Sunday, December 8, 2013

What Ladies Are Supposed to Do

**Warning: The following contains heteronormative language. This essay is written from the perspective of a heterosexual female, so it discusses love and dating between men and women. First of all, it would be very confusing for everyone if I de-gendered this essay. Secondly, I have never been a lesbian or or a gay man or transexual or bi-sexual so it would be nonsense if I tried to write about relationships from any of those perspectives.**

Based on the information floating around in the universe, here is how it's supposed to work if you are a person who is interested in a meaningful relationship:

A woman identifies a man whose interests, lifestyle, and body type compliment her objectives in life. She will use her feminine mystique to catch his attention. He will try to woo her. She will act aloof. He will try to woo her again. She will agree. She will secretly screen him in order to verify that he possess the qualities she desires in a mate and convince him that she is his ideal match and that she is worth forsaking his evolutionary impulse to continue to search for partners. This goes on until it is officially more problematic for both parties to exit the relationship than to stay in it and if it doesn't work out everyone involved is damaged and sad.

I know almost no one whose relationships actually mirror this trope, but you cannot tell me that it doesn't still govern the way many of us think about relationships, or at least the way we're expected to behave if we find ourselves on the precipice of a potential relationship. I take issue with pretty much all of it.

The other night I attended a "symposium" hosted by comic Aziz Ansari and some professor from NYU whose name I can't remember because I deleted the email. Aziz is writing a book about dating in modern times and the impact that technology is having on the single experience. I went because it was $5, less than 10 blocks from where I work, and allowed me to kill a couple hours before late night plans. I found the topic intriguing and was interested to see what might happen. Also I wanted to see if Aziz is as short as I assumed he was. He was actually taller than I expected. Not TALL, mind you, just not teeny tiny. His head is also a normal size.

At this event the seating was split up with men on one side of the room and females on the other. He asked questions like "who has met a guy/girl in the last few days that they've been texting with?". Then when people raised their hands he would bring them up on the stage, have them pull up their texts, and read them out loud. It was an entertaining exercise, but the follow up questions to the men and women in the room tended to make the basic assumption that men ask women out and then women decide if they are interested based on what they say. There wasn't much room in the discussion for the possibility that a girl might ask a guy out, or that sometimes non-dates can sort of turn into dates part way through so any follow up interaction is just an extension of a previous agreement to see each other again.

Although it wasn't spelled out as such, I got the sense that most people in the room subscribe to the theory that prior to a first date women have the upper hand and men will bend over backwards to get a "yes", but then after that, if she likes the guy, it becomes her job not to "scare him off". I have to admit that I actually stopped listening for large portions of the discussion because I was busy having my own thoughts so I might be projecting a little, but I felt like most people present subscribed to the following assumptions about dating:

-Men should make first contact and women should wait for this to happen, otherwise they can assume that the man is not interested
- Once one or several dates have occurred, a woman should not admit to a man that she likes him until he has proven that he is not just trying to sleep with her. This is best achieved by withholding sex for as long as possible.
-Despite the fact that we as women should under no circumstances invite a man back on the first date if we like someone, we should be worried if a man doesn't TRY to get us into bed on the first date.
- The fact that when we as humans like someone we sometimes get nervous, and sometimes when we get nervous we get stupid and say and do weird shit, has no bearing on any of the prior assumptions.

Here are a few things that I believe to be true of humans with a normal capacity for emotion, who are seeking meaningful relationships:

-If a new relationship has potential, telling a guy that you like his face is not going to be the thing that derails it. Worst case scenario is that you have paid him a compliment. I think both of my most recent ex-boyfriends can testify that this tactic works at least a little, if I remember properly.
-Sex with a new person is a little worrisome if you like them. Some men are afraid that if they don't do a good job then that might be it for them so if they like a woman, they actually have much more to gain from waiting until they know the woman likes them than she does.
-It is pretty obvious when someone ISN'T interested in finding out if you're relationship material
- After one or two dates you don't know NEARLY enough about a person to know what their actions mean
-No matter how much someone might like you, if you have only met them once or twice, it would be literally insane if they made you a priority in their life.

Here is a good question to ask yourself if you are dealing with a new potential love interest and you're not sure what their actions, or lack thereof, mean:

What do I have to gain by freaking out and deciding it's a lost cause?

Here is what you should probably do if you're into someone but you're not sure if they like you, and you feel like you need more information from them:

Fucking relax. Don't send passive aggressive texts. Don't start any sentence with "I'm starting to think…". Ask for whatever it is that you want from them in a simple way. If the request sounds too unreasonable to ask so soon then YOU are probably the problem here.

Here is something that is true:

Being a woman is hard because we are conditioned to believe that we have to wait to be chosen. Being a man is hard because they are expected to make the first move. Neither party can really understand what the other is dealing with unless they try to occasionally approach dating from the other side. This is probably why online dating is so popular.

Here is something else that is true:
My last relationship started because I decided to hit on my friend. I was 19 and we lived in a dorm. It worked until it didn't and the whole thing took 6 years. Since then I have been on one legitimate date. So, no matter what you do, definitely don't listen to me. I don't know what I'm talking about. Cheers!

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