I’m sure you guys are tired of my obscene amounts of post-break up, self-empowerment 101, self-love posts…well maybe not obscene but a significant amount. So you’re in luck – here goes another one.
In our society today there is an overwhelming and relentless cultural narrative that seeps its way into many young women’s lives. I’d be lying if I said this cultural narrative wasn’t gendered. And it’s not our fault – it’s just the way our society has unfortunately been structured and its ‘norms’ have played out. There is so much pressure on us to either be in a relationship or to find ‘the one’…and soon. After living with two male roommates for a year and a half, I can attest to the fact that this pressure is not as anxiety-ridden or present for them. They don’t feel a social pressure and have even argued the opposite – that when they are in a relationship there is a pressure on them to be single. Gender norms and societal expectations, am I right?
When I look back on the relationships I’ve had, I can now recognize how many of them I clung to in order to hold out hope and entertain the potential that they could be the one. I didn’t think (and still don’t think) finding ‘the one’ is an automatic and gut reaction you feel when you first meet someone. Why can’t it be a feeling you discover, grow, and add to over time as you continue to learn and love someone? And then comes the double standard and harmful stereotyping.
Because I am visible and outspoken about my feminism, activism, ambitions, and professional goals, many people get confused when they see me fall for a guy or talk about wanting to be in a relationship when I’m single. I have had several friends and family remark that I shouldn’t feel the need to be in a relationship because I am a strong, self-sufficient, self-starting, independent woman. So the last part is true (cue the hair flip) and I’m proud of that. However the first part is tricky. No, I absolutely don’t need a man. However, humans do need human companionship, communication, and some would argue – intimacy. Much of that is in our blood, nature, and is biological. But I digress. It’s not that I need to be in a relationship but I do desire to be in one. I am much more of a relationship person and I know that about myself but that doesn’t make me any less feminist, independent, or ambitious. Those things can all coexist together.
I desire to be in relationships not because I feel pressure to find ‘the one’, but that potential discovery is exciting to me. I love meeting new people – I’ve always been extremely communicative and energetic when around others and I love caring for people. Honestly, even ask my mother – I was that kid who loved meeting new kids and striking up a conversation. I especially loved cultivating friendships, learning about, and caring for those around me. And as I got older that grew into my intimate relationships. I’ve had about six or so relationships – all with men I deeply and sincerely cared for. And I was never a serial dater, I always gave it time. But I loved loving…as weirdly meta/hippie as that sounds.
I love checking in on someone I’m dating just to make sure they drove safely through the rainstorm. I love planning weekend adventures and goofy dates – one Valentine’s Day in high school I planned for my ex-boyfriend and I to go to a random zoo in Connecticut. It was freezing and it was overall, kind of a depressing experience because zoos make me sad…but we had fun nonetheless and it was a quirky Valentine’s Day that I still remember. I love making a personal gift for a boyfriend even though my arts and crafts abilities are pathetic. And I love learning new things about someone I value so much.
I’m not looking for a man to fill a void or boost my self-confidence. I am very happy with who I am and practice self-love often. Sure, I have my insecurities – we all do. From my baby face to my anxiety, I have things that make me feel vulnerable. But admitting those make me stronger and I know that I will find a man who appreciates, loves, and respects those vulnerabilities of mine. Wanting to find someone who appreciates those aspects of myself is not anti-feminist. I won’t depend on a man to make me feel more secure nor am I expecting him to make those insecurities go away. I am not less of a feminist because I enjoy being in relationships. I respect myself and know that no matter how many times I experience heartbreak, I am not lesser of a person or not worth it. And after a heartbreak I’m not actively searching for the next person to validate who I am. Just because a guy may not have wanted to be in a relationship with me doesn’t mean I’m a bad person – I know his decisions are no reflection of the wonderful person I am.
I respect myself and my worth enough not to settle. I don’t want to jump into a relationship just to be in a relationship. I want to be in a relationship when I find the person I want to be with. And maybe that won’t be forever – and that’s okay. I don’t date to marry – and that’s perfectly alright with me.
I date because I care about others so much that I just want to share and show my love. I date because I love myself and want to share parts of my personality with others to make them happy, feel challenged, and to make them laugh. Loving relationships doesn’t make me any less of a feminist – in fact, it makes me a better one because I stick up for myself, accept my vulnerabilities in front of someone I deeply care for, embrace intimacy and sexual autonomy, show someone my passion, and share honest parts of who I am. And if someone can’t appreciate that, then it’s time to move on. I would totally date me so maybe sometime soon I’ll find someone who wants to too.