Even though during my entire adult dating life I’ve observed this, I recently started two question this phenomenon. The scene is sort of as follows:
Him: “When are you available to go out?”
Me (checks schedule): “I’m free Saturday night.”
Him: “Cool. What would you like to do?”
Me: “I’m open. You pick.”
Him: “Oh, that’s a lot of pressure. Do you want to eat or…?”
Me (getting frustrated): “Sounds good.”
Him: “Okay…what kind of food do you like?”
Me: “I’m open.”
Him: “Do you like Italian?”
Me (biting my tongue): “I’m open. So sure.”
Him: “What time were you thinking?…”
At about this point I want to say, “Forget it. I’m busy,” or, like I’ve done in the past just step in and pick a place, time and take charge. And the frustrating thing is that, over the 19 years of adulthood dating I’ve participated in, this is more the rule than the exception. I can count on one hand where I was asked out, plans were made and I just enjoyed being out. And each of those times I had the time of my life. Not all of them were fancy (sometimes it’s just a walk in the park, a drink on a patio or a dinner), but the fact that I didn’t have to take charge made me feel like a princess.
I had a boyfriend years ago that I took ballroom dancing lessons with. We were awful. At one point the instructor came up and asked, “What’s going on here? Show me the steps.” We stumbled through them and then my boyfriend blurted out, “It’s because she keeps trying to lead!” The instructor took one look at him and replied, “Of course she does, silly, SOMEBODY has to!” The relationship didn’t last much past that point. To me, that moment was a metaphor for that entire relationship. I’ve spend most of my life taking charge (mostly because as a single mom who had nobody else to rely on, I have to), so I am more than happy to just let someone else take charge when possible. To be in a relationship where I’m leading all of the time is exhausting!
But what came first: men who got complacent or women who started taking charge?
Did the sexual liberation of women lead to men taking a step back and stop trying so hard? Or did men stop trying so hard lead to more women stepping up? I’ve had this conversation with too many others (both men and women) to think it only happens to me. And to be fair, men shouldn’t be the only ones making decisions and leading, either. Both parties should continue working to make the other one happy. Relationships where one person is putting in more work than the other are draining. But if the woman focusing more on how to make a relationship work is a generalization and a stereotype, I’d love to experience the example that disrupts it. Especially now when we are leading more in the workplace. That’s a double-day and the studies show that women are growing more tired and stressed because of this.
But then I ask myself…is it me? Am I doing this? Do I come across as too “take charge”? Do I not give any space for someone to take care of my needs? Am I not vulnerable enough? I have heard myself uttering the following phrase too many times, “I don’t *need* anyone” (and had a good friend tell me I repeat that phrase more often than anything else). All my life I’ve been told that a woman shouldn’t be needy. Any time I’ve uttered the words, “I’m lonely”, I have dozens of people instructing me that I should be perfectly happy with my own company and that nobody will love me until I can love myself. Since I was a little girl I was taught to stand on my own two feet, be myself, not need anyone, be 100% self-sufficient, fill my own needs, get over my need for external validation, never make a decision based on another person, be emotionally secure and never admit I’m lonely. And ironically I’m standing on my own two feet and all of the above, but what I want most in the world is for a strong man to come along and organize a goddamned date and sweep me off of my feet. I want to let go and be vulnerable and just be taken care of by someone else.
My point is this…I know that I shouldn’t be needy, but I don’t want to be 100% independent either. And I think we give people (men AND women) the wrong messages growing up about this stuff. We aren’t rocks. We aren’t islands. We *do* need other people. And there are times we should take and times we should give in order to maintain the balance in human relationships. A woman being vulnerable isn’t a setback to an ancient time, it is reality. It doesn’t mean that we are always vulnerable or more vulnerable than men. Being loved is awesome. And being loved requires a certain level of vulnerability. In order to accept it, you must take a risk with your heart.
So…if someone can give me a clue as to how I can be vulnerable without coming across as needy, would you let me know? And if you run across a man who can make a decision and take charge feel free to introduce me. ;)