I am not particularly committed to my own personality. That’s not to say I think there’s anything specifically wrong with it. I’ve been told it’s mildly humorous, unflinchingly passable in most social interactions, characterized by an above average adherence to basic moral principles, and is all-around mostly tolerable by the vast majority of people. I would even be so bold as to say that when talked about among prospective dating app partners and their gang of (almost unreasonably) judgmental friends, the phrase “Well, I bet he’s got a good personality” is thrown around on at least a semi-regular basis. I can even say with some certainty that in the realm of school progress reports and work performance reviews, my innate ability to be somewhat pleasant and mild-mannered has hidden a chronic and widespread pattern of mediocre performance and subpar work output for decades.
But the fact of the matter is that life gets boring, and your options get severely limited when you’re shoe-strung by those pesky little traits and affectations that make up “who you are”. In all honestly, your ego is a vanity, and being true to yourself is overrated. What are “pride and standards” but ways to artificially prop yourself up in comparison to others to make you feel better about your own inadequacies and shortcomings? The former is a literal mortal sin (for all my Jeebus lovers out there *performs the sign of the cross poorly and offensively*), and the latter only has use when in the explicit context of the agreed upon rules and regulations of corporate accounting. So, while I have a tender spot in my heart for that haphazardly stacked pile of cheap jokes and miasma of toxic shame that loosely make up my personality, I am not so arrogant as to assume that it’s all that unique or special.
I ultimately mention this for two primary reasons. The first, is that I’m in the market for a new personality architype and could use some recommendations. So far, I’ve been tossing around “Rogue corporate bad-boy” (The sort that wears a sports jacket with jeans and always looks mildly ruffled and raggedy, yet who can steal that big account out from under your nose with his wry wit and winning smile) or “Post-modern Emo Hipster (The kind of guy that will never let the early 2000’s die (*flips bangs angstily*), hides his burgeoning alcoholism by encouraging everybody to “Check out this cool new bar!” every night, and wears black flannel in the heart of summer over an old My Chemical Romance t-shirt from high school). The second, is that this attitude has had a fundamental impact on my dating life.
Let me explain. As you can tell by the name (and general content) of this post, I’m fairly malleable when it comes to finding common interests with other people. The phrase I will use to describe this behavior is the “Personality Chameleon” (which, while similar conceptually to the “Boyfriend Chameleon” is infinitely sadder and more lonely). At its core it is defined as the “sheer and utter lack of commitment to anything that makes you different or unique, which is then wielded in a sad and desperate attempt to cross the inky black chasm that divides each human psyche.”
Let’s walk through a few examples of what this might look like in practice:
Girl: “I’m like super into blue collar guys.”
Me: (Having just spent the last 12 hours staring at spreadsheets on a computer screen, wrapped in a blanket, and listening to “She’s So High” by Tal Bachman since noon) “Well, it’s like my daddy always used to say, as we’d spend our evenings listening to Garth Brooks by the fire and shucking corn from the fall harvest – ain’t no feeling like an honest day’s hard work, y’all feel me now?”
Girl: “I’m really into fitness, and it’s important to me that you are too.”
Me: (Having woken up three times since midnight due to the sort of rampant and unmitigated dehydration that can only be caused by 2 pots of coffee and $14 of Taco Bell from the prior evening) “Honestly, I’m so glad that you said that. Eating right, exercising right, and sleeping right: those are the keys to a healthy and happy lifestyle, that’s what I always say.”
Girl: “My faith is important to me, and I think a mutual love of God is critical to any relationship!”
Me: (Having been to Church twice since the eighth grade, fully cognizant of having woken up that morning with the taste of stale bourbon still heavy on my tongue, and guiltily aware that I haven’t actually believed in God since the second Hobbit movie) “You know, in this world of instant gratification and widespread temptation, I just think it’s our job to keep the light of God alive in our own hearts. Any maybe? Maybe that’ll inspire just *one* other person to rejoin the Lord’s flock. Onward Christian soldiers amirite?”
Girl: “I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 10 years now!”
Me: (Having just finished a 16 oz. steak, not because I actually wanted to eat it for its flavor and sustenance, but purely because I felt an almost irrational compulsion to persist my place atop the food-chain by depriving a young cow of its budding life) “It just breaks my heart that we still live in an age where people will willingly perpetuate eating other living, breathing animals because they just can’t do without their bacon with breakfast. When will we learn?? (*Shakes head sadly*)
Girl: “I love to travel and am always up for an adventure!”
Me: (Having left my State exactly twice in the last 3 years, aware that I’m consistently prone to self-isolation and intensive recluse-like behavior, and cognizant of the fact that I’ve spent the last 400 evenings or so lying on my couch, one hand on my phone, and the other down my pants) “Ugh, I know – to me, that’s been the most tragic part about the whole pandemic. The human experience is all about getting out there, about experiencing new people, places, and things to broaden our horizon and worldview. And I feel like the last year robbed us of that a bit…”
Now if you’re thinking to yourself that this is sad and pathetic behavior, you’re not entirely wrong – and I won’t attempt to dissuade you from this hastily drawn and slightly myopic conclusion. But look at this from my (entirely reasonable) perspective. I’ve learned far more about country living, exercise, and the love of Jeebus than I ever would have had I simply “Been myself from the onset.” What you judgmentally call “lying to prospective partners” might realistically be an honest, good-faith attempt to learn a little something new about the world and the plethora of different people that populate it. And who knows? Maybe “Born again Christian Tom” was a reasonable alternative to “Post-modern emo hipster”; maybe “Iron Man Tom” would have been a healthier substitute for “Rogue corporate bad-boy”. If we could simply free ourselves of the shackles of ego and the belief in our personalities as intrinsically static, maybe we’d all learn a little something new in the process?
And lastly, to really drive this point home – the two below Hinge prompts were vain attempts for me to “Channel my real personality” into a misguided attempt at making a connection. Neither yielded a response. Neither will ever yield a response. Let this be a lesson to us all.