CHARLOTTE, NC–After two and a half years of subtle prodding and manipulation, Jill Nickles has finally molded boyfriend Brendan Eiler into the sort of man in whom she's not interested.
Jill Nickles and Brendan Eiler.
"When I first met Brendan, he was a guitarist for [local rock band] The Heavy Petters, and I couldn't take my eyes off him," said Nickles, 28. "I used to go to Tramp's every Thursday night just to watch him play. He wasn't even the most handsome guy in the world, but he just had this mystique, this air of danger about him. He was really exciting. It's too bad he's not like that anymore."
After several months of watching him from the crowd, Nickles finally introduced herself to Eiler after a show in September 1998. They soon began dating.
"Brendan was everything I wanted in a man," Nickles said. "He was unpredictable, smart, and passionate. I knew he wasn't perfect, but he was really fun to be around–which is more than I can say for him now."
Just weeks into the relationship, Nickles began to notice changes.
"It started pretty early," Nickles said. "Instead of being the wild man he'd been, more and more he'd just stay home like a lump, even on nights I told him it was okay if he went out."
Four months to the day after their first date, Nickles moved into Eiler's one-bedroom apartment. The move only accelerated the changes in him.
"Jill and I weren't living together long before she started getting irritated by how small the apartment was," Eiler said. "She was always complaining about how she didn't have space anymore. Then, she got this idea to get a bigger place, but I couldn't really afford it, since I was just barely scraping by with what I earned bartending at Mickey's. I really liked bartending, and it allowed me flexible hours for band practice and gigs. But, like Jill said, I was 25 now and shouldn't be living hand-to-mouth."
At Nickles' urging, Eiler quit his job at Mickey's and landed a position at SFR Solutions, a Charlotte-area web-design firm. The job paid nearly $4,000 a year more than bartending, enabling the couple to move into a larger apartment.
With a full-time job and a live-in girlfriend, Eiler's relationship with his bandmates soon began to deteriorate.
"They kept wanting to play more and more gigs, and I felt like if we wanted to land a record deal, what I needed to do was stay home and write some strong new material," Eiler said. "Even Jill had stopped going to see us because she said she was getting sick of hearing the same songs–and she was our number-one fan. Finally, they said I had to make more time for shows or they'd get a new guitarist. I was like, 'Screw you guys,' and left. Jill pointed out that the band wasn't really going anywhere anyway, and that I was better off in no band at all than one made up of a bunch of unambitious losers."
Upon quitting the band, Eiler's lifestyle changes accelerated. In September 2000, he cut his long mane of hair in an effort to land a promotion to associate design director at SFR Solutions. Nickles also convinced him to become a vegetarian and sell his customized leather jacket to put a down payment on a new Toyota Camry.
"When we first started dating, Jill loved how I looked in that jacket," Eiler said. "But then, a few months later, she said I was getting too old to wear something like that. Plus, it didn't really gibe with my new vegetarian beliefs. So, with Jill's full support, I decided it was time to put my old ways to rest."
Now a self-described homebody, Eiler said he finds his domestic lifestyle "really satisfying."
"If you told me two years ago that I'd be thinking of marriage, a house with a picket fence, and kids, I would have said you were nuts," Eiler said. "All I used to care about was hanging with my friends and having a good time. I guess it's true that the love of a good woman can really change you for the better."
Despite Nickles' success in sculpting Eiler into "husband material," she found her attraction for him beginning to wane.
"The reason I fell so hard for Brendan was that he was totally different from the guys I used to date," Nickles said. "He had beautiful long hair, and he was really smart and cynical. Now he reminds me of my boring ex-boyfriend Kevin, who's an accountant in Raleigh."
Even though Nickles' nights of going out to see The Heavy Petters are long over, she still enjoys going out on occasion.
"A couple of weeks ago, I was at the bar Brendan and I used to go to all the time," Nickles said. "I ran into Rob, the bassist for Brendan's old band and, I have to tell you, he looked really good. We hung out and talked for hours and just had a great time. Drinking and laughing with him really reminded me of the way it used to be with Brendan. I think I'm developing a little crush on Rob."