Well, hi there! I know, it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, let alone this column. But I am not gone! I am still here!
And I’m still capable of advising you on how best to live your life, because I’m definitely not an internet hermit to whom it makes no difference that I’m snowed in on a Sunday because it wasn’t like I was planning to go outside anyway. Nope, that’s definitely not me right now.
Anyhow, I was inspired to write a post lambasting some of the horrendous relationship choices made by the writers on The Flash this season, specifically one particular section of dialogue from the most recent episode.
If you’ve never seen The Flash, don’t worry, I shall explain:
Barry Allen is the Flash. He can run super duper fast. He thus became a superhero and fights all sorts of supernatural threats that regular cops can’t deal with.
This season, he met a lady cop named Patty. Patty is awesome and they start dating, but Barry never tells her anything whatsoever about being the Flash or about the supernatural threats that are endangering her, even though Patty is on the special police task force specifically established to deal with supernatural threats.
He constantly flakes on her, backs out of plans without explanation, lies to her about everything from his whereabouts to his emotional needs, etc, all because he refuses to tell her anything she needs to know, even though this is constantly putting her in danger because she lacks the critical information necessary to protect herself.
Girls, boys, and others — this is SUPER unhealthy. But my even bigger issue came this past episode, when Patty finally confronts him about his behavior. How does she do it?
“Look, I have been a really cool girlfriend, okay? Most girls wouldn’t have the self-esteem to deal with [begins to list numerous ways in which Barry is a lousy boyfriend].”
This line…this line…I don’t even have the words to explain how much I despise this line.
You want to know why many girls put up with lousy boyfriends? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not because of self-esteem.
Usually, it is literally the opposite.
We put up with lousy partners, negligent partners, abusive partners — and why? Because we don’t think we deserve better. We think that our emotional needs aren’t worthy of attention. Because we think that making our needs and desires known will make us “uncool” or “clingy” or “demanding” or “shrewish” or, god forbid, “nagging.” This goes for all genders, fyi, but I do think that there are extra complications for women because there is SO MUCH societal pressure on women and girls to be nice and polite and sweet and accommodating and “cool” in a low maintenance way.
Note that “shrewish” and “nag” are used almost exclusively to describe undesirable behavior in women. Note that Patty equated her silence with being “a cool girlfriend.” Note that on other occasions, she prefaces perfectly reasonable requests with, “You know I don’t want to nag, that’s not who I am.” The fear of being considered a nag can be so intense that we frequently shut up about what we want or need in an effort to just be “cool.”
I speak from experience, as someone who dated a lousy boyfriend, years ago, and put up with all the flakiness, the cancelled plans, the broken promises, the constant “compromises” that weren’t compromises because they just amounted to me giving in to what he wanted.
I thought those things made me a good girlfriend. I thought that I was being nice, that I was being strong and not giving in to insecurity, that I was being generous and understanding. Because I did understand that, say, he was tired and didn’t want to hang out, or that he canceled on my birthday because he was feeling really anxious about a lot of things so we skyped instead, or that it made more sense for me to travel an hour and a half to see him on certain days because he had class until noon and if he had to travel to me after class ended, we’d have less time to hang out.
All of these things individually were understandable, but they piled up, skewing the reciprocity, so that I was giving, giving, giving, and he was taking, taking, taking. And when I did try to say that it felt unfair or that I needed something from him in return, he would call me “clingy” or “demanding,” and I would be appalled at myself and shut down my needs, and concentrate on just giving more and being better.
It was not because of self-esteem.
* * *
I haven’t forgotten that this is a dating advice column. So here’s my advice:
To girls, because we’re socialized to be pushovers (but this can of course be applicable to other genders as well): Speak up about what you need. Don’t be ashamed of it, don’t repress it, don’t be afraid that it makes you naggy and clingy and undesirable. If it’s something that you honestly think you would willingly do for your partner, it’s not too much to ask. And if your partner is repeatedly unwilling or unable to meet or respect your needs, walk away. You will be better off.
To boys, because it’s not your fault but you’re probably not aware of just how much girls are socialized to accommodate others: If you feel like you screwed up, but the girl says, “it’s okay” or “don’t worry about it” — don’t always take it at face value. Sometimes it is okay, for sure, don’t get me wrong. Like when I walk into a guy’s place and he’s all, “sorry about the mess” and I’m all, “pffft, whatever, don’t worry about it,” I genuinely mean that, because messes genuinely do not bother me. And if it’s a once-in-a-blue-moon canceled plan. But if it’s a fairly big no-no, like canceling on her birthday, or if it’s a pattern, be mindful of that. There is so much pressure on us girls to just be okay with everything that sometimes we stay silent when we should speak up. So just in case, try to make it up to her sometimes. Nothing flashy, just “I know you said x was okay, but I felt weird about it, so I did y, or I got you z, or I made q plans” — just something.
And please, for the love of god, do not call her “clingy” or “naggy” or “demanding” or any of that stuff. They are all ways of saying, “your needs are not important,” and if she believes you, and starts believing that, the psychological damage is enormous. Believe me.
If her needs or desires genuinely do overwhelm you and you can’t meet them, either because what she wants is truly outlandish or because you personally are not equipped to handle it, that relationship is probably not the best fit for either of you, and you should probably end it.
I know all of this is general and oversimplified and each individual relationship comes with its own calculations, but overall, I think these are important to keep in mind, along with the most vital piece of advice I can give you: Don’t listen to the Flash writers about dating. Just don’t.
Like this post? I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you, wonderful reader, that my GoFundMe campaign is still open —http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive. The proceeds no longer go toward automotive school tuition, because I have paid off my loan in full, but you can still commission me to write anything you want. You can force me to watch ANYTHING and review it for you. Anything. Real-Housewives-of-Atlanta-kind-of-anything. Hit me with your best shot.