Why I Choose to Marry

Don't want no wedding

Much like smoking, just say no!

“I’m never getting married!”

When I was young, this was my battle cry. While other girls my age were painstakingly planning out weddings with fluffy white gowns, ornate flower arrangements, and faceless grooms, I dug in my heels and said “No thanks, not for me.” Marriage was a way to put women in the house and exploit them for their labor. Marriage was a trap, and I was determined not to fall for it.

You see, my mom didn’t exactly sell me on the whole marriage thing. In her two marriages she was expected to fulfill all the household duties: cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the kids. She could have a job if she wanted, but it was more like an extracurricular: something that she could do, but if she did, she couldn’t neglect her “real” job.

Whenever I asked her about it, she would just shrug and say that that was marriage. It was just the way things were. They way they ought to be.

Well, fuck that! I didn’t want a job; I wanted a career. I wanted to make a difference. That’s what I was here to do, not clean dishes and make babies. This whole marriage thing was a scam. I was okay to have relationships, but the idea of binding myself to a man – to that life – was downright repulsive.

Now I find myself imagining what I’d look like in this dress — just… not in white.

But then I met this guy. This wondrous man, who showed me that relationships are partnerships, and the terms were up to those involved, not some arbitrary set of “traditional” roles. He did not demand that we have children. He understood that my career was an extension of me and that it came first. We would split chores. We would take care of our home together.  We would share a life – equally.

It never even occurred to me that it could be like that. Imagine, living your life with someone who wanted you to be an individual outside of your relationship. Someone who doesn’t demand you sacrifice yourself to the marriage or the home. Living in a “traditional” home, I spent my life fearing I was going to become a housewife. Anthony would rather I be me.

And that was when I realized: I still don’t want a “marriage.” I want a person. I want him. Don’t get me wrong. The legal rights are important for us to exist in our society as a couple, but, with them or without them, I’d still choose to be with him (similar to many others who still cannot marry).

I never dreamed of a white gown. I never even thought to dream of a partner for my life until Anthony.  Marriage is not a paper; it’s not a ceremony; it’s not a party. It’s a person and a relationship, both of which I would be foolish to let slip away.

A Welcome, a Sorry, a Thank You, & a Hope

We’re back. Because this isn’t okay.

Hello there, dear readers. Sorry I disappeared there for a while. This post was originally called “What’s the Difference Between an Excuse and an Explanation?” but 300 words later, I realized it doesn’t matter. I’m back now, I think. I missed you. What we had going on was cool. I hope it can be cool again.

Part of the reason I wanted to start this blog is because I love magazines, and I don’t feel like magazines do a great job of fostering good, vibrant conversations with women as active participants. Obviously there are women’s magazines, and I read and love those, but it’s pretty hard to deny that magazines whose editorial bent is distinctly gendered don’t approach women as thoughtful, interested people anywhere beyond the nail polish aisle. Magazines that do deal with topics other than how you should pay attention to politics to meet men, like The Atlantic or Outside or Wired, aren’t explicitly for men, but feel like they are because they aren’t adorned with the cultural alerts coded into society to be “for women,” like pastel colors and flowers.

It’s almost like we never grew out of the kid-book dilemma: Girls will read a book with a knight on the cover, but boys won’t read a book with a girl, bows, or puppies on the cover. There isn’t anything inherently about horses or ballet that have anything to do with being a woman, nor is there any homogenous experience of being a woman to which to assign that cultural indicator anyway. If the current cultural idea of femininity is breaking down, that’s a good thing.

One of the things I was doing while I was not posting here was moving in with my parents after graduating college, and to say this is an adjustment would be to say that the Titanic sinking was kind of a bummer. My mom tells me every day that there just aren’t any “real men” out there anymore. Any American could guess what she means: A muscular male who drives a truck, owns a gun, and can fix or build anything, including a barbecue on which to sear his ribeyes and roast the the championship hopes of his rival sports teams. She’s not alone: The Atlantic, a magazine one would hope would be above these spats, has claimed on its cover that love and dating as we know it is breaking down, once with the bold headline “The End of Men.” (Both articles were from and for straight, white women of some economic privilege and did not examine those tensions.) Dating is hard, that’s true. But that’s not because expression of gender is less distinctly polar than it once was.

I hope we can keep writing, and that you keep reading, because the work of evolving this culture can’t be left to publishers of magazines. We do this work in the wild hope that you’ll read it and enjoy it, or at least think about it. What made me come back to this place through the shame of inconsistency and the edging realization that I never won’t be busy is this: The conversations we have here are important.

I want to live in a world where not one girl makes decisions for her life based on who will call her a slut or a prude. A world where “real man” has no definition. Where not one person worries that how she looks or loves  isn’t “normal.” Where having sex for the first time isn’t a loss. Where these hopes aren’t bold.

Join me, won’t you?

You Can’t Say That on Television: Sex, Violence, & Primetime Lies

If I had a dollar for every time I watched this kiss, I’d probably only have $50. That was a lot when I was 12.

You’ve seen it all before: A couple TV audiences have been rooting for is finally going to hook up. They’ve somehow ended up locked in a place with no way out, or in a really intense argument because the tension between them has been growing, and the inevitable is about to go down.

The audience feels the crescendo as someone inevitably leans in to snag that first much-anticipated kiss. It takes a turn for the passionate, but as things get more heated, the camera pans away from the action and blurs as it settles on some romantic light source in the room like the reflection of raindrops on a nearby window. Everything else is left to the viewers’ imagination. What happens after that passionate kiss, we assume, is that the characters took their clothes off and engaged in the commonly accepted form of a sex act: good old fashioned penis-in-vagina sex.

Unfortunately, TV has sex all wrong. It teaches us that there isn’t much to sex — other than passionate kissing and missionary. Television shouldn’t have to act as a replacement for sex education, but Googling #WaronWomen will show you just how much of a priority quality sex education has become in the US. So why shouldn’t TV be the thing that tries to present the realities of certain subjects?

Let’s take a look at Glee. Now, I know this season has been terrible, you guys. But let’s not forget the times Glee was honest with us about our lives. Those were the good ol’ days, weren’t they? Remember the one where all those crazy kids lost their virginities…twice? My favorite thing about the two episodes of Glee where people were losing their virginity is that virginity is presented in all ways.

OMG! Two boys kissing?! Call the FCC!

We see Kurt and Rachel, the romantics, taking their virginity very seriously. After having a frank discussion with his dad about the ins-and-outs of sex and the emotions associated, Kurt chooses to lose it to his long-term boyfriend. Finn and Santana, on the other hand, are coming from a side of curiosity. Sex is shown as something that can be simultaneously meaningful to one group of people and less meaningful to another group of people. It suggests that losing your virginity is something that is a personal choice, and every individual should be able to process the act however they please.

Lucille Ball, “with child”

The most unfortunate thing about this content is that when parents saw teenagers having sex on TV, they used it as an opportunity to kick and scream at the network and the advertisers instead of sitting down and having the frank discussions about sex. Instead of changing the channel to protect children that may be too young for such content, they protested advertisers and prevented everyone in the family from watching such filth. The more unfortunate thing is that this happens all the time. It’s been happening for a long time.

It all began with Lucy and Ricky. They slept in separate beds and weren’t allowed to use the phrase “pregnant” to describe Lucille Ball’s real life pregnancy with *gasp* her husband, Desi Arnez. Although it was being used in the plot, likely to avoid covering up the belly, it was still not something that could be talked about with such crude language as the word “pregnant.” The producers used more politically correct terms like “with child” or “expecting” instead.

America has finally come to terms with married couples sharing beds and pregnancy, but there are certainly some subjects that are still highly controversial on network television. Funny that none of these subjects are senseless acts of violence or acts of hate, but rather, the acts of love between two people. On shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the detectives discuss the explicit details of violent sex acts. Why can’t characters on other shows discuss healthy sex acts with equal detail and candor?

The problem isn’t the amount of sex on TV, but that sex is portrayed dishonestly to viewers. This is not about more or less censorship and saying certain subjects shouldn’t be talked about on TV. It’s about the lack of sex education we already have being supplemented with more bad information.

The Only “Girls” I Need Share My Surname

After watching the first three episodes of HBO’s “Girls” twice, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the show. I can see the truth in many of its criticisms, but I can also see the value in much of its praise. In particular, Heather’s post about finding value in the strong female friendships the show portrays struck me in an interesting way. I began to think that perhaps the reason I don’t necessarily identify with “Girls” is because most of my close friends are, well, dudes.

My best friend and me graduating from college.

This has pretty much always been the case. From kindergarten until now, I’ve always felt stronger connections with men than with women. And since this realization I’ve been trying to figure out why this has been the case. I think it’s been a combination of competition (what with the ever-ubiquitous array of female body image issues and popularity contests), the particular mental strengths and weaknesses I exhibit (spatial and mathematical intelligence is an overwhelmingly male trait), and a very interesting interaction that I can remember down to the second.

Fifth grade. (Gosh, that was a horrible year for me, wasn’t it?) The most popular girl in the class was named Brianna, and her best friends were Michaela and Sarah. At lunch, we would all go out and play four square (the game with the ball and the four squares drawn in chalk on the sidewalk, not the smart phone check-in game). The rules of four square are simple: you bounce a ball around and try to get people “out” of their squares  by hitting the ball towards them in such a way that prevents them from hitting it back toward you.

Because Briana was the most popular, she was in the “A” square, Michaela was in the “B” square, and Sarah was in the “C” square. Everyone else lined up for our chance in the “D” square, only to be taken out each time and to go to the back of the line. Until the one day I accidentally (seriously) got Briana out of the “A” square. All the girls walked away, to a different four square court to play the game, and left me alone in the original court. They didn’t talk to me for weeks, if memory serves. I think it was then that I stopped trusting women—I never had that feeling Heather described, that they would always be there for me, so I tended to abandon the females in my life (creating major friendship rifts and then opportunities for reconciliation, but I’ll get into that another time).

There are a couple notable exceptions to this rule: my mother and my sister.

My sister, Kimberly, is two years, two months, and one day younger than I am. She is an aspiring actress living in New York City. She, like me, has a multitude of things on her mind at any given time. For sake of keeping her privacy, I won’t talk specifically about her personal life, but Kimberly has had some hurdles to jump in her life. People keep telling me how brave I was to move to Philadelphia after college, but Kimberly moved to New York freakin’ City at age 18 to go to college. She auditioned for shows, got herself a job and friends and roommates, and basically owned her college experience. Now she’s focusing on her career full time, becoming a real adult. She’ll be 21 in a couple weeks. I love her very much.

But Kimberly and I were not always close. Indeed, when we were younger, we used to fight a lot. And not just verbally, physically too. I still have scars from some of those fights. But I think that came from a fundamental misunderstanding of each other. We’re very different people. I used to think to myself that I wouldn’t be friends with Kimberly if we weren’t sisters.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

See, growing up, we moved around a lot. Part of the reason I don’t have long-lasting female friendships is because I don’t have a lot of long-lasting friendships. In the pre-Facebook days, it was pretty hard to stay in touch with people in Hong Kong when we were living in Connecticut. The only person who was around the whole time was Kimberly. And yeah, that definitely contributed to my frustration with her and our relationship. She was always there, no matter what. She was the constant. And at the time I saw it as a bad thing, but now I don’t know what I would do without it.

The photo album caption for this photo is, “baby sandwich.”

To be honest, I couldn’t have moved to the east coast if she wasn’t here, if I didn’t see her a few weekends a month. Siblings can be the annoying thorns in your side, but she knows me better than anyone else (except my mom, which I’ll get to in a second). I’ve known her for her entire life, we’ve shared some pretty incredible experiences (snorkeling in Australia, for example), and I know that no matter what happens, she will be there for me. I always thought she wouldn’t understand what I was going through, that she was too self-absorbed or that she didn’t have the experience necessary to bring me up from my lowest lows. But often, she’s the only one who can. She believes in me in a way that not many other people do. And I believe in her. And we have this weird telepathic connection such that when I’m feeling sad, I get a call or a text from her. And vice versa. It’s awesome.

And I could write pages and pages about my mom. She’s such an amazing woman, coming up from so much hardship and putting herself aside any time I’m freaking out about my job or my roommates or a boyfriend. She, like Kimberly, always has my best interests in mind. Honestly, I’m going to cut it off there, because she deserves her own blog post. The maternal figure is sacred in my mind, especially because of how she always understood me, even though most people didn’t. Because she pushed me to be friends with Kimberly when I didn’t want to. Because even in my deepest moments of despair, she believes in me. She sees all the beauty in the world that is sometimes hard to grasp. I have so much admiration for that.

I didn’t realize how my relationships with my mom and sister had changed my outlook on friendships with women until I watched “Girls.” I realized that although most of my close friendships are with men, I’ve definitely been fostering more relationships with women. And I feel like I have my newfound appreciation for Kimberly to thank for that. She brought me out of my fifth grade four square darkness and into the light. Women can be catty and competitive, but if you give them a chance, they can also be extremely caring and loving.

So ultimately, I don’t feel the exact same camaraderie that Marnie and Hannah share in “Girls.” But I feel like I’m getting there. As a wise women once told me, “You just… you just have to focus on your mind.” It didn’t make sense at the time (seeing as it was skiing advice from an eight-year-old Kimberly Diamond that caused my dad to almost fall off the ski lift laughing), but maybe that’s what I’m coming into. Being myself and being able to open up to women in my life is something my mom and sister have taught me, and I think will make me a better person in the long run.

‘Girls’ Reminds Me That Even If I Hate My Life, I Love My Friends

Life sucks, but at least our friends are amazing and beautiful and we love them to death.Much has been made of HBO’s new series “Girls,” with critics (including our very own Laura Donovan) unable to come to a consensus as to whether it’s a groundbreaking and real depiction of a floundering generation or a moronic, whiny collection of #whitegirlproblems that didn’t deserve ever to see the light of day.

Personally, I fall, more or less, into the first camp – I think the show says a lot of important things about the ways in which young, educated people are feeling about the bleak employment and cultural and romantic landscape we seem to have been randomly vomited out into. If “Girls,” and for that matter, my life and the lives of many people I know and love, had a tagline, it would be something like, “This isn’t how we expected it to turn out.” And sure, maybe that’s because we were ’90s kids and our expectations were unreasonably high, fueled by the sweet but misguided parenting strategy of, “You can do anything you set your mind to because you are SPECIAL and UNIQUE and the UNIVERSE KNOWS IT.” No I can’t, no I’m not, and no, really, it doesn’t. I am, you are, we all are average and relatively insignificant and by and large unskilled and unspecial in the grand scheme of things (sorry to be such a Debbie Downer but it’s true), and I think Lena Dunham’s writing conveys the gap between who we thought we would be and the normal/sucky people we ended up being brilliantly.

But that’s not what I want to talk about here. There’s no use dwelling on the massive disconnect between who I want to be and who I am, and who these TV characters wanted to be and who they are. It’s the plague of my generation but it’s not really worth harping on about, at least not on this corner of the Web that we’ve set aside for serving tea and, hopefully, some loveliness to one another.

No, what I want to talk about here is what Dunham calls the “real romance” of her show: the relationships between the female protagonists, and especially between Dunham’s character, Hannah, and her best friend Marnie (the ravishing Allison Williams). I knew the show was a direct reflection of my female friendships during two small but, to my mind, heart-stoppingly beautiful scenes in the first episode: first, the shot of Marnie and Hannah in bed together, in deep platonic love, limbs wrapped carelessly together in a posture that spoke directly to the deep, abiding and completely unselfconscious affection the best girl-on-girl friendships are made of. Later, the two sit casually in the bathtub together, Marnie shaving her legs, Hannah naked and eating a cupcake for breakfast. The comfort and tenderness with which the two treat each other, emotionally and even physically, tugged at my heartstrings in a way few onscreen romantic, especially heterosexually so, relationships ever have.

This, to me, is what “Girls” is about, and this is what makes it great television. It’s the same thing that was compelling in “Sex and the City” (a show that bears little other resemblance to “Girls,” save that it is also set in New York City and also starred ladies). I never cared much about the preposterous romances on that show, either (Miranda and Steve were sweet, I guess) but the women loved each other fiercely and eternally, and that, I think, is why so many female viewers stuck around – it was refreshing to finally see a depiction of the true love we felt for our closest friends, the bonds that went so much deeper than the silly, vapid, backstabbing excuses for female friendships that worm their way into most romantic comedies and other films ostensibly aimed at women.

This week’s episode of “Girls” contained another scene that spoke directly to me and made me ache for the days when I lived in a big rundown house with the lady loves of my life. In the last scene, after both Hannah and Marnie have gone through various bizarre, off-putting, and downright hellish encounters with the idiotic men in their lives, there’s nothing left for them to do but dance like crazy people in Hannah’s room, sloughing off the icky feelings of men who treat them badly by reveling in their true true loves – each other. When Marnie backs up into Hannah and the two put their arms around each other, I knew this show had won me over for good, because all I wanted to do at that moment was find my girlfriends and put my arms around them and say, “This is for keeps.”

I May Actually Have A Crush Again — But I Choose Not To Act On It

A few weeks ago, I echoed John Mayer’s “Love Song for No One” and lamented having no romantic interests. I wasn’t upset that I’d been single for almost five years, but that I hadn’t seriously liked anyone in almost a year and a half. I missed the feelings associated with crushes and dreamed of the possibility of spending time with someone of value in New York. A few commenters voiced assent with my piece, stating that they too wished they could meet a guy about whom they could get excited. Others, such as the ever sagacious voice of reason Heather Price-Wright, noted the importance of stability and consistency in relationships. While having a crush is thrilling in the beginning stages, it can also leave you feeling awful about yourself, and the fire burns out faster than you expect it to. She may no longer experience butterflies when her boyfriend steps through the front door of their home (or maybe she still does! All I know is that she certainly perked up in his presence when they first started dating at our school newspaper. It was adorable), but she’s also not suffering the torturous ups and downs of infatuation. And believe me, they’ll tear you to shreds.

I'm Lake Bell in "No Strings Attached"

After the article went live, a friend told me that I’d like someone when I stopped looking. I laughed, as I ended my passive search more than a year ago, but humored her. She ended up being right, however, and now that I’m experiencing all the side effects of Crushdom again (giddiness, being visibly embarrassed and flushed all the time, talking out of nervousness like that spazzy uptight side character in “No Strings Attached,” incessant laughter, etc), I’m both thrilled and concerned, and I thank Heather for explaining why reverting back to one’s teenage tendencies can end badly.

Though I’m not invested in this individual, as I honestly don’t know all that much about him, this whole thing still leaves me with a bad feeling in my stomach. My track record isn’t great, so rather than risk getting shot down or belittled, I keep my mouth shut and don’t go after what I might want. I refuse to even let myself see whether it could work out because I don’t want other problems to unfold. Worst of all, I don’t want to be made a fool, and don’t think I haven’t fretted about the backlash I could receive for this post. I’m exhausted from several college and post-college blow-offs, so I choose not to move forward with this, as many things could go wrong if I do.

For a while, I was proud of myself for acquiring an aloof, shut off approach, which I would have eschewed during youth. Whether it’s

Senior prom

obvious or not, I have an exceptionally aggressive side, and it often comes out at work and in my relationships. The only reason I had a boyfriend in high school was because I confronted the guy I liked and told him that I was hooked. Okay, I wasn’t that brave or ballsy. What really happened was that I hung around him during club meetings every week and eventually wrote him a letter revealing my feelings. I gave him the note before sprinting to the girls’ bathroom with my friend Brittany out of cowardice. He said he already knew how I felt about him, but the gesture made him reevaluate his opinion of me, and before long, we were dating. But I also had to ask him to prom. He said he wouldn’t have considered going to the big event had I not brought it up. The following year, I invited another boy to the prom and he was my date. I’m not chattering about the big dance to bore you with stories of my awkward teen days or as a nod to prom season, but because these are perfect examples of me going after what I want. Even through the tidal wave of disappointments, I’ve always been confident about pursuing and being pursued, so it’s both empowering and depressing to adopt a passive, almost apathetic way of doing things. Though my friends and family would be proud to hear that I don’t believe in wearing my heart on my sleeve, I kind of hate how fearful and guarded I’ve become in this department. I’m aware that disillusionment is part of adulthood, but I shouldn’t be bewildered and scared this early on.

Rachel McAdams in "Morning Glory": "I want to like you, but don't want to get hurt!"

Believe it or not, though, there’s a reason for my hesitation and newly built wall. Like Rachel McAdams’s character in “Morning Glory,” I worry I’ll hurt my career by getting sucked into a relationship. More than that, I’m also afraid to say this person is out of my league, at least in one very obvious way. This has happened to me twice, and on both occasions, the classy guys hid me from their friends. One of these young men would even make fun of me in front of my friends. No, this wasn’t in elementary school. It was the summer before my junior year of college. I was 19 years old and staying at American University for an internship program, and against my better judgement, I found myself hooking up with an older guy down the hall. He hung out with the “cool clique” of the dorm whereas I established lifelong bonds with a group of fellow cheesy nerds, all of whom he made fun of behind their backs. As the others went bar hopping in the nation’s capital, my new friends and I watched “How I Met Your Mother,” cooked chocolate chip pancakes for dinner, and went to late night movies. They were all incredible and inspiring, so I’m not sure why I sometimes left my awesome buddies to go mess around with a 23-year-old guy who took me further than I wanted to go, told me he was only with me because he “couldn’t bang real hotties such as Amanda Bynes,” and kept me from his friends. Worst of all, he pulled pranks on me in public. During dinner one night in the cafeteria, he dropped four ice cubes down my back. My friends and I looked at him with disgust and said he needed to quit acting like a preschooler, yet the order went right over his head. He hid me from his friends and bullied me in front of everyone to veil what was going on between us, yet would ask me to come to his room every other night and express irritation when I spent time with my male friends. He got away with it because he was movie star quality gorgeous. The second guy didn’t have ladykiller looks, but was outgoing enough to make you think he was Ryan Gosling. He pulled a lot of nonsense on me as well, and I hated myself for months after all of this went down. In the end, though, I was at fault for allowing myself to be someone’s secret shame. And I don’t want to fall into that downward spiral — or anything even remotely close to it — again.

Who wouldn't want a Chuck and Blair dynamic? xoxo, Gossip Girl

So, yeah. From what I’ve seen, the person I like has far more class, decency, and character than those two, so I doubt he’s even capable of that level of douchebaggery. Therefore, he wouldn’t treat me like a kitchen sink rag, but who is to say he would give me the time of day? The point is, I don’t know. I question whether I even have the authority to say that I have a crush on this person, as my knowledge of him is so minimal at this point. How could it be anything substantial, though, if I refuse to put myself out there? Maybe that’s another part of growing up: Realizing that there’s a difference between having feelings for a person and fixating on something because you like the rush. I’ve taken a leap of faith in the past, and while I’ve gained more knowledge and insight from each letdown, I don’t think I’m ready to repeat the “this is what I’ve learned” crap just yet. The good news is that I go out with friends a lot and have constant exposure to new young men, but most of the time, I’m underwhelmed. All the gems are taken, so I put my energy into rooting for Chuck and Blair on “Gossip Girl.” I’m too old to be living through television shows and watching this one in particular, but it’s a lot easier than dealing with rejection. I hope to break away from this mindset in time, but for now, I’m too petrified and lazy to put myself in that kind of vulnerable state.

What Goes Through My Mind When I See A Guy Across A Bar

Isn't this FUN?

God, what am I doing here? Is it really Friday? What it is about Fridays that makes the crowd so much less cool than Thursdays? Where did all these old people come from? Why do guys I like always talk to old ladies? Why are these drinks so expensive? Do bartenders think that when I say “whiskey sour” I’m only doing it for the cherry? What if I am only doing it for the cherry?

Does it denote some kind of perma-girlishness that even when I choose an adult beverage, it has ingredients in common with Shirley Temples? God, whatever happened to Shirley Temples? Weren’t those things delicious? Wasn’t there supposedly a version of those that had alcohol in it, what kind of alcohol was that? Can I order one of those? Remember that one time my cousins and I thought they served us high-octane Shirley Temples when we were like ten, and then we acted drunk, and then it turned out it was just a whole lot of grenadine?

Hey, is that guy cute? Why is he wearing that weird shirt? Why do guys think a plaid shirt is the appropriate attire for every event from a first date to a summer funeral? How come guys have it so easy, and women have to spend millions of dollars and millions of minutes on hair, makeup, clothes, shoes, accessories, and scent? Why do they even have menswear sections? Why do they keep printing a million more tacky geometric patterns on ties, is it just so guys can feel like they have some entitlement to complaining about clothes, too?

Wait, is that guy cute? His half-smile and that casual way he leans on the bar is hot, right? Or does he know I’m looking at him, thinking he looks like a taller Diego Luna, but with muscles? God, did I just use the word hot? Isn’t that word the worst? How can it simultaneously degrade and build up a girl? It kind of implies the person is dumb, right? What’s a better word? Would that guy, the one who just ran his hand from his neck to his scalp through that windy barley field of hair, rather I called him handsome, or is that too old-fashioned?

Is he handsome? What if the way I perceive beauty is based on something totally horrible, like what advertisers in magazines tell me I should find attractive? I mean, who really wants to date a guy who spends enough time at the gym and only eats kale so he has a six pack? Wouldn’t he be really boring to talk to? So why do women all hold guys to that insane standard? Isn’t that just like the insane standard women are held to, that they have to have a waist the width of the ball in whatever sport their boyfriend prefers to pretend to play on his Xbox? What have you done to us, Posh Spice?!

Why doesn’t he want to talk to me? I’ve been staring at him through my eyelashes for half an hour, why hasn’t he come over here? Should I go over there? Should I buy him a drink? Should I ask him to buy me a drink? Why is it so much better if a guy buys a girl a drink than the other way around? Why are women in an active role always more pathetic than men doing exactly the same thing? Why do I have to wait around for him to ask me out?

Should I ask him out? What if I don’t want to ask him out, what if I want him to ask me out? What does that say about me as a woman? Am I so shaped by culture that I can’t be an active participant in my own history? Why hasn’t he come over here and talked to me? Am I not pretty enough? Can he tell from there that I’m not a fun girl, that I’m kind of a mess right now, that I’d really like an actual boyfriend who is nice to me for more than one day in a row? Is that what’s keeping him over there? Does he look at me and think, “Why would I talk to the broad with the crazy eyes when I can lean in close to this hot chick who was resourceful enough to take the bandage dress trend literally”?

God, isn’t this place the worst? Can we please get out of here?

(Lowbrow allusion to this.)

Don’t Buy Me a Drink: Girls and the Guys Who Buy Them Stuff

I'm good. Thanks though, T Pain!

We all know I’m kind of a feminist, even though I’m as reluctant to admit that as I am to admit that I kind of love ABC’s latest well-produced skim-latte froth of rhinestone twangin’ television, GCB. So it’s hardly a surprise that Kat and I have had an ongoing discussion about a classic topic of feminist whinging for about a month now: the eternal conundrum of men buying you stuff.

The discussion pivots on two particular conversations. The first occurred when I mentioned that I’d met a guy I was, in the parlance of our times, hollerin’ at. “Make sure you get him to buy you dinner first!” Kat warned. The second occurred when I mentioned I was looking forward to getting drunk that night, because it was a day ending in y. “What you need to do is get guys to buy you drinks,” Kat said. I know Kat means well, and she was only trying to help me have fun and drink cheap. But in the pursuit of making girls and guys treat each other with a little less awfulness, I’m curious about the effect of these default assumptions.

Our first conversation negotiated the assumption that a guy should buy a girl dinner before trying to get her out of her sparkly tissue of a dress. Kat probably meant that a girl should get to know a guy better — by eating a meal with him, perhaps — before taking him home with her.  The idea that a dude should plonk down some cash before leaning in and puckering up is hardly uncommon. It’s present in the second situation that triggered our debate: implying that I should use a man’s generosity to chase a buzz when I can very well buy my own drinks reinforces the assumption that guys should buy pretty girls things, basically for no reason.

By implying a guy should buy you dinner before going in for a kiss frames a really backward kind of transaction in regards to women and their ability to want sex and choose it rationally. You are never obligated to sleep with anyone in any situation you don’t clearly, distinctly want. And okay, maybe a guy is trying to get you to like him by being nice and buying you a drink. But by subscribing to the idea that he is obligated to buy you something before you can be expected to kiss him back is kind of like him thinking he shouldn’t have to marry you unless you have a dowry of silver spoons and blanket chests to bring with you into the marriage.

That's nice of you, but I can buy my own drinks.

The problem here is not magnanimous guys who buy a round for the table, or non-sexual or non-romantic relationships. Buying drinks for each other is awesome! But a woman should be able to want sex, say it, and get it without the man buying her anything — or her friends telling her she’s easy because she didn’t get a $12 salad in addition to the main course (if you know what I mean). If you are interested in the guy, you shouldn’t manipulate him into buying you things just because it’s in your arsenal of feminine whiles. If you aren’t interested in a guy and you let him buy you a drink, you are reinforcing the idea that women are conniving, unkind, and only want sex if it’s about something else.

The assumption goes that girls can only want sex if it will make a guy date them, or if it will make a guy tell them they are pretty, or if it will make a guy buy them shit. One of the most important tasks of feminism is to challenge the idea that sex for women is always about something other than sex. It’s a pervasive assumption — one that is, stated frankly, demeaning and backward and wrong. A man does not need to buy you a drink before you can want him. In addition to making sex a capitalist transaction, it also robs a woman of her ability to want sex without everyone thinking she really wants love/validation/a free salad.

Boy Coy: The Rise and Fall of FriendZone

The Plush lobby, like my Sunday afternoon, is refreshingly empty. Heather and I sit, swap stories, steal sips. Our mouths shake out, emitting lil’ gossipoids about Daily Wildcat things and copy writing and 20Somethingings.  It’s nice.

I hone in on my Blue Moon, prime to go beastmode on the garnish orange slice.  Nice. I pop succulent sections past my Usher lips, then proceed to stretch the peel above the glass. A butterfly-spray shoguns across the froth, adding a bit of extra spark to my citrus flavored brew. It’s a trick I picked up from a Japanese manga about bartending, so I feel like the Manganese Chef.

Across the bar, I eye a lady who resembles a lady she is not. My past self, like a teenybopper Linda Hamilton, is not privy to important future facts. So I stare.

As it turns out, this lady is not the lady she resembles. Unfortunately, eyebeams have crossed. I try to keep my eyes on Heather. Sending goo goo gos would betray fresh commitments; dust off old proclivities best left undisturbed. Oh, but the ego. Curious to see if I’ve piqued another person’s attention, I creep peeks.

“I think that girl’s looking at me.”
Service.

Heather lurks. “Lucky you.”
Return.

I study her conversation partner. His back is turned, but his posture is…intentional.

“I wonder what his game plan is.”
Slice.

“It could be nothing,” Heather quips. “You don’t have a game plan.”
Match point.

The grotesque little goblins from Cloud City must not have fixed my kinderdrive, since I fail to make the jump to nicerspace. “Naw dog,” I think to myself, “This broseph’s definitely in the FriendZone.”

*

I could tell you about the first time I heard the phrase “FriendZone,” but that would be false flavoring. It would be a sultry anecdote, justified by my creative non-fiction degree sensibilities, bolstered by my audience’s succulent ignorance about my personal life. Seems like a waste of taste, though. I’ll simmer my credibility for juicier topics. Promise.

So close, and yet…

I do know that no one had to explain it to me. “FriendZone,” I mean.  The phrase is typically only applied in a sitch where its meaning is evident, after all. Painfully evident. I don’t know, maybe you were one of the lucky ones.

Throughout college years this phrase served as the crush’s black spot. Co-eds avoided the FriendZone like hairy kids avoided a Star Pass pool party. Once the binds of FriendZone descends, ne’er shall they be hoisted. So sayeth the prophecy.

However, as much as the FriendZone was a curse, it was also a banner. Undergrads from all walks of life could sympathize and trade anecdotes about the crush-in-proximity. We were all Gordos and they were all Lizzie McGuires. And, of course, we were always getting an earful about Ethan Craft.

Sometime around senior year, though, the phrase got dropped from the Lexicon. The fog of ambiguity seemed to have been lifted from the field.

4th Avenue helped. No one, it seems, goes out to bars to make friends. You go to the bar with the friends you already have to meet people you’d never boned before or to just dance or whatever or maybe both. Depends on the drink specials, lesss be rrreal.

Real life helped. It’s difficult, near impossible, to get FriendZoned at your 40 hour. Besides, they have a new phrase for that now. It’s called “co-worker.” It’s kind of like FriendZone, but if you make things weird you just get fired. As a result, feelers are sent out clearly, calmly, and with obvious intent. Pussyfooting is hard to justify with pink slips on the line.

Perspective helped. A few years removed, it’s hard to register the “FriendZone” for anything more than self-induced denial. Selfish chicken soup for the libido. Sex-centered personal deceptions. What else would you call a propped up platonic relationships, baited so a crush would eventually realize their obligation to your worth? What was the game plan? A bad breakup, heart and head turned on to your long suffering efforts at romantic subterfuge? A realized Taylor Swift song, topped off with a dreamy simultaneous orgasm?

Come on, Michael.

*

Blue Moon tides begin to creep, and I sense the hour to cast off. One more glance at FriendZone bro, but I correct myself. Maybe Heather is right.

Maybe they are like us. Maybe this guy and that lady are enjoying the atmosphere and the simple pleasures of good company. Maybe, with the dawn of our 20s past, we have abandoned the platonic predications for good. Oh, how “maybes” linger.

Fantasies and feet planted, I walk the redhead outside. I hold the door, because she is my sister and love to shower her with courtesies. We are friends, and there is no zone to behold.

After the Crush: “Unexciting and Comfortable” is Pretty Great, Too

We may look nothing like Big and Carrie, but we sure do read in bed like them.

A few of my fellow contributors’ recent posts on crushes have left me feeling a little bit left out. Unlike Leigh, I’m not currently in the throes of a so-good-it-hurts, dizzyingly ecstatic crush; unlike Laura, I’m not exactly craving one, either.

That’s because I am the thing we’re not supposed to be in our early 20s, that state of being that is supposedly anathema to being free and seeing what’s out there and making our own way in the world and generally being Liberated, Independent Women. Hi, I’m Heather, and I’m in a longterm relationship.

I have been with the same darling man for more than two years, and we’ve lived together for a lot of that time. We spend a lot of time together. We go to the grocery store. We cook dinner. We pay bills. We have a lease on which both of our signatures appear. We have couple friends. We double and triple-date. We go home from stuff early, and together. In other words, we are likely everything you hate about couples.

And you know what? It’s amazing.

And okay, I’ll admit it: I do miss crushes, a little bit. I sort of miss being both out-of-my-mind excited and devastated all the time over things that special someone said or didn’t say, texted or didn’t text, showed up to or didn’t. Just like Leigh and Laura, I love the agony and ecstasy of liking someone so much you might die . But I also remember that crushes felt like perpetual emotional calisthenics, my poor heart burning wildly and uncontrollably and constantly in a way that felt amazing and also hurt a LOT. And, to extend the metaphor just a bit further, if crushes are like energizing and brutal wind sprints, a good relationship is a long, satisfying run. Sure, you feel the burn, but it doesn’t consume you. Instead, it feeds and nourishes. Crushes giveth a great deal, sure, but one false move and crushes taketh away. Big time. A good relationship adds more, much more, than it subtracts, and that’s one of the reasons I’m not ashamed – and in fact, am extremely happy — to be in this place.

And so, as what feels like the staid old grandmother of the conversation on crushes, I have to put a couple of relationship myths to rest. For one thing, while I understand the sentiment being expressed, I have to counter that comfortable is not the same thing as unexciting. Passion doesn’t have to be so hot it burns; it can actually feel just plain good, rather than the see-sawing great/terrible/great/terrible of the best and worst early-stages crush. Just because I feel utterly at ease with my boyfriend doesn’t mean our relationship is dull; after all, the best friendships aren’t boring or old-news just because you’ve known someone forever and can finish her sentences, are they? A good relationship is kind of like that — an old, safe, and loving friendship. Only, you know, with sex.

And believe me, I know from whence I speak. I’ve been in that other kind of relationship — the kind where, a year in, you still can’t say his name without your breath catching a little bit, the kind that burns hot forever, that stays stormy and uncertain and exciting long past the crush phase. And guess what? It’s terrible. You’re never happy; you’re just obsessed. Another person has complete control over how you see the world. You pine and pine for someone who is in the same room as you. And when it ends (and believe me, it inevitably ends) it implodes. And that’s when you end up collapsing on the floor of your dorm and wailing as if your whole family just died. That’s when you stop eating and stop sleeping and look less like a person and more like a wraith who hasn’t seen the sun or a sandwich in decades. That’s when you start hating yourself because it hurts too much to hate him. And that is DEFINITELY when you start writing horrible poetry that your friends have to exclaim over and pretend doesn’t make them want to kill themselves.

So, while crushes are awesome, I simply have to stand up for the more settled, if slightly less exciting, side of the coin. Finding someone you care about and being with that person is great, too. The most important thing is, as with any romantic sojourn, to let it nourish you without letting it define you, and to make sure there’s heat, but not so much that you get burned.