Pride and groom

How far will you toe the line for your partner? To what ends will you change your appearance or habits to keep them happy?

In any relationship there's a honeymoon period but then the spectacles lose some of their rosy tinting and we're seen in the cold light of day and found, to some degree, wanting. Or needing to be made over.

The trick is, perhaps, not letting the loved one realise they're being bettered.

And that's the time when many men find themselves taken in hand, as it were, and ''improved''. Or at least tweaked.

So what goes? The mates, the habits, the clothes, the hairstyle, the hobbies? The trick is, perhaps, not letting the loved one realise they're being bettered.

I'm certainly far less of an oaf than I was before I met Mrs Man Scape (according to my mum). She has, bless her, pointed me in the right direction when it comes to dressing, grooming and personal hygiene - but in a very gentle way. Things only a mother (and partner) would notice. I don't feel that I've compromised a great deal. I don't feel that I've let the side down by replacing old clothes, discovering conditioner, using dental floss or venturing beyond a barbershop crew cut.

But maybe if younger me met now me (and knew I was writing regularly about this stuff) there might be some raised free-range eyebrows.

In the early days of a relationship do you take on board all of those little tips and hints? What's acceptable to you, what might you put up with: waxing, needles, maybe changing your socks more often? Where do you draw the line? How do you maintain your masculinity, your individuality? Keep in touch with your younger single self?

Once your partner has moulded you to their template of modern manhood do you, as the years roll by, find yourself reverting to the man you once were? Furtive smokes in the backyard, tattered trackie-dacks all weekend, and the burgeoning beer gut, just as an example. How many of us, once tamed and trained, have slowly made friends with our inner slob?

Comments to a recent entry on Fairfax's Beauty Beat blog highlight the problem. Men who won't or can't pull their socks up are no fun at all.

"Men seem to give up the minute they are through adolescence," one commenter says. "The number of times I go to a restaurant, for example, and see women dressed for a night out, and their men dressed as if they are still in the shed."

Another had a similar problem: "When you consider that all men have to do is shave, comb their hair and put on deodorant, their 'major' part of getting ready requires all of five minutes. Many men now feel that a pair of jeans and some sort of collared shirt are 'dressed up'."

Are you being (covertly) groomed by a devoted partner? Or are you over all that and barely willing to make any effort? Should you lift your game - and do you mind being lifted - or are you happy to be 'yourself' at last?