My girlfriend of a year is beautiful, intelligent, sweet, and loving and the first woman I could see having a future with. Last week, I was told I’m being laid off from my job at a large media conglomerate. I haven’t told anyone, but I’m feeling increasingly guilty for keeping it a secret from my girlfriend. The thing is I’m afraid she’ll think less of me, even if she pretends not to. To be honest, I’d rather break up with her than tell her.
Ideally, when you propose a date night activity, it isn’t a choice between, “We could go to the grocery store and look at all the food we can’t afford to buy,” or “to the bank with a sawed-off shotgun and a wheelbarrow.”
However, your heartbreaking, “I’d rather break up with her than tell her,” probably stems from shortsightedness about female mating psychology. Because men and women co-evolved, men are acutely aware that women seek “providers” as partners. But, in ancestral times, when our current mating psychology was shaped, there was no such thing as wealth: assets that could be stashed (or places to stash them). No money, no banks, no corpse-sized freezer to cram 126 bison burgers into. Accordingly, evolutionary psychologist David Buss explains that women gauge a man’s mate value by “looking beyond his current position” and evaluating his potential: his ability to acquire status and resources in the future. (Today, Top Ramen. Tomorrow, top surgeon.)
Assuming you didn’t get your job because your boss threw darts at LinkedIn and hit you in the neck, you’ve probably got the smarts, talent and ambition to get a new gig – or start a business of your own. And chances are there’s more to your relationship than two nice people hooking up on the regular. Cobble together the courage to be vulnerable. Tell your girlfriend what you’re going through, including how you feel: perhaps scared, unsure of your value, and maybe like you’ve let her down. Sure, she might drop you like a hot rock – but she might instead show you she loves you and believes in you, even when you’re having a tough time believing in yourself. There’s one way to find out which it is, and it isn’t by spending two months keeping mum about the layoff while having pretend work calls on Zoom with your friend’s dog.
I’m a woman in my 20s with a friend who often copies my style. It feels like she’s trying to one-up me, but I’ve tried to ignore it. Well, for years, I’ve rimmed my lower eye with thick black kohl. She commented on it several weeks ago and then started doing it herself. At lunch yesterday, she said (about my eyeliner): “You started doing that? I’ve done it forever.” This is the third time she’s pretended my style she copied was hers first, but I feel petty being upset about it.
Apparently, there could be two snowflakes that are alike – from very tiny snow crystals – but they probably wouldn’t show up at the same bar wearing the same dress and eyeliner.
“Monkey see, monkey do,” isn’t limited to monkeys or style jacking female friends. Even fruit flies are copycats, spotting an alpha lady fly getting it on with a particular dude fly and, afterward, engaging in “mate-choice copying”: the insect sex version of “I’ll have what she’s having!” Like fruit flies, we evolved to copy high-status peeps (friends and celebrities) to advance our evolutionary interests: survival, social survival, and our ability to mate and pass on our genes. Accordingly, evolutionary psychologist Abraham Buunk finds that envy is wrongly maligned as a toxic emotion. Sure, some envious people act in destructive ways (“malicious envy”), but simply noticing others outpacing us and feeling bad about it serves as an internal alarm system: “Hey, Slackerella…better catch up!”
We’re told “imitation” is some fabulous form of flattery, so it can feel petty to accuse somebody of stealing your look. However, evolutionary psychologist Vladas Griskevicius explains that we try to make ourselves attractive to potential partners by seeming unique and special, standing out from the crowd. So, this woman’s ultimately cheating in competing for mates, which is probably why she’s “gaslighting” you. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which somebody tries to destabilize your grasp on the facts by denying what you know is true to the point where you might start questioning it yourself. In other words, what’s creepy here isn’t so much the crime as the cover-up. Probably the only way to stop this is dialing back her presence in your life. You can call the cops if somebody stabs you or steals your TV, but there are no actual fashion police to be dispatched, a la, “911, what is your emergency?” You: “Help! She plagiarized my eyeliner!”