I am a feminist. That’s not going to change. But it still hurts like a bitch to think that no man would ever want to marry me. What’s up with that?
A while back
Last summer (2016) I was seeing a man who said he wouldn’t want to marry someone from a different ethnic background. I’m from a different ethnic background. It gave me pause.
I mean, it’s not like I was ready to marry this dude. We’d just met.
Sure, we clicked really fast and yes, I was analyzing how his first name would sound with my last name (because we can all agree that anyone I marry will be taking my last name. I mean Spees? It’s just awesome. Come on.) and I definitely thought about what our potential children would look like, but that’s not anything special. That’s just what my brain starts doing the second I like a guy.
What, you haven’t done that? Who’s the weird one here?
I managed to mostly suppress my internal excitement, and he was the one who wanted to try dating properly. None of this immature, “I’m not in a good place right now”, emotionally unavailable shit. He could communicate. He cared. He was different.
I mean, he was going to be physically unavailable. He was going to be busy, far, commuting. Trying to continue seeing each other was going to be a pain in the ass.
We were discussing the distance and scheduling issues, and soon after the marrying-within-his-ethnicity thing came up I realized that all the maturity and empathy and career success in the world didn’t matter because being physically unavailable was just as useless as being emotionally unavailable.
(Turns out, he’s actually emotionally unavailable in his own so-called mature, empathetic way. They’re never different.)
At that point, from my perspective, he was still interested in being serious. I was confused. What’s the point of dating someone properly if marriage won’t eventually be on the table?
To be fair, I’m the one who brought up marriage. I explained to him that I’d told my mom I might never get married. I also joked about asking my male friends about being sperm donors during the height of my baby rabies the previous year.
Yes, this is what I talk about on first dates. I’m such a catch, right?
But this isn’t about my attitude toward dating/marriage. It’s about his. Why would he want to try dating a woman he wouldn’t consider marrying someday? I mean, there are a million logical answers to that. I’m great company. I’m great in bed. I’m fun. I’m cute. I’m smart. Whatever.
So yeah, that’s around the time it kind of clicked for me. He could date me properly without seeing a real future with me. That’s fine, but it’s different from my definition of ‘proper’ dating.
Or maybe I misunderstood. Maybe I made up the whole thing about dating properly. Or maybe I shouldn’t have trusted him, and he was just saying whatever it took to get laid.
It didn’t really matter. I got over him quickly after that. But it brought up an insecurity that I haven’t thought about in a while.
What if no man would ever marry me?
I know. Ew. Who cares about what men think? Men are trash. They’re a waste of oxygen. Fuck the cisheteropatriarchy.
A cishet man can’t even begin to think about a relationship unless he’s completely happy with his career and financial situation. Men are so sucky. Ugh why do I even like them?
But I do, and thanks to a lifetime of socialization I want a cishet man to want to marry me. It’s a form of validation, the way career success is a form of validation for a man. According to society’s rules, I’m a failure as a woman if cishet men don’t find me attractive enough to both want to have sex with me and want to ‘lock me down’ via marriage.
This is old news. Marriage is a gross, antiquated financial institution objectifying women for the sake of patriarchal inheritance of land.
Forget that matriarchy is better and doesn’t limit the freedoms of women or men or anyone really. Forget that land ownership is bullshit and inherited wealth and power is what creates privilege in the first place. (Yeah, I’m a weird socialist and my views probably don’t make any sense if you examine them closely. Or I’m right and we should erase the concept of intergenerational wealth.)
Despite my anticapitalist, anti-marriage ramblings, part of me wants someone to want to marry me. I don’t even necessarily want to get married. Just a proposal would be enough.
I think it was around the time that Prop 8 passed in the 2008 election that I decided I wouldn’t get married until we had marriage equality in all 50 states. I wasn’t being dishonest, I wanted to show my solidarity with queer America. But I also felt like there were so many obstacles that it wouldn’t happen in my lifetime. I could safely reject marriage before it could reject me. I was protecting myself.
So I was living under a rock early summer 2015 when (from my perspective) out of the blue, the Supreme Court declared the banning of gay marriage unconstitutional and marriage equality became legal in all 50 states. It took me a few hours before it hit me that I could get married now.
And since I could get married now, that meant I had to get married now. To prove my value as a woman.
Failing as a woman
‘Had to?’ Really?
It’s because I no longer had a good reason to reject marriage. (Apparently rejecting the cisheteropatriarchy isn’t a good reason for my illogical, brainwashed, consumerist monkey brain.)
Marriage was on the table again, but now I was almost 25. I’d spent over four years without a serious relationship. When I was younger I hoped to be married by 26. I was falling behind.
I’d been able to ignore my marriage conflict for so long, and suddenly it came rearing back. And now I was overweight with short hair, working toward a career in software.
Okay, I want to throw up at that last sentence. But you recognize the struggle, right? Satisfying male gaze is kind of a big deal when your goal is to marry a man.
Over the next year I continued gaining weight. While my hair grew out to ponytail length and I started getting complements, my skin had a bad reaction and I got to enjoy the worst acne of my life.
While I loved my new job and gained a lot of confidence, I also struggled with my ability to focus. I became increasingly depressed and stopped taking care of myself.
I was becoming less dateable by the day. I was still meeting people and having flings, but they didn’t lead anywhere.
Too hard to date
Fast forward to June 2016 when physically-unavailable-guy said he wouldn’t marry someone outside of his ethnic background. I’d been so excited about him. Finally, someone smart, successful, charming, emotionally intelligent, and interested in me. Finally, someone at my level. Ambitious but with a big heart.
As my physical attractiveness has declined, my budding career success has grown, and with it my confidence. This has an interesting side effect.
Career success can be a positive trait in women, but for me it acts as more of a filter. I’m smarter and more successful than the majority of the men I’ve dated.
Plus I work in software. Men I meet often figure I make more money than them–and they’re usually right. So unless I want to date other engineers (ugh, I really don’t), I get to deal with the intimidation factor of being successful.
When I met June 2016 guy, who was successful doing non-technical work while also able to appreciate my technical side? It was refreshing. It gave me hope that maybe I am dateable. That is, until he didn’t want to date me.
As I learned from my favorite book that I’ll never stop referencing, if he’s emotionally unavailable, he’s just not that into you. If he’s physically unavailable, he’s just not into you. If he’s not trying to make you his girlfriend, he doesn’t want you to be his girlfriend and he’s just not that into you.
But maybe someone else out there wants to date me. I know that I’m awesome. I’m confident about that. But am I too awesome?
I can see you rolling your eyes. Bear with me here.
Am I so awesome, so confident, so smart, so ambitious that it scares men off? Am I too hard to date?
I’m pretty sure I am.