It’s funny. I try to break stereotypes, using this blog among other channels, and then I find myself falling into every single one of of them when it comes to dating men.
I met an amazing guy recently. Another potential one. He called my attention straight away and it was clear I was attracted to him however he wasn’t my type on paper. He was kind and gentle. He was polite and humble. He wasn’t cocky or pushy. Although he asked for my number within the first 30 mins.
Are you straight?
After talking for 15 mins or less it was clear we were into each other and the chemistry was obvious. But I noticed some feminine traits. The way he crossed his legs. The way he held the cigarette and the way he walked. I couldn’t keep quiet – when have I?– so I asked him:
“Are you straight or bi?” – I said. Like if those were the only two options available, idiotic me! “Straight, why?” -he replied.
“You have some feminine traits, that’s why I asked” – I responded.
“Yeah, I know, it doesn’t bother me, I embrace it. I have been brought up with women.” – he concluded.
I was shocked by my own question. Firstly, why on earth did I assume that someone who has traditionally perceived feminine traits is gay? Am I not supposed to be break these stereotypes instead of living by them? And moreover, if he was bi how does that affect the attraction between us? And the willingness to get to know one another? At that point I realised how deeply affected by gender roles we all are. Even me trying to dismantle them.
The moment I meet a polite nice man who is less cocky and less lad-like I automatically panic thinking what if he is gay? The fact that he didn’t force me or push me to have sex, the fact that he was kind and nice and he treated me as equal made me doubt his sexuality. I am totally dumb, I thought. All these years praying for a feminist man and now that he is here, I am doubting if he is straight. I also realised that if he had told me he was bi I would have been concerned. I would have thought that I could have never given him what a man could and therefore I would eternally be worried about him leaving me for a man. I am aware of how utterly stupid these thoughts are however I had them.
Reality check: submitting to stereotypes
Two days before I met this guy, a friend had texted me saying that she was unsure on whether her date liked her because he did not pay for dinner and instead they went halves. Is she insane? I thought. I called her crazy and even gave her shit for thinking that! I said to her that we live in the 21st century and men shouldn’t be expected to pay! “He is treating you equally that’s what you want”, I said. That’s what I said to her but not what I live by, as life was soon going to show me.
After an amazing night dancing, holding hands, talking and kissing the potential husband -ha!-, we decided to meet the following day for a lunch date. I woke up nervous and excited thinking about what to wear and terrified thinking what if it isn’t the same as yesterday? What if we don’t feel the same way about each other?. I put some clothes on and made my way out. I realised while I was getting ready that I had even the slightest expectation of him offering to pay as a sign of him liking me. For god’s sake Patri, you just fucking told your friend off for it!
After a wonderful lunch, the bill arrived and he asked me “how do you want to pay?”. “ Let’s split it”- I said-. He agreed and we paid before discussing why expecting a man to pay is wrong. I said it could feel that women are just going out with the guy for the treat and not for who they are as people. “Not just that”, he said. “It can also indicate some sort of expectation that there would be sex, as an exchange. It could put pressure on the woman, she could think that if he pays, she needs to correspond”. He was referring to that usually hidden assumption that if a man pays he is entitled to sex, and some women may feel pressured and could end up having sex with the man. Oh my fucking god!. My heart melted. My mouth opened -literally-. He was so right. I had been that woman a few times, without even realising. “You are absolutely right”, I said; and for the first time ever I felt free and understood. I felt that was constructing a bond based on respect and freedom. We were constructing a bond based on respect and freedom. I felt we were equal. I was in front of a man who treated me with total equality.
Talking to a few friends in the following days I realised that something had changed within me too. For the first time in a very long time I was accepting a man for who he was and how he was. I wasn’t getting caught up in petty shit. I wasn’t focusing on his size, his looks, his manners, his music taste, his activity levels or his smoking habits. Surely it caught me by surprise that I was so into a guy who didn’t seem to be my match on paper, but I was over this in two days. I didn’t give a shit about the size of his biceps. I liked him. And he liked me.
Meeting this man made me realised that I was submitting to the gender stereotypes as much as anyone else. It made me realised that I was too feeding into the idea that “straight men don’t cross their legs”, or “if a man likes you, he will offer to pay”. I am not ashamed of having had these thoughts. I am not scared of voicing them. These are the consequences of centuries of patriarchy and misogyny. Acknowledging that these thoughts are useless, anachronistic and totally inaccurate, however, is an important and necessary step in order to change the existing gender stereotypes. As my friend reminded me, “Patri straight men have always crossed their legs, they even wear lipstick nowadays”.