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The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Bad ideas 101
So, on one of my closed Facebook groups, someone shared a meme that boiled down to "girls don't want boys, they want to have adventures and be good at things." (And, just to get it out of that realm, I'm pretty sure it means "don't want romantic relationships," so I'm sure it applies to relationships with girls as well.) And it's been irking me, because... why are these two things put in opposition? Why shouldn't you want both? I feel like I grew up my whole life being told, "Don't want a relationship... you need to want an adventure and to find yourself!" Well, here I am at almost fifty. I never had time for an adventure because, you know, bills and rent and student loans and stuff. AND I never bothered putting effort into the thing I was told not to want, because smart girls don't want to waste their time on that. This just seems, in retrospect, like it might not have been the healthiest worldview ever. How about, "Girls should want what's important to them to want"?

I've just been feeling like I wasted most of my youth trying to get to some insane idea of independence that does not exist in the human species, because people told me that women who sought relationships were wasting their lives somehow, and I believed that if I was going to be anyone who mattered, I had to prove I could stand up with no one at all to help. This is... just so harmful. Why did we decide to do this?
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From: (Anonymous) Date: November 28th, 2019 01:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Surely it should be "Girls want whatever the fuck it is they want and they should go and get it without any reference to anyone else"?

But I personally think that too often we're expected to partner up with these other adults who don't want to be our partner, but our first child. It concerns me seeing the infantalisation of girls, sure, but boys and men are being encouraged to go on playing video games and collect 'boys toys' and never seem to grow up these days. We all know actual men, they tend to be easy to spot, but the infantalisation of men, that they can go on living this kind of Peter Pan existence and having their partners do their actual thinking for them, as manifested to the extreme by Donald Trump, is highly toxic.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 28th, 2019 02:34 am (UTC) (Link)
True. It reminds me of a Tina Fey sketch on SNL--yet another article had come out about how women should ideally have kids in their 20s (healthwise, true), but she and the other women on the team basically said, "Sure, if we could convince the men around us that that they're not actually going to end up with Lara Croft..."

I was a little girl when buttons saying, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle" were all the rage. I think I internalized it, because I always felt that I needed to have every single one of my ducks in a row before I put any effort into the whole relationship thing. Or that I should never have to make an effort, because relationships were a thing that just happened, while everything else took work. Either way, they neglected to point out that eventually, your body betrays you.

You know what I think we need? A return of coming-of-age ceremonies. Not as "Oo, a party where I can get money!" but a sort of "This person is an adult now" festivities, where you meet other adults, and where you're formally acknowledged as part of the adult community. They used to be called "debuts," but that's got weird connotations now. (Miss Manners had a letter once from a woman who had the novel idea of a formal party in which she and all her friend introduced their adult children and other young adults to one another. Miss Manners wryly responded, "What a lovely thought... you could call it something like a 'debutante ball.'") But not just for meeting people romantically, but also for meeting professionals who can share things like, "Oh, this is how you save for a down payment" or "Did you know your credit score will go up thirty points overnight if you transfer to a lower interest loan to pay your credit card? Have a hors d'oeuvres, they're delicious." Or, you know, whatever we adults are supposed to say to each other in a networking scenario; God knows I never learned.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 29th, 2019 12:16 pm (UTC) (Link)


I almost expected you to finish by saying that if you met your past self when you were 20, you would tell her it's fine to want relationships. Now I often hear this idea that a woman has to be independant, that she doesn't need a man to make her happy, and I think I've internalised it. I often find myself thinking would I be happier in a relationship, is it really what I want, and then it always ends with 'no, seems like it's too much work. No,thanks'. I bet you'd scream at me now that I should try it because I might regret it lol. A psychologist once told me that a woman's husband isn't supposed to be her friend, but her husband. I remember thinking what that role of a husband entails then. Or does he have to be her enemy? Or does being a partner not require friendship? And then there's that whole list of things a woman has to do to make her partner happy. and what does he do to make her happy? Or is his mere presense on this earth enough? One of the things on such list was 'don't say anything negative about his children'. Like,why? After reading such things and instructions, you'd start thinking that it's more a problem than a joy to be in a relationship. Men I know are also not the types to provide emotional support in case you need it, but you can bet that once something happens to them, a woman will have no choice but to be supportive.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 29th, 2019 05:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: relationships

I have no idea what the difference between husband and friend is (aside from, um, sleeping arrangements). Most of the happy long-term couples I know are friends as well as spouses. Maybe it just means something along the line of, "Well, there are compromises you make in a marriage that aren't necessary in a friendship because you aren't attempting to live together?"

I don't know.

As far as "don't say anything bad about his kids"... all I can think of is the woman who wrote in to an advice columnist complaining that he wanted his "crotch goblin" at their grown-up wedding, and she wasn't marrying his kids and... so on. Well, yeah, if you're marrying a parent, you kind of get the kids in the package, and you can't be abusive toward them. But does that mean you can't say, "Jenny's being a complete bitch to me"? I wouldn't think so. At least I'd hope not. It doesn't sound like the psychologist was being particularly clear on what he meant there.

I probably would tell my younger self to at least put in some effort at some point before college so that, if a decent guy came along, it would not be so alien that I wouldn't know what to do. (Seriously, I asked a guy to prom in high school, he said no, and I just decided that this proved there was no point to it anyway. When I say I made no effort, I pretty much mean I made no effort.)
jedinic From: jedinic Date: November 30th, 2019 07:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
A lot of interesting resonances here for me. I grew up being told I could do anything. And I also grew up in a culture where getting married seemed to "just happen" without any effort on anyone's part. So I never bothered to learn anything related to dating, or making myself attractive (I used to hide in baggy clothing, assuming that a good guy would see the 'real me' with no effort on my part and I resented the idea that I had to look pretty to get a date). But as it turns out, the world doesn't work that way, and I was 30 before I finally clued in that looking cute = dates.

(But the career part was fine!) So. If I have children I will try to tell them that if you want something, you have to put some effort into it. And there should be no judgement of WHAT you want.
matril From: matril Date: December 2nd, 2019 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's always exasperated me that culture and society tend to go for extremes. It used to be that women were expected to make marriage and children the sole purpose of existence, so when we realized that was perhaps just a bit smothering, we swung wildly to the other side. Don't even consider finding any sort of fulfillment in marriage and relationships at all; it'll just hold you back from the truly important things like a career.

And I'm just...gah. A lopsided marriage relationship is bad, yes. But a balanced one, with both spouses mutually supporting each other, can actually be quite helpful in attaining those other goals. Of course a major wrinkle about having a good marriage is that, unlike pursuing other goals like career or travel adventures or whatever, it's dependent on another person's choices just as much as your own. So being unmarried does NOT mean someone has failed to do whatever is necessary for a good marriage; it could easily mean they just weren't able to match up with an equally committed partner.

Yeah, I have a lot of thoughts about this. But going back to the meme, I believe it actually originated with a quote from a little girl who responded scornfully to the idea of wanting a boyfriend. I mean, sheesh. Let a little girl want what she wants without prematurely shoving the idea of romantic relationships on her, but don't let one little girl dictate what all girls (or women) want.
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