In a fit of rage, my boyfriend once told me to “act like a lady.”
The words hit home -- it was enough for me to break it off and tell all my girlfriends what an insensitive, sexist, antiquated prick I was dating.
As with all fits of rage, however, after enough time and ample amounts of distance, I realized what he said to me was no different than what I expected of him -- to act like a man.
From the moment we started dating, I held him to this impossible standard of the “real man,” someone I naively allowed myself to believe was real.
The same way men associate “natural beauties” with Kim Kardashian and stick thin women with double Ds as “real women,” we’ve associated Prince Charming and Chris Hemsworth with “real men" -- men we’ve compiled under a list of traits handed down to us by Walt Disney and Nicholas Sparks.
Women want a “real man” the same way men want “a real woman,” yet unfortunately for both, neither of those exist.
The same way your jaw might drop when your boyfriend tells you to “act like a lady,” hoping your boyfriend will “act like a man” is just as confining and stigmatizing. But we do it anyway.
We say we want a man with strength and a tough exterior, yet berate him for not having any sympathy or womanly instincts.
We say we want a protector and a savior, then resent him for squashing our independence. We say we want a real man, but that man doesn’t exist.
We need to lose our idealized image of men because ladies, the second you’ve found that idealized image, you already want something else.
We need to stop expecting men to be a certain way and just accept them for who they are, as distinct and complex as any one of us.
Because trust me, the second you stop comparing your man to “real men” is the second he’ll become the man who's right in front of you.
We want a man who doesn’t cry, then shame him for being insensitive.
We expect him to be stoic and guarded and unaffected. Yet when we’re crying or depressed or expecting him to decipher a slight mood we’re in, we condemn him for his inability to feel.
Come on ladies, you can’t expect to ever find a man to dry your tears and ignore them at the same time.
We raise him to be tough and angry, then get mad when he's aggressive.
We tell our children, our boyfriends and our husbands to be tough and “manly,” then can’t believe it when their aggression overpowers us.
We tell them they’re too angry and hot-tempered, yet expect them to keep the rage inside, bottled up until it explodes all over our idealist notions.
We want him to be a gentleman of yesteryear, then get mad at him for not being progressive.
We expect him to pay for dinner, then berate him for being sexist. We say we want a “real man,” then complain to our friends that he’s not a feminist.
We’re holding him up to this standard of Prince Charming without realizing Prince Charming was a sexist douchebag.
We want him to drool all over us, then tell him to close his mouth.
We want him to find us sexy and attractive, then tell him we're more than just superficial beauty.
We want him to put us on a pedestal, then we tell him to treat us as equals.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make yourself sexy for your man, but don’t hate him and yourself afterwards for it.
We expect him to be a gentleman without knowing at all what that entails.
We don’t know what a real gentleman is because a real gentleman doesn’t exist. Every man is unique and complex, like any woman.
Holding him to some standard that doesn’t have a ceiling is just waiting for the storm to pour in.
We want him to take control, and then call him controlling.
We want him to plan the date, pick the place and decide on the time, yet when he tries to order for us, we tell him to stop.
We call him controlling and overbearing after we asked him to fill that role. We say we want him to take control, but we can't handle our loss in power.
We want him to be a man until we want him to be a woman.
We want the aggressive, insensitive and dominating male stereotype until we decide what we really want is another best friend to watch “Real Housewives” with and understand when “fine” doesn’t mean “fine.”
We want a boyfriend until we really just want another girlfriend.
We want him to rescue us, then we want to save ourselves.
When we’re single, all we want is a man to come and save us from ourselves.
We want a guy to take us from the single life -- to swoop in and rescue us from bad dates, bad sex and lonely nights.
Once he does, however, we just want our independence back.
We feel smothered and suffocated, yet forgot we once begged for him to tie our hands behind our back.