One of my earliest childhood memories is attempting to sneak glances at the films and shows my mom would watch long past my bedtime. After tucking me into bed down the hall each night, she would, as if on cue, turn on the VCR in the living room. Every night was different — with the exception of “Sex and the City.” To my six-year-old eyes, this was the ultimate forbidden fruit. The moment I heard the familiar percussion of the opening song, muffled by the walls of our apartment, I knew it was time for my sleuthing antics. I would sneak out of bed and down the hall to watch the show with her. More often than not, I got caught. I still don’t know what it was that made me so intent on watching the show. It could’ve been the elusive “s-word” in its title — a confusing, forbidden word to an elementary school student — or perhaps it was the fact that I was supposed to be asleep but wasn’t. Nonetheless, it is a memory that I haven’t forgotten throughout the years.
You can imagine my excitement when I realized that my student Amazon Prime membership came with Prime Video and, lo and behold, “Sex and the City.” I was immediately submerged into the life of Carrie Bradshaw; her early-2000s-esque outfits, her unwavering love for designer shoes and her three iconic girlfriends, all of whom arguably have more compelling storylines than hers. For those who haven’t seen the show, the biggest storyline of Carrie’s life is that of her and “Mr. Big,” an emotionally unavailable man who can never seem to fully commit to her. Amidst the course of their on-again, off-again relationship (which somehow lasts six years), Carrie dates a number of men along the way.
Most of these relationships did not last long, serving more as comedic relief than as an actual relationship. However, the one time where she actually considers a serious relationship, he is not comfortable with her success or eccentricity. As a result, she finds herself changing her personality in an attempt to salvage an already failing relationship. I was disappointed, to say the least. In a show with four female protagonists which displayed women as lively, complex characters rather than shallow caricatures, an otherwise independent woman was changing herself to fit the preferences of a man who didn’t even appreciate her. I couldn’t help but wonder — is it necessary to completely change, or even abandon, parts of oneself in order to have a long-lasting relationship? Where does the line between compromise and conversion blur?
Compromise is essential in any relationship, romantic or otherwise. We all know that personalities are destined to clash, and that it’s up to us to determine what is more fruitful: the relationship at hand or our resistance to split the difference. Oftentimes, we choose the former. While compromise must thrive in any successful, long-lasting relationship, it proves even truer in those that are romantic. When you choose to enter into a union with another person, you are choosing to share your life with them. As a result, things simply cannot persist as they did in your single life. However, conflict arises when you find yourself giving far more than you’re receiving. If you find yourself looking in the mirror and not recognizing the person who you are when you’re with your partner, then you’re probably past middle ground.
If the person you’re with asks you to change yourself and criticizes innate parts of you while failing to help you grow, then they don’t have your best interests at heart. Our college years are a foundational time — a time where we glimpse glimmers of our future selves each and every day — how we change during these years shouldn’t be for anyone else’s sake but our own.
In the age of busy schedules and swiping right, we too often choose to present what we believe to be the best versions of ourselves, rather than embracing vulnerability and honesty. Becoming a stranger to yourself is never a worthwhile exchange, even if it is for a legendary friendship or for a great love. If someone is asking you to abandon who you are in order to become who he or she wants you to be, you are not going to find the love you seek with that person regardless. If someone doesn’t love you for who you are, they’ll never love you in the way you need them to. As Carrie Bradshaw said herself, “If you find someone to love the you you love, well … that’s just fabulous.”
Leila Jackson is a first year in Saybrook College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .