Recently a friend came to me in tears, asking if we could talk. She has been miserably unhappy for months, she explained, and it all came to a head that morning… when her boyfriend proposed to her.
This is a friend who, only months ago, had been on an extended run of “I’m so in love I want to shout it from the mountaintops, and I don’t care who I annoy.” Apparently since then she and her beloved have been in conflict, not about whether or not they are perfect for each other and should get married, but about when, where and how he would propose.
While I could see that my friend was truly in pain and have compassion for her, this exchange also switched a little lightbulb for me, or more precisely brought up a lot of questions. About Valentine’s Day. About the expectations that even the most enlightened feminist women place on their male partners, and what the desire to act out this gendered role-play is about. About the perverse myopia that causes us to fret over lost two-dimensional stereotypes when real live, living breathing partners are standing there right in front of us, offering their love (each in his own unique way).
Women don’t like being forced into stereotypes of what it means to be a woman, dull and limiting roles when our true selves are so brilliantly diverse and multi-colored. We shouldn’t try to force men into limiting roles either! My partner does love me deeply, and occasionally it’s in a Hallmark way like with flowers sent to work. (On those days all the other women in my office can secretly measure their own femininity against mine, based on the frequency and degree of displays of stereotypically masculine romantic behavior by their partners. Ick!) But most of the time it’s some other way. And that doesn’t mean he loves me any less.
Hm, will mull this over and post more later.