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Those three fateful words are the reason why I don’t shop at Ikea. The idea of painstakingly piecing together furniture for a lesser-quality end product is just not my idea of a good time.

Ikea furniture is the kind of stuff you use when you live in your first apartment. Or in an island resort hotel. It’s transient, not anything you really want over the long haul, because eventually you realize how cheap and unsightly it really is.

And so when I’m unenthusiastically describing an otherwise-promising man in my life who has maintained a one-sided interest, my mom’s suggestion that I “can mold him,” reads like the same daunting fine print.

My mother adheres to the belief that in successful relationships, women mold the men they’re with and compel them into being a certain type of man. She believes that if a good man comes a bit rough around the edges, “molding” (see also: upgrading) is a way to smooth them out.

Frankly, I find this to be patronizing bullshit for all parties involved. I’ve conveyed as much to my mother, who now stands married to my father for about 30 years.

As an independent, free-spirited, strong-willed woman, there would be few things more insulting than a man who thought that he would, could, or should maintain some sort of power over me to mold me like clay into the woman of his desires — or that he thought I needed to be. This belief carries in it the supposition that (A) I’m inadequate; and (B) I have no bearing on my own development. I’m not a sculptor and have no interest in operating under such a tenuous premise.

Furthermore, while I am of the sincere belief that individuals are constantly evolving, I’ve also grown to accept that people don’t change. Moreover, I have established a personal mantra not to force compatibility. “Molding,” in this case, appears to be nothing more than a euphemism for “convincing,” which is a waste of both time and resources. As in the case of the uninspiring $30 bedside lamp I bought my junior year, I’m better off just going after what I really want (the $168 Anthropologie lamp); though it may take me longer to get it, I’ll be much happier in the long run.

My father does not concede to claims of being molded. Rather, he acknowledges the mutual influence he and my mother have had over one another as partners. Good relationships are not about fitting neatly into any one pattern, but rather creating something dynamic by coloring outside the lines.

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