I’ve learned with my age that I don’t have a type. I’ve dated men from all walks of life and I feel that they have all taught me valuable lessons about myself. This gracious takeaway is from my most recent love: the Southern not-so-gentleman. The man who was an unhealthy mix of Don Draper, Frank Underwood, and JFK.
I hadn’t ever dated a traditional man. At first I was able to find charm in his Southern drawl and I always appreciated when he picked up the check (which was every time). Everything felt all right in the beginning. I was okay with being the woman who cooked for him every night. I enjoyed praising him for his accomplishments. I relished in his need for my approval. I was taking care of a man and I felt just as powerful as I had in any other of my artsy, edgy relationships.
What I began to notice, though, is that my good deeds of roasting chickens, mixing drinks, and paying compliments were no longer appreciated by my dear, sweet love. Bless his heart, he expected them. He needed a woman to make a lot over him and that was exactly what I was doing. How could he not see the hard work that I was putting into the relationship?
And just to clarify, I wasn’t doing these things for the praise per se, but I was doing them to be a good partner and to keep my guy happy. I only wanted him to know that I was going above and beyond. After all, that bourbon doesn’t pour itself.
I was in a rut. My power and control were gone and I was just another 1950’s broad to an underserving man.
As our relationship carried on, any unhappiness that I so dared to voice to him was written off as my being hysterical, because you know, a caring partner would never question why her man was at the bar until 1 am with his phone turned off. I began to feel trapped in my own decision to be with him. I didn’t have a voice. Any opinion I shared or concern that I raised was either dismissed or put down as being invalid. What had I done?
I am a smart woman: a law student, an avid reader, an active member of my community. I had never felt badly about myself or my accomplishments until I was with this man. He made me feel inadequate and because of that I had grown to be incredibly hostile toward him and also to myself.
Although I came to find that I did not want the life that he desired, I beat myself up for not being good enough to fit into this 1950’s mold of what a woman should be—at least according to him. He wanted me to feel lucky to have him, and I did; but, he valued me so little and began to make it clear just how dispensable I was to him.
Upon our final conversation, we discussed how many of our friends were beginning to marry very young and uneducated girls. I commented on how sad it was, how those girls didn’t know themselves and that if you conform solely to what someone’s expectations are for you, that you’ll never be able to have anything to offer them. I knew it was over when he responded with: “Well that’s what I would want someone to do for me.”
This relationship taught me a lot about myself and it showed how important it is to be respected by your partner. Though self-reflection is natural after ending any relationship, this one helped me realize that I am a modern girl who is proud of her intellect, who will always ask questions, and who can drink a bourbon without the approval of a man.