I like to consider myself a somewhat guarded, independent person. The second one is certainly true. I’ve always had my own mind, liked being capable and enjoyed doing things that made me happy. I used to insist on doing my own hair, oblivious at how uneven my pig tails came out (my mom called me ‘little miss myself’. Cute, huh?) And I can certainly be guarded, with new people or people who’ve hurt me/my friends before. I am better than others, I’ve been told, at casual relationships of all kinds, and indeed I do have some pretty liberal, grey-area-friendly ideas.
So ok, we are all living in this crazy world in this crazy century and we are all trying to figure out how to interact lovingly with others. You can’t live as an island, even when you do in fact live on this island. So there is this thing called dating, or maybe hooking up or hanging out or booty calling or ‘seeing one another’ that we all try in our own special way. But the deck is really not stacked towards success, especially for young women, and here are some reasons I can see that this is so. First of all, we live in a culture that makes it extremely hard for girls to feel confident. Especially starting in adolescence, we dance a strange and difficult routine around things like body image, sex, ambition, intelligence and success. What we want and how we look is lampooned and criticized on all levels. It is hard to be assertive when you learn this makes you unlikeable. It’s hard to have a healthy relationship with your body and sexual appetite when it’s so easy to cross the line and get labeled a slut or whore (or the other end of the spectrum, prude/tease/frigid.) Ok so we are all battling cultural and personal insecurity issues, and then you tag on the issue of power. Men have more. Especially in sexual situations. I’ve said before that especially for youthful dating situations the narrative is set up so that the boys have this elusive thing girls want (fidelity, the relationship status) and girls run around acting crazy trying to prove that they deserve it. Obviously, this isn’t true in all cases, but it is a pervasive story and a pervasive relationship structure. (I know that I kind of spewed out this section, but I’ve written about all this in depth in the past, so if you are skeptical of these claims hit up the archive for the more fully fleshed out arguments.)
So now, on top of all this, add sex. Sex can be so many things, on so many continuums. It functions differently in everyones life, but one thing I know is that sexual situations create combustible emotionality. Basically, all bets are off and rules are their ain’t no rules (name the movie that quote is from and win a prize.) It’s hard to ask someone to stick to what they said before if you keep having romantic/sexual encounters. Because feelings and logic don’t go hand in hand especially not when you’re naked and vulnerable. A lot of times it feels like maybe you are dealing with someone who says one thing and then turns around and wants something else, but isn’t this logical? Why would what you want stay the same as a relationship continues?
And this is where I get all discombobulated. I cannot figure out how you are supposed to go out on a limb with someone. I want to say that you should figure out exactly what you want before emotions are in play, so you can be clear. But once emotions are in play what you want changes and clearly you want different things depending on the person so this is out. So then ok, we should just speak up. But its hard to speak up when power is shifting and you keep allowing a person into your bed and you are trying to balance this one aspect of your life with all others. So I guess you should just let go let flow, trust this other person and have faith in yourself that you’re worth it. But that’s the hardest of all. How the hell am I supposed to know how to go out on a limb? It’s one thing to just keep climbing up and up, just me, towards the sky. But I’m supposed to pause and walk out, away from the very stable trunk, onto some branch that looks like all the other branches and may or may not hold my weight and may even have termites or those weird tree diseases? And then I start to feel like a crazy person, in a tree, clinging to the trunk with my eyes squeezed shut and missing out on all that fun branch stuff. And you know, it’s not even that I’m afraid of falling or bruises necessarily (although sometimes I think about how easy it is to fall out there), it’s also that I really do like to climb.
(Thanks for indulging me that extended drawn out metaphor. I appreciate you.)