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Claudia Dey's Group Therapy

Can I ask my girlfriend to wear sexier clothes? Add to ...

Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom. Each week, we offer a problem for you to weigh in on, then publish the most lively responses, with a final word on the matter delivered by our columnist, Claudia Dey.

A reader writes: The woman I'm with is brilliant, fun, and above all, kind. She leaves me wanting in no way but one: She's beautiful - stunning, even - but remains in what I can only describe as a state of childhood when it comes to style. She hides her wonderful curves and seems to gravitate to dressing either like a librarian twice her age or an awkward teenager wearing hand-me-downs. Sexiness is something she avoids. Shamefully, I find myself stealing glances at other women who are more put together and exude more sexiness. My problem is that I love this girl for her mind. Yet for this reason I find my irrational desires, such as wishing she would try to be more sexy more often, weighing heavily on me. Is there a solution? Can I ask her to dress with more panache? Or should I just count my blessings?

Kill her with compliments She's kind, smart, fun and pretty to boot. She has to be a trophy dresser too? I'd say her only problem is you. That being said, it's true that some people are not all that sure of how to dress or what looks good on them. It's always better to encourage. Compliment her on what you do like. You could try suggesting things when you go shopping together. After that, you will just have to leave it alone. Or find yourself a girlfriend who is well-dressed but maybe not kind or fun or smart.

- Linda Bowser, Scarborough

A makeover surprise

Her lack of style is likely the product of low self-esteem or deluded self-esteem (perhaps she actually thinks her frumpy frocks are stylish). Either truth is certain to hurt her feelings. It seems the only way to nudge this gently on her is to wrap it up in benevolence and take her on a shopping spree. With plenty of affirmations along the way, a few shopping trips will give her an opportunity to feel like she is making you sweat with every flirty skirt and curve-hugging blouse, and you an opportunity to invest in the equivalent of blinders. This assumes, of course, you yourself have style and are not trying to dress her like your very own call girl. Failing this, you may want to anonymously nominate her for one of those ambush makeover shows.

- Danya Cohen, Toronto

Count your blessings, fool

You silly twit. Your partner sounds great - even you say so. But you are obviously not ready for a relationship with a real woman who probably has no real need to outwardly exhibit herself. Grow up. If you really think that you should ask her to "dress with more panache" then it only follows that you must be God's gift to women and that you are absolutely perfect yourself. Before asking her that question, why not ask her what faults she may find with you?

- Terence Ingram, Toronto

The final word

Dear Snappy Dresser,

Really. What did you expect other than a thrashing - with panache? Do you know how many men would trample you into the dust sprinting toward your "stunning" and "brilliant" paramour? Do you know how many men have the librarian fetish? Do you find the constellations a little disordered? The ocean on the salty side? Your God's benevolence naive?

Count your blessings only if you can commit to them. A woman faces enough judgment without her boyfriend leading the measuring-eyed masses. Like an apple, like art, she is constantly being evaluated for her composition and shape - more so than the qualities you list, those that might actually better the world: brains, playfulness and goodness. She looks to you for respite from that shrewd crowd. She looks to you to be her champion, her spokesperson, her biggest fan.

The fact is, you have hit a sexiness impasse - and this is difficult to recover from. Her sexy is not your sexy. Your eye is wandering. While you recognize you are like a spoiled king wanting a second kingdom, you cannot help yourself.

My advice as echoed by Her Only Problem Is You Bowser and You Silly Twit Ingram: Let your "beautiful" and "fun" girlfriend go the way of someone who will appreciate her for who she is. Your obsession with surfaces is the downfall of this relationship - and if unchecked, future relationships. Assess and recalibrate, or move to the Hollywood Hills; there you will find plenty of flesh (though the faces don't move).

I completely disagree with Makeover Cohen. One of love's more persuasive effects is a contentment with your catch which overrides moth-eaten boxer shorts and sweat-stained bras. That is not to say our shortcomings are miraculously turned to kittens, but that you recognize - and forgive - your lover for being human, rather than battery-powered.

Snappy Dresser, you want perfection. Thereby, while you may be with this woman, you are not in love with this woman. I can guarantee though, given her attributes, that somebody else is. Make way.

Claudia Dey's first novel, Stunt, was published last year by Coach House Books. Her website is ClaudiaDey.com

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Next week's question

A reader writes: I'm good with women, but only to the point of becoming friends with them. My problem has developed to the point where I continuously become a surrogate boyfriend. They see me as a friend, while I always develop feelings that go far beyond that. What do I do?

Click here to share your advice.

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