Dating While Feminist-The Notebook and Romantic Gestures

Film poster for The Notebook (film) Note: This...

I’m a woman who hates The Notebook

Yes, I exist.

No, I’m not trying to falsely portray myself as a mythical being, and attract millions of dates by downplaying my love of Ryan Gosling and downplaying romantic expectations.

My hatred of the Nicholas Sparks film has nothing to do with my dating life.  In many ways, I am traditionally feminine.  But I hate the movie The Notebook. I hate Titanic, Twilight, and anything with the name Nicholas Sparks on the cover.  And yet, I am a woman.

I guess that I’ve never been a fan of romantic gestures, or big mushy romances.  I tend to be loving, but I’m not good at displaying positive emotions.  I’m too much of a pragmatist and a feminist to be swept away by Noah writing Allie a letter every day.  If it were me, I would have stopped after three months of no responses.  And if I were Allie, I would be upset over the fact that he wrote to me every single day.

Does he really have nothing better to do?

The best celluloid love story, as far as this cynic is concerned is a tie between Colnel Brandon’s love for Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility.  (Alan Rickman is unbelievable in this role.) and Carl and Ellie, the adventure-loving couple in UP.  Their romance is understated, and does not consume their lives.  (Marianne, initially allows her dreams of romance to consume her, but she matures throughout the course of the film.)

Real life romance is sweeter.  My grandfather walked an extra half an hour to walk his future wife home the first night he met her.  (They knew each other through mutual friends, so it wasn’t inappropriate.)  My father brings coffee to my mother in bed on special occasions.  He makes the coffee so she doesn’t have to, and for me, he puts my favorite mug in front of the coffee pot when I go home.  It’s the sweetest gesture that shows that you’re taking care of the other person.  (And yes, my family is obsessed with coffee.)

I don’t like romantic poems or public proposals.   And I must thoroughly confuse the Hallmark marketing team because I hate heart shaped jewelry, teddy bears, anything pink and covered in hearts, diamond necklaces, diamond jewelry in general, romantic poems, dozen roses, and candlelit dinners with violins playing.  (However, I do enjoy champagne, chocolates, and warm fluffy robes).  That’s about as romantic as I get.  My idea of an ideal romantic gift is inspired by the TV show Gilmore Girls– a coffee cart to follow me around all day and make whatever I wanted, free of charge?  Now, that’s a gift!

I wrote this piece, not to solicit gifts, or to find a date, but to explain my frustration that every single relationship article I have ever read suggests that your girlfriend wants a night in with the Notebook.  That every girl will just adore that diamond necklace you bought for her.  That every girl wants rose-petals and romance.  That’s ridiculous and unoriginal.   Most of us are happy if you pick your socks up off the floor and make dinner every once in a while.  As for romance, it’s a highly individual thing.

Women’s mags are guilty of the same thing, assuring women that your man wants tools and you in a new sexy set of underwear by Victoria’s Secret, whose advertisers are paying for four full page ads, so they’d better see revenue.  Women of non photogenic appearances, sizes, trans-women, and women dating women don’t exist, apparently.

Basically, the articles would be more helpful if they identified different types of personalities and general guidelines for gifts and romantic displays for different types of people.   These articles are, of course, needlessly heteronormative and gender-conforming.

I don’t speak for all women when I write this, of course.  Women are not monolithic entities who all respond the same way to gifts and situations.   This notion of women as different from each other expands to many notions, including but not limited to:

the bedroom, her birthday, relationships, flirting, fashion, political affiliation, level of expressiveness, communication styles, favorite TV shows, levels of self-confidence, amount of fearlessness, responsiveness to emotional stiumlii, culinary skills, level of fitness, attitudes toward money, enthusiasm for fantasy football, favorite sports team, and attraction to you.

Women are not the same.  We are human beings, with diverse interests and personalities, and you should treat us as such.  Just because we are women, does not mean that we understand the behavior of other women.  There is no “Women Code of Behavior.”  There is no “Woman Speak.”  There is only, “what does this specific women mean in this context?”

Yes, I’m a woman who hates The Notebook. Because not all women like The Notebook.  Not all women have vaginas.  Not all women wear bras.  Not all women have children or want children.  There is no definition of what makes a woman, so there is no definition of “all women.”  So stop assuming that “all women like x.”  You know what they say about you when you assume something.  Women are not a monolithic entity but a group of individuals bound together by the use of a common label-women.  What that means is entirely up to the individual woman.

What stereotypes about dating really frustrate you?  Let me know in the comments.

Author’s Note.

Just because I don’t like movie, does not mean that I am writing that all women do not like that movie.  We are individuals, and all specific dislikes and likes in this article are mine and mine alone.

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Sexual Assault Should be Absolute. Right?

My Caffeine Free Diet Assault:

Edit: I am in no way implying that all unwanted sex is sexual assault or rape.

(inspired by Elissa Bassist’s My Caffeine Free, Diet Rape.)

I was sexually assaulted by a boyfriend my freshman year of college.  I’ve never confronted him about it, never filed charges, never even made a formal report.  So as far as everyone knows, it didn’t happen.  But I know it did.  I said don’t do x, and he went ahead and did x anyway, even as I tried to negotiate out of it.  I don’t think that it has ever crossed his mind that what he did was sexual assault.

After we broke up, he bought me dinner to apologize for the other things he had done wrong during our brief relationship.  And then wondered if we were getting back together.  I told him no, that we are “never, ever getting back together.”  I never explained why, but I hadn’t labeled it as such at the time.

I’ve heard so many stories of sex in relationships that wasn’t wholesome and wanted.  I’ve heard of duty sex, painful sex, replacement sex, etc.

But the common denominator is that the women don’t say anything, that we sit there silently, taking unwelcome sex, like inflated dolls.  We don’t say anything, or just say yes to appease those that we thought we loved.  We keep going, despite our initial statements of displeasure and cries of pain.  And then, after the boys have rolled off and gone away, we shower, brush our hair and try to hide the shame from our eyes.  We swallow our disgust with ourselves and keep on moving.  Until one day it hits us that, hey, this was assault.  This was coercive.  This was rape.  But by then, we’re too late to report, the evidence has long since washed down the drain.  We have no recourse left, and all we can do is report our experiences to anonymous survey takers.  We are left with anger at ourselves, at those who injured us, and we struggle to make our sexuality healthy again.

Like Elissa Bassist said, sexual assault should be a yes or no box to check, a simple binary.  But the truth is that sexual assault, the experience, isn’t black and white, but comes in infinite shades of gross, icky, self-loathing gray.

So for my United States readers, today is election day.  On one hand, we have a party of rape-deniers with a social agenda taken from the 1950’s.  On the other hand, we have a candidate who believes that people’s fates are intertwined with each other, and that we ought to move forward as a nation.  He passed legislation saying that being a woman should not be a pre-existindition increasing the cost of our health insurance.  So if you value your right to choose, to truly choose, not to choose from the limited palate of options that appease conservatives, head to the polls!  This is one box that you can check, that there is nothing grey or in-between about.  Vote!

One in Four

A purple ribbon to promote awareness of Interp...

A purple ribbon to promote awareness of Interpersonal Violence and Abuse Prevention. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In honor of National Domestic Violence Month,

One in Four

Trigger Warnings: Domestic Violence

     Statistics state that one in four women will be subjected to Domestic Violence in her lifetime.  I often vacillate-am I the 25%?  Or am I over-exaggerating my experiences?

I never labeled my experience as Domestic Violence.  Not at the time.  Was it toxic?  Absolutely.  Do I have culpability in the death of our relationship?  Yes.  Was it acceptable that I felt scared of my boyfriend?  No.

Domestic violence is behavior that harms the other person in the relationship.  It can be verbal, emotional, sexual, or financial.  It includes the use of threats, gestures, glares to maintain a constant atmosphere of fear.  Behaviors that engender fear include

  • Shouting (Check)
  • Hitting Walls (Do doors count?)
  • Displaying Weapons, stalking, (no, no)
  • Prolonged silence-(I’m not sure on this one.   He would get scarily silent, but most stories talk about enduring the silent treatment for days, and I never received that.  Then again, most studies in domestic violence aren’t focused on university students, and assume that you live with your intimate partner. With him, the silence came between bouts of rage, so it was terrifying, but maybe it only felt prolonged.
  • Destruction of objects, injuries to children or pets. –(The wine bottle survived its trajectory across the room.)

Regardless of whether it met the definition of abuse, would I ever have reported his behavior?  No.

I’d like to think that he had, had he hit me, I would have left.  But I don’t know, and that’s what haunts me.  I think of myself as strong, but I allowed myself to be treated with such disrespect.  In hindsight, I almost wish that he had hit me.  It would have made forgetting and breaking up easier.  It’s hard to justify a breakup when you truly loved the person and the behavior felt vaguely justifiable.  Even if he had hit me, however, I would have never reported him-it was too trivial to matter to file a police report.

And I am not alone.  43% of women surveyed about their experience with domestic violence never reported it because it was “too trivial.”  Thirty eight percent said that it was a family issue that ought to be resolved internally.  7% sought to avoid humiliation, and 13% did not report for fear of triggering more violence.

And it’s hard to admit that that is you, that shriveling, shaking sad girl who accepts the endless barrage of insults thrown at her without offering a single word in her own defense.  The activist rendered mute.  That’s you and nobody wants to see that in a mirror.

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To this day, I’m not sure that my experience counts as domestic violence, but I have no doubts that it has affected my life.  Anyone with advice or similar experiences, feel free to share in the comments.