Because you aren't being you
September 9, 2014 8:30 AM   Subscribe

A lot of women out there are afraid of being something. The template for us is pretty clear: We are meant to have clean skin, a pleasant demeanor, and a nice rack. I'm not speaking up against nice racks, Lord knows. But there are lots of ladies around me, everywhere I go, who hesitate to say what they're thinking and feeling. They go with the flow, they never make waves. And eventually, they don't even seem to know what makes them who they are. They live to serve. They read the books that other people are reading. They say the pleasant things that other people are saying. They never put their needs first, unless it indirectly serves someone else — a manicure, some highlights. They make sure everyone around them is 100 percent satisfied. Like grocery-store managers. Like customer service reps. Like masseuses who also give free happy endings. Ask Polly on "Why Don’t the Men I Date Ever Truly Love Me?"
posted by shivohum (170 comments total) 77 users marked this as a favorite


 
Eek, that is very sad. If he is not making room for you to sit in his apartment by the second date, I honestly don't know what to say. The start of a relationship should be sparks flying out of every interaction. Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I never went on a second date with someone what I didn't feel like I could truly be loved by.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:38 AM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


By being yourself and standing out, you make yourself unavailable to many people, but available to a few that are also standing out and looking for someone like you.
posted by michaelh at 8:41 AM on September 9, 2014 [37 favorites]


And that's true of friendship as well as love.
posted by michaelh at 8:42 AM on September 9, 2014 [30 favorites]


Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I never went on a second date with someone what I didn't feel like I could truly be loved by.

I would not be able to date anybody if this were the case for me. I've come to accept that I can have lots of different kinds of relationships in my life and try to be sustained by all of them, because I can relate to the letter writer in the OP - people have liked the whole "fun team" aspect of dating me but it hasn't easily progressed beyond that.

I like Ask Polly's answers but I feel like it's impossible to live up to her ideal - it seems like she's encouraging women not to be Gillian Flynn's "cool girl" but wants them to be some other sort of "cool girl" - a messy one with no anxiety about traditional gender roles or nurturing relationships or finding a special person and having a family with them.

I mean, neither Cool Girl is all that realistic.
posted by sweetkid at 8:44 AM on September 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


Agree with what everyone says here; however, after 20 years, I'm quite sick of people telling me that there's nothing wrong with me, because there obviously is (in that no one wants to date me).
posted by sockerpup at 8:45 AM on September 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


the big difference between me and Nice Guy is when I get broken up with, I didn't go, "Whyyyyyyyyyy,"

Could have fooled me.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:47 AM on September 9, 2014 [24 favorites]


Nice Guy doesn't know what the truth of a relationship is, and I know what the truth of a relationship is.

This is what I disagree with. Having your shit together and being told by a therapist that you are highly evolved is not an indicator that you understand what goes into a loving relationship.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:51 AM on September 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


seriously though I wish there were about a hundred thousand clones of Heather Havrilesky, all writing shit on the internet. Because she writes the best Internet.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:56 AM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: Eek, that is very sad. If he is not making room for you to sit in his apartment by the second date, I honestly don't know what to say. The start of a relationship should be sparks flying out of every interaction. Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I never went on a second date with someone what I didn't feel like I could truly be loved by.
The last two women I've fallen in love with both forbid me to visit them at home.

They were both deeply incapable of real intimacy. And I was too broken to dump them for this, although I should have. :( Wish I were your kind of weirdo.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:00 AM on September 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


Has Polly ever written a response that wasn't "be more crazy and weird and cry on dudes and be vulnerable and a mess?" She's a very good writer, and I'm happy it got her a husband or whatever, but I'm over here sitting in my filth and tears and it fucking sucks and I'm kind of bored with reading it every. single. week.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:05 AM on September 9, 2014 [41 favorites]


So much of what she wrote resonated with me. When I first met my husband, I was confident and kind of cocky and had that spark. I think it's what initially attracted him to me. But as the years went on, our relationship turned into a dynamic of me getting shot down whenever I let that spark appear and then me protecting that spark by damn near extinguishing it. Now we're almost divorced and I'm working hard to get that spark back but it's like making a fire with two twigs. Sometimes a spark will catch but, just as quickly, it'll fade out. I'm trying hard to keep at it and hopefully in these next few years, I can have a nice little fire to warm my life by.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:10 AM on September 9, 2014 [61 favorites]


This really shook me.

I'm just coming off a break-up where the guy didn't really love me and I was very calm and forgiving and even sent him off with the big Costco box of popsicles I'd bought to keep in my freezer when I found out how much he liked them. All my relationships have been about other people's needs, every time I fall in love with someone I bend myself backwards trying to make him happy, trying to be a sane and rational and thoughtful partner who's good at communicating and never blows up about things because that would be unreasonable and it's not his fault, I totally see where he's coming from.

I guess Polly is right in that this approach has never gotten me anywhere, no one's ever loved me for being patient and empathetic and talking things through. But I don't see what she's telling me to do here. It's like she confirmed that I have a problem and then as a solution she suggested that I just try having more tantrums. I don't think I would feel more like I'm "being myself" if I had regular tantrums. What if "myself" is just a boring person?
posted by segfault at 9:12 AM on September 9, 2014 [40 favorites]


It must be hard to pretend, living in therapy-land. Hard to live without answers, when your culture just insists that there are always answers if you are "highly evolved" and "open" and whatnot.
posted by General Tonic at 9:22 AM on September 9, 2014 [18 favorites]


There is no way this lady has nearly as "remarkable communication .. skills" as her therapist claims. I disagree with Polly's advice that she pull the crazy crying girl bullshit, although yes that does express a desire to communicate, expresses it remarkably badly.

Instead, she should work on actual communication, that requires not always being nice, but it doesn't mean throwing tantrums either. I donno why so many women imagine they're good at communication, when they clearly suck. An average man sucks worse of course, but the average woman is not good at communication.

Also, there is a study suggesting that people settle down whenever they're personally ready, meaning it depends entirely upon themselves, not upon their current partner, not finding mister right, etc. I'd imagine this involves a choice to actually overcome their poor communication skills with effort. And either their current partner reciprocates that effort or else they find someone who will.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:32 AM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


I have spent the majority of my dating life with guys I wanted to love me but never did. It was horrible, it was terrible, and it damn near damaged me enough that I came close to ruining the relationship where I did end up being loved. It's hard to find someone who likes you for you romantically, who doesn't turn tail when your anxiety and depression rear its ugly head.

I have that person now. I am damn grateful that I learned enough about my self-destructive tendencies to work through and with them to not jeopardize my marriage.
posted by Kitteh at 9:33 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


> It's like she confirmed that I have a problem and then as a solution she suggested that I just try having more tantrums

I don't see it as having more tantrums; I see it as being a glorious Brian Blessed character.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:37 AM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Or Caitlin Moran, if you're not comfortable being Brian Blessed.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:38 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


This was a nice, kind, supportive response... but I can't help but think it's fundamentally flawed.

Never being loved, never feeling truly loved... these are not gender identity or sexual orientation specific. These are problems pertaining to subjects, in general. That is, it's something that happens to us because we are (partially) conscious, isolated beings. Life is painful, and this is one of the ways.

Why do I feel it's a fundamental error to not acknowledge this universality? Because the woman's (ex) boyfriend is having to deal with the same shit. And none of us really know how to do it, so we do stupid, hurtful things sometimes, to ourselves and others. So I think mapping such things onto early 21st century gender norms and politics tends to trivialize them, and will be ultimately unhelpful.

Then again, maybe I'm just having a gloomy day.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:42 AM on September 9, 2014 [18 favorites]


Has Polly ever written a response that wasn't "be more crazy and weird and cry on dudes and be vulnerable and a mess?"

The one linked above is a response that isn't "be more crazy and weird and cry on dudes and be vulnerable and a mess."
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:44 AM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I feel this way about people in general. My friends circle keeps shrinking because I keep trying to hang with people who are more than just well-rounded and pleasant but are passionate about shit. It's also why Facebook bores me. Everyone's just trying to please. There should be more arguments and drama on Facebook and in life. No spark. Very few willing to put themselves out there.
posted by ChuckRamone at 9:49 AM on September 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


If you're really patient, empathetic and talking things through, as this lady might be, then you might be failing at "getting to the point", which this lady likely fails, segfault. Insults are actually useful for "getting to the point" if played well because they escalate the conversation in the other person's mind. I only insult beliefs myself because (a) I'm arrogant so they come out accidentally but (b) I'm not sure I'm good enough at communication to insult a person well. Both my current partner and my PhD advisor have insulted me with extraordinary deftness that had lasting beneficial effects. Anyway, you should be patient, empathetic and talk things through, and you should not throw a tantrums obviously, but neither should you be nice under all circumstances.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:49 AM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


I think the problem is that so many people, particularly men, assume women will handle all the empathy and collaboration efforts and compromising and niceness and that lady stuff and do not feel compelled to respond by doing the same.

Here's the thing, I don't think anyone knows what makes the spark of "love" happen-- but I do think there are patterns that are unhealthy related to how we are TAUGHT to relate to each and possibly even in our natural predispositions toward each other. Fixing that doesn't mean love is gauranteed to happen, it just means when there is a connection more people might know how to cultivate it by treating each other well-- on both sides of the equation.

Empathy, intuition, and awareness of another persons feelings and welfare are not things that ONLY women are capable of doing. While, sure we could now ADD to the control of women by shaming them for DOING the things they've been shamed into doing-- or we could ask men to have higher standards of themselves in respecting and understanding and serving their partners. Or I guess some of both.

And sometimes what people call "insults" could be reframed as stating the truth. Sometimes your partner is being an asshole. Protecting them from facing that truth is not being "nice", it's often about protecting yourself from their inappropriate retaliation to hearing an unpleasant truth about themselves. A reaction men are more often entitled to have toward women who call them out, while simultaneously being tolerated when "putting women in their place" for misbehavior. (Obviously speaking about cultural generalities, each individual having a huge range of variation).
posted by xarnop at 9:55 AM on September 9, 2014 [29 favorites]


I feel like advice about relationships always goes - "Yeah I made a lot of mistakes and felt bad about it and etc....and then I met my wonderful partner." What if you just keep making mistakes? Or what if there is no end and that's okay?

There's just all this pressure as a single person to fix all the things about yourself, but I know plenty of really great people in flawed relationships, and flawed people in great relationships, and great and flawed single people.

As a long time single person though, basically any mention of dating gets me an earful from people about either all the things I need to fix, or how I should just never think about it and it will happen, or how i need to love myself, or or or. Even if I said something as small as "yeah that guy didn't work out actually" or "yeah still single!"

I've actually been dating someone for a few months now and have no particular illusion that it will go anywhere, but the change in social capital is amazing - people have stopped giving me all that advice I wasn't even asking for, or making sympathetic eyes at me while squeezing their partner's knee, and actually focus on me and other things going on in my life. I get more respect even from friends. It's crazy.
posted by sweetkid at 9:58 AM on September 9, 2014 [63 favorites]


It's weird, but for all of her "I am not being a Nice Guy" schtick, she's still talking about how she did X, Y, and Z; why isn't she loved? She still wants to hear that she deserves love because she's so friggin' awesome. I await the banjo portion of the story.

No, you do not deserve love, or sex, or a relationship, and you may never have any of these things again for the remainder of your life. Perhaps you could adopt a pet.

Cheers!
posted by adipocere at 10:00 AM on September 9, 2014 [22 favorites]


There should be more arguments and drama on Facebook and in life.

Well, Facebook gives you the option to erase anyone who disagrees with you from your feed, so the drama is often just hidden. As for life - I don't know about you, but I'm with Fergie on that one.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:04 AM on September 9, 2014


I agree with Heather Havrilesky that these are character traits that are more likely to be exhibited by women because we still have a long way to go before gender roles modernize. We're, what, one or two generations removed from a time when women had no easy alternatives to cultivating deferential personalities because (a) they were dependent on men for any kind of economic security and (related) (b) they were heavily discouraged from dedicating themselves to pursuits outside the family, and those pursuits weren't very open to them. You see men, too, who grew up in dysfunctional homes who have these codependency issues, but I think it's less of a default.

Yeah, having better access to your own emotions is a great thing for everyone, but there's something that strikes me a bit off about the ideal of having passion for yourself the way Heather Havrilesky describes. It's hard for me to picture a version of that that isn't self-involvement, or a retreat from experiencing the present, or creating a wild-goose chase where you try to figure out the best way to treat yourself in a given situation without questioning why you put yourself there. I think understanding oneself and accepting oneself and seeking to negotiate conflicts rather than deferring are all better things to strive for. She's not really showing a very in-depth understanding of how to cultivate intimacy is I guess what I'm saying.

Also, having creative pursuits, passions, etc. will not make you happy or a decent partner, and the frisson of finding someone who is involved with these things is to me a paper tiger, and one of the great myths of modern dating.
posted by alphanerd at 10:11 AM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


segfault:I was very calm and forgiving and even sent him off with the big Costco box of popsicles

"I'm sorry that we have to say good-bye to you but, Johnny, tell him what he's won"
posted by dances with hamsters at 10:13 AM on September 9, 2014 [27 favorites]


sockerpup - Even if nobody ever dates you (I'm not informed enough to know whether or why that would be true), you still might be a perfectly fine person. Single people are great.
posted by amtho at 10:24 AM on September 9, 2014


Single people are great.

Right - but not every single person wants to be, feels good about it, or will be able to resign themselves to it. These kind of comments - like the well-meaning-but-misguided pep talks sweetkid describes - aren't helpful.

Bottom line, if you're single long term and don't want to be, a thousand people telling you "you're great" isn't going to be enough to counteract being lonely and wondering why.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:31 AM on September 9, 2014 [21 favorites]


Metafilter: There should be more arguments and drama
posted by smidgen at 10:36 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


When I look back at my life, one of my biggest regrets is how much fucking time I have wasted trying to be lovable (cool, giving, pleasing, accommodating, patient, interesting, entertaining, appealing) - because I feel so much of my worth is based on other people finding me worth their time. I didn't think so much about whether I really liked (or loved) other people because I was so worried about whether or not I was likable (acceptable, worthy, comfortable, fun) to them.

I'm not saying I put up a front - far from it; it's pretty hard for me to lie. It's genuinely me. But it's me wanting to make other people feel good. It's me wanting to keep my head down so no one gets too mad at me. It's me wanting to fit in. It's me anxious & afraid - to be alone, to be rejected, to be not good enough for other people to bother with.

And now I'm thinking about this AskMe comment I read recently - that out of all the billions of people in the world you are lucky to find a person you're compatible with. It's fucking luck. Why waste your time mistaking being comfortable, accommodating, "evolved", or at the least paired off - for the real thing? Why settle when you could keep your chances open to rolling that lucky throw? I mean, I know why we do it, and I'm not judging that. But it's sad compared to what could be - that chance to find someone actually compatible with your messy self and have the love that so many of us desire. That kind of love is a real human need, that trust & acceptance of our personal truth.

And I agree we are presented with the example, as women, to be entertaining, attractive, accommodating, giving - to listen, to make other people feel good - that this is an ideal we should aspire to, and many of us suppress our personal messiness & our true feelings in service to that. And then sometimes we mistake being desirable - for love; we mistake not rocking the boat, being pleasing, taking care of others & being taken care of - for being worthy. But we are more than that, and who we are is sometimes scary and sometimes irrational and probably full of issues and many people won't like it - or, by extension, us.

But much like every family is dysfunctional in its own way, we all have something messy inside us. We think we're maximizing our chances for love by hiding it, by holding that mess back - but I think what Ask Polly is saying here is that we maximize our chances by not being afraid to show it. Because then we won't attract the people who can't handle the messy truth of us - and we'll be visible to the people who can.
posted by flex at 10:37 AM on September 9, 2014 [42 favorites]


What xarnop said about the gendered expectations of empathy rings true for me. As a woman in hetero relationships, to expect mutuality in empathy and emotional care-taking has often been a source of conflict. It's completely draining and when I am unable hide the fact that it's draining, then that also becomes a problem. Resentment builds when your attempts to take care of yourself bring out your partner's insecurities and turns into another thing to manage.

I think Ask Polly's biggest truth for me is the idea of accepting your flaws. Otherwise you'll live in fear of your true self. It seems rather exhausting to me. We're all flawed. We all fuck up.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:39 AM on September 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


This is a pretty interesting and considered response to a very common question. It also works in the inverse. As in, why do all these fuckers keep trying to monopolize my love and lust when it's my slut vibe that they're attracted to in the first place? I feel like I had this talk with a bunch of dudes during my roaring twenties of self-discovery.

I'd also say this kind of considered response caught me off guard in yet another incarnatio--of not realizing that one doesn't necessarily know what's going to feel right until it arrives, no matter how much thinking one has done on the matter. I had the distinct impression that I wanted a life unfettered by a long term partner, and especially free from monogamy--as my cultural leanings had instructed me that this was the mental and physical equivalent of oppressive colonialism (in almost those exact terms)--and then, one day, I hooked up with this guy at the bathhouse where I was working during graduate school. And then he kinda waited for me to get off work the next night, so we had a drink and I spent the night at his hotel. Fast forward about seven years, and we've just bought a house together, I've adopted his three kids, and we live on the opposite side of the country from where we met. Because it was insane but we wanted to live here. And let me tell you there have been plenty moments of incandescent human nature in those seven years, but I felt increasingly enlightened as we mounted each one of them with the realization that we are human and our conflicts can define and unite us just as much as they can obliterate and separate us.

I love these conversations. I don't think my generation (or any generation, really) has gotten to truthfully explore humanity and relationships in a context that;s anything other than traditional, or even pedantic. We're getting better. This is a good example of how we're getting better. Kudos to Polly.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:39 AM on September 9, 2014 [34 favorites]


Ugh. I find this maddening and entitled and toxic bullshit bullshit bullshit.

The notion that there is one magic person out there who will love you in all your most awful no matter what you do is pernicious. It is what keeps people in serial monogamy, looking for the Perfect One, or eternally single, waiting. And ladies, here's another thing for you to feel shitty about! When you're already doing all the emotional heavy lifting of the relationship - a thing you will have to do in every single relationship unless you are dating ladies, in which case you'll just process eternally together - you also get to worry that you're doing too much heavy lifting and thus making yourself unattractive!

Fuck. That.

The world we live in is shitty. And it is a world that demands that women be to some extent accomodating. If you are not trying to do that, then mazel tov for you, but don't pretend that it is going to increase your chance of finding happiness - because due to the structural nature of institutionalized sexism, even the least sexist guys are still going to be somewhat sexist. They are going to expect you to handle the emotional stuff. They are going to expect to find their life easier instead of harder.

I am in my thirties, and I have yet to hear a guy, either friend or lover, say "I am looking for someone to complicate my life." They say they want someone who makes their life better. And it is some privileged bullshit to think that stuff just magically happens, that you get with someone and magically your life is better and easier and nicer. No, that stuff happens as a result of women's hard work. So yes, stop if you want to, but understand, that is not going to help you find someone.
posted by corb at 10:47 AM on September 9, 2014 [67 favorites]


Being lonely sucks. On preview I wish I could follow up flex's comment with something more profound. But, really. Being lonely sucks. I do think sometimes finding a love story might also mean being willing to see yourself- faults included, back story included... falling into a love story... with another real person, with faults, and history. Something new to discover and fall in love with. I think the Cool Girl style of dating does often lead up to this, you're not allowed to want affirmations of love, that love stuff is weird, and should be waited for nicely.

Whereas we're supposed to share our bodies and sexualities even if loveless or "maybe I could love you some day if you keep letting me fuck you until I figure out if you're worth it" sex does nothing for you but you feel like shit. And the fact that you feel like shit and are not having any fun is taken as a sign that you are no fun, and not worthy of love or the "spark" is not happening.

I personally want to find the spark, of some kind... BEFORE the sex. I haven't found it ever to magically appear by letting some partially or barely interested guy bang you until he decides you matter or are worthy of empathy.
posted by xarnop at 10:48 AM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


As for life - I don't know about you, but I'm with Fergie yt on that one.

I don't mean soap opera drama, or frivolous drama, but like passionate debates, sharing of interesting information, displays of intellectual curiosity. Most people are so inoffensive and mundane.
posted by ChuckRamone at 10:48 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


It wasn't until adulthood that I realized that my social awkwardness saved me from situations like this. I was incapable of being the inoffensive woman. It is not a skill I possess. I could be silent, but I could not be blandly pleasant. Mostly because I kept talking about things that interested me, 99% of which turned out to be too "weird" for lots of dudes. I'm not even goth, we're not talking a fascination with bad taxidermy and black lipstick*, we're talking "hey so I saw this great documentary on women in ancient Greece the other night." Nope. That's too intimidating for these guys. They would get a panicked look on their face and book out.

So my definition of good relationship ended up being "Being with someone who not only tolerates your weirdnesses and intelligence, but likes you all the better for them, whether or not they share all your interests."

*not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by emjaybee at 10:55 AM on September 9, 2014 [42 favorites]


passionate debates, sharing of interesting information, displays of intellectual curiosity

That is not what most people think of when they think of drama in relationships. That sounds like a normal relationship to me.

I have yet to hear a guy, either friend or lover, say "I am looking for someone to complicate my life."

Do women say this? If so, why do they say it? It seems like looking for trouble, to be honest.
posted by smidgen at 10:59 AM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


sockerpup: Agree with what everyone says here; however, after 20 years, I'm quite sick of people telling me that there's nothing wrong with me, because there obviously is (in that no one wants to date me).

I'll admit to feeling miserable about this through most of my 20s. I've been single again for eight years now, but I'm no longer miserable about it. I can't offer any pablum, though; the cure, for me, was making myself dateable, dating, and now knowing that it's something I can do. My identity no longer includes "undateable".

I'd be glad to know if there's a simple cure for the depressing way that undateability gets tangled up with identity other than, you know, actually dating.
posted by clawsoon at 11:04 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wasn't 100% on board with the response but I think it does get at something important, and flex's comment illuminated that to me further.

One of my most frustrating moments recently has been being on a date with a person who obviously thought that I wasn't good enough for him, and being upset at myself for not measuring up in whatever way, when I actually didn't like him at all and it shouldn't have mattered to me that I wasn't his cup of tea.

My (in theory) attitude towards dating has been that if you're not interested in me as I am, imperfect as I may be, then I am not interested in you. I am opinionated, I am a feminist, I am politically liberal, I am kind of a nerd, I don't necessarily follow perfectly however women are supposed to be dressing/looking/grooming themselves these days. If those things are a problem for someone, they can go date someone who is not me.

But... Insecurity is a real thing, and loneliness is not always great. It is tempting to try to hide the imperfect parts of yourself, to try to appear more perfect or more together than you really are. But I think you have to be vulnerable, and open up the parts of yourself that you'd kind of rather no one else sees, in order to really let someone in. That doesn't necessarily mean drama/screaming/crying/being a mess, but it means being willing to let the other person know what you're feeling and where you're vulnerable-- even if it's when you're angry though you don't think you should feel angry, or if you're upset over something minor that you feel you shouldn't be upset over.

idk; relationships are hard.
posted by matcha action at 11:13 AM on September 9, 2014 [17 favorites]


Is this advice for:

(1) People who are too nice, too empathetic, too giving, too considerate, too un-dramatic, etc.,

or

(2) People whose self-perception is that they're too nice, too empathetic, too considerate, too un-dramatic, etc.?
posted by grobstein at 11:13 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


The last two women I've fallen in love with both forbid me to visit them at home.

Sometimes that can be symptom of a problem with intimacy, but for example, I refuse to have people over because of the state of my housekeeping and the fact that I grew up with a mother who was so critical about this that the notion of people seeing my home presently gives me panic attacks. For most of my relationship history, I've not invited anybody over who I wasn't ready to live with. The same behavior can have very different reasons for existing, is all I mean to say. And it will be a good fit for some people but not for others.

It's always seemed to me to be vanishingly easy to get someone to be in love with me. It's much harder to get someone you actually want to be with for a long span of time to be in love with you at the same time as you're in love with them--but that's true for all genders, I think. It's never that there's nobody on the planet who would date you. It's that nobody on the list is somebody who makes you feel appropriate levels of either tingles or warm-fuzzies. Everybody has to learn to balance those two things--how much do you just want someone versus wanting someone you're really into? I definitely think it's easier to work out where that balance is when you're doing it for you versus trying to be somebody not-you.
posted by Sequence at 11:14 AM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


corb--- wow player, why in the world would you want a romantic partner if it didn't make your life more awesome?
posted by Poppa Bear at 11:19 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


even the least sexist guys are still going to be somewhat sexist. They are going to expect you to handle the emotional stuff.

I agree with the first part, but not the second. The gender stereotype of "women are emotional, men are stoic" is extremely problematic and just plain untrue. That's right up there with "real men don't cry."
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:20 AM on September 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


I think Ask Polly's biggest truth for me is the idea of accepting your flaws. Otherwise you'll live in fear of your true self. It seems rather exhausting to me. We're all flawed. We all fuck up.

This was a difficult, valuable lesson. I've always felt free to be myself and maybe possess what Polly calls spark - as a dear friend once said lovingly and kindly, I don't attract guys with my face, I attract them with my conversation - but inevitably they left, blaming my personality along the way.

Then once after such a break-up, I called my mom wailing the common cry of what's wrong with meeeeee? and she replied, "Oh god, honey, lots and lots of things." Thanks, mom! Thankfully she continued with roughly this:

"There's plenty that's right with you, too. But I'm not going to say that someday you'll find someone who loves you flaws and all. Because it all has to do with luck. You can't go around expecting you will find someone no matter what. There's a few people out there who has flaws that will go well with yours, and maybe you'll find them. In the meantime, you have to ask yourself if it's you working on your flaws to make your relationship work, or are you both working on both of your flaws together? Because if it's just you, then you need to leave. And if he's just working on his flaws, then he needs to leave you. And you know what? You're going to have different flaws in different relationships. And you're going to have the same ones. You have to learn to recognize them, and face them, or your relationship isn't going to work. And you have to find someone who does the same. You might never find them, either, and expecting to do so is the biggest mistake of all.

And [pet name] you have to learn what are truly your flaws and what may not be because of HIS flaws in the way he sees the world or you or whatever - that's really important too. And that works both ways."

So yeah, after that I didn't date for three years. . . ha! But it was good advice, and when I was ready to date again, I realized part of that advice was the implication that working with each other's flaws is about communication. It was a good way to steer through that gender norm expectation bullshit, because if I was the only one communicating or empathizing or compromising, that meant I was the only one dealing with flaws, whether they were my own or his - and it wasn't going to work and I needed to get out.
posted by barchan at 11:20 AM on September 9, 2014 [56 favorites]


So what emjaybee is actually saying is that if we pass the hat around for mathowie again, he might come up with date a mefite?

/facetious answer. will return with insightful vulnerable messy one based on what jeffburdges said
posted by infini at 11:32 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have yet to hear a guy, either friend or lover, say "I am looking for someone to complicate my life."

Do women say this? If so, why do they say it? It seems like looking for trouble, to be honest.


I don't think women SAY it, but I do think most of the women I know consider it to be a likely outcome of dating someone, that their lives will become more complicated. Generally, I think we hope that it will be a temporary complication, but it seldom is.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:34 AM on September 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


Is this advice for:

(1) People who are too nice, too empathetic, too giving, too considerate, too un-dramatic, etc.,

or

(2) People whose self-perception is that they're too nice, too empathetic, too considerate, too un-dramatic, etc.?


This is seriously a big problem with just about all general-purpose advice, though. Like, about half the people in the world, their problem is that they're too nice, and the other half, their problem is that they're not nice enough. But most people are wrong about which camp they're in: the too-nice people are worried they're not enough because they're hung up about that one time they failed to be nice, and the not-nice-enough people are worried they're too nice because they're hung up about that one time they let down their guard and got pushed around.

Or ditto for any other personality quality that you can have too much of or not enough of — which is all of them, thank you Aristotle.

Basically I don't trust most relationship advice from anyone who hasn't met me, because they don't know how I'm fucking up, and I probably don't even know how I'm fucking up, so how is any good going to come of it?

I mean, I'm exaggerating a bit — sometimes some bit of general-audience writing does really hit a nerve and resonate in an important way and lead to an important bit of personal change. But usually for me that happens when I've already had someone who actually knows me call me out on something I'm doing wrong, and I'm just casting around for a way to fix it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:37 AM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


I don't think corb saying that men in her life don't say ""I am looking for someone to complicate my life." means that women are saying they want men to complicate their life. She's saying that men expect women to make life easier - see the "i'll have to ask my social director!" when asking if a man can hang out, because the man can't keep track of dates in his own life. Or pick out drapes. Or throw out old food. Even the most progressive men I can think of say things like this.

So yes, as corb says because due to the structural nature of institutionalized sexism, even the least sexist guys are still going to be somewhat sexist.

I just don't think it's realistic to be expect something else. Basically, word to corb's whole comment, seriously.
posted by sweetkid at 11:43 AM on September 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


I was incapable of being the inoffensive woman. It is not a skill I possess. I could be silent, but I could not be blandly pleasant. Mostly because I kept talking about things that interested me, 99% of which turned out to be too "weird" for lots of dudes. I'm not even goth, we're not talking a fascination with bad taxidermy and black lipstick*, we're talking "hey so I saw this great documentary on women in ancient Greece the other night." Nope. That's too intimidating for these guys. They would get a panicked look on their face and book out.

So my definition of good relationship ended up being "Being with someone who not only tolerates your weirdnesses and intelligence, but likes you all the better for them, whether or not they share all your interests."


I think you may be my long lost twin. I really just stunk and still do at being as you describe blandly pleasant. Small talk, flirting? Total mystery to me. I have tried, it's just so profoundly dull and boring and I never can keep it up. It's like I'm acting.
posted by Jalliah at 11:51 AM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


Communication becomes especially important when you try to discuss these common results of institutionalized sexism as they play out in your relationship.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:52 AM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


The gender stereotype of "women are emotional, men are stoic" is extremely problematic and just plain untrue. That's right up there with "real men don't cry."

This, 1000 times. I'm a guy who doesn't fit the "silent, stoic, emotionally unavailable" stereotype, and know others. I've often felt like I had to conform to it in the past in relationships, too, because anything else was considered (even by women who didn't themselves conform to "feminine" stereotypes) unmanly.

Gender expression is a spectrum and the cultural expectations are strictly, suffocatingly bipolar. It's exhausting.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:53 AM on September 9, 2014 [25 favorites]


I got a very different read on this than it seems is being discussed here.

I agree that perhaps the talk about having a fit and saying "why don't cherish ME, you asshole" may have been an inelegant way of phrasing it, but what I took from this is more about how some people will fret about making themselves agreeable to an intended partner, and are waiting around for them to notice "see, I'm a good person" - when what ideally they should do, if their intended doesn't really seem to notice how cool they are, is to say "Huh. Well, if you don't think that's important, you're stupid and I ain't got time for that," and then jog on.

And it lead me to an epiphany about my own Object D'schmoop (yeah, things are a bit stale here) - he and I are both creative types. He and I are also both really busy. And yet, I've gone out of my way to try to look in on his own art and projects and support his work - which involves my going to another state and watching performances. However, when I asked him if he's checked out MY work - which involves him reading a blog - he said "I looked at it once."

And the thing is, I've been spending so much time trying to be patient and understanding about how busy he is and how I shouldn't be upset he hasn't much time for me, that I didn't realize until just recently that "wait a minute - I'm busy too, and I'm creating things too. I'm making time in my busy-ness for him, but he is not doing that for me." I mean, I understand why he's not. But that doesn't change the fact that what I need is someone who does do that for me.

And I'm not as schmoopy about Object d'Schmoop right now after realizing that, because it's NOT fair. But more importantly - it puts me and my own needs back in the picture, rather than demoting my own needs, the way I've been doing (and the way a lot of other people do).

Granted, in my case it's probably going to just prompt a lot of repeated listens to a particular Paloma Faith song rather than prompting a full-on "fuck you, dude, I'm outta here," but it will also prompt me to having a particular Discussion the next time we do see each other.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:57 AM on September 9, 2014 [36 favorites]


"There's plenty that's right with you, too. But I'm not going to say that someday you'll find someone who loves you flaws and all. Because it all has to do with luck. You can't go around expecting you will find someone no matter what. There's a few people out there who has flaws that will go well with yours, and maybe you'll find them. In the meantime, you have to ask yourself if it's you working on your flaws to make your relationship work, or are you both working on both of your flaws together? Because if it's just you, then you need to leave. And if he's just working on his flaws, then he needs to leave you."

Barchan, your mom is awesome.

I'm always hesitant to offer advice in situations like this since that's the way I feel too: it's just chance whether you'll meet someone who fits right. I was either single or in short-lived relationships for a loooong time and the only reasons I can offer for why I've found myself in an LTR now are (a) chance meeting of (b) someone else who decided right about the same time I did to be aware of [and willing to amend] my own flaws and forgiving of someone else's.
posted by psoas at 12:00 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


So, a strange thing has happened to me a few times, and this seems as good a place to share it as any.

On a few different occasions, different people have told me that I reminded them of Lena Dunham. And then they've immediately apologized, waffled, or stepped back on that compliment.

This weekend it happened again, and it occurred to me:

They're waffling because they're worried that I'll think they're telling me I'm what this article describes as "something". That I have a personality, maybe even a personality some people might not like. That I have a body, maybe even a body that might not be attractive at all times. That I have opinions, maybe opinions that are tedious or disagreeable.

Dude, people, Lena Dunham is awesome -- even when she's not attractive, or brilliant, or perfect -- and I'm delighted to be compared to her, even if all you meant is that our voices sound alike or we are both extremely narcissistic. Lena Dunham is awesome precisely because she isn't afraid to be something.
posted by Sara C. at 12:00 PM on September 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


I don't think corb meant to invoke the women emotional/men stoic stereotype, though--rather, it's that men expect women to do the emotional labor in the relationship. Like, my ex was being emotional for sure when he got butt hurt that I called him out on a shitty joke instead of laughing at it, but I was the one who then had to placate and soothe and smooth over. (Okay, that's an extreme example, but it was the most clear-cut one I could think of.)
posted by sunset in snow country at 12:02 PM on September 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


"i'll have to ask my social director!" when asking if a man can hang out, because the man can't keep track of dates in his own life. Or pick out drapes. Or throw out old food.

This is just the worst case of misinterpretation I have ever seen. People say these things for the same reason you don't unilaterally pick the drapes if you're living together -- you at least probe the other person to see whether they care. If something new comes up, you may have to check in with the other person in the relationship about whether this new thing overrides an older thing (or if the other person has simultaneously come up with some new thing in the meantime). The social director comment is about caring what the other person thinks -- not about not paying attention to them.

It may surprise you to learn that people sometimes are stubborn about aesthetic choices and perhaps the other person in the relationship tends to relent because they don't give a shit about drapes. In the macro sense the male/female balance in such cases might be impacted by sexism.. but in the micro sense, it is not sexist to not care about drapes.

"but it's still good! Why waste food!?" :-)
posted by smidgen at 12:04 PM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]



"i'll have to ask my social director!" when asking if a man can hang out, because the man can't keep track of dates in his own life. Or pick out drapes. Or throw out old food.

This is just the worst case of misinterpretation I have ever seen.


Really? The worst case? I have discussed plenty of times with men and women and we've discussed here on Metafilter that "I'm hopeless with dates! I would never notice what we had on our windows, I just notice that light doesn't get in!" tends to be a thing that men put on women in a relationship context, and that women often accept on themselves. It's a thing.
posted by sweetkid at 12:09 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Life sucks.
posted by halifix at 12:10 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


"i'll have to ask my social director!" when asking if a man can hang out, because the man can't keep track of dates in his own life. Or pick out drapes. Or throw out old food. Even the most progressive men I can think of say things like this.

In my experience, when men say these things its because their time (and their house, and their other property, with a few exceptions) no longer belongs to them in their mind, it belongs to their significant other. Their wife or girlfriend has control of all three spheres: hers, his and theirs.

Women may interpret that as men wanting a mommy or a personal assistant, but (again, personal experience) it really comes down to who cares more, and men being very dialed in to not rocking the boat or upsetting anyone unless you absolutely have to.

In conclusion, I have never known a man to use his significant other as his personal assistant, full stop. But I don't know every dude on the planet, so there's that.
posted by Poppa Bear at 12:12 PM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


Sigh, I knew I should have left out the hyperbole because you would make it about that -- but it is pretty damn bad.

"I'm hopeless with dates! I would never notice what we had on our windows, I just notice that light doesn't get in!"

I honestly don't understand what this is supposed to mean. People who don't get dates because of requiring the datee to think about their own drapes? What? I think you're projecting -- but I have no idea what you are projecting exactly.
posted by smidgen at 12:17 PM on September 9, 2014


No, those were two separate points - I meant men who say they are hopeless with dates, like "Are you free on September 19th?" because their wives/girlfriends handle the social scheduling.

It's one thing to say, "let me check with my partner, we might be doing something" but to say "my secretary" or "cruise director" etc or to claim that understanding dates is just impossible for you is definitely depending on women to make a man's life "easier," which is the original comment I was responding to.

Also the thing I said about drapes is in reference to things like that men often say in the context of a heterosexual relationship - that they wouldn't care what was on their windows, or what they're wearing, or anything about domesticity or the home if it weren't for their female partner pointing it out/making selections/taking care of it.
posted by sweetkid at 12:25 PM on September 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


What sweetkid is talking about seems entirely common and real to me. I was just talking to a friend about it last week. She started a new job and was surprised at all the comments her male coworkers make about how their wives "control" their schedule.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:26 PM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


This hit me pretty hard although I'm a guy and not in a relationship.

In fact my relationship history a wasteland (think Arrakis). I also struggle a lot with building strong friendships. For a long time I was flailing about wondering why this is but I have gradually realised it comes down to pretty much what was in the article.

I have a massive problem with putting someone in an awkward position or causing a fuss. Essentially with feeling vulnerable. This blocks me from building connections with people. Sometimes I can detect this shimmering in the air and see my defence mechanisms kick in. It feels like I am strangling myself but I just can't. let. go.

I also definitely don't "cherish" myself enough (aside from far too much coffee and pastries). In some ways I feel the idea that I should be cherished or loved or have value to be an absurd idea. That deep down it can never be true but it's a lie I must accept.

Excuse me while I go and write some terrible emo poetry.
posted by Erberus at 12:28 PM on September 9, 2014 [19 favorites]


This is just the worst case of misinterpretation I have ever seen.

Clearly you've never noticed the number of couples where the woman is on Facebook, and the man is not. Or, worse, that's the situation and her profile photo is of the two of them.

Women doing the social work of relationships is the default for probably a vast majority of the mainstream of American (middle class?) society. And it's never, ever talked about.
posted by Sara C. at 12:34 PM on September 9, 2014 [22 favorites]


In fact my relationship history a wasteland (think Arrakis).

I would have lots of issues too if my relationship history involved enormous phalli dentata bursting out of the sand frequently.
posted by XMLicious at 12:35 PM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


"i'll have to ask my social director!" when asking if a man can hang out, because the man can't keep track of dates in his own life takes his partner's needs and wishes into consideration when making plans.*

For a site which is virulently anti-gender-stereotype, there is a lot of highly gendered BS being slung around on this thread. I know it is based on a non-scientific sampling of peers, but is also incorrect. I'm a heterosexual male and I care about what I wear, the drapes, art on the walls, cookware, etc. I also don't think I'm a special snowflake, so I can't be the only one.

* I read sweetkid's follow-up and understand that it wasn't meant in that sense. But just because one uses shorthand like "social director" doesn't mean that one is actually daft re: dates. It could just as easily be that the person is succumbing to social pressures viz terminology. I will sometimes refer to my wife as the CFO because I run major purchases by her, but that is not because I'm clueless with money, it is because we have worked hard to merge our lives and be partners, and part of that is agreeing on things like schedules and finances.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:35 PM on September 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


The one time I was in a situation that sounds familiar to hers can be summed up by this Futurama exchange:

Leela: Fry, are you all right? What happened?
Amy: What about Umbriel?
Fry: Well it turns out I loved her, but I wasn't *in* love with her.
Amy: [whispers to Leela] Trouble in bed.
Leela: [nods sagely]
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:37 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


"

For a site which is virulently anti-gender-stereotype, there is a lot of highly gendered BS being slung around on this thread. I know it is based on a non-scientific sampling of peers, but is also incorrect. I'm a heterosexual male and I care about what I wear, the drapes, art on the walls, cookware, etc. I also don't think I'm a special snowflake, so I can't be the only one.


I'm pretty specifically talking about men who say that they are bad with dates, or who don't care about their clothes or windows. Not men who work on those things with their partners.
posted by sweetkid at 12:44 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Clearly you've never noticed the number of couples where the woman is on Facebook, and the man is not. Or, worse, that's the situation and her profile photo is of the two of them.

That's not only more generalized, but something different. The fact that you think it's the same is the misinterpretation I was talking about.
posted by smidgen at 12:51 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]



"i'll have to ask my social director!" when asking if a man can hang out, because the man can't keep track of dates in his own life takes his partner's needs and wishes into consideration when making plans.*


I agree that it is a spectrum and there are definitely men that are the social director for their female partners etc. But it is flippant to say there isn't a social expectation that women manage the social spheres of their male partner, at least among middle class America. I have friends that think it is "radical" that they are making their partner manage relationships with his own side of the family. The stereotypical America family holiday is a great/terrible example of this - men eat and watch football, while the women plan the meals, watch the kids, and cook and serve the food. This is something that is real on a population if not every-single-relationship level, and is backed up by hard data

As far as the article, I'm not sure I buy into the act messy answer directly. I think the real answer is to make sure you are with someone who is as caring of you as you are of them. Be with the partner that would remember your favorite popsicles.
posted by fermezporte at 12:52 PM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


I have friends that think it is "radical" that they are making their partner manage relationships with his own side of the family.

Ugh, this. I have a friend who, while finishing up her master's thesis, was stressing out because her husband's dad had a cancer scare and she couldn't get her husband to call him (he kept saying "I don't feel like it right now" and then his family would start calling and texting my friend to get her to get her husband to call his dad). She's 26, which I only mention because I'm sure someone will be along shortly to say that these attitudes are dying out--not so.
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:03 PM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


Come to think of it, only his female family members bugged her about it. These two dudes just couldn't, you know, call each other.
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:05 PM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


grumpybear, I've met some guys who Totally Aren't Even Like That.

And, frankly, it's not a cultural role that is enforced by Mean Evil Menz Who Pretend To Hate Wallpaper Patterns Because They Are Misogynists. For the most part, when I feel that pressure within a relationship to handle all the social stuff, or take charge on domestic matters, or do the emotional work, it's coming from within. Because that's how I was brought up. It comes from my mom, and other women in my life, and just the entire environment we're all marinating in.

One guy who is egalitarian and is really into us going apple picking doesn't mean all of that cultural baggage doesn't exist.
posted by Sara C. at 1:08 PM on September 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


I guess Polly is right in that this approach has never gotten me anywhere, no one's ever loved me for being patient and empathetic and talking things through. But I don't see what she's telling me to do here.

Move to the Netherlands. You're the kind of sane, rational, practical person people love here.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:08 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


"i'll have to ask my social director!" when asking if a man can hang out, because the man can't keep track of dates in his own life takes his partner's needs and wishes into consideration when making plans.*

No, because if they just wanted to take their wishes, the man would say something like, "I'm not busy, but I'll need to check with Angie to see if it's something she wants to do" rather than "I have no idea what I'm doing! Social events just fall from the sky and drop in my lap! Man, it's nice to have a wife!"
posted by corb at 1:09 PM on September 9, 2014 [24 favorites]


I also struggle a lot with building strong friendships. ...I have a massive problem with putting someone in an awkward position or causing a fuss. Essentially with feeling vulnerable. This blocks me from building connections with people.

Even though I have some close long-time friendships, I used to have this habit of constantly meeting new additional friendquaintances, spending a good amount of time with them and then suddenly losing all interest in them and fading away. I felt guilty and wondered why I was so fickle.

Recently I realized that this was happening because I am a very agreeable, make-no-waves person who prioritizes other people liking her over her liking them. I was politely spending time with absolutely anyone who would invite me to join an activity without considering whether I felt safe, intrigued or affectionate about said invitee, until all of a sudden my brain would put its foot down and say "I'M NOT HAVING A GOOD TIME GET ME OUT OF HERE!" I'm now being more choosy about which new friendships *I* decide to pursue, and making the decision to be upfront about my likes and dislikes, not just going along with everyone by default. Not gonna lie, this feels weird and even a little calculated but my social life got so much more vibrant when it became filled by people I genuinely wanted to spend time with (not just hanging out with people because they tolerated me).
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 1:11 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Part of this may be regional. I've lived most of my adult life in San Francisco and New York, where the major social expectation is "you're on your own, bub." I've also been part of the cooking and serving process for every family Thanksgiving meal I've been a part of, and not just cooking / carving the turkey; nor do I watch football. And don't get me started on social direction - I'm way more social than my wife. More active on Facebook, better with dates - she put me in charge of dates after missing a concert she bought tickets for - etc. So I'm not being flippant, as this is my experience and that of others I know, but then I didn't say there was no social expectation.

Where I have seen the expectation at play is in places like Kentucky and Maine, where the whole "if you're not married by 22 you're a spinster" mindset is alive and well. And that's one of the hurdles of a conversation like this - we all see the world through the filter of our own experience, which is shaped largely by where we live.

And for the record: I don't believe that the social pressures and baggage don't exist. Far from it - I think people adhere to stereotypes ("I'm awful with dates!","I need to do the emotional heavy lifting in this relationship!") because, as Sara C. said, they feel pressured to and not necessarily because it is in their nature.

@corb - see above.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:14 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


So if I honestly don't care about drapes, I'm a bad husband to my wife? I also have to be interested in fashion? I buy and wear clothes that look respectable and allow me to continue to work and avoid social embarassment. I also helped install the drapes and offered opinions regarding their appearance (despite any real interest in the subject), but I'm not particularly interested in either fashion or interior design and I don't see why that's a problem.
posted by Area Man at 1:17 PM on September 9, 2014


How the heck did we end up talking about curtains?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:20 PM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


re: sunset in snow country,

maybe they didn't want to. maybe they should let them handle their own business in their own time.

i'd actually say that's relevent to a lot of the comments in this thread, actually. is the thing i'm upset about actually 'our' business or is it just my wishes projected onto them? does the person i'm doing this for even care about it or want it? does this entitle me to be angry about something i'm pretty much doing because i think i have to do it?

if you don't want to make dinner, don't make dinner. if you don't want to talk to your spouse's family, don't! if they get upset about it, then you are totally right and they're a shit. if they don't get upset, then put the cross back in the closet and get on with your life. you might find out they're awful or you might find out that they really do love you for you and not all the slack you pick up in their daily lives. either way, stop getting angry about something you're doing to yourself.
posted by gorestainedrunes at 1:21 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's a problem because often we aren't that interested in either, but in a relationship where the man and the woman are both uninterested in doing the work -and make no mistake, it's work, it's not "fun" - the woman will often find themselves doing the work when the man doesn't.

I don't like interior design. I would like a nicely designed house, but I despise picking out wallpaper and suchlike. It's exhausting. But when we don't have money for an interior designer, it is my unpaid interior design work that makes the home possible.

I don't like cleaning. I would like a clean home, but despise doing the work of it. It's exhausting. But when we don't have money for a cleaning professional, it is my unpaid cleaning work that makes the home possible.

I don't like dressing other people. I would prefer my male partners to spend the time looking into clothing so that they can appear professional at work, and maintain the salaries that they are acquiring, partially as a result of fashion expertise. But if we don't have money for a fashion consultant, it is my unpaid time that makes their salaries possible.

Etc etc etc ad nauseum.
posted by corb at 1:22 PM on September 9, 2014 [36 favorites]


I live in NYC and have seen it all over the place here, grumpybear69. I think it's the norm.

I also agree with you here:

I don't believe that the social pressures and baggage don't exist. Far from it - I think people adhere to stereotypes ("I'm awful with dates!","I need to do the emotional heavy lifting in this relationship!") because, as Sara C. said, they feel pressured to and not necessarily because it is in their nature.


It's just worth it to call this out as societal pressure/expectation rather than something that women "do" vs men. i think it's helpful for men and women.

So if I honestly don't care about drapes, I'm a bad husband to my wife?

No, this isn't about specific people and again, my example was an illustration of corb's excellent point that men expect relationships to make their life easier, based on the work that women do in those relationships, that isn't very well acknowledged, because it's just seen as "what women do."
posted by sweetkid at 1:22 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


> I am in my thirties, and I have yet to hear a guy, either friend or lover, say "I am looking for someone to complicate my life." They say they want someone who makes their life better.

Maybe I'm a little like Lester Burnham (middle aged and worried about paying for the kid's college, but not about food & rent), but for me complicated would be better. I fell in love with the last person because she was so confounding, complicated, and weird. I realized I'd never figure her out; she was a dang individual. It was really attractive.
posted by morganw at 1:23 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's just worth it to call this out as societal pressure/expectation rather than something that women "do" vs men.

This.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:24 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Part of this may be regional.

Very true. My friends in the south are way, way more traditional about this stuff than people I know in major coastal cities. I remember once seeing a childhood friend complain in a sort of veiled way on facebook about having to get up at 5 AM to make her husband lunch for work when she was 8 months pregnant. Which is just so far outside anything I've ever experienced within urban singledom. I mean there's "Remember we have dinner plans on Saturday", and then there's literally being your husband's servant in all things even vaguely domestic.

But yeah I've spent my whole adult life between NYC and Los Angeles and this is still definitely super true and real. It's just that guys get the privilege of not knowing about it.
posted by Sara C. at 1:24 PM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


segfault: "But I don't see what she's telling me to do here"

The message was to go find your own passion. The letter writer had a bf obsessed with his art; Poly suggested she go find her own art. You need to go find your own popsicles (metaphorically).
posted by I am the Walrus at 1:27 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


gorestainedrunes:

maybe they didn't want to. maybe they should let them handle their own business in their own time.

Right, this was my point and what I told her at the time. I thought that stressing about his business while she was finishing her thesis was crazy (and that she should have ignored his family--I don't think she responded to them, but she let it affect her more than it should have). But:

either way, stop getting angry about something you're doing to yourself.

It's a real, huge, explicitly gendered societal pressure. Is anyone forcing specific individuals to do these things? No (well, not in the cases discussed here, anyway). Is it part of the background radiation we're all swimming in? Absolutely, and that's worth talking about.
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:29 PM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


i'd actually agree! it is a real, huge, explicitly gendered societal pressure. and people appear to be getting mad because they're being made to act as the tool of the patriarchy against themselves. be the change you want to see in the world, and all that. give your partner a chance to not be complicit in that pressure is all i'm asking.
posted by gorestainedrunes at 1:33 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


People can get mad and be the change. It's hard to change something without discussing it to some degree I think. I don't even think most people are *aware* that this pressure and these dynamics are at play. It's not just about getting "mad" about the problem, it's discussing the actual problem and how it surfaces.
posted by sweetkid at 1:36 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Omfg, the whole "just don't do it then" thing shows a fundamental ignorance about the institution of marriage and long term relationships.

You live together. Your fate is bound up in each other. If they fail, you fail. You can't draw a line down the middle of the house and say "your side" and "my side." It is the same house. It is the same household money coming in. It is the same household money going out.

If my husband is expecting him to make him sandwiches in the morning (and, for the record, he is) and I do not make him sandwiches, then he's not going to make them himself. He's going to go buy lunch out, for approximately $15 - which is approximately $12 more than the lunch would have cost to make at home. Which, over the course of a month, is $240 from the household funds, because he doesn't want to make his own lunch. If you add in my daughter's lunch - even for only half the time - then that's an extra $120, because he would rather buy her lunch than make it. If I don't feel like making dinner, at least half the time he'd rather eat out than cook. That's, generously, $30 a time - assuming half the time of half a month, we have another $210, so total, $570 a month would be lost from the household budget if I didn't feel like making lunch or dinner. This is not uncommon. The buck has to stop somewhere. It's not that not doing it magically makes men do it. It's that they have lived their entire life with someone else doing these things and have no expectation of doing them - and so they won't get done.
posted by corb at 1:47 PM on September 9, 2014 [86 favorites]


i agree, sweetkid, up to a point. personally, i can't remember my mom NOT discussing the societal expectations of the patriarchy. but you know what? she did that shit for us, regardless, because she loved us. (she did, and i love her.) and, in a way, she blamed us. she did it all and it all tasted like poison to me every damn time.
posted by gorestainedrunes at 1:47 PM on September 9, 2014


One guy who is egalitarian and is really into us going apple picking doesn't mean all of that cultural baggage doesn't exist.

Moreover the baggage doesn't disappear just because you Are that guy, or are dating that guy! Even as a woman who cares somewhat less about our drapes or schedules, dating a man who cares VERY MUCH about our drapes and schedules, I will occasionally get frustrated in a way that essentially boils down to "oh my god! Can we just follow THE RULES for once and you say Yes Dear while I fucking NEST already?" We get to the brink of actual arguments because my social programming apparently wants me to hate every minute of choosing a paint color.

That's right: I get anxious because my partner IS doing the domestic heavy-lifting, even as I thank the heavens above that he does it and cares about it because lord knows I can't manage it.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:49 PM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


This is something I struggle with a lot, as a woman: how much do I personally contribute to enforcing institutionalized sexism in my relationships? To honestly call out sexist behavior on the males in my life, it would be hypocritical of me not to do it of my own behavior. So if I "just do" the laundry, is it because: a) my husband expects me to do; b) we both expect me to do it; c) I care more than my husband does, due to: 1) I care more than my husband does because we've both been programmed that the woman should care more, and I really don't; 2) I actually care more because my husband doesn't do it right because he doesn't care OR because he didn't learn to do laundry properly because that's women's work? or d) we've discussed the division of chores and I do the laundry while he does the dishes. Ad nauseam. And it's not just expectations of my behavior - my expressing or allowing institutionalized gender expectations of my husband is just as problematic.

It's inevitable in the most equal and progressive of relationships that some gender roles will be filled by the expected gender - what's important and needs communicating is why. But it's exhausting to examine this all the time, though it's important. Unfortunately, one of the most fatiguing things about it is that many times... women are picking up the bulk of the examination of these behaviors. (I'm not saying guys don't examine behaviors for sexism, too - it's just that women seem more aware or are more likely to do so. And there's a lot of women who don't - I'm not claiming that all women do it, either.)

But it's also exhausting to do things like explain to my husband why we need to get drapes. I couldn't give a shit about curtains. Neither does he. But it's okay for him to walk around in his boxers - I mean, the neighbors probably aren't going to be thrilled but it's not like he's breaking a big social construct. But *I* can't walk around in front of an window in my bra and underwear. That IS breaking a social construct. So we need some goddamn drapes. And it'd be nice, since neither of us really care, if we could do it together to lessen the load.
posted by barchan at 1:49 PM on September 9, 2014 [22 favorites]


This is an interesting turn to this thread. My relationship often conforms to these gender roles when it comes to social direction, buying gifts, decorating the house, etc. We explicitly discussed it and decided to just go with them in this case, but I think it's pretty blinkered to pretend the situation isn't part of the glorious tapestry of sexism. I try to make up for it by doing lots of other chores and Dad stuff (and, wtf, buying my own clothes of course) and she comforts herself with the fact that I obey her commands entirely when it comes to her many areas of expertise so she gets stuff done. It works for us (I hope). But we can't stop thinking about it or it will probably eat us.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:51 PM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


But yeah I've spent my whole adult life between NYC and Los Angeles and this is still definitely super true and real. It's just that guys get the privilege of not knowing about it.

It definitely is true in NYC/LA type places, but I think guys often do have some inkling of it, at least.

Recently, I went to a wedding at a bar in Manhattan. It was a casual affair, for a wedding, basically a friends-at-a-bar type party that you'll see sometimes in NYC. I wore a blazer, slacks, and a dress shirt, and had gotten my hair cut earlier that week. A friend of mine complimented how I looked at one point in the evening.

On the cab ride home, I mentioned this to my girlfriend, and she said that she had actually gotten several compliments over the course of the evening about how I looked. She got the compliments - apparently the implicit assumption was that how I looked was her doing. Now, I'm no fashion plate, and she does have some influence over how I look, but I've always been pretty comfortable with my self-presentation and she's never gone out and "dressed" me in the way people think of it with couples. The shirt and pants I was wearing that day, I bought when she wasn't even present; the haircut, she actually lobbied against. Yet, somehow, people just assumed that if I looked good, it was because of her. And this was in a crowd of young, educated professionals in New York!

We had a laugh about it, and truth be told, I don't really care all that much (and we do conform to gender stereotypes on interior design, largely because she cares about it way more than I do and actually kind of enjoys it). But it was sort of a "Hey! WTF?" kind of moment with the ingrained assumptions around this stuff.
posted by breakin' the law at 1:53 PM on September 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


On the cab ride home, I mentioned this to my girlfriend, and she said that she had actually gotten several compliments over the course of the evening about how I looked. She got the compliments - apparently the implicit assumption was that how I looked was her doing.

This is a great example and also illustrates well why women can't necessarily just ignore the pressure, because it's required by more than just their partner, it's like, all of society.
posted by sweetkid at 2:00 PM on September 9, 2014 [19 favorites]


OMG, get some drapes -- who wants to accidentally catch a glimpse of *anyone* flopped down half dressed on their couch like a beached whale watching Gladiator.

(Sigh... Beached whales really love channel surfing)
posted by smidgen at 2:02 PM on September 9, 2014


eh... i know this sounds crazy, but how about we just spend time with people who's company we enjoy?
posted by young_son at 2:06 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


she did that shit for us, regardless, because she loved us.

This, right here, is why it has to be talked about and isn't a simple thing you can just stop doing.

Because anytime you don't do the thing, there's a little voice in the back of your head that says "don't you love [partner, kid, boyfriend, whoever]?" It takes so much more unpacking than that. If that means that feminists have to rage against the dying of the light for a minute while we as a culture figure out a different way of doing relationships and families, so be it.
posted by Sara C. at 2:07 PM on September 9, 2014 [22 favorites]


On the cab ride home, I mentioned this to my girlfriend, and she said that she had actually gotten several compliments over the course of the evening about how I looked. She got the compliments - apparently the implicit assumption was that how I looked was her doing.

Something similar happens to us anytime I cook for a potluck. We'll show up as a couple toting a a dish, set it down on the table, and later people will start complimenting my wife. No one ever thinks to even ask which one of us made the dish.
posted by Area Man at 2:10 PM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


I'm increasingly baffled by how this thread has gone. I mean, I hear the arguments about how men and women are socialized differently and handle the entering into relationships differently - but the impression I got from the article was that it is better to roll how you roll rather than bending yourself into knots trying to make yourself more aggreeable to another human.

And if a particular other human doesn't dig you, it doesn't make sense to figure out why they don't dig someone so nice and sweet and smart and cute and etc., because who cares why they don't dig someone like that. Trying to figure out why they don't dig you is just taking up time which could be spent in finding someone who does appreciate you. You know? Put "be someone who appreciates my awesome" higher up on the list of "qualities I want in a partner", is the message I got from this.

The discussion in here about why women are all like [foo] or men are all like [baz] just seems like more fretting about "why didn't this person appreciate my awesome", and who cares why they didn't because fuck them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:11 PM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


- more arguments and drama on Facebook
- you could adopt a pet
- Lena Dunham is awesome
- Move to the Netherlands
- So we need some goddamn drapes

I'm taking notes here. Lots of good stuff. Keep it coming.
posted by General Tonic at 2:13 PM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


I think we've gone down a tangent just talking about whether it's true that women are (often?) socialized to present in a certain way, or to fulfill certain roles within a relationship.

This is something that's still news to a lot of people.
posted by Sara C. at 2:14 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


The discussion in here about why women are all like [foo] or men are all like [baz] just seems like more fretting about "why didn't this person appreciate my awesome", and who cares why they didn't because fuck them.

I think my point was more "Maybe no one will, and maybe that's okay, but don't lie to women and tell them everything will be fine and the sexist culture won't have any effect on them if they just ignore it."
posted by corb at 2:15 PM on September 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


The discussion in here about why women are all like [foo] or men are all like [baz] just seems like more fretting about "why didn't this person appreciate my awesome", and who cares why they didn't because fuck them.

Except insofar as some people approach it from the angle "I care why they didn't because, well, fuck me." I know I did it (as a gay man, BTW) for way too many wasted years myself.
posted by blucevalo at 2:16 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


She would be on track if she asked a slightly different question: "Why do I date men who won't ever truly love me?" because it's a dead cert that that's the actual problem.
posted by MattD at 2:18 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Except insofar as some people approach it from the angle "I care why they didn't because, well, fuck me." I know I did it (as a gay man, BTW) for way too many wasted years myself.

Yeah, but that's actually the point of the article, is trying to change "fuck me" to "no, wait, fuck THEM". I'm not seeing that that's a message that should be confined to one or the other gender.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:18 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think my point was more "Maybe no one will, and maybe that's okay, but don't lie to women and tell them everything will be fine and the sexist culture won't have any effect on them if they just ignore it."

There was an excellent point a while ago on Metafilter about how men might love the weird, free, Manic Pixie Dream Girl ideal but they're not going to clean her toilet.
posted by sweetkid at 2:19 PM on September 9, 2014 [28 favorites]


eh... i know this sounds crazy, but how about we just spend time with people who's company we enjoy?

I know it sounds crazy, but maybe read the article, since the whole fucking point of it was that "just spend[ing] time with people whose company we enjoy" is actually not that goddamn sufficient when what you are looking for is a long-term or permanent partner.

But yeah, that's crazy, just handwave away all the sexism and then it's like it doesn't even exist!

I have historically been such a defender of dudes but goddamn it, I just ain't been feeling up to it these past, oh, five or six years.
posted by like_a_friend at 2:20 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Economic independence pre-, during, and post- motherhood. Then you can actually tell a dude who is lazing about to gtfo, and he knows it.

But yeah sexism is bad, it's not divorced from the material as these conversations would often have you think.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:25 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


The two things that I have trouble trucking with are jadedness and aloofness.

Everyone has a wounded, pitted heart and everyone is looking for a partner with an invincible heart to fill one's own pitted, empty spaces.

That's not how it works. Puzzle pieces stick together because they're jagged, not because they're smooth.

I agree that it's not super helpful to gender this question too much. A person's own personal narrative and subconscious self-selection biases the sample.
posted by Skwirl at 2:28 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Economic independence pre-, during, and post- motherhood. Then you can actually tell a dude who is lazing about to gtfo, and he knows it.

I grew up with my father sharing all the housework and child care. I never felt like my mom was doing more. I never felt like more domestic work was expected from me than my brother, either. Both parents were pretty clear about that. They still share a lot of the work, but my dad has disabilities that make some things harder for him.

When I was in my 20s, I learned that my father complained to my mother when I was a baby that she should quit her residency and stay home and care for me since it wasn't his job as a man. She told him that just wasn't going to happen and if he really wanted that he could find someone else.

She had the financial ability to do this, which a lot of women don't. She probably had a lot less social ability to do this, though, now that I think about it.
posted by sweetkid at 2:31 PM on September 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


I will tell you, blandly pleasant ladies get more dates. If they aren't picky about personal fulfillment, they can usually find a dude to marry. Maybe several times. Among women in my age group, most are on their second husband, and if he goes first, they will probably find another one. Are they really happier married than single? They don't look it. But they won't fight it, because as corb says, the cost is often being alone.

I will back up corb by saying, I lucked out, and I know it. I was fully prepared to be single forever before that, because it seemed very likely.

But if sexism were less of a thing, so that more women were freely weird, and fewer dudes scared of it, then everyone's luck might improve, in terms of finding a partner.
posted by emjaybee at 2:32 PM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


On the bright side: there are more fish in the sea than ever before.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:34 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I know it sounds crazy, but maybe read the article, since the whole fucking point of it was that "just spend[ing] time with people whose company we enjoy" is actually not that goddamn sufficient when what you are looking for is a long-term or permanent partner.

But yeah, that's crazy, just handwave away all the sexism and then it's like it doesn't even exist!


It's really quite a stretch to read all that into young_son's comment. I didn't read it that way at all. As someone who overthinks literally everything and has spent entire years of my life overthinking this very situation (why doesn't he Love me?! I've changed myself so much to be perfect for him!), "just spend time with people you like" is actually really good advice. When I was most tortured by this situation, that reminder would have been most welcome, because "who I like" was the last thing in the world I was thinking about.
posted by dialetheia at 2:35 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


of course i read the column, i just think the premise is strange. it reads like most of them do, which is to confirm the writers ego and position as a special flower wronged by all the ways of the world. it much easier to make platitudes than it is to confront the fact that none of us are entitled to another person.

im not denying sexism or stupid gender roles or the insane portrayals of relationships that the media saturates us with, all im saying is that you cant just waltz through the human dynamic and expect to choose things a la carte ("Im looking for this in a relationship", etc.), and neither can anyone else. you are a person and they are a person and we are people and its a big complex mess of ego and id and projection and expectation and biology and social games stacked on top of games.

rather than getting tangled and strangled in that gordian knot, perhaps try spending time with people you enjoy and focusing on that, making the most out of whatever comes? this is all im suggesting. life is long and lonely otherwise.

also, buy my book only $29.99
posted by young_son at 2:42 PM on September 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


No, because if they just wanted to take their wishes, the man would say something like [...]

If you want to interpret everything in the worst possible light, that is your business. However, do not ask someone to believe what you say you feel -- when you do not believe them when they tell you how they feel.
posted by smidgen at 2:43 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


This prompted more angry gender generalizations than I've seen on Metafilter in a long time. And, this being Metafilter, that's saying something. Forest for the trees, people.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:45 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


For a site which is virulently anti-gender-stereotype, there is a lot of highly gendered BS being slung around on this thread.

This is such a weird and circular argument. Yes, we are anti-gender-stereotype, but those stereotypes still exist and inform peoples' behaviors in a multitude of conscious and unconscious ways. That's why we're so mad about them! This is like saying "for someone who doesn't want ants in the carpet, you sure do talk a lot about ants" - yes, we are talking a lot about ants, because we are trying to figure out how to get them out of the carpet! It's necessary to talk about the problem in order to solve it, and those stereotypes aren't any less influential just because I hate them.
posted by dialetheia at 2:47 PM on September 9, 2014 [33 favorites]


It's necessary to talk about the problem in order to solve it, and those stereotypes aren't any less influential just because I hate them.

Exactly.
posted by sweetkid at 2:48 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I understand that many people are frustrated that they cannot find their idea of an awesome life mate. That is probably the world's most common frustration.

But,
When you're already doing all the emotional heavy lifting of the relationship - a thing you will have to do in every single relationship unless you are dating ladies.

is such an extreme sexist view. The actual "all outgroup are awful" followed by a torrent of other examples of why outgroup sucks.
posted by Winnemac at 2:49 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't like interior design. I would like a nicely designed house, but I despise picking out wallpaper and suchlike. It's exhausting. But when we don't have money for an interior designer, it is my unpaid interior design work that makes the home possible.

Does your husband like interior design? If not, then it's not your unpaid interior design work that makes the home possible, it's your unpaid interior design work which makes the home conform to your standards. And doing the work required to make things conform to your standards is just good sense.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:50 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Only vaguely related, FiveThirtyEight writing about OKCupid :
Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me A Spreadsheet
posted by jeffburdges at 2:52 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maybe she's just had a run of bad luck?
posted by mrbigmuscles at 2:54 PM on September 9, 2014


perhaps try spending time with people you enjoy and focusing on that, making the most out of whatever comes?

I think the reason this (still) reads to me as flip, dismissive, and ridiculous is, we're talking about building a life here, people! Have you noticed, it's NOT FUCKING EASY, and a lot of it isn't fun at all, not even a little bit.

Enjoying someone's company is like, bog-standard, bare-minimum, right above "well nobody is beating anybody about the face and body" in Relationship Requirements. If you're trying to build a life with someone, "enjoying their company" ain't gonna cut it.

Maybe, though, I am hasty in assuming this is something men get to ignore; it may just be that young people whose focus is not yet on actually building a life have not yet learned it.
posted by like_a_friend at 3:07 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't think the general message of the advice column applies to only one gender - or even just partnered love relationships. It totally applies to friendships! And it totally applies to men.

I have known plenty of men who wanted so badly to have a relationship, just like the woman asking the question here - and they were kind, and mature, and accommodating, had their shit together, communicated - and wondered why the women they dated still didn't love them. I'm not just talking about your stereotypical Nice Guy either - I knew a bunch of those, but also I knew guys who didn't think they were owed love, or a girlfriend, but simply wanted to not be alone, or rejected - like so many of us; who worried more about "do they like me?" rather than "do I like them?"; who wanted to be a good partner, to be lovable, so much so that "good" and "lovable" overtook the messy parts of themselves.

The male version of this question, and the answer to the male version, has its own biases and angles that will deviate from the question & answer given here though. I agree the female angle has the "doing the emotional work" component - I mean, this is borne out statistically that generally women do that heavy lifting (buying gifts, remembering important dates, keeping in touch with family, holidays, etc.). As well I agree that it's more likely women feel like they can't be their messy selves because societally there is just such a narrow example of what women are supposed to BE like and so many outside expectations placed on us to act that way. I do think men are allowed to be who they are - be weird, be quirky, have obsessions, not care about appearances - in a way that women don't often feel they can express. I do think sexist habits & expectations get in the way of forming authentic, deep relationships.

So I think it's very important to discuss that stuff, that invisible (to many men) & resented but performed (by many women) labor. In realizing it, we can negotiate better relationships. But I think there's a lot of room to realize the ways that advice column applies to men too.

I would say for most men, their partnership is their biggest emotional outlet; that societally they usually only get to be vulnerable in front of their partner, that often they don't feel they can even do that. They don't get to show their messy insides when they have to live up to societal expectations that they "be a man". And, yes, some men are caught up in women as this mysterious Other that they have to figure out how to please in order to pair off - as someone they can't really, fully ever understand, without realizing we are just messy people too. We're not taught how to relate across genders as simply people - there is all this sexist overlay in the way. We as women are resentful that we are constantly evaluated on this sexist axis - but it hurts men as well: ask a man who is short, or not considered alpha enough, considered too feminine or too sensitive.

We are human and we want to connect. We are all human and often we are afraid, and we think it is better to put forth a sort of "best self" rather than just "ourselves" so we won't scare people away & we won't be lonely. Both women and men do it.
posted by flex at 3:12 PM on September 9, 2014 [34 favorites]


we're talking "hey so I saw this great documentary on women in ancient Greece the other night." Nope. That's too intimidating for these guys. They would get a panicked look on their face and book out.

emjaybee we may be soulmates. hehe. With me it's when the conversation turns to mythology or anthropology and I go, "ehrmegehrd y'know how the Vikings raided Ireland and shit? And y'know how that means some were buried there." (Mansplainers flame out at this point. Filtre numéro un.) Centuries later, archaelogists dig up these graves and go 'MEN BECAUSE SWORDS.' " At this point, people are either "please shut the woman up" or "no shit duh men wield swords" or "hm, I wonder what she's getting at". I continue: "So like, later some archaelogists realize, maybe we should actually look at the bones. And it turns out, HALF THE BONES ARE OF WOMEN based on their hips and shit. WOMEN WITH SWORDS. How fucking many tombs do you think have other women warriors, but we won't know because swords = men and they don't even bother to sex the bones??"

I've been single for 10 years now. I do get flirted with, on rare yet happy occasion, by a really cool type of man, though, and have a lot of neat, fulfilling (platonic) friendships. But, single, ten years. Sigh. I don't date any more. I would, if a man would ask me out, but yeah, he'll need to get past societally-learned reactions to the tall chick with a Norwegian background who talks about Viking women who wield swords.
posted by fraula at 3:14 PM on September 9, 2014 [26 favorites]


jeffburdges: "Only vaguely related, FiveThirtyEight writing about OKCupid :
Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me A Spreadsheet"


This article was super interesting, thanks for posting! It also reminded me how much I love OKTrends (for silly anecdata rather than serious sociological study, mind) and there goes the afternoon.
posted by Phire at 3:42 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


...but I'm over here sitting in my filth and tears...

Juliet Banana, I think the point is that you need to move some of the filth and tears aside to make room for somebody else to sit down.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:43 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is such a weird and circular argument.

I disagree that my argument was circular as I wasn't referring to discussions of stereotypes or their impacts on behavior - a process which I emphatically agree is necessary and helpful - but rather the reinforcement of those stereotypes through statements like "men don't do x" and "women always do y". Even if, on average, those things are true, those kind of proclamations have an implicit undertone of "well that's just the way things are" which doesn't help anyone.

those stereotypes aren't any less influential just because I hate them.

Agreed. I hate them, too.
posted by grumpybear69 at 4:05 PM on September 9, 2014


> No, you do not deserve love, or sex, or a relationship

Nobody deserves love. Nobody should go unloved. How those two can be resolved I haven't a clue.
posted by jfuller at 4:15 PM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


I would say for most men, their partnership is their biggest emotional outlet; that societally they usually only get to be vulnerable in front of their partner, that often they don't feel they can even do that. They don't get to show their messy insides when they have to live up to societal expectations that they "be a man".

Yes, and I think that this is part of the reason why being in a het relationship can be so *exhausting* for women. Or at least, it's been a major part of what makes being in a relationship exhausting for me. In my past relationships, it has felt like I'm supposed to be feeling all the (not-negative) feelings for both of us, all the time, and that emotional burden has become just too much for me each time. I end up feeling responsible for the guy's sense-of-self and his feelings, and like I'm constantly having to manage them, and eventually that burden crushes the life out of the relationship altogether.

I've been single for 10 years now. I do get flirted with, on rare yet happy occasion, by a really cool type of man, though, and have a lot of neat, fulfilling (platonic) friendships. But, single, ten years. Sigh. I don't date any more. I would, if a man would ask me out, but yeah, he'll need to get past societally-learned reactions to the tall chick with a Norwegian background who talks about Viking women who wield swords.

I dunno, I've got some incredibly dorky interests that I will (accidentally, I swear) end up bending virtually anyone's ear about if given half a chance, though I try hard not to be a bore. I actually find that men are much more polite and friendly than women are when I do somehow reveal the depths of my obsession with [fixations that have zero cachet]. I don't know why that is, frankly, but in my experience, women seem much more nonplussed than men when anything odd/idiosyncratic like that comes up. For me, being "weird" has had much more of an impact on my female friendships than on my ability to date or get into serious relationships. I've had a few serious boyfriends over the last decade or so, but only one comparably close female friendship during that time. And actually, that woman and I kinda/sorta dated, too, now that I think about it.

I do think that there's a gendered expectation at play there, about how women are "supposed" to socialize versus how men are "supposed" to socialize, but I don't really have a grasp of it yet.
posted by rue72 at 4:29 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I made my last comment before realizing the thread had moved over to the topic of the division of household chores.

Singles engage in scorekeeping against all of their dating pool. Partnered people engage in scorekeeping against their partner.

You have to start from a place of sympathy for the roles that your partner does carry. Scorekeeping ain't gonna work. I'm good at some things that align to my traditional gender role. I'm good at other things that don't align. My partners are going to be the same way. Ain't no productive discussion going to take place if I'm called out on my weaknesses alone.

Also, not everyone is measuring their dating success according to the metric: "build a life." I guess the fact that I find that idea stifling and anxiety-provoking is one of those places where I'm aligned with a male stereotype role?
posted by Skwirl at 4:30 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Nobody deserves love. Nobody should go unloved. How those two can be resolved I haven't a clue.

I do!

*Nobody deserves love to be given to them indiscriminately. As in, nobody is gonna automatically be issued a partner, and nobody should expect to just show up and be all, "behold, I am a single human who belongeth to the gender you seek! LOVE ME!" and have that work. You have to bring the right combination of qualities to their own life that they need, just as you should be seeking the right combination of qualities you need brought to your own life.

*Nobody should go unloved altogether. There are those who may not ever get romantic love - and a handful of people who may not want that anyway. But there are a lot of kinds of love - familial, neighorly, friendly, etc. Even if I never ever in my life find a boyfriend, I am not wholly bereft of love - I have some blessedly loving friends, the love of two parents and some aunts and uncles.

So I don't deserve to be loved just because I'm a chick and some dudes dig chicks. But nor do I want to be loved just becuase I am a chick. I believe i deserve to be loved on a deep level if I find that person who can best bring it, but there is no guarantee I will find that person. And I know other love in the meantime.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:31 PM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


Also, not everyone is measuring their dating success according to the metric: "build a life." I guess the fact that I find that idea stifling and anxiety-provoking is one of those places where I'm aligned with a male stereotype role?

The *author of the letter in the FPP* IS measuring her dating success according to that metric, though, which is why the bent of the conversation has tended that way. The story was that she expected a proposal and got an "Eh, I don't love you" dumping instead.
posted by like_a_friend at 4:33 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean I guess it's possible to live with and marry someone and yet not actually "build a life" in any way but...um...I'm not really clear on what that would look like. If you're finding a place to live and making friends and working your jobs and maybe raising some kids, surprise! You built a life.
posted by like_a_friend at 4:37 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


This thread is making me incredibly grateful for (almost) always feeling like my wife and I are on the same team with the same goals. 15 years last week.
posted by shothotbot at 4:39 PM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


I would say for most men, their partnership is their biggest emotional outlet; that societally they usually only get to be vulnerable in front of their partner, that often they don't feel they can even do that. They don't get to show their messy insides when they have to live up to societal expectations that they "be a man".

I am also grateful for the six or so guys I have been very close to for 25 years. Just spend the first 21 years of your life in a miasma of depression and addiction then get sober with a bunch of nit-wits your own age. Simple.
posted by shothotbot at 4:42 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


like_a_friend: That's true but also secondary to the original letter's expression that love is the missing piece. It's an interesting conflation.

This discussion seems a bit afield from the original letter in any event.

For what it's worth, my metric is to be happy because that has been a struggle my whole life. I hope that the other things flow from that, but I also know that you have to have your metric be your intended outcome. If your metric is "get married," but your outcome is not "get married," then that's where people start finding harsh realities and start keeping spreadsheets.
posted by Skwirl at 4:44 PM on September 9, 2014


For those saying that the woman ends up picking the drapes because she cares more, that's totally not it...
It's because the other option is this:
When your mother comes over and there's no damn drapes (or not the right drapes) and she lights into me about it, I am going to give her the dirtiest look in my repertoire, and promptly drag your sorry ass over to explain why we never invite her over. And when you tell me I'm difficult, I'm going to throw my head back and laugh and laugh and laugh....
The drapes are done, man.

WOMEN WITH SWORDS. Fraula- you might be my nerd-woman-doppelgänger, because I have had this exact conversation.
posted by susiswimmer at 5:02 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


like_a_friend: That's true but also secondary to the original letter's expression that love is the missing piece. It's an interesting conflation

What, that she's conflating "love" with "wants to stay with me in a relationship way"?

I dunno, generally speaking, when a person loves another person they do often want to stay with that person, rather than break up; and often, that pairing will decide to formalize the relationship in some manner befitting their culture, whether by getting married or living together or just continuing to be in a relationship with each other and contribute to each others' lives.

That's certainly not universal* at all but also not, like, absolutely batshit or anything to surmise.

But the meat of the comment to which I was responding, in the first place, seemed like "well she shouldn't want what she wants anyway, everyone should just want this other thing" which is an unproductive and dismissive attitude. Yeah, some people totally don't want anything more out of their romantic lives than enjoyment; but other people have very good reasons for wanting something different, and every right to examine why that thing is hard to achieve in their worlds.

*People can love each other and need to break up for various reasons of course; people can also stay in permanent relationships with people they don't even remotely love; but I think we can agree that these aren't things that most people set out to experience.
posted by like_a_friend at 5:13 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


This post read like it blamed the victim a bit too much for me. "You're not loved because you are looking for love in the wrong way/in the wrong places." How many women worry "Am I showing my true self?" What is the true self? Aren't we constantly changing and presenting and morphing and learning? So this message, which essentially boils down to "be yourself!" - well, sometimes that is hard to enact in practice. We are in a constant state of flux and have to be very mindful to truly "be" ourselves at any given moment.

On the other hand, "Watch that you're not pleasing someone else at your own expense" is good advice to heed.

Nobody deserves love. Nobody should go unloved. How those two can be resolved I haven't a clue.
Simple: Love thyself.

Not because you won't be ready for a relationship until you love yourself - a sentiment I've heard uttered many times - but because it is the shortest path to love. Love is not a verb. It's not something one does or gets. It is simply a feeling of content warmth, certainty, security.

And to love someone (ourselves) one must know that person (know ourselves) which, again, is a challenge. Life is about learning our selves. We may have a friend along for the journey - a life partner - or we may not, but that's not the point. The point is that knowing ourselves is hard, especially if you're socialized to pay closer attention to others than you do to yourself (as women are). A good partnership must support both people learning first about themselves. That is love.
posted by sockermom at 5:20 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


All right. We need MeTa Dating. Who's in?
posted by persona au gratin at 5:26 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


By the way, I'm going to vote against societal pressure on the whole women-are-more-driven-to-be-social-than-men thing. In this whole wide world I have never seen or heard of a culture where women weren't the dominant force in making social connections, which speaks to something innate. And frankly anyone who's ever watched little kids grow up has seen this develop by gender even in situations where it wasn't modeled for them.

As with all innate behaviors some people get a big dollop and some people get none, and it represents differently in different people. But I'm positing that the average woman does innately care more about the social sphere than the average man. And much like the dishwasher, the person who cares slightly more about dirty dishes ends up driving the show.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:33 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


like_a_friend: I was sharing my POV and not criticizing the original author when I said that not everyone is trying to build a life through dating. This discussion is now about a lot more than the original article for better or for worse.

I've been on both sides of the "build a life" disconnect. All's fair.

"Batshit" was not part of the discussion.
posted by Skwirl at 5:35 PM on September 9, 2014


We need MeTa Dating.

You want a dating site full of MetaSexuals?
posted by shothotbot at 5:40 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


All right. We need MeTa Dating.

Going by the number of AskMes soliciting reviews of profiles, I think most of us are already on OKCupid as it is...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:11 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


But the meat of the comment to which I was responding, in the first place, seemed like "well she shouldn't want what she wants anyway, everyone should just want this other thing" which is an unproductive and dismissive attitude.

I was going to write a different thing but you've explained yourself more while I was doing it so I'll just say that from where I stand your "building a life is NOT FUCKING EASY" comment came across as more "you people are doing it wrong" than the original one you were responding to.

Yeah, some people totally don't want anything more out of their romantic lives than enjoyment;

I'm pretty sure I want more out of a relationship than just "fun" if that's what you mean but just spending time with people who meet the standard of companionship until you find someone who far exceeds it - and not freaking out in the meantime, and letting those Building a Life milestones happen as it makes sense for them to happen - doesn't seem like a bad way to go at all to me. I do get how the original one-liner could be read as "aren't these people silly for not having my POV" but I don't think it has to be - fundamentally it's just a POV and a suggestion to try on a POV if it is available to you. No question I'm lucky to have ended up with the relationship I have while approaching life this way but I would be lucky no matter how it happened.

The part that was actually offensive was how you were like "this person must not understand that this is For Grownups and FUCKING HARD and Not Fun and Games." Uh, maybe they understand intuitively because it's REALLY KIND OF OBVIOUS that bringing another person that close will complicate life but don't think of it in those grim terms because why would you even do it if it wasn't totally worthwhile? She Ain't Heavy, She's My [romantic partner].
posted by atoxyl at 6:20 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


This isn't even *about* the asker in the link, by the way. Your comment honestly just kind of rubbed me the wrong way perhaps as that other guy's comment did you and for some reason I feel like I have to express that.
posted by atoxyl at 6:35 PM on September 9, 2014


I am so lucky to be married to a man who doesn't expect me to do much of anything besides occasionally wiggle my butt at him.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:21 PM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Reading this thread has me fantasizing about writing a "lean in nasty girl" okc profile. And just be brutally 100% out there.
And I kinda think it would be awesome. And fun. And I think that was the point of this article.
(My response rate would probably be zero, but at least there wouldn't be any tepid-ass tiddlywinks.)
God, I love Polly. Shame she's married.
posted by susiswimmer at 7:22 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Actually, I recently read a guy's profile where he did exactly that - after having seen a lady's profile where SHE did exactly that.

They were both "alternate" profiles for both, but hey.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:06 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


But the meat of the comment to which I was responding, in the first place, seemed like "well she shouldn't want what she wants anyway, everyone should just want this other thing" which is an unproductive and dismissive attitude. Yeah, some people totally don't want anything more out of their romantic lives than enjoyment; but other people have very good reasons for wanting something different, and every right to examine why that thing is hard to achieve in their worlds.

I agree. This is one of the things that made me connect with the OP and this thread today. It seems like an easy or just thing to say "hey, love yourself first" and also to say "love is a crapshoot" but the thing is a lot of people want lasting romance and family and for me personally in my 30s, a lot of people seem to have it. I have been to all their weddings and have seen everything progress according to a certain timeline. If love is all just luck, that's a lot of lucky people I know.

All those things have been a significant struggle for me, and I have put a huge time investment into both loving myself and finding love. It trivializes this investment to dismiss all that work because I haven't fully achieved one of two goals available to me, apparently: 1) Find the dude who will be into me forever 2) Not care if I ever find this because it's all just luck.

The fact that I'm still struggling with both of those things, like the OP, isn't a failure, it's just life.
posted by sweetkid at 8:16 PM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


This story makes a great meme.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:36 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have so many thoughts on this!

"There are those who may not ever get romantic love - and a handful of people who may not want that anyway."

True. Not all of us will find true love. A small chunk of us JUST PLAIN ARE NEVER EVER GONNA HAVE IT AS LONG AS WE LIVE. (And some of those don't even want to, or are mentally/physically unable/incapable/are nuns and priests.) Like me, I'm a mutant at table nine (really, shoulda made that my user name, eh?). Another chunk won't find it until they're over 40, or 50, or 60. A lot of those folks are going to be angry that they had to waste half of their lives and all of their fertility waiting to "get lucky" when most of the population gets lucky and gets married and has kids between 22-30. What's wrong with me, indeed. As a friend pointed out the other day, how come a 700-pound woman can find love via online dating and she can't, and what's wrong with us? Which is something no advice columnist can say, really. All they can do is attempt to make you feel slightly less terrible about it. Fuck, even psychics are all "I see nothing for you, bitch" about it with me, and you think I'm paying them to tell me bullshit. The most I've ever gotten is "not until you're old and wise." Gee, thanks.

"Agree with what everyone says here; however, after 20 years, I'm quite sick of people telling me that there's nothing wrong with me, because there obviously is (in that no one wants to date me)."


Yup. Though I can tell you what's wrong with me. I'm not a cooksy, neatnik, mommy-nurturer and that rules me out of most long-term relationships. Sure, people tell me of relationships where that's not mandatory, but there's not too many of those. It lowers my dating value by a ton. I don't think it's a coincidence that a day or so after dumping me, one of my exes was boinking the most nurturing, mothering, does-his-laundry-for-him chick in our social circle. Meanwhile, I'm the sort who's all "Why are you asking me to do your laundry when I don't even live here?" It's EXPECTED of all women that they be nurturing. I might have a hope of busting free of gender roles if I could just prefer the ladies, but sadly, I can't get my libido interested in them, so I'll be stuck hoping to find the least-sexist dude, if he exists. Hetero men can EXPECT that they will find a woman like that because almost all of them are, or conform to it. I don't, so I suck. It's that simple. Or at least, my other charms won't make up for a lack of mommying and taking care of.

"No, you do not deserve love, or sex, or a relationship, and you may never have any of these things again for the remainder of your life. Perhaps you could adopt a pet.
Cheers!"

And that, in the end, is what it will all boil down to. Nothing is under your control and you may or may not get lucky. You may be born inadequate (which is pretty likely) or a special enough snowflake that very few people match you, and maybe you've used up all of the possible matches in your region of the world because they got sick of you. And as sweetkid pointed out. you get a lot less respect when single than you do when you're allowed on the Ark with everyone else. Either way, being single when you don't want to be is a Chironic wound, and the best you might do with that is to stop caring that it's bleeding.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:43 PM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


But there are lots of ladies around me, everywhere I go, who hesitate to say what they're thinking and feeling. They go with the flow, they never make waves. And eventually, they don't even seem to know what makes them who they are.

Does that apply any more to women than to men? I know a lot of men (most?) who do the same thing.

Nothing is under your control and you may or may not get lucky.

I know there was a whole nother post about it yonder back, but I highly recommend the book Missing Out. It did indeed blow my mind a little.

To the post, I don't care much for the author's long-winded ranting. Get a decent editor!

Shorter advice: lower your expectations and stop caring so much about finding a "true love" partner. If it happens, it happens; and even so-called "perfect" partners know that there is absolutely no such thing as "true love."
posted by mrgrimm at 10:19 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Shorter advice: lower your expectations and stop caring so much about finding a "true love" partner. If it happens, it happens; and even so-called "perfect" partners know that there is absolutely no such thing as "true love."

My girlfriend and I joke that our song is If I Didn't Have You. People laugh, but it really is a good attitude to have and keep. True love was made up by someone in the grip of limerence. The real deal is... well, I wrote a lengthy blog post about it a couple years back.

Best advice I can offer anybody who's looking: don't go to dating sites or bars. Get a social hobby, get into it, keep an open mind about the people you meet in there. World of Warcraft, church, poetry slams... anything*. Find a place where you can interact with people in a manner that is not a meat market, results will be better both because pressure is lower, and you get to see who doesn't play well with others when the stakes are low. Kind of like the waiter test writ large.

(*I introduced one of my dearest friends to his wife back when I was running roughshod over the economy in Kingdom of Loathing.)
posted by mordax at 9:16 AM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


In this whole wide world I have never seen or heard of a culture where women weren't the dominant force in making social connections, which speaks to something innate.

And you have, of course, been all around the whole wild world and visited all the cultures and seen all the people within all those cultures? During which time you took extensive anthropological and sociological notes and did your best to avoid inadvertently skewing your data via your own cultural and perceptual biases? Somehow I doubt it.
posted by Lexica at 10:29 AM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


If my husband is expecting him to make him sandwiches in the morning (and, for the record, he is) and I do not make him sandwiches, then he's not going to make them himself.

The phrase "Buck up, son, and learn to make a goddamned sammich" comes to mind.

This thread is making me incredibly grateful for (almost) always feeling like my wife and I are on the same team

It's making me grateful for aging—more or less contentedly—into the mutant spawn of Quentin Crisp and Djuna Barnes, thereby leaving me untroubled by most of this. Friends are better than lovers I reflect, not for the first time.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:02 PM on September 10, 2014


The phrase "Buck up, son, and learn to make a goddamned sammich" comes to mind.

corb goes on to explain that not only will her husband not make the sandwiches, he'll buy an expensive lunch out which affects their shared finances.

It's not about sandwich making knowledge, it's about women getting the burden of responsibility put on them, and all the micro moments of "what's the big deal? it's just an extra $10 for a sandwich" or "what's the big deal? I don't care if the kitchen's dirty?" etc that become a huge exhaustion point over time.
posted by sweetkid at 1:02 PM on September 10, 2014 [15 favorites]


I read this column over the weekend and it stirred up such conflicting emotions in me. It has been really great to read other people's thoughtful responses, particularly corb's and sweetkid's.

For my part, the column made me feel weirdly self-congratulatory because I don't recognize myself in Polly's paragraph about women who are "afraid of being something." I'm cranky, I make my boyfriend do most of the housework, and while I'm anxious for people to like me as much as the next person, I can be pretty abrasive at times. On the other hand, I don't necessarily like these qualities of mine! I recognize I should be more willing to help with cooking/cleaning/laundry. I don't want to snap at people who care about me. I am appreciative that my boyfriend likes me for me, negative qualities and all; and I do think a lot of Polly's advice is spot-on. But I don't really think that embracing these things about myself really helped me find a relationship; mostly I'm just really lucky that my boyfriend's and my issues are compatible.
posted by ferret branca at 1:14 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


That therapist sounds weird. If anybody's getting dumped, it should be them.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:58 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


"What sweetkid is talking about seems entirely common and real to me. I was just talking to a friend about it last week. She started a new job and was surprised at all the comments her male coworkers make about how their wives "control" their schedule."

Yeah, it's a thing that I recognize about my relationship, though some of it is because we've got complementary mental illnesses — she's anxious, I'm ADD. Or, to cop a phrase, she's by the book and I'm a bit of a loose cannon. That means that if she doesn't necessarily remember that there's a plan for something, I might forget about it, but also that if I don't make a plan or find something to do, we won't necessarily do anything.

But we make it work, and I try to remember the sage advice of my parents, which is that if one of you doesn't do a chore, that just means the other one has to. Her folks fucked her up a bit about how important some housekeeping tasks are that don't even register to me (raised by hippies), but you know, it makes her unhappy and my goal is for her to be happy, so I try to pitch in. I'm still pretty sure that she does more than her fair share, but I can say I've made progress. And, honestly, when a couple of our friends broke up over similar stuff, it was kind of a wake-up for me about how much I was letting slide. I mean, I still like them and am friends with them, but the number of times the woman in the relationship complained about shit that I notice myself doing? Uh, yeah. That was a little sheepish for me.

Anyway, thanks for many of the good comments here. Time to go buy the girl some flowers or something.
posted by klangklangston at 6:55 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


klanger, still awaiting flowers.... ;)
posted by holyrood at 2:39 PM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


he came through on friday! i wanted to ensure his good rep.
posted by holyrood at 6:55 PM on September 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


I don't know if anyone has mentioned this yet, but there is also the huge factor of looks.

I feel like having the luck of being good-looking makes a potential partner much more forgiving of any character flaws. You would not believe the stupid shit I have gotten away with just because of this.

It makes me cringe now that I am mature enough to understand my face is the result of a genetic lottery and no merit of mine.

Seriously, it is 99% luck. In the end, your character and personality are also the result of whatever brain chemistry+nurturing you happen to have. Finding a person you get along with, let alone love forever is ridiculously unlikely and the people who have should acknowledge that.

I love my husband so much sometimes I feel like I should build a secret altar to him in my closet and sacrifice little rodents to him. But let's be honest. We found each other out of total randomness. We also happened to find each other attractive and be unattached, we had a couple of awkward dates and by the grace of inertia decided to keep trying to hang out until we knew each other so well it was clear we had lucked out and were compatible. At a million points in our story things could have gone differently.

The whole narrative of "oh, my SO and I were DESTINED to be together" is BS, because in all monogamous, serious relationships there is a moment in which you choose not to keep looking in favor of what you already have. There is a moment of "settling for" so to speak, but not in the negative sense, more in the sense of not being insane enough to think you have a twin out there, who will like exactly what you like and hate what you hate. And this twin is not related to you in any way. How likely is that?
posted by Tarumba at 6:44 AM on September 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


It's not *just* luck, it's also a ton of compromise. Even all the "timing" stuff and "luck" stuff and "randomness" and all, once you find someone who likes spending time with you and getting to know you and is attracted to you and you feel the same (and this is step 1, not STARS COLLIDED AND), then you have to make a bunch of small compromises. Even on early dates. I don't like dive bars, but if an OKC date invited me to one, i would go and not complain. That's a small compromise, but if I thought the perfect person for me would definitely only want to go to a chic wine bar that is in a convenient neighborhood for me, I'd get nowhere.

Part of it is just making lots of small and large compromises until you just don't want to anymore. Or just keep making them forever.
posted by sweetkid at 10:43 AM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


How well would that read if we changed teh word 'compromise' to 'adjusting'... as in adjusting to each other, to fit better, if the initial chemistry and sensibility seem to make it worth the while. It is an investment after all, we forget. Far too much media conditioning of instant perfect fit in all aspects.
posted by infini at 11:33 AM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Far too much media conditioning of instant perfect fit in all aspects.

yeah, exactly. In my current dating thing, if someone had described him to me months prior I'd say no way. There are sooo many things about him that make no sense for me. But when I first met him I was like screw it, I want to see where this goes. But there have been a million things that I've had to adjust/compromise on and I've actually found it enjoyable to do that, not restrictive.

(Like I watched a Dirty Harry movie, with his running commentary about how macho it was, but also self consciousness about liking macho movies). Something like that would have 100% not have happened with the bourbon aficionado progressive lawyer type I daydream about belonging with.
posted by sweetkid at 11:39 AM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


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