Until recently, I never was really able to pinpoint the cause of my own desperation when it came to relationships with men.
I grew up pretty feminist. My mom never entered me into a beauty pageant and set an example by doing home repair projects on her own. She didn't even take my dad's last name. But at the same time, my parents had pretty traditional gender roles. My dad worked. My mom stayed home and then went to work part-time when I was in school. So while I was taught that men could (and should) cook and do laundry and that women could (and should) work for a living, that was not exactly the environment that I was raised in.
I want to make it clear that I am in no way criticizing this arrangement. That was what worked for them and it wasn't based on gender as much as the fact that my dad had a good stable job and my mom was really good at fixing up houses. My dad loves routine and can deal with the day-to-day monotony of going to the same office for 20 years. My mom loves change and excitement and is a risk taker. If their personalities had been switched, I wouldn't be surprised if their roles would have been switched as well.
So, I never thought that I "needed" a man in the way some of my friends do. I've always been very independent and wanted to learn to do things on my own. I don't need a man to fix my car or take me to dinner or to make my life complete. I don't need a man to show me the way or to protect me or make me feel special. I get validation from multiple sources, from both men and women. I fix my own car, take myself to dinner and I complete me!
But under all my bravado, my whole life, I have thought that I needed to be in a relationship in order to do three things (that I am yet aware of): settle down, have financial security and enjoy life.
The first of these subconscious assumptions began to crumble two years ago when I bought my house. I was overwhelmed. It needed too much work and I had no time and no money and I didn't have any other friends who were homeowners or a community of do-it-yourselfers to pitch in or give advice. At the same time, I was freaking out because my life pre-homeownership was incredibly mobile. I moved every year. I never had a permanent place. And while I was ready to "settle down" I felt freaked out that it was happening to me. Something just felt off, like I had forgotten to do something important. What was I giving up by settling down? I had that bad feeling you get when you pack for a trip to the tropics and you forgot to pack your bathing suit. Something was amiss.
In buying the house, I was making a commitment. And it was a commitment that I very much wanted to make. But in the back of my mind somewhere, underneath all my independence and education and self awareness, was this idea that having a house and settling down is something one does WITH a partner. I was overwhelmed by the house because I thought I had to do everything myself. My parents had done everything themselves and only hired people to do work that required permits or expertise beyond their own. But there were two of them. And there is one of me.
It took me a while to feel OK with paying someone to mow my yard. I mean, shouldn't I be doing that myself? It took me a while to forgive myself for taking three months to paint the living room (which has vaulted ceilings and exposed beams and required borrowing a 9 foot ladder). Why couldn't I get it done in a weekend?
And once I realized that I, on my own, could not replicate the perfection of my parent's do-it-yourself lifestyle, I could find my own balance and my own groove. It wasn't that I was missing something or defective in some way. It wasn't that I should have done things in the proper order and waited to buy as house as a newlywed. What is to guarantee that this imaginary husband is a do-it-yourselfer anyways? A huge part of my parents relationship is based on their houses. I'm not sure that I want my relationship to be based on the house. Or on dogs. Or on travel.
But for a while, after buying the house, I felt really desperate for a man. I felt like I just couldn't cope with all the responsibilities of the house on my own and secretly I wanted some sexy carpenter/electrician/plumber/contractor/landscaper/HVAC guy to walk into my life, literally sweep me off my feet and carry me over my own threshold. But then I realized all that I would sacrifice if the house belonged to someone else and I depended up on him to do everything the house required. It would no longer be my adventure and I would not have the chance to learn more or to tackle the challenges I had so longed for. And more importantly, I realized this was the ONLY reason I wanted a man in my life so badly. I would just be using this hottie handyman for his, uh, hands *ahem*. And while that makes for a great daydream, it doesn't make for a great relationship.
This was the first of my revelations regarding my subconscious assumptions about what I can and can not do as a single. I had no idea that I had been wah-wah-waiting for someone to settle down, but some part of me was.
I will write about my more recent experiences with finances and fun next!