By Krystal Lambert
I’ve been building a series of articles on sexist stereotypes about women over the last few months, and this article was originally going to be on the stereotype that cis/straight women are desperate for romance/love/a relationship with a man. Typically, I know exactly what I want to say in my articles, but this topic has been troubling me all month. Mostly because, while I wish this stereotype were false, when I look around me, most of the young women I know are settling for toxic relationships with men far below their worth.
According to global statistics, single women are on the rise (especially in the age demographic of late 20s-30s), and we can thank feminism for creating a world where it’s becoming increasingly normalized for women to focus on their education, career, and social life rather than marriage and bearing children. While I am encouraged by this trend, it’s still far more common for women to focus on romantic relationships with men to the detriment of their mental health, financial independence, personal growth, and overall happiness.
I work with and around a ton of young women at both of my jobs, and in the last month alone I have been told some truly harrowing stories about the men they are dating. One woman told me her boyfriend breaks up with her every few days so he can get on Tinder and hook up with someone and then begs her to take him back. Another girl told me of some experiences with her boyfriend and his group of guy friends, which out of respect for her I won’t give the details, but suffice it to say they should be in prison on several counts for what they did to her when she was passed out. She still took him back, and he’s done similar things since. She writes it off as “I know I shouldn’t take him back but I always do.” Another girl told me her boyfriend won’t let her hang out with her friends because they are “hoes” and refuses to let her even stay the night at her own house. He often shows up at her work to make sure she’s really at work. He blames her because she “makes him crazy.” Yet another told me the guy she was dating kept trying to get her pregnant and even filmed it against her will, though she has told him repeatedly she is too young to have a child and does not want to be filmed.
I could write a novel about the toxic relationship stories I’m privy to as the “mom-friend” role I always find myself in. I’m grateful that women come to me when they need help, or advice, but y’all I’m tired. I’m tired of talking to women until I’m blue in the face about how worthy they are of true, unconditional, healthy love. How red flags are real and should not be taken lightly. How much happier and more peaceful your life is when you don’t have a man manipulating you, abusing you, or stressing you the fuck out. It grieves my soul that in 2020 it is still the norm for women to be treated like objects rather than whole human beings worthy of respect. I can’t say I haven’t had to eat my own words a few times when I’ve fallen prey to my own feelings and delusional thinking about love and romance, but after nearly 20 years of dating I don’t even hesitate to cut off a guy who is on some bullshit because nothing is worth giving up my peace of mind or self-respect.
In my past relationships I was always the one keeping us afloat financially, always the one trying to work out our problems through healthy communication, always giving chance after chance while I groomed a man into becoming more of an adult while he took full advantage of my patience and kind heart. The weight of being a ‘mom’ to your husband/boyfriend eventually drains you so much that you become bitter and resentful and whatever love was in your heart is replaced with regret. You cut your losses, mourn over the three or four (or more) years of your life wasted on someone who doesn’t give a shit about your feelings or happiness, and start all over as a single person again.
Fortunately, this is where the magic happens, if you let it. The best years of my life BY FAR have been the years I’ve spent single. I return to this truth over and over again and it never fails me. When you place more importance on your relationship with yourself, your career, your friends, your community, you build a foundation so strong and so pure that no man can pollute it for long. Sure, the months after a breakup can be painful, unsettling, and scary because you don’t feel you have meaning in your life once you aren’t someone’s someone any longer. This is a cruel trick that society has been playing on women since the dawn of time because we are so brainwashed that our worth and meaning lies in being arm candy to a man. In many circumstances women become so financially and emotionally dependent on their partner that the thought of leaving seems worse than death. It can feel like a death, but it can become the birth of something far more beautiful and eternal. The relationship you have with yourself is the most important you will ever have, and if you can’t stand dining alone you will sit down to eat with almost anyone.
What I want so much for women to understand is that if you build your life around your friendships and your passions, you will never have a shortage of male attention. A woman who knows who she is, what she wants, and is confident in her own beauty and worth is irresistible to the RIGHT kind of suitor. Toxic men are far too insecure to fuck with a woman who owns her truth and stands her ground. If they even attempt to, you’ll have no problem turning them away if you are already thriving and happy in your singlehood. I’m 34 years old and currently single. Sometimes I go months without meeting a guy worth my time, so I choose to spend my time on worthier pursuits like being involved in my community, partying with my friends, writing, etc. I do have the occasional dark night of the soul when I’m alone in my bed, but those feelings themselves are part of growth. Being single can feel as daunting as being in a miserable relationship if you lean into those feelings. Time and experience has told me that the next crush or fling or connection is just around the corner and in the meantime my foundation within myself has to be strong for when it comes.
If you haven’t seen the recent film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s book “Little Women,” get the fuck out of my face, first of all. Seriously though, I could have just made you watch that movie instead of reading this long ass article. There is a scene that had me audibly sobbing BOTH times I saw it in theaters, an emotional monologue by my literary hero, Jo March:
“I just feel, I just feel like women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition. And they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty. And I’m so sick of people saying that love, is just all a women is fit for. I’m so sick of it! But I’m so….I’m so lonely.”
What Jo captures here is both the beauty and pain of remaining single on principle. It can be very lonely at times to grapple with yourself rather than distracting yourself with another person. I do believe that true, healthy love exists for those fortunate enough to find it. But what if we don’t? We will have spent our entire lives settling for crumbs and longing for more. Women have to let go of the concept that we are only here to be an accessory to men and rather let men be the accessory to our lives. Most marriages don’t last forever and if they do, they are rarely happy ones. When we accept this truth, it frees us from expectations so we can actually enjoy the present moment with someone we love.
Currently I am dating a handful of guys on varying levels of seriousness. I tell them immediately upfront, we will have to date for a long time before I will even consider becoming exclusive or risking my happiness by becoming entwined with another person. Some of them can’t handle that, and they see themselves out. A few find this mature and respect it, and those are the kind of confident and evolved men I have time for. I am so protective of my heart and my freedom that I won’t consider giving them up for anything less than the good stuff. For me, the “good stuff” would be someone who understands me, laughs with me, allows me the freedom to be who I am without trying to control or belittle me, can jive with my friends, is passionate and generous in bed, is not a republican, appreciates my intelligence and talents while also inspiring me, and doesn’t wear dumb shoes. It’s a lot to ask. We all have different needs and desires in a partner and until we spend time with ourselves, we may never know what we need to be happy with someone else. We also may never be happy with ourselves, if we don’t learn what makes us truly happy and pursue those things wholeheartedly.
I will leave you with this quote by Jack Kerouac, which has become the theme of my many years of beautiful singlehood.
“So therefore I dedicate myself, to my art, my sleep, my labors, my suffrances, my loneliness, my unique madness, my endless absorption and hunger because I cannot dedicate myself to any fellow being.”
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