’t salvage some good things from it. In fact, that’s all the more reason to. Sure, BCB was a terrible boyfriend in many ways, but he also introduced me to some things that I loved, and still love to this day. He helped me stop acting all weird and fake (I have very different opinions on this than Jennifer!) out of nervousness in social situations. And he believed in me as a writer before I believed in myself. Some of these were changes I’d been needing to make, but just didn’t know how to. And he taught me a lot about what I do and don’t want, lessons I’ve applied to other relationships since then. For all of those things, I am grateful.
So yeah, you probably shouldn’t change the way you dress for a dude. But if you happen to meet someone at a turning point in your life, and they coerce you into making some changes you end up liking, there’s nothing wrong with keeping those changes long after the relationship is over. You know, like My Fair Lady, if Eliza Doolittle had managed to leave Henry Higgins at the end. Am I the only one who really wanted her to?