Our Generation is Romantically Screwed
Women of my generation are incredibly lucky. Our mothers and grandmothers burnt their bras and threw themselves in front of the King’s horse so we could go to university, sleep with whoever we want and live as loudly as possible. I can’t comprehend living in a world without the pill, I can’t comprehend being a rich man’s plaything, trapped in a house with my intellect battering against the parameters of my existence.
Progress has undoubtedly been made, I see it around me all the time. The women in my life (and I’m sure women of my age generally) have certain expectations that have been hard won. We expect freedom (pretty basic, but there we are.) We demand respect, we’re ambitious. But we also expect a certain level of emotionality from our partners, and I’m scared that it will be our downfall.
Through experiences that cost me huge amounts of wasted mascara and sanity, I’ve learnt that I deserve men in my life that are emotionally open. Dating emotionally unavailable people is a very specific kind of torture. It might be glamorous, but you pay for it. My dream man is Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient. Stick someone with a high sex drive and no ability to express his emotions in a pair of desert boots and I’m there. And the thing with men like that is that the bar is so low that you feel lucky that they’ve chosen you. You feel like you’ve achieved something truly great in getting this closed off person to lie on your chest and tell you that he thinks about you.
But my god, isn’t that just standard ‘in love’ stuff? People who are in love with you should show you and tell you. Women are consistently expected to carry the entire emotional weight of a relationship on their backs, and when we ask for a little help, we’re asking too much.
The thing that breaks my heart isn’t the way this hurts women – we’re used to it, we have game plans in place. Ice cream, Beyoncé, new high heel boots. What breaks my heart is the way it hurts men. I don’t believe that men feel less deeply or powerfully than women do, I think they just have no idea what to do about it. Nayirrah Waheed has written on the trauma of watching a man ‘beat his heart until it was unconscious,’. When men cry, in real life or in movies, I instantly start crying as well, because that’s when you know it’s serious.
Men, undeniably, need help emoting. Women are the experts. As much as I believe that it isn’t women’s responsibility to emotionally educate men, if we want to have fulfilling relationships it’s the cross we’re going to have to bear. And it’s hard to know if it’s worth it or not, but it doesn’t make you a bad feminist or a weak woman to say ‘I want to be loved.’
Women have got to a point where we know that we deserve our partners to perform the same level of emotional labour as we do. But, I don’t think men have caught up. And this is what worries me. I want to be self-respecting and ambitious and independent. But I also want to fall in love and stay in it without letting myself down. How can we be in love without turning our bodies into grappling hooks to be hurled over the walls men have built around themselves? Women of my generation have run so fast we’ve lapped the boys. The question is whether we slow down to take them by the hand.