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Down and Dirty

The only beauty that matters is that which is on the inside, right? Well, kind of. Check out the 4-Way panel's advice on confronting a partner who's let their looks go.
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Dear 4-Way,
My girlfriend of one year took a job about six months ago that allows her to work from home. Since she’s taken that job, she showers only every three or four days, she’s stopped going to the gym, she wears the same clothes every day (even though they’re covered with food and dirt stains), and has just generally let herself go. I don’t mean to sound like an asshole, because I do care about her, but it’s getting harder and harder to stay attracted to her physically and want to be intimate with her. She’s making the same amount of money, so it’s not like she can’t afford a gym membership or new clothes or shampoo. I’ve tried to get her out of the house by planning more fun activities than usual, but whenever we go out she wears the same stained running pants, and when I suggest that she change, it hurts her feelings. Am I being a jerk? Is it too much to ask for her to try to look nice? If not, how can I talk to her about this without sounding shallow?
—MP, Atlanta, Georgia

The Straight Man’s Perspective: Chris Kennedy
Is your girlfriend Felix from The Odd Couple? (Even though I think I’m too young to make that joke, it just feels right.) Anyway, in a word, gross. How are you still around? What are we missing here? She must be great in bed. Or she saved your life and you feel obligated to stay with her. I can’t imagine this deadbeat is doing much for you, planning great trips, dates, and/or making you feel remotely attracted to her.

You have a confidence problem, MP. How you’ve let it get to this point without putting your foot down is disappointing. She’s given up on herself, you, and your relationship.  So let me give you a dose of confidence here: you deserve better. Give her the “shape up, dress up, or ship out” talk, pronto. If she doesn’t, end your Odd Couple and let her be an Odd Single.

The Straight Woman’s Perspective: Rebecca Brown
I was a freelance writer at one point in my career, and I have to admit, I was perfectly happy to sit around in my gym clothes or my comfy elastic-waist pants for a few days at a time. I did insist on a shower every day, though; after a few days in the same clothes, I started to feel a little too gamey for even my own company.

The fact that your girlfriend hasn’t hit this point after six months is definitely cause for concern. It sounds as if she could be dealing with some depression. What were the circumstances behind her taking this work-from-home job? Was she laid off, or did she make the move on her own? Is she spending any time with her family or friends?  I think the best place to start is a conversation in which you let her know that you’re worried about her. Tell her she seems different since she took this job, and that you’re concerned and want to help. That way, you’re not attacking the behaviors you don’t like (the constant reappearance of stained clothes, for example); you’re expressing concern for what’s going on inside her head and her heart. (Women love that.)

Once she starts talking, you should get a better feel for whether it’s depression she’s battling or simply a lack of daily organizational skills. If it’s depression, then you need to bring in the big guns. Suggest that she talk with someone—a counselor or therapist would be great, but a family member or friend could also be a good sounding board for her, and perhaps easier for her to talk to, since those people aren’t witnesses to her day-to-day downward spiral.  If your only worries are about how your girlfriend looks, then yes, MP, you are shallow. Certainly, her appearance matters, but there could be bigger and deeper things going on here than just a woman with greasy hair. In your defense, you can do only so much, and it sounds like you’ve already made a good effort. If she doesn’t want help or won’t change her ways, it might be time for you to do some layoffs at home.

The Gay Man’s Perspective: Darren Maddox
I’m sorry, did you say she showers every three or four days? Seriously? And she wears the same nasty clothes every day? That cannot be a pleasant situation, my friend. Are you still having sex with her on a regular basis, or only every three or four days now? I’m just sayin’.

So, to answer your question, no, you’re not being a jerk! I recently went from working in an office to working from home, and I still manage to maintain cleanliness and regular laundry habits with little effort. You need to have a frank conversation with her and tell her that not practicing basic hygiene habits is not only disrespectful to her, but also disrespectful to your relationship. Then you should probably just thank God that she doesn’t go to the gym these days if she’s lathering up only once or twice a week. Deal with that one after you get back to basics.

However, if you don’t feel comfortable having a cleanliness conversation with her, the next time she dons her stained sweats when you’re about to go out, stop short of leaving and tell her that she may want to change. If she continues to be oblivious that you’re not attracted to the stained sweats and greasy hair, my vote is to dump her. Life is too short to deal with someone who doesn’t bathe. Besides, sooner or later she’s going to look like Pigpen, and no one will be attracted to her at that rate.

The Gay Woman’s Perspective: Jody Fischer
Sounds like a serious mess to me. You’re not shallow to want things to change if she’s not showering, leaving the house, or wearing clean clothes. She has a problem. I cannot know for sure, but it sounds like she’s depressed.

You need to elevate the game here from code green to code yellow. This is not about business as usual and sweet suggestions—she needs help. She needs to talk to a therapist. She needs her girlfriends to come over to set her straight. Perhaps they can give her a makeover or a mani-pedi party.

Is she exercising at all? Does she get any sunshine? How is her diet? Is she putting on weight? Can she help maintain a clean house?  MP, you cannot make her change, but you don’t have to sit around, either. Are you still connecting with her on other levels? Do you laugh together, cook meals together, watch silly TV? Do you still enjoy her company at all? Have you spoken to her family about this? Surely they must notice, too. Does depression run in her family?  How long will you live with this? Six months seems like a long time; it’s half of your relationship. She needs to clean up her act, or you may need to exit in search of cleaner pastures.

 

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