And when it comes to relationships, I've definitely been one.
I've spent the past 12 years getting myself into (and out of) serious relationships. And by "serious," I mean I dated men I cared deeply about and I made a real effort to have a healthy, happy relationship.
But until recently, I was never able to get there.
Four years ago, I abruptly left my live-in boyfriend turned fiancé. Feeling like a failure, my goal was to stay out of a relationship for at least one year to take time to reflect on my methods. I was ready to admit that I was doing something wrong.
Before I knew it, two years had passed and I was a desperately lonely 27-year-old with zero romantic prospects. As miserable as I was, it was this agonizing time period that set me straight. Facing my career, student loans, credit card debt, and my marriage-less, baby-less future alone, I realized for the first time how valuable a romantic relationship could be.
And I realized what a true moron I had been.
Here was my problem: I was a misguided feminist. I thought I could do everything just as well as a man could. Actually, I thought I could do everything better.
In the past, I raced to the door first so Boyfriend couldn't open it for me. If we were moving, I snatched the heaviest boxes before he could get to them. I dragged huge bags of garbage across the lawn and scoffed at his offers to help. When it came to car problems, I would take the busted thing into the mechanic without asking for Boyfriend's opinion first. And I was the queen (or should I say king?) of going Dutch.
In the beginning of each of my relationships, poor Boyfriend would try to help with the gender-specific tasks. I'd always refuse with a nasty tone — outraged by the implication that I couldn't manage these simple responsibilities. Looking back, I realize I was on a rampage. I'm ashamed to admit that even when I'd actually let Boyfriend complete a chore, I'd criticize his performance.
At the time, I thought I was merely displaying my independence and versatility. And I foolishly believed that Boyfriend would admire me for being so strong.
Because that's what a modern woman should be, right?
Unfortunately, my independent behavior was sending a damaging message to Boyfriend, over and over again. And the message was this: "You're freakin' useless."
So, after many refusals of assistance, his offers would stop completely. And then, predictably, I'd wail and cry about how Boyfriend wasn't emotionally aware enough to meet my needs.
Like I said, I was a moron. And worse, I was a miserable moron.
Even the experts say this behavior is very bad. (See sidebar.)
Shortly after I realized the error of my ways, I met an amazing man. This time, I decided to let him stay that way. And, after a year and a half, he's still an amazing man (emphasis on the man part).
I let him open doors for me and carry all the heavy stuff. I let him drive my car. I ask him to make small repairs around the apartment we share. I let him open doors, pay for dinner, move the furniture, and handle anything that has to do with a computer. I even left my car in the driveway for a day so that, when he got off work, he could change the dead battery himself.
I never thought I'd be this woman. I've succumbed to traditional gender roles.
I used to think this kind of behavior would make me weak. Actually, taking a step back and (gasp!) trusting my partner was one of the bravest things I ever did.
And one of the smartest.
My man has never, not once, disappointed me. Now that I've stopped being such a misguided feminist freak, I can see that he moves the furniture better than I can. He hammers nails faster and more efficiently. He easily hauls the trash and doesn't get angry if garbage juice drips on him. And, from start to finish, he had that car battery taken care of in 45 minutes flat.
It's wonderful. And, for the first time in my life, I'm actually happy in my relationship.
So to all modern women, I say this: Be like me and resolve to stop trying to be so much like a man. You'll find he's much better at it.