When dating first started to become a thought in my mind, the only advice I could ever find was what not to do. Don’t wear your emotions on your sleeve, don’t be boring, don’t make him carry the conversation, don’t talk too much, don’t act too desperate, don’t be too sexual, don’t be a prude—I could go on. The most confusing part of these supposedly helpful lists was that they all ended with: don’t forget to be yourself! Like, what if I do wear my emotions on my sleeve? What if I can be boring? What if sometimes I talk too much, and other times I talk too little?
Well, according to the things I read, I had some work to do.
Every show I watched and every book I read all said the same thing: girls are mysterious. We’re supposed to be these mythical beings that can’t be approached without special training, creatures that strike fear into the hearts of men, monsters not to be fed after midnight. We exist on a separate dimension than the rest of the world. We are things to be deciphered like puzzles. We are not quite human.
When I was younger, I was obsessed with being this mysterious girl that the world seemed to expect me to be. I was quiet. I didn’t get excited around large groups of people. I wore black for a while. No matter how much I tried, though, that just wasn’t me. I was fighting against my nature to be unreservedly passionate and my innate desire to share myself and my feelings with the people around me. Still, I kept myself compacted and aloof because I thought that was what I would have to do in order to be wanted. I thought that if I were too easy to figure out, then people would get bored with me and move on. This later resulted in me continuing to tinker with my interests and my personality, trying to make myself into the kind of person that the people I liked would like back. I had been taught that my worth only mattered as long as someone else wanted me.
Years later, when I realized that I didn’t actually care about boys wanting me, I started hearing a whole new barrage of assumptions. Having one girl in a relationship is crazy—two girls dating each other must be drama central! Do you two have catfights all the time? At least you can actually understand each other; girls don’t make any sense to me. For a while, I went along with it. I made jokes because people expected me to, even though I didn’t believe them. In reality, I’ve just never been what teen movies would label “the typical girl.” I’m not catty, I’m not obsessed with my clothes or my cell phone, and I am not fueled by the demise of my fellow women. Every relationship I’ve ever had with a woman has been incredibly tame when it comes to drama. For a long time, I just thought this was because I was lucky. Later, I came to realize that most women are just as “atypical” as I am, but it’s still the stereotype that gets played up.
So let me say this: you are not obligated to be anyone’s mystery.
Allow yourself to love things without holding back, and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re being frivolous. Get excited about things you’re passionate about, and don’t let anyone call you a fangirl like it means you’re stupid. Be yourself, and don’t let anyone else define what that means. Women are no more difficult to understand than anyone else. Do not settle for anyone who says they “just don’t get women.” You are not “women.” You are you, and if they don’t get you, then they aren’t listening.