You know some of them, these people we label as chameleons. People who lose their identity to become who they think people want them to be. Girls who rapidly metamorphose from personality to personality to suit their partners. Boys who mutate from club-hopping partymeisters searching out their latest statistic to looking ridiculously agitated as they jump off their seats to do their girlfriends’ stern bidding. Put them together and you have two people buying into each other’s preferences — from music to books to food to clothes and all the way down to sport and recreational activities. They complete each other’s sentences; develop fondness for something they used to despise; and are just togetherallthetime24/7noroomforanyoneelse. If you’re friends with a chameleon couple, I’m afraid you will have to get used to the idea of having lunch, coffee, dinner or after-dinner drinks with the two of them – even when you really just need to be with one of them.
I confess I used to be a chameleon. I used to change personalities faster than my outfits. With Editor Ex, I was a party accessory. I went to most of the parties he went to, I hung prettily off his arm, and sometimes I’d chat with the other girls there while the guys went to get us drinks from the bar. Sometimes, (and this embarrasses me) I’d watch his weekend basketball game with friends or whatever, the perfect image of a groupie girlfriend, with the long curly tresses running down the back of my cute little tanktop which he says he likes over any other outfits I own because it doesn’t make him look terribly under-dressed standing next to me – only without the nicotine stick lodged between my fingers because I gave up smoking soon after we started going out. I quit smoking mainly because he didn’t smoke and since I’ve always planned to quit anyway, I thought ‘what an impeccable timing!’ I still haven’t snuck a puff (not even out of curiosity) since going cold turkey and if there’s one good thing that came out of that little episode that would’ve been it. That and my heightened appreciation for Formula One and 80’s music.
With Architect Ex from years ago, he was the chameleon. He started drinking because then I had just started my affair with Red Horse and wasn’t quite ready to cut loose, beginning with taking a swig from my bottle to finally buying his own drinks. My friends became his friends, the movies I loved were the movies he loved, the food I salivated for were the food he’d bring and eat with me while we pop in disc after disc on my DVD player at home. Did it get on my nerves? No, because I thought it was sweet and beautiful that he had the same pursuits, that he liked my friends and they liked him, that we were such a postcard couple.
In his book High Maintenance Relationships, Dr. Les Parrot described chameleons as the most deceptive of all the high-maintenance personalities because they seem to be low-maintenance at first. And because they are so agreeable, they seem to be very easy to get along with. But underneath the pleasant façade is a “complex web of distorted perceptions and insatiable longings.”
Chameleons need a lot of attention and they create a false sense of compatibility. And while compatibility feels superb because it makes us feel safe, understood, appreciated and comfortable, too much of it can also be stifling and suffocating.
HOW TO SPOT A CHAMELEON:
Chameleons live to please others. No matter the situation, they will always be wearing a smile. They hate the idea of hurting someone’s feelings as much as they hate feeling rejected. But chameleons are such experts in camouflaging themselves, making it a bit difficult for anyone to see through the rapid colour-changing. If you haven’t been with a chameleon I suggest you watch out for these unconventional behaviours:
- Overly Agreeable – Chameleons agree with anyone they are with. They don’t openly share their opinions for fear of being contradicted.
- Pushovers – She relies on you to make all the decisions or if she seems set to do one thing, it takes so little to talk her out of it.
- Conflict-dodger – Chameleons can’t stand arguments or confrontations.
- Guilt-prone – They blame themselves for everything that goes wrong.
- Narrowly-focused – They get obsessed with the seemingly insignificant details.
- Phoney – Chameleons always worry what everyone else thinks, so they look and act differently from how they really are.
HOW TO DEAL WITH A CHAMELEON:
Stuck with a chameleon? Well here’s some good news for you: Chameleons are the easiest to help change their ways so that you can both enjoy a more honest and fulfilling relationship.
- See and Own Up to Your Own Chameleon Ways. Let’s face it. We all have our little chameleon in us. At some point, we have had our own wishes hidden, fake-smiled and compromised just to make that someone like us more. If you remember what it was like to worry about other people’s approval, then you might begin to understand her.
- Find Out What She Really Likes. You like her, don’t you? Then take a personal interest in your chameleon. Ask how she’s doing and really listen. Like the rest of us, she becomes more genuine when she feels listened to, accepted, and understood.
- Give Little Reassurances. Chameleons people-please their way through life and always defer to others because they are convinced their choices would be unpopular and people will like them less for it. Your girl needs little reassurances that her opinions are safe with you. Encourage her to share them, and show your appreciation for it when she does.
- Ask for Honesty. We already know that she needs a lot of gentle prodding and encouragement before she will voice out her honest opinions on anything. But once you’ve coaxed it out of her, whatever you do, don’t show disapproval or disappointment if you don’t share her opinion. The more often you invite her honesty, the more genuine she will become around you.
Going back to the postcard episode Editor Ex and I briefly starred in, well, the show got cancelled shortly after the pilot and my friends all went like “Oh you don’t need him to fill your voids.” Or, “Honestly, we’re sick of seeing the two of you constantly together that we hardly get to spend time with you. Don’t you ever do anything without each other?” There were a few times too when I could almost swear they ignored me and my whining and who can blame them? I guess me as a chameleon is too much to handle even for my friends. Other times too, they’d scoff at me saying “Just wait till you start dating again, you’ll never even want to have anything to do with that guy or that silly little connection you imagined you had with him.” And once again, I admit, they were right on the money.
Personally though, I will never be a chameleon again. Though I think my case was mild and trifle compared to what others might have, I almost lost my identity once or twice in my past relationships and I’m scared if I let someone else swallow it up again I will never know who I am. Singlehood, I believe, is the road less travelled to self-discovery. It is knowing that one and one make TWO and NOT putting two halves together to make one whole or any of that. Do the math. I resolve to stay independent as a cat, mildly-opinionated, eccentric and fun. The only time I will ever be a chameleon would be in the privacy of my bedroom for some off-the-charts adult role-playing games. But that’s an entirely different story.