For as long as I can remember, I have always been that girl that has told boys I liked them. That girl that who has made it clear that I was interested. I wasn’t a neon sign, but I could’ve been. Once, in third grade I remember telling a boy that I liked him only to be met with a smile and a confession that he had a girlfriend. I was that girl who asked a boy out to prom, only to be told “No” and I have been that girl who would sit at a party and watch others dance and was asked by a boy “Do you give good lap dances?” to which I would reply “No, do you?”
Call me a gender bender when it came to gender roles. (Maybe an incorrect use of the term) I just didn’t believe that a woman had to wait around for a man to choose her, that she could say how she felt and be met with the same energy. I didn’t believe that all guys were tough,or were assertive, or were direct. I believed that just how some girls are shy and some are bold..boys could be that way as well. As I get older I wonder if I’ve been wrong in my beliefs. Here I am at 31 years of age with no man or relationship to truly show for it. Up until recently I hadn’t revealed I liked a guy in years. See, after I was rejected from a guy I really liked. A guy who gave me butterflies every time I saw him, a guy whom I thought I went on a coffee “date” with only to find he had someone. That devastated me to my core because I would not have known had I not confronted him. He professed to liking that I was direct, so I thought it wasn’t so bad that I am this way, but I still blame myself for the outcome.
My entire life I’ve been told to be something I am not. Be more feminine, chew a certain way in front of men, never be direct, dumb yourself down, never let others see your intelligence, cross your legs, don’t wear dresses because you don’t have the legs for it, don’t smile too wide, or appear to happy. Don’t connect with others. Don’t chase after a boy, he has to pick you. Sure, I had been taught these things, but my reality didn’t reflect the lessons: the relationship between my mother and stepfather worked differently. My stepfather was a stay at home dad and my mother worked. And for the short period of time that was their relationship it worked. My father was much more nurturing and kind than my mother he had bathed us, cooked for us, kept the house clean, grocery shopped, helped us with our homework, attended school functions. He had a level of patience that my mother did not. I honestly believe that they would still have been together had they not let what others said about their relationship affect it. Things were said about my father not really being a man and my mother being too masculine. Was this how a relationship was suppose to go? The world tells us over and over that men are supposed to go out and work and women are supposed to stay home, but what if that narrative is what causes the demise to what appeared to be a healthy-ish relationship? What if the narrative puts pressure and shame on an otherwise healthy relationship so much so that couples become miserable trying to mold themselves into society expectations? Can we then put away the gender roles and allow couples to be happy in a relationship that seems to work for them? Can we then say “Jane makes a six figure salary and Dick is a stay at home dad and there’s nothing wrong with that because it works for them?.
I can’t remember a time in my life for not getting a spanking for telling adults what was on my mind. My earliest recollection was snapping on my kindergarten teacher for eating the bubblegum that I was supposed to pass out for share day. Another one was telling a grown up she was acting like a kid and she needed to grow up. Another one was saying the movie Love Jones was stupid which warranted a pop on the head. Or if someone asked me if I like something and I did not I said so. My mother often ran interference with family members and myself because as she described to me “You were very wise as a kid Jasmine. It was like talking to an adult sometimes and that was weird for some people. That’s why you never really did anything bad as a kid because you understood the outcome to things”. I don’t know why I am like this exactly, but I knew from an early age I did not want to regret my actions. I wanted to mean what I say and say what I meant. Did I do it always? no, but I mostly tried.
My mother expressed regret occasionally when it came to having me, my grandmother expressed regret marrying my grandfather, and my aunts all had some big regret that altered their life. I didn’t want my life to be riddled with regrets I didn’t want these regrets to keep me from getting out of bed or enjoying my life. I’m not sure, how I got so bold in telling boys I liked them. I don’t know. I do know the heartache of rejection. I do recall the many times I cried in my bedroom for being made fun of at school by my peers for not waiting for a boy to approach me first. Was I wired wrong? I knew I was a girl, felt like a girl, wanted to be a girl, but was girlhood this rigid? was womanhood this rigid? I do remember people telling me that this is a justification as to why I’m single. One particular time I recall my friend saying to me after waiting over eight hours for a date “Your problem Jasmine is you’re too aggressive? Men don’t like that! Men are the pursuers, you’ve got to let them chase you!”. I know that if I wait I could no longer be myself. I know that if I don’t go after what I want that I will be miserable. I know that I’m not that type of girl, but are there men out there okay with this? That accepts this? I tried being that girl for almost three years and I don’t want to be, I don’t want to be docile, agreeable, or super patient.I also don’t want to die alone either, but I can’t conform or yield to what society expects of me.
As I sit here processing another unrequited connection. I wonder if everyone was right. Is the problem me? Is it gender roles? Is it due to an unfortunate history of chasing after emotionally unavailable men? Am I doing this subconsciously? Is it really so bad to be direct? Is it really so bad to be honest? and is it really so bad for me as a woman to go after what and who I want? I want to fall in love one day, I want a loving supportive adult relationship, but I don’t want to be anyone besides myself. I don’t want to settle for lukewarm affections, and so-so conversations, just because I’ve been alone for so long. I don’t know the answers to my questions, but I know I can’t seem to shake that girl I was and the woman I am.