We are taught at a very young age to strive to be the kind of girl that guys will want to “take home to momma.” We are supposed to meet men and date them with the goal of forming a monogamous relationship. If a relationship goes on too long without a guy making it clear he wants to be committed to us and only us, we are supposed to cut it off. Or at least we are heavily advised by our friends/family/therapists to cut it off. Sometimes it seems as though achieving a committed, monogamous relationship is extolled as the highest accomplishment a person, especially a young women, can achieve.
There are those of us for whom this comes naturally. We are the “datable” girls. Even the horniest of horn dogs somehow innately know not to smack our asses or proposition us for body shots. We never find ourselves in one-night stand situations. We attract men who want a girlfriend, and all too often, we oblige them.
It is hard to turn down something that everyone says you’re supposed to want, so we find ourselves saying yes when we should say no, and accepting labels when we really want to explore our autonomy. We try to keep a relationship casual, but time after time we somehow say all the right (wrong) things and once again find ourselves seated across the table from a smitten, sweet, banal fellow on yet another date night.
But some of us want more than regular, dependable date nights. We crave something beyond what the man across the table can offer at this time in our lives. We want to move around and grow outside the boundaries of a relationship. We want to explore, and escape, and try new things. We want to kiss new people. We want to go new places. We want to be the single girl at the bar instead of the taken one watching Netflix with her boyfriend. But instead of saying “no” to love, we say “yes.” Every. single. time.
And the worst part is, there is nothing categorically wrong with the man across the table. In fact, sometimes he seems so perfect that we feel guilty for not really wanting him. Wanting it. Wanting us. It is an unrelenting guilt that nags at our heart and makes us question our own worth. At first it comes in a voice that whispers quietly to our soul. Then, eventually in a yell, it screams that “This is not what I want,” even though it is what we are supposed to desire above all else.
This little voice sighs when we agree to have dinner with his family. It throws a tantrum when we act excited to be invited along on a trip. Our hearts may get swept away in the excitement of being desired, but our heads aren’t fooled.
Being the datable girl can be exhausting. We would seem crazy if we high-tailed it away from every man who asked us on a date or if we began each conversation with a rant against monogamy. Instead we say things like “It’s not you, it’s me” or “I just need to work on myself,” when in reality we’re trying to say “I wanted to keep you around just long enough to see if you’re the one who’s different, the one who will make me want to be the datable girl.”
So we ignore the persistent voice for a time and convince ourselves that we are happy within the confines of a burgeoning commitment. Ultimately, however, our deeper desire for freedom and self-exploration catches up with us. Once again we find ourselves on the “bad” side of the desk, and the poor schmuck who once hinted at wanting to get married, is fired.
Sometimes, it feels like a carousel that we can’t get off of. We are aware of a pattern in our lives, yet we feel powerless to change it. So how do we proceed, knowing that a facet of our being is praised by society, yet it doesn’t make us happy? As much as I pretend otherwise, I don’t actually know all the answers. But I do know that by focusing on other aspects of ourselves, we can diminish the impact that men and dating have on our daily life and happiness. We can slowly start saying “no” to the men that we know aren’t for us, and saying “yes” to opportunities that we know we were meant to have. Just because we’re not the girls sitting at the singles table, backpacking alone in Europe, or moving across the country to start anew, it doesn’t mean that we don’t want to be. We may seem like the datable girls, but we have more to offer to the world. We have more to offer to ourselves..