The myth of the independent woman and why they’re never called independent men

Oh put your pitchforks down, ladies!  I’m not working for the opposition.  In fact, quite the opposite.  We have been sold a bill of goods that, in order to be real women, we must be independent women.

The dictionary defines independent as, amongst other things, not relying on another or others for aid or support.  So in order to be an authentic female, we must rely on no one else for anything; we must learn everything, say everything, do everything without the help of another person.  This is utter hogwash and impossible to accomplish.

So why does this concept persist?  The sad thing to say is, we all feed into it.  We feel like it’s the gold standard and anything less than perfection is letting down ourselves and our sisters.

You have to ask yourself why have you never heard the term “independent man”?  It’s because they’ve already figured it out.  Notwithstanding a few cliches (e.g., asking for directions), men are not afraid that getting help will rob them of their autonomy.

It’s time for us to drop the act and learn to be interdependent, not independent, but that my lovelies, is another blog.

Equitable division of labor

Despite our best efforts as a society, when it comes to household chores, women are shouldering more of the burden than their partners.  I don’t believe that this is due to an inherently sexist society but rather that women tend to be a bit more specific about how and how often the chores should be performed.

Some women are perfectly happy to do most of the household chores.  They know exactly how they want it done and would prefer that no-one mess with their system.  So if it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it.

However, I’ve known more than one woman who ended up doing most of the chores because she was critical when her partner did it.  Chore by chore, when she wasn’t appreciative it was done, he decided to avoid the criticism by simply abandoning the effort to do anything at all.  Neither party would be in the right in this circumstance.

If you do find yourself in a situation where you feel that you’re doing more than your fair share of the chores, it’s time to have a discussion with your mate (and yes, you might have to have this talk with him periodically as things slip).  Pick a quiet time and bring it up in a non-accusatory manner.  Be able to cite specific references of chores that used to be his that you’re now doing.  Have suggestions for an equitable division of labor that both parties can live with.  Negotiate without getting into an argument.  If necessary, make an informal written agreement so that there are no misunderstanding about who is supposed to do what.

Oh, and say “thank you” when he does his chores.  Gratitude begets gratitude and I believe we could all use a little more of it.

Peter principle for relationships

The Peter Principle states that a person will be promoted in an organization until they reach the point that they are too incompetent to perform their job duties.  Parallels can be drawn to your personal relationships.

Too often we rush through the getting-to-know-you phase and the dating phase simply to be in the long-term-commitment phase.  This is a big mistake.  We’re promoting men to boyfriend status without them deserving it or proving that they’re capable of handling it.  Then, once they’re at boyfriend status, they invariably fail.  This isn’t always their fault – we’re giving them too much, too soon without requiring them to fulfill progressive steps (hint:  they’re called progressive for a reason).

How do you solve this?  First, take your foot off the gas.  There are no prizes for getting to boyfriend status the fastest.  Second, get to know him well, very well, so that you’re (fairly) certain you know what he’s capable of accomplishing.  Lastly, make the relationship a series of progressive steps – don’t skip steps (you wouldn’t promote someone from file clerk to CEO in one fell swoop, would you?).

The kitchen sink test

So you’ve been dating a guy for a while and you’re not sure if it’s going to work out.  How can you tell for certain?  Honestly, you can never be 100% sure that a relationship will work out but if you choose wisely,  you have a good chance of success.

Close your eyes and think about the man you’re dating.  Now imagine you’re in the kitchen and you’re fixing dinner together.  Is he helping out?  Is he chopping vegetables while you’re manning the stove?  Is he washing dishes as quickly as you dirty them?  Or is he leaning against the counter talking to you while you do all the work?

This is a metaphor for your relationship with him.  Your subconscious is communicating with you.  Do you really feel as though you’re working as a team or do you feel as though you’re doing all the work?

Direct from my desk – week 23

Are you the type of girl the drops her life when she gets a man?  Bad move.  You need your girlfriends.  They help balance you out and keep you from making mistakes.  Your girlfriends have a responsibility to be honest with you but to temper it with a little sugar.  They’ll have your back if you let them.

Don’t have any girlfriends?  Other women don’t like you?  Maybe you need to look a little further into yourself to find out why.  You don’t have to hang out with the girly-girls if you really hate shopping and teacup puppies.  Find women with common interests and develop the friendship from there.  You’re never too busy to make a friend.  And don’t tell me that you intimidate other women -unless you’re working hard to intimidate everyone all of the time, statistics are against you.

Plus, your girlfriend might be the person who introduces you to your next boyfriend.

My mailbox is open:  girldontbestupid@gmail.com

He’s not your best friend

“I want to marry my best friend.”  Ladies – do not make this mistake.  Your boyfriend/husband should never be your best friend.

It’s sweet to think that he might be.  That he’s the human being you can tell everything to.  He’s your person.  He’s the one that’s going to be there for you forever and ever.  All that fuzzy bubblegum logic.  Undoubtedly your partner should be someone that you can rely on, who will take care of you and whom you can take care of in return.  He should be a significant part of your life but he shouldn’t be your best friend.

Why?  Because when the sh*t hits the fan, you’re going to need someone outside the relationship to talk to.  If he’s your best friend, who are you going to bounce things off of when the relationship isn’t going exactly as you want?  Who is going to talk to you about your dream of going to medical school without having their own agenda?  Who is going to discuss the merits of Shemar Moore’s butt with you over ice cream and chick flicks?  That is the job of your best friend, not your partner.

The communication game: men vs. women

While there are individuals on both sides of the gender aisle that like to gab, women have the reputation for being the more verbose of the sexes.  Whether that’s deserved is still out for debate but I think everyone can agree that men and women communicate differently.

Women tend to speak in full sentences.  We speak about our emotions (maybe not elegantly but still…).  Chatting works to both address grievances and form social bonds.  We put a premium on talking as a primary form of communication.

Men, on the other hand, are a bit of a tougher nut to crack.  They use their own subtext (grunts, sports metaphors, physical jostling).  They bond over shared experiences and trying to elicit an emotion can drive you insane (unless he’s emo but that’s a whole other kettle of fish).

The point here is NOT to expect a man to communicate like a woman, either actively or passively.  Stop trying to communicate with him like he’s a girl- those allegories are merely confusing.  Stop trying to interpret what he’s saying like he’s a girl.  By-and-large, when a guy does talk to you, there’s no subtext involved with his words; he’s saying what he means.

Direct from my desk – week 17

Men attempting to get women to compete for them isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s been going on at least since Cleopatra rolled herself in a carpet to catch Caesar’s eye.  How far you are willing to play along with it depends on the individual but you shouldn’t get involved with someone who attempts to denigrate you for his personal enjoyment.

A misogynist is “a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts, or mistreats women.”  Consider that not all misogynists are upfront about or possibly even aware of their prejudice.  This means that you need to be savvy to how someone is treating you.  I wouldn’t recommend throwing the M word at every person who cracks a blond joke but carefully weigh how someone is treating you before getting involved with them.  If they’re starting out by insulting you, embarrassing you or otherwise being mean to you – beat a hasty retreat!  They may present themselves as a challenge but not every prize is worth winning.

Don’t let a man pick you up by tearing you down.

My mailbox is open:  girldontbestupid@gmail.com

If you can’t say anything nice

Now this may sound a little odd but take a step back and consider – how often do you disparage men?

I don’t know too many women who speak glowingly about their exes.  I can understand that.  There are a few exes I wish I could take an eraser to our relationship.  I’ve already mentioned that you should stop talking about your exes full stop and hopefully you’ve taken my advice.

Go deeper, society tends to make it socially acceptable to disrespect men, heck they even do it to each other!  They’re called dogs.  They’re called pigs.  We joke about how dumb they are.  We highlight their every bad moment for our friends’ enjoyment.  When it comes to men, we’ve found it okay to be mean girls.

Not sure if you’re doing it?  Take the phrase/joke/story and substitute in another gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and see if it’s offensive.

So let’s stop right now.  Let’s talk about men how we’d want them to talk about us.  Let us lead by example.  After all, how can we command respect if we do not offer it in return?

Other women are not your competition

Women have a tendency to see other women as their competition.  This is 100% rubbish.  There is only one unique you in this world.  Your competition is the best version of yourself.  So be that best version and eliminate the competition.

If a guy isn’t interested in you, it’s not because of another woman – it’s because for whatever reason, you aren’t what he’s looking for.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – maybe he knows something about himself that would make you two a bad match.

If you encounter a guy who is trying to put you into competition with another female then you should walk away immediately and don’t look back.  He isn’t interested in you, he just wants to watch the catfight.  (Shame on him – I bet his momma is ashamed.)

Other women are your support system but they need to be cultivated as such.  Of course there will always be “mean girls” who aren’t quite as secure as they appear and feel the need to attack other women – ignore them, you don’t need the hassle.  Concentrate on building worthwhile friendships with women – you need a best friend and it shouldn’t be your significant other.