I'm not a very good feminist.
I was raised by a long line of feminists and social change-makers. My mother walked with hers as kid in marches for women's equality and gay rights, my grandmother ran for Senate. Naturally, I've been very aware of the feminist movement and it's goals for the span of my life. However, it has taken me a long time to realize how bad at living the feminist lifestyle I have been, specifically in dating situations. The last guy I was with was specifically "not a feminist, but a HUMANIST". Eye roll. At the time, it seemed like a step in the right direction from the one before that who would make extremely offensive woman jokes at least once an hour and fill the other 60 minutes with offensive jokes about other groups of people. I'd let it all go, because I thought that was normal. (It's not. If you're reading this and you let that shit slide, stop.) I thought a lot of terrible behavior was normal. Including mine.
Which brings me to my current relationship. On our first date, he told me all about how he was raised in the mountains. He didn't have a cell phone until he was 19 and they didn't watch television. He had very little experience in the dating world. I found him so interesting. I had absolutely no problem listening to him talk about his upbringing and occasionally throwing in my opinions when it seemed necessary.
Flash forward to six months later. We're still dating, and that first date comes up. According to him, it was the most awkward date he'd been on. News to me. He felt really uncomfortable because he had to talk the whole time about himself and his life and I didn't say much. At first, I convinced myself that I'm just a weird, standoffish person. (Which is still accurate, but beside the point.) Then I thought about all the dates I'd ever been on. I never talked that much on the first date! In my experience, it's customary to lean back and sip your Starbucks and wait until just the right moment to get in a couple words before they start their next story about what the fuck ever they're talking about that I may or may not give a shit to hear. So customary, in fact, that I had no idea I was doing it. Hmm.
Last weekend, I was at his house and his cousin and his cousin's girlfriend had come down from upstate. It was late, we were drinking and talking about fashion and why women wear certain things. The boys couldn't understand why a woman would spend an hour (+) getting ready for a night out. Us girls were trying to explain that it feels good to feel good about how you look. Because duh. The boys, on the other hand, couldn't understand why we couldn't just choose to love how we look normally. We went back and forth for 15 minutes until we finally admitted that wearing certain clothes and putting on our makeup in a certain way is how we've been trained from birth to feel good about ourselves. "Why do you still listen to that, though?" And all I could think of was "BECAUSE!"
They were right. They were totally right. I would love to say that going out on the town without doing my hair or makeup and wearing a t-shirt and jeans is how I can choose to feel best about myself, but unfortunately, it's not. Sometimes, I want to look in the mirror or the store window and think "fuck yeah. I get to look like the magazine girls today."
I would love to say that I could feel comfortable on a first date right now talking up a storm about what I love. Because that's what men do. Why can't I? But I wouldn't. I would sit quietly and sip my Starbucks and maybe enjoy this dude talking at me for an hour. And maybe that's the patriarchy. Maybe it's just insecurity. I don't know.