I truthfully haven’t had much to write about or have felt like writing in a long while, but relaying the tale of a recent (non-)date to a friend this evening has inspired me. So, here it goes…
Text, me to him: “I know your life is pretty complicated right now, but if you feel like joining me for a walk at the beach sometime, just let me know.”
He responded. We picked a day and a time. It had been a few months since we had last seen each other, for what he had unexpectedly turned into a ‘date’. I was looking forward to seeing him again and the chance to get to know him a bit better. The walk at the beach ended up a friendly time, but nothing more – something I was briefly disappointed about, but I lived. The part that’s relevant here is the first part of our meeting, though, the part before we met.
An evening walk at the beach. Simple enough. I ended up arriving about ten minutes early and didn’t see him at our designated meeting spot, so I took up a place in the shade to wait as it was a hot day. I messaged him just to let him know I was around the corner in case he had happened to show up early as well and was killing time. He messaged back a couple minutes before we were supposed to meet to let me know he was in the restaurant (near our meeting spot) and had just ordered something to eat.
My second thought was, “Ok. It’ll actually be nice to sit and have a beer.”
My first thought – or feeling rather – was envy, mixed with a little bit of awe and, I’m not going to lie, a tad of resentment. It just hit me. It was such a weird thing. In the smaller picture, this was not a huge deal. It’s summer. I’m on holidays. I’m usually pretty easy-going. Whatever. In the bigger picture, what I was so in awe and envious of was his ability as a man to do whatever he felt like in the moment, regardless of the circumstances and without notice. He didn’t apologize for planning his time poorly or delaying the walk at any point during our evening. From the little I knew of him, I didn’t think he was an intentionally inconsiderate person, but that’s the point. He obviously didn’t feel he had any reason to apologize. It was dinner time, he was hungry, so he was eating. That all makes sense. What’s the big deal?
The big deal in the bigger picture is that women are subtly, and not so subtly, punished socially for acting in similar ways. Even as an independent, confident woman, I wouldn’t have had the guts to do that, no matter how badly I had planned my day or how hungry I was. And upon further reflection, I realized that at the root of it is the fear that I wouldn’t be accepted, I’d be thought of as “high-maintenance”, flaky, inconsiderate or selfish by this person on whom I was hoping to make a good impression. Granted, as it turned out to not be a date per se, he might not have cared what impression he made on me, so his actions were not thus dictated. And, that may not have been how he would have perceived it anyway had the tables been turned, but the point is that, as a woman, it wouldn’t have even crossed my mind because of that planted fear. I would have wanted to present a version of myself that wasn’t too demanding, regardless of whatever other needs were pressing. It makes me so annoyed that it is an impulse, indoctrinated into me, that I have to work so hard to ignore.
The cognitive dissonance this issue causes in my mind is gradually subsiding with age and with much counter reinforcement, the main exceptions being brief periods following romantic rejections. But generally, the older I get, the less I’m willing to dumb myself down for someone, neglect my needs, or pretend I’m more subservient than I am just to keep their attention. I want to date someone that sees this struggle and acknowledges their privilege. I want to date someone that really views and treats me as an equal, who’s not intimidated by my independence or my intelligence, someone who will lift me up and be proud of my accomplishments, cheer me on – just as I want to do for them.
In short, I want to date a feminist.