Inflammatory

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 awayย  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.

22 thoughts on “Inflammatory”

  1. I love the tags on this post.

    Re #1: I don’t find anything about feeling that way unfeminist. It’d be pretty unfeminist if you thought that it would (should) be true for all women, or if you thought it’s only true if you marry a man, etc. No one is a perfect feminist (or perfect Christian or perfect Democrat or perfect anything). But if you’re being thoughtful and honest I think you’re doing a good job, period.

    Re #2: Hahaha. I’m doubtful that in thirty years you’ll be looking back thinking, “If only he’d killed more bugs our lives would really have been happy!” (I think this means you win.)

    Re: Something tangentially related: Fuck No Rick Santorum!”

  2. Lauren! So much meat to this post, I love it.

    With #1 (which, although I’m not yet married, I have inklings of), what I try to remind myself is that while finding my partner and planning to marry him completes a part of me, the reverse is also true for him. We each fill voids in each others lives, differently but fairly equally. It’s hard, though, because sometimes that sentiment still feels like fighting against the tide of “if I am a modern & feminist woman, I wouldn’t need a man”.

    As far as # 2 goes … I’m the opposite. I have a traditional “manly man”. And sometimes I wish that he were more metrosexual or wanted to talk more in depth about poetry and fashion and my crafty projects and sensitive (or Berkeley’s Idealism, but that’s neither here nor there) instead of carborators and hunting and t head octogon drivers. Or that he wouldn’t say that well meaning but incredibly ignorant remark that occasionally slips out. I had no intention of ending up with a manly man … but I wouldn’t trade him for the world.

    I think it’s perfectly fine to acknowledge where our partners don’t live up to the expectations we’ve grown with. But at the same time, in other ways, unexpected ways, I find that they tend to thoroughly exceed expectations.

  3. Lauren, I could kiss you I love this post so much. This is fodder for so many late night wine fueled conversations.

    On #1, good on you! As two smart, fully capable young women schooled by nuns and our parents to believe that the world is our oyster, I think it’s hard to recognize that being a partner can make you a better person. And I do think there is a difference between “I need a man to make my life complete because without one I am merely a worthless shell” and “I have a partner, who happens to be male, who loves me, challenges me, and helps me grow into the best person possible.” The first statement accepts the logic that women are incapable of being full people (false). The second statement recognizes and acknowledges that all sorts of people shape who we are and that marriage can be one of those forces. More power to you for using your relationship as a tool for personal growth and refinement.

    On #2, I feel you. Chris is very manly looking (and so good-looking because of those big, broad shoulders. Swoon.) but, oh sweet Jesus, does that man have opinions. About jeans. At Target. On Saturday afternoon with screaming children. For the man that claims to hate shopping, he certainly managed to try on every single pair of jeans in his size and have a detailed analysis of each one. Not partner is perfect but sometimes I wish they were. And naturally, I am the exception, perfect in every way (until he gets sick).

    1. I used to be incredibly picky about clothing to the point were if one seam was stitched “wrong” I would HATE the item and not even consider trying it on. This used to drive Lauren out of the store. I also used to always buy the same brand and cut of jeans at target and would never even consider anything else. This too, would upset her. But she taught me that other places have nicer jeans that last longer, and that tiny details with clothing don’t really matter. in the end, only my crazy self would ever notice.

      So now I get better quality shirts and jeans at a variety of places. It’s much more fun to have more options and a happy lauren helping you out.

  4. I am so with you on the wishing he was manlier. B is very physically sensitive and endlessly particular. I call him “The Princess and the Pea” daily! He hears little annoying rattles that no one else on earth can hear and then employs everyone in the room (or more often in his truck) to be epically silent and find THE NOISE. It takes him 20 minutes to put on a pair of jeans because he has to do the ritual dances that ensure every corner of his manhood is in its proper place. (Sorry for that.) And his showers last at least 30 minutes. He complains about the tiniest little discomforts and could not survive a camping trip to save his life.

    But at the same time, his being particular means that he is no slob. Most days he’s neater and cleaner than me. And I never have to pick up his dirty clothes or argue over the toilet seat being left up.

    So I call it a fair trade and bite my tongue.

  5. I don’t find this inflammatory at all … but maybe that’s because we damn nearly think with one brain.

    I’m so sick of the popular conception of “feminist” as a dirty word. A cousin recently had to write a paper contrasting the feminism of 30 years ago and of today. I chimed in on his FB and one of his idiot friends said “Uh oh, I think I smell a feminist!”

    Beyond the idiotic remark, it actually made me want to say back “Oh, no, I’m not. I’ve just read some articles.” And how stupid is that, when I know better?

    Because, I am a feminist, dammit. And that totally means that while sometimes I’m “ohmygod, kill the bug! kill the bug!!” I also believe I’m also allowed to think and act for myself.

    I also don’t see life-improved-by-marriage as weak. Who’s to say what can and can’t make life better, you know?

    As for not marrying the type of man you thought you would … I’m the same. There are things about Jon I wish were different … and yet, if they were different, he wouldn’t be himself. And that’s a bigger dealbreaker then being married to a man who doesn’t cook etc.

  6. To comment on #1 – Me too. When I look back at past relationships now, I can see how they took away from the person I wanted to be. The relationship I have with my husband makes me a better person each day, makes the BOTH of us better people, and makes me feel a calm that I have never felt before. Not because he fills up space, or free time, or a gap that I felt needed to be filled up with a person, but because he brings out all those parts of me that I forgot existed until he came along. He makes me want to be the best me possible, and I try my hardest on a daily basis.

    #2 – Oh man…I think that it’s important to realize that no one is going to be perfect. I love my husbands manly looks. He’s big and broad and tattooed and has such a great ass. When it comes down to it though, he is really a big softy. He’s some of the best parts of manly, or at least, what I consider to be the best, but yet can be a huge baby (or rather more like a pre teen) when it comes to certain things. Sigh. I am sure he finds faults with me, but he is a gentleman and keeps them to himself. I love my manly baby man ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. This comments are making me SO happy. Not because I wasn’t happy before, but whenever you all feel the need to write smart and thoughtful responses, I feel like I did a good job. So thank you for that!

    And I agree with all of you – Kamel is totally 100% awesome sauce. Even if he annoys me and makes me shake my fist sometimes.

    I think part of writing this was also to be able to balance out the good stuff that I write. I get frustrated with the blog-worlds general lean towards endearingly lovely. Sometimes things suck, sometimes I (we) think stuff we shouldn’t or act in ways we shouldn’t. I would rather be as authentic and honest as possible on here than try and pretend I live in fairytale land while all the time knowing the picture I’m painting is kind of false. So thank you for being receptive.

  8. I love this ๐Ÿ™‚

    Mark is far from perfect, but I love him.

    He does make me “complete” – he balances my neurosis with a calm that is almost frustrating. He never knows the right thing to say when I am really upset about something, but he at least gives good hugs.

    In return, I have helped him realise his potential and become more outspoken – to the point that he recently went to another company and said “here is what I can do for you, give me a job” and got it.

    Mark is manly enough – he will kill bugs for me, can pick me up and carry me, always wins playfights (has almost injured me by accident when forgetting his strength too, oops!) and is fairly handy around the house.
    BUT, he has no emotions. He does happy, hungry and horny and thats about it. He *nearly* cried at our wedding, but not quite. And it bugs me no end sometimes!

  9. A couple of years ago, Lauren and I were doing laundry in the Presidio. Right after loading the washer with clothes and coins, it refused to start up. We jiggled the coin thingy, opened and closed the door, and banged on it a bit. Nothing worked. So I whipped out my cell phone and was about to call the Presidio (as I do when shit breaks). Just then, this young man, who was reading a book while waiting for his clothes to dry, asks us if we need help. Lauren tells him yes, and so he jumps on top of the washer, reaches far back into it and unplugs/replugs the maching. He hops down, and presses start and boom, fixed. I hang up my cell phone and we both thank him. He says no prob and goes back to reading his book.

    Lauren fell in love with that man, because to this day, she always wants me to be more like “the guy who just jumped on the machine to fix it and then went back to reading his book” vs “the guy who calls to get professional help”. But really, my way would’ve worked too. I still solve the problems, I just take more though out and technical approaches.

    1. Here, here!

      As one half of a pair where both halves always try to fix everything themselves and refuse to ask for help (or directions), there is something to be said for your approach! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. One of the reasons this makes me laugh is because I often have moments of, “Oh god, I’m such a bad feminist” because I love that my husband is so manly. He chops wood, kills bugs, builds fires, ropes cattle, fixes the car, welds things, WELDS. And the list goes on and on.

    I am certainly not a pretty little woman, so we’re not fulfilling that end of the stereotype but … yes. Just wanted to raise my hand and say, “Me too!” even if it isn’t in exactly the same way…

  11. I really love this post.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with finding a mate that complements our strengths and makes up for our weaknesses. It’s one of the most intriguing parts of life, I think, to be able to look at another person and know, deep down, that he or she is an intrinsic part of who we are and that we complete each other. There’s nothing anti-feminist or weak about that. And I think some over-zealous feminist types might disagree, but I can’t understand why. It’s not like you’re saying it’s OK to be helpless and completely dependent on a mate. You’re simply acknowledging that one person can’t possibly do everything and that sometimes it is wonderful to split chores and have mutual emotional and physical support with a partner. Making decisions and journeying through life as a team is so fulfilling and empowering!

    As for manliness…my boyfriend, as you know, is an opera singer. His stage makeup case is three times larger than my regular makeup case and the first time he met my parents at a performance we were in together, he was wearing nothing but tights and a shield of armor. But that’s what made me love him! Sometimes it’s incredibly frustrating but when I think about all the things that he CAN do and how much I love him for those things, I realize that I wouldn’t want him to fit into a “manly” mold. Because I like him just fine the way he is ๐Ÿ™‚

    I love that you are so honest about things that are on your mind. It’s not easy to admit when things bother us, especially in a public forum, and it’s refreshing to be reminded that relationships and life are not always full of rainbows and butterflies. Because they’re not. And it’s nice to come to a space where real life is depicted instead of a fantasy because it makes me feel like I’m not alone.

  12. this post is one of my favorites in a long time, and not simply because it remind me of the conversations we’ve had over the past few days (thank god for gchat) but also because it makes so many million thoughts go racing through my brain. the honesty and frankness is something this world (and the blogging world) needs more of, and not just about how they hate their love handles or how annoyed they are by their kid or job or boss or whatever. This kind of real life stuff makes me just want to hug you!

    I love that you said “completed a portion of how I am”. Because married or single or engaged is never WHO we are, but a part of who we are – and so of course it makes perfect sense to want the BEST for all my parts. Duh.

    and yes and dittooooo and LIKE to everything else everyone said! I loved hearing all the different perspectives ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. this one has really gotten me thinking.

    1) part of my issues surrounding marriage/my relationship in general has been due to the fact that i was never really looking for a life partner/husband. yes, i enjoyed me the fairy tales and rom coms, but i was more into the adventure aspect of them, not the happy-ever-after-marriage endings. i had way more important things to focus on, like me, and a career. life intervened and brought me someone even though i wasn’t looking and i recognized that i didn’t want to let this person go, not even for more adventures, especially because romantical adventures can involve crying and hrurt feelings and unsafe sex, all of which is unnecessary and stressful.

    but i do sometimes still cling to the belief that my relationship takes time (duh), time that, were i not in a relationship, i could devote to doing something with my life. something work, art, giving back, anything bigger than being a wife. but instead, i want to spend time with scott. i could spend every single day doing exactly nothing with him and be blissfully happy aside from the tiny nagging twinge that says i was meant for a bigger life than that. horrible, huh? and this from someone who knows intimately that life is short and people get taken away from you far too soon.

    2) Scott is all of the things on your list. (Except whiny/dramatic. He’s a different kind of that.) And I appreciate them. Being handy was a deal-breaker. I decided once with an ex who didn’t know you needed to BRING THE CAR TO A PLACE AND GET A GDAMN OIL CHANGE NOT JUST POUR A BOTTLE OF OIL IN, that I needed someone at least as handy as me. But Scott also drags a pink blanket edged in satin (“softies”) around the house and most days I think he loves it more than me. So we take what we can get.

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