It baffles me that any woman would not consider themselves feminist, and those who don’t I assume don’t understand what it exactly means (ie not man hating and/or bra burning extremists who want to take over the world, live in an amazonian-like state and enslave all men to do our bidding…. but a girl can dream). But it is equally frustrating for me to hear criticism from the other side, the side that is so fiercely feminist it sometimes makes me feel claustrophobic and embarrassed. I do believe that there is a time and place for things and that it’s important to pick and choose your battles. Because even though I’m a lady, I’m also a human and I get that people make mistakes, come from complicated backgrounds, are inherently self centered and generally need to be cut some slack. I’m working on focusing on compassion while at the same time striking down anti-women rhetoric. It’s a tough balance.
That’s why lately two truths about my marriage have been bugging me. They seem culturally cliche, like I’m buying into some patriarchal bullshit, the same norms that I would hope I can rise above. It turns out that sometimes life is just life and people are just people and sometimes I want things that are borderline cliche or feel things that are an annoying stereotype. So here we are. And instead of squirreling them away and pretending like I’m so very modern and so very above it all, I decided to share these thoughts (as I do). I think it’s best to be honest first and foremost, and then try to work within that honest reality.
1. Getting married made my life better and completed a portion of who I am.
Wow that is so annoying to write and admit to. But there it is. It’s not that being with Kamel makes me life easier, because marriage is hard and takes a lot of selflessness, compromise, and awareness of your own crap. But it does also make my life easier (I don’t have to be in charge of everything anymore, I have a buddy to help me carry groceries to the car, two incomes, a warm bed, etc) but not in the way they usually show in the movies. I’m not suddenly prettier, nor do I suddenly have better self esteem, I do not feel entirely “complete” in the sense that I’ve now succeeded in my person-hood. No. Instead, it’s as if I have checked off a box on my to-do list that had been nagging at me for years. The search to find a mate, in the most primal of senses. And let’s not pretend it doesn’t drive us, because it does. Since the time we were, like, 6. I was chasing boys on the playground, trying to give them unwanted kisses. I was that girl with splotches of jam on the corners of my mouth, already in the hunt.
I have not been perpetually with anyone, I have had long bouts of singleness (a year, 18 months, etc), I have had short relationships and long relationships, I have dated here and there (oh god have I ever), and I have had a handful of broken hearts. The hunt was always there, being distracting, causing me tears and laments and drama. The hunt is at the same time perpetually disappointing and affirming all at once. Someone thinks I’m pretty and funny and nice, someone wants to spend time with me, someone thinks I’m special, someone loves me. And then just as abruptly – no one loves me, no one finds me appealing, I will never have sex again, what was I thinking, how could anyone treat anyone like that, why do I let them make me feel and act so crazy!
It is exhausting. Even though sometimes I miss it, even though during engagement I mourned it.
Being married has freed me from the hunt. (Not the maintenance, or the growing as partners, or the constantly shared space and time… not that of course.) Now I hunt for other things. I read more, I carve out and de-clutter career paths, I am a better friend (I hope), I am calm, I am less frustrated/tortured/manic. Because I am best with a partner. Some people are best by themselves and being with others is a large sacrifice they aren’t willing to make. But I am best when I can take care of and be taken care of. This is just me.
2. Sometimes it bothers me that Kamel is not manly.
Manly (in the way I am using it for this post) is defined as, totally stereotypical man-type behavior (except all of the bad things). This includes:
- Being handy
- Capable of doing a set of pushup (or 1)
- Not being afraid of bugs
- Impervious to weather
- Etc. (Things I can’t think of right now, but surly cross my mind)
- Not whiny or dramatic
And I am not supposed to feel these things. Because a man is not defined by how much he can bench press. Just like a woman is not defined by how amazing her apple pie turns out. And I am, in fact, very very grateful for all of the negative man stereotypes that Kamel is not (meat-headed, afraid of women and periods, has defined gender rolls, uninterested in anything he deems “girly”). But, if I’m totally honest… sometimes I do feel frustrated that Kamel is not a typical Knight In Shining Armor. Blame Disney cuz I just can’t shake a secret desire to be swept off my feet and saved from an evil something-or-other (like a faulty washing machine or a broken microwave clock – if we’re really going there).
I hate wishing that Kamel wouldn’t be such a weeny about ridding us of unwanted bugs. Or the fact that he lacks upper body strength. I hate that I am annoyed by this, that I actively think, “ugh! that is not who I wanted to marry!” I scold myself. I say, “Lauren, please. You are not the picture perfect little woman either. Shut your mouth.” But I can’t help thinking it sometimes. Because your little girl expectations of who will sweep you off your feet rarely match up with who actually does. With his string bean arms, it’s a wonder he even had the strength. Thank god he has good legs.
But here I am, loving the fact that I can drone on and on and on about the outfits I wish I could wear, or how he’ll carry my purse around bloomingdales like it ain’t-no-thing. Or! knocking down ladies in line for the restroom to score me some much needed toilet paper. (If you haven’t read that story you are missing out. Seriously.) And at the same time being all picking/choosy about his annoying need to wear his hood up when it’s a bit breezy because OHGOD his sensitive ears!!! Grumble. These are stupid desires. I think my acknowledgement of this means I’m not a total bitch. Let’s blame it on the nature vs nurture phenomenon. Sometimes we just can’t escape cultural input. No matter how hard we try, it just seeps in around the edges.
Hi, my name is Lauren, and I have a thing for broad shoulders and men who aren’t cold when it’s snowing out. I married a man who doesn’t have them, and who is. And I’m still a feminist.