I cannot tell you how many times in high school there were boys that I liked, who I later came to find out, liked me back with equal force, but quite unequal gumption. See, I have oft leaned to the dark side, the nerd side, if you will, and these boys, though handsome, cultured, and highly intelligent, are not always quick on the romantic uptake. I have never been a shy one, but all signs pointed to, “don’t ask boys out or ever show that you are interested ever, or you are an eager whore and you will surely die,” so I pined and pined and waited for somebody to make a move, but nobody ever did, because–shy boys. In hindsight, I see that initiating a cute, albeit awkward, sweaty handhold in the woods during cross country practice, or a flirty Chemistry homework date could have easily set me on the fast track to nerd dating heaven, but I stubbornly insisted that I wait until notified that my affections were warranted. Because only boys can show interest or make the first move.
I cannot air my grievances loudly enough on this issue. It has been years since I first gained access into the world of sweaty palmed hand holding, and yet I am just now breaking free from my unnatural cocoon and realizing for myself that not only is it okay for a woman to express interest, initiate first contact, or otherwise move things along, it’s good, and I highly recommend it. I’m not advocating that we all become douchey fedora wearing pickup artists with lady parts. I’m simply saying that some of these gender roles are stodgy and outdated.
There is zero percent nothing wrong or bad about meeting someone you feel the good vibes with and saying something natural and non creepy along the lines of like, I don’t know, maybe–“Here’s my number in case you need some more help with your Chemistry homework WINK WINK,” or, “Hey, so what is your number? I”m gonna need to call you sometime.” I don’t know. Whatever it is that smooth kids say these days. All I can pull from is my own experience, and in the past year, I’ve finally made some strides for womankind in this realm.
I not so un-creepily scribbled a note on the back of a postcard of two men rollerblading saying that I loved adventures, and “hey, would you want to go on an adventure with me sometime? You know, call me if you’d be into that,” and shoved it in my favorite barista’s face as I turned beet red and rushed out the door of my neighborhood coffee shop earlier this year. I’d like to think that perhaps he never called because he was actually kissing some other girl in the cafe earlier that day, and I think she was his girlfriend, and also because I was living in Germany, and German guys are an entirely different beast than their American counterparts, so perhaps my proposition was highly inappropriate and alarming. Who’s to say? Only George I suppose.
But the point is, I did it. I faced my fears. After months of fawning over his golden sideswept hair and winning smile as I sipped on my lattes and pretended to work on my “writing,” I worked up the courage to DO SOMETHING about my swoon feelings. And this translated to doing it again when I met someone I liked at a party and found him part of my semi-regular social group. I liked our talks and wanted more of them, so I asked for what I wanted. And guess what? He accepted. I don’t really think it would qualify as a date, but slow down, sugar. I wasn’t trying to get anything from him. I just wanted to talk. Which is the whole point of asking someone out in the first place. To get to know them better. To learn about them and decide if their world views and life goals make you still want to smoosh your face up against theirs.
Most recently, I really hit it off with someone I’d just met– a complete stranger who I bonded with over some pretty crazy coincidences about our upbringings, and some pretty epic LARPing we happened to witness at the same time on the giant group bike ride we were on. I think it was already pretty obvious that stars were dancing in my eyes, but in this new version of myself, I don’t feel the need to hide what I’m feeling just to appear cool or aloof. Screw that. I was into him, so I asked for his number. And nothing has come of that. Nothing has come of any of these situations, to be honest.
But I don’t care.
The important thing, the really amazing thing is what it’s done for my self confidence. I have left behind the idea that I’m not validated until some dude comes along and asks for my hand in a game of checkers. It does not emasculate him to casually inquire if HE would like to join ME for a game of checkers. How bout them apples?
I’ve also noticed some very powerful things about my new mantra in converse. Because society beat it into my brain all those years that girls do not initiate romance on any level, I found it hard to reject unwanted affections. It led me to clam up and panic when an unwanted suitor looked at me like fresh prey and would not back down. Convinced I’d been unknowingly sending some signals I shouldn’t have been, I was even more determined to shut down any pheromones, hormones, or smoke signals my body was emitting against my will, because despite what Robin Thicke says, sometimes we really don’t want it.
Out of fear, and desire to keep the peace and not hurt anyone’s feelings, I would become paralyzed, much in the same way that some small animals will play dead when a giant ferocious bear looks at them and thinks “DINNER SPECIAL NOM NOM.” Deep seated messed up ideas of what gender roles should be left me crying and feeling oh so alone once I’d wake up from my ill timed paralysis.
Fast forward not too far into the future, and I don’t feel bad about telling some screwball to leave me alone. I actually react like a human being and turn the other cheek to escape unwanted kisses, and I say, “NO.” I say it with force and I say it even when it becomes a deal breaker on a friendship, because I am in control of myself and my body, and I can ask dudes out as well as field and decline the offers that come my way. Long gone are the days when women sat in parlors sipping tea and sewing cross-stitch, waiting for gentlemen callers to come along.
Valentine’s Day could be everyday and that would be okay. Putting yourself out there is so hard, but so worth it, for you, beautiful you. You should ask him out, and shiver not despite the outcome. It is about time we as a society stopped training girls to be passive, silent creatures who have no control over their own destinies.
Do it girl.
Make a move.