What Came First…

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. ;)

Categories: personal, Uncategorized

Author:Tara Hunt

Strategist. Researcher. Interdisciplinarian. Founder, Lime Foundry + Buyosphere. Author, The Whuffie Factor. Speaker. Mother. Karaoke lover.


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11 Comments on “What Came First…”

  1. July 9, 2010 at 13:03 #

    This is something that my wife and I have talked about a lot. I perform a fairly high stress job at work where I make a lot of critical decisions and lead teams of developers through mid-length projects. It’s high pressure and requires a lot of decision making and leadership. That should translate into me making plans and organizing dates in our personal life to, but unfortunately by the time the end of the week rolls around I’m so spent that I’d eat cardboard for dinner at a folding table by a railway line if it meant I didn’t have to make reservations or pick a place.

    That being said we have always valued the surprise and joy of being taken out for a date on the town and so a couple of times a month I’ll try to find something fun for us to do and just sweep Meaghan into the car and take her off on an adventure for the night/weekend.

    I consider it a rule that if you’re asking someone out on a date then you should also go to the trouble of planning that date, making reservations, travel arrangements, etc… and basically doing the work of putting together the event you are asking that person to join you for.

    Come on guys. Make reservations, apply an air of mystery, and sweep her off her feet. :)

  2. July 9, 2010 at 16:13 #

    That convo just seems weird to me. You tell me your open then I’m not going to have a problem thinking of something I want to do. A movie a restaurant a tv series. I have interests and if you let me I will totally try and get others involve.

    The arguments my wife and I tend to have is she’s not as open and doesn’t want to plan. So I suggest things and she vetoes until she hears something she likes. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse.

  3. July 9, 2010 at 17:19 #

    I would say that in the beginning of a potential relationship, guys are nervous about taking a girl out and want to make sure that where they go/what they do will be something that she will like. Hence, playing 20 questions. But I do agree with Stuart in that if you ask someone out on a date, you should be prepared to plan it too. I’m a very laid back person and tend to be more interested in the company than the what/where. If they are a great/interesting person, they can help turn a bad date into a memorable night. :)

  4. July 10, 2010 at 05:14 #

    Funny how reading your story I only saw the parallel with business meetings. What I have learned is that if you want to meet someone professionally, you make the plan. You suggest a set of dates so the other person can check their agenda, but after that you set the whole agenda. In the beginning I felt this was too bossy, but when I left part of the planning to the other person the meeting will get forever to be planned or worse not happen at all. I had no idea this could be transferred, good to know.

  5. July 10, 2010 at 08:18 #

    “if you want to meet someone professionally, you make the plan” great line from Jean-Francois above!

    You hit on something here that I see all the time in a wide range of relationships; the inability or unwillingness to take a chance an design an experience for another person.

    Thanks for stirring things up!

    Keep creating…and recreating,

  6. Evren Kiefer
    July 11, 2010 at 00:18 #

    I whole heartedly agree with you. I had a conversation with my cousin yesterday about plans and getting friends to agree on them. Getting agreement requires having definite plans. That’s what I should have said :)

    Even though I agree doesn’t mean I always behave appropriately and that is why I’m not inclined to condemn men who seek validation and don’t feel entitled to make decisions and plans. Thanks for your post. We may need to hear that it is okay to take the lead and that it’s even required of us sometimes in relationships.

  7. July 12, 2010 at 05:11 #

    I agree with Stuart – the person who asks should already have it (at least mostly) planned. It’s like he’s expecting a refusal so hasn’t thought past the “Would you like to go out?” – “No” scenario.

    My wife and I share decisions – if one of us has a strong opinion, then that’s what we do. If we both have a strong opinion, then it’s a negotiation. If I say, “Whatever you want,” but get a similar response, then I’ll make a decision. She does the same.

    I guess most of my life has been on the order of “make a decision” and then decide if it was the wrong one – and change it, otherwise just go with it.

    – Matt H

  8. July 12, 2010 at 08:40 #

    Reading this and I thought – good lord she’s describing my life / dating history!! While I’m not a single parent I did learn long ago that 9x’s out of 10 if I really want to get something done I was going to have to take the lead. Which has also has lead me to wonder from time to time if I’m to independent. I too long for times to have someone in my life sweep me off my feet and say “Don’t worry honey, I’ll take care of everything”.

  9. July 13, 2010 at 15:02 #

    I don’t think is a thing of being needy in your case (well, I don’t really know that much). I think that as a single mother you are way ahead of the game than most gamers if you know what I mean, and to find someone at your level might be more challenging than most people, for you and for whoever the guy might be. Probably that makes an impact and makes you look stronger.

    In any case if a guy can’t spot your vulnerabilities (which you have and I don’t think you should try to force any more) or know how to roll with challenges you might throw in or keep up with your personality or can’t figure you out soon enough to know that he needs to make a fucking decision, he is a pussy.

    Anyway, like Kurt Cobain once said “trying to be someone else is a waste of the person you really are” so, don’t worry. Someone eventually will man up and sweep you off your feet ;)

  10. July 15, 2010 at 03:20 #

    I am not sure wanting to be swept off your feet would be classified as being needy. There are so many dynamics and imponderables with a first date or even subsequent dates that you just need to go with the flow. Either it works or it doesn’t. Does over thinking it just make you a player?

    Are we asking tooo much of relationships in this day and age? I was shocked recently to find out marriage rates had dropped by 60% in the UK over the last 30 years. It probably just likely that everything is so transient and people so discourteous that individuals quickly become jaded …

    As yet I haven’t given up hope =)

  11. July 30, 2010 at 04:11 #

    Me:how about give 2000$
    You:I’m open


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