How Adopting My Boyfriends' Taste Caused Me To Lose My Identity

'Alone' isn't always a bad thing.

I take my coffee black because that’s what was available in the mornings after sleeping with my boyfriend. Before him, my second ex-fiance drank his coffee black or with Baileys, depending on the time of day, and so did I.

In a recent attempt at brutal self-examination, I opened my Apple Music account to see how many artists were recommended to me by men I’ve dated or slept with. There were well over 60 (making up the majority of what I listen to regularly).

I repeated the experiment with My List on Netflix and came up with 32 movies and TV shows recommended to me by romantic interests — also the majority.  

And when I rummaged through my boxes of books, my iBook library, and my library on Scribd, I found 38 written works that were suggested to me by men. This is the only category where the number is not higher than the books I chose for myself.

As I type, I’m listening to Moon Hooch’s self-titled album: a jazzy, propulsive album that I found myself by way of Spotify — but I could just as easily be listening to the Explosions In The Sky radio station, a band brought to my attention by my second ex-fiance. I wrote my last essay with that station streaming through my earbuds.

The music is coming from my iPhone 6S, my third iPhone since I switched from Android a few years ago. Why the switch? My estranged husband is elated by all things Apple, to the point of watching every keynote live from his office. He sold me on the idea that iPhones were better.

I smoked my trademark e-cigarette as I wrote this, but a month ago, I could have just as easily been puttering around in my driveway with an L&M cigarette, my most recent boyfriend’s brand. If I rewound to sometime in August, when dating Tinder guy, the cigarette would have been a Camel Crush.  

I take my coffee black because that’s what was available in the mornings after sleeping with my boyfriend. Before him, my second ex-fiance drank his coffee black or with Baileys, depending on the time of day, and so did I.

My intense belief in the Oxford comma is due to my estranged husband. This essay is peppered with them.

I used to wear my husband’s clothes, and not just around the house, but out to bars, and even to a 2013 New Year’s party.

I follow 432 accounts on Twitter, and 50 of them are influenced by men I have been with.

I’m beginning to wonder how much of my identity is my own, and how much has been curated for me.

If I’m going to be honest, it’s not their fault. No man forced his preferences upon me. As with any relationship, we shared stories, dreams, and tastes, and we became a Venn diagram of shared interests.

But what happens when one partner takes too much from the other? Or what happens when you don’t have a partner anymore, but are left with the graveyard of their predilections?

In this time of transition from being someone’s wife to simply being myself, my top priority is trying to figure out who I am, separate from the guidance of a romantic partner. What kinds of things do I want to watch on TV after a long waitressing shift? What music do I want to play when writing or driving? What do I want to read on rainy days, when I can’t sleep? Who do I want to follow on Twitter? What is my personal style?

I've started to find some answers...

Lately, I’ve been marathoning Gilmore Girls, a show recommended to me by my friend and have loved the utter feminine indulgence of it.

I’ve mainly been listening to a playlist called “2015 SONGS OF GOODNESS,” which, although sent to me by a man I sleep with, contains so much music I actually enjoy that I don’t care where it came from. That being said, I’ve recently become enamored with Remy Ma, a female rapper.

I’m currently reading Under The Dome because I’m trying to research how best to handle writing a story with multiple narrators so I can get a handle on my novel. The reading I do consists of essays about writing, personal experiences, or other interesting minutiae. I ask for no recommendations and instead relying simply on what catches my eye.

Most of the additions to my Twitter have been writers and publications. I want to be inspired by beautiful words and be aware of all the places I could possibly publish. Sometimes that means trimming the fat so my feed is better curated to my interests, and I feel no shame in doing so.

The podcasts I’ve kept in queue help me to feel more productive, or relate to the craft of writing, or entertain me by way of witty dialogue and ruminations, or relate to the sex lives of women. I feel no remorse in cutting down my feed by three-quarters or more. What’s left is strictly what speaks to me, regardless of where it originally came from.

The same goes for my wardrobe. When I left my husband, I trashed a good deal of what I owned and kept only what felt right. This means that I solely wear skinny jeans and T-shirts, cardigans with blousey tank-tops, oversized blazers with casual everything else, and always, always a scarf. It’s a uniform, certainly, but it’s mine.

Lord knows it’s a process. If I were to say that I knew exactly what my taste was, what my identity is at this point in my life, I would be undermining the opportunity to discover exactly what it is that makes me happy. If there’s anything that I wanted when I left my husband, it was to give myself that space to grow.

As I move into my sixth month of separation and singledom, I have a better answer: the best taste, in all things, is my own. I may not have completely sussed it out yet, but for the first time in my life, I’m working on it — alone.

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