I feel like I’m getting off on a bad foot by even using the word Feminist. It seems to be a catalyst for dissent, a spark into the tinder that is the gender equality conversation on the table lately. So let me be clear… this isn’t intended to open up that discussion or get into that can-of-worms in any depth.
For clarity, my definition of a Feminist: a woman who believes in equal opportunities for men and women in life. And buried within that explanation is a deep understanding that there are differences between genders. I simply believe that the genders, while different, are equal and should be treated as such.
But enough about definitions and disclaimers… let’s talk about the awkwardness of balancing being an independent women while still believing in a certain amount of chivalry, huh?
For those of you who know me in real life, you may be scoffing at the declaration of me as a romantic. But deep down I really am, particularly at the start of a relationship. I grow less traditional the further a relationship progresses, true, but I do believe in a man pursuing and courting a woman to an extent.
(Even if I ask you out first… I will get the ball rolling, but then I do hope you will step up.)
My Dad had one hard and fast rule for me when I hit high school and started dating. I would not go out with someone who wouldn’t get out of their car and come to my door to pick me up. No honking or phone call or text (which yes, did exist then, if not widely utilized) to summon my presence was acceptable.
A man, when courting a woman, would show a certain level of courtesy.
That concept has grown in flexibility for me as I’ve aged and technology has become more of a component in every part of dating. But that basic decree of expressing respect has never faded in my mind. It simply come in different forms now.
– While my first dates are usually as “meet you there” situation, I generally expect a guy to walk me back to my car (or at least offer.) I assume you were interested enough to take me on a date and that you are interested enough to make sure I get home safely. I like this. I don’t know any women who do not like this, to be frank. And it might even give you a chance to summon up the courage for a second date ask-out or even maybe a kiss.
– I’m the most torn about the unofficial rule that “guys pay on the first date” but I do agree with it. The paying of the check is awkward. It just is. It’s the best when a guy just nonchalantly takes care of it without breaking stride. That is attractive. That is sexy. I’m not entirely sure why, but it is. There is something in that taking-charge action that indicates to me that you are romantically interested. It says, I enjoyed your company. It says, I like to do nice things because I think you are nice. It says, I respect you and can indicate that by taking care of you because I want to, not because you need me to. (Don’t worry, I’ll happily pay or split with you soon after if we keep dating.)
So yes, I want you to court me. I want you to show me that you can be a protector and a provider. That’s just biology talking. I expect you to wine me, dine me, yet still treat me as an equal. Hypocritical? Maybe. But that doesn’t make it any less true.
There’s a cheesy song from I don’t even know what that goes “Anything you can do, I can do better.” It is a duet that escalates in ridiculous feats and attempts in one-up-man-ship. It always made me laugh and resonated with me as a kid.
I was raised with the concept of endless possibilities so ingrained in me that it wasn’t until much later in life that I realized that not everyone has this. There’s never been a moment that I felt I couldn’t do something or be something or think something based upon my gender. I was raised believing boys and girls were equally valuable, equally intelligent, equally capable and important.
Living on my own as a single lady in my 30’s has only reinforced this feeling, confirmed its’ inherent truth.
And that’s where the real dilemma really lies… I do not NEED a man. Yes, Destiny’s Child Independent Woman IS playing in my head now. Because it is factual… I depend on me. I can take care of me. I complete me, no one else. Anything you can do, I can do just as well in my own way.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t want a man. Does need = romantic female and want = man-bashing feminist? Don’t you want a relationship where you are truly wanted, a completely positive addition instead of something where you are filling a hole like putty? (Sorry, that metaphor got a little awkward.)
Last time I checked, co-dependence wasn’t that sexy.
Chivalry for All.
That’s what this all comes down to, isn’t it? The idea that chivalry and an independent woman automatically clash? But what is chivalry other than a thoughtful gesture?
When a guy holds a door open for me, I consider it a gesture of courtesy. (Hey, I hold doors for people too. It’s just the nice, polite thing to do.) When he picks up the check after dinner, I take it as his way of saying “I enjoyed talking with you and want to thank you for the lovely company“. When he walks me to my car, or makes sure I get in safely, I take that as a “I care about you as a human being and want to make sure you are safe.”
These gestures are sweet, thoughtful and caring… which happen to be traits I want in a potential partner. I don’t take any of these as indicators that I am unable to operate my hands to open a door, financially incapable of paying for sustenance, or an oblivious idiot likely to wander into the street or a mugger if not properly supervised.
I think if I ever experienced any of these chivalrous gestures in a manner that made me feel as if they were belittling, I would react much differently. Because they would no longer be nice and courteous.
And it isn’t one sided, especially with our new definition of chivalry as courteous gestures of caring. To me, it is common courtesy applied romantically. It’s about the nice little things we do, the thoughtful things we do to show that we dig someone.
When I know you have a big meeting, I will make sure to call / text you to see how it went. Bad day? I will do my darnedest to cheer you up. I will ask you about your favorite foods and desserts and attempt to make them for you. Are these big or amazing acts? No. But they are the ways in which I can express early on in a relationship that I think you have value and are wonderful.
Society, for better or worse, has already given men a simple playbook to utilize to express the same thing. I don’t think there is anything negative in using it. There’s no worry of mis-translation in a time-tested kind gesture done genuinely.
So no, I don’t want you to complete me. And I don’t want to complete you. I want to be half of a partnership that wants to be together vs any version of co-dependence. And if you think I’m an awesome independent lady, then hold the door and pick up the check on the first date to show me that.
Maybe I’m confusing. Maybe I’m a hypocrite, wanting both. But it’s just who I am.
Court me, I’m a feminist.