Earlier this week I was walking to Subway with a co-worker. This is the same man that earlier this month asked, “Have you always been an alpha female?” We got to the restaurant and I opened the door, gesturing for him to go ahead of me. It’s what my Dad did for me, so it was natural for me to do it for someone else. But then, he refused. He refused to allow me to hold the door open for him in a gesture that was (unintentionally) emasculating to him. I don’t do things like this on purpose. It’s who I am, and it’s who I have become.
It feels empowered, but it also has a really uncomfortable feeling. It feels like equality in a way that scares many men away from me. It feels like men are afraid of a misstep in saying or doing something that would offend me. This fear irritates me more than a benign and accidental sexist comment would. About a month ago, I had four men in a row ask me to bend them over and own them with a strap on. (Online dating adventures.) The idea has never excited me. It’s not sexy to me. It’s not about domination. It’s just not my jam to jam . . . Anyway. One of those men . . . the beautiful one with blue eyes asked me what I like about submissive men. I realized I don’t, and he was the last to approach me in that way.
I want to be girly, but it’s something I get to learn to get used to. I get to decide what that will look like to me. The man that has my attention right now has been stretching my comfort zone in this way lately. He’s pretty amazing and his approach to my independence doesn’t make me feel defiant. He is more patient than most and his nudges don’t feel like pressure but more like he’s taking the lead in our dance. Can I follow his lead? It’s not a question of do I want him to lead. I do. That’s been decided.
A big part of me wants a dominant man that is intelligent and not controlling. As I experience leadership through him, submission isn’t a dirty word or uncomfortable feeling. It would feel like sliding into a warm bath. It would feel like I could trust him and his decisions because I know he would hold and value my insight. His love would be freedom rather than burden. He would be able to enroll me in the idea that my life would be better if I keep him in it. He would be someone I would want to meet my kids and my family.
This really special man is in a different time zone for work right now, and the other night he woke up early to chat before I fell asleep but he had plans to go back to sleep because he was only getting up early to wish me a good night. (Yes, he’s that sweet.) He was surprised that I was out alone so late at night. It was just after 10, and he insisted on staying up until he knew I made it home safely. I’ve had my big sister and my Dad express concerns for my many solo explorations, but I brush them off because they tend to wake up my inner teenager that says she can stay up all night just to prove something. But here he was, only staying up to make sure I made it in okay. He didn’t demand I go home, but only let me know he would wait to make sure I was okay. The craziness is I wanted to be home so he didn’t worry. There’s something in the way he makes me feel that today I was content to stay home and do housework and catch up on paperwork and filing at home. I didn’t feel driven to go and do and be, though there will be a hiking trip tomorrow morning.
Naturally, you’d want to draw conclusions to my marriage. I would expect that with the nature of this blog, but It’s not worth comparing. It’s a different situation. I started sneaking out of the house at midnight with Kid1 because I couldn’t sleep. I would go to a CVS or Walgreens in North Hollywood and read greeting cards until I had giggled or cried silently enough to feel sleepy. My ex was bothered at first. I needed the space and the release. Two years ago I was taking the train to work and home, with a dangerously unreliable car. I would call or text on my way home and he wasn’t as concerned for my safety as I was. I would go to night classes with a stun gun my Dad gave me and return home with him asleep. Not worrying about me became our normal, so having someone worry about me again is new, and it’s uncomfortable, but I want to get used to it because it also feels special.
It’s not fairy tale territory. I remember seeing my sister’s normal looked like her husband would take her car and fill up the gas tank or get her car washed. He helped around the house and he became the parent that was available and supported her through medical school. He was and is the perfect person for my sister and their marriage still inspires me to hope and dream for a romance that will inspire really great words that borrow from my reality, rather than help me escape from it.
I’m still trying to figure out where my femininity lies.
Is it in allowing someone else to open a door for me? Once at work, I held open the door for a man entering the building when I did because I didn’t notice the other half of the double door he was already holding for me. I’m in the habit of opening doors rather than allowing them to be held open for me. I think I had a date or two that started the night opening the car door for me, but then I got back into the habit of opening my own door. Yes, some men will make it a point to go to the passenger’s side just to hold a door open even though their key fob unlocks it and makes getting in pretty easy.
Is it accepting and not chafing at the idea that someone would worry about me being a woman alone at night? I live alone half the time and I’m used to coming home alone. I’m used to going out to eat alone in restaurants. The only thing keeping me from late night beach trips lately is the cold. It’s ordinarily my normal, but to accept someone else would worry about me more than I worry about me is to step into the protection of someone else’s concern. It’s accepting his comfort is more important than my freedom and independence but that also comes from the confidence he fosters in me.
Who I am is the person that doesn’t see a problem as an obstacle but a puzzle I get to solve. I can handle fixing things by calling a repairman. I can swap out an electrical outlet or other small repairs around the house. I actually love being able to work with a power drill, though I have a healthy fear/respect for circular saws and I’m a badass with a hammer. I don’t get to fret, hang in there, or hold up. I handle what comes my way because there is no one else that is captain of my ship. But what would making space for someone else’s leadership look like?
My sexuality is more dominant and powerful than it has ever been but I like it this way. If anything, I feel femininity is embracing sexual power. It’s not about controlling others with sex, but feeling like I’m aware of what feels good to me and I’m not afraid of what it feels or looks like. It’s about knowing what men fantasize about and acknowledging there’s nothing wrong with having my fantasies, independent of what their interpretation of me should be.
A friend of mine likes to suggest I should be a shoes or a purse kind of woman. I’m really not. I like nice things, but I rarely will go out of my way for purses or shoes. I like jewelry, but rarely shop for myself. I hate clothes shopping. I like to shop, just not for clothes or accessories. My last manicure ended up in polish that peeled off of my nails because housework happened and soapy water lifted the polish off like thick stickers. I didn’t get mad because I enjoyed the massage. I’m not sure I’m ready to step into the materialistic domain of femininity.
The rest is something I get to figure out slowly. Deliberately. Intentionally. And stretching gracefully. It doesn’t feel natural, but it is a gender I was born into. It’s not normal because I have to learn a new way to be. Earthquakes are both natural and normal, but that doesn’t make them welcome or insignificant. Are earthquakes feminine too? I can imagine that.