Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The independent women’s conundrum

Recently, I was having a conversation with a single guy friend of mine who was saying that it was harder than ever to figure out women these days and argued that a generation or two ago, it was easier, because men and women had more clearly defined roles. It’s true, back in the days of my grandparents, men were expected to be the providers and women the caretakers. Then came my mother’s generation and the women’s revolution. Women started breaking away from tradition and hung up their apron strings (at least during the day) for jobs. Thanks to the hard work of the women of my mother’s generation, I grew up believing I could be and do anything I wanted thanks to the cracking of the old glass ceiling and equal opportunity laws.

Perhaps because I was a product of a single parent home, I grew up believing that I didn’t “need” a man for anything. My example was my mother who raised 3 kids, worked all day and would rewire the vacuum when sparks came out of the old plug and knew how to install a dimmer switch.

Enter my adult dating life. I’ve been dating since I was 18 and to say I haven’t been successful is an understatement. Could it be because I don't “need” someone, this vibe is somehow picked up by everyone I’ve dated? Interestingly, when I was an emotional basket case in my 20’s, this somehow seemed more attractive to guys. Were they the wrong guys? Or was it just that because men haven’t (arguably) gone thru such a major role shift, that they still think their place is that of the role of provider?

There’s a lot being written these days about modern men and they are struggling to find their place. Before, being a middle aged white guy was the dream. You would almost be assured a good job (white or blue collar), have a nice home in the suburb with a stay at home wife and 2.2 kids. Us women have embraced our role shift of the past 40 years, but have men?

For most of my adult life, I’ve lived independently and felt fairly proud of myself for doing it all “without the help of a man”. However, what I’m starting to realize at the ripe age of 38, is that just because I CAN do it alone, doesn’t mean I WANT to do it alone. For me, moving to Europe was my eureka moment. I had moved several times and set up apartments before, but this time, it really hit me. It.is.really.hard.to.do.it.alone. And suddenly, I realized how with a partner, dragging ikea furniture up 3 flights of stairs, calling help lines and hanging up pictures could be at least a little bit easier. Sure, I didn’t NEED someone, but god, wouldn’t it be damn nice to have someone help you with that damn ikea cabinet you just dragged up three flights of stairs only to watch the box break from the top of the stairs and see all that chipboard go sliding back down to the bottom…

I’m not looking at this shift of belief as “giving in” or going back to tradition. There’s no way I want to be barefoot and pregnant wearing an apron and greeting my man with a manhattan and a kiss when he walks in the door, but I am willing to relinquish some of my…independence. God, did I just write that? Giving up the independence that was so hard won? Ok, maybe not give up independence so much as share. Maybe the ideal modern relationship isn’t so much based on traditional roles but more like a business negotiation. Maybe these days, once you get past all the lust and wooing it goes a little something like this:

Partner 1: “ok, so I hate dishes, but I’ll cook”

Partner 2: “Perfect, I hate cooking. How about laundry”

Partner 1 “I’m good with laundry, if you look after car maintenance”

And so on and so forth… It’s hardly a romantic approach, but I can go on and say how I think romance is dead anyways. I am of course focusing on the practical approach to things. Us independent women may gag at Hollywood romance movies and though we don’t “need” someone who can argue that having someone you look forward to coming home to is a great feeling.

All I know is that for me, moving halfway across the world has softened up my views on being the strong independent female, and yes, I CAN do it alone, but god, it would be so much better to have someone around who in addition to being a great companion can install a dimmer switch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post and totally true. I've also read that modern women have outgrown men due to this shift in roles.

Actually, that housework negotiation is exactly what my husband and I did years ago when we first moved in together.

I get cooking, laundry, pool maintenance and general tidying up. He gets dishes, floors, cat and car maintenance. Other stuff is shared. Anything neither of us likes or knows how to do - we outsource (i.e. pay someone else to do it). It works.

And no, it's not romantic but the fact that he's willing to help make our home comfortable means a lot in its own way. He'd be happy living in filth for weeks on end so the effort is appreciated. lol :)