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Dating Thu Dec 01 2011

Chicago Dating 2.011: To Be "Normal"

Previous Entry: The Best of the Worst
Next Entry: We Met On Match...

Last week, my sister-friend and I were chatting about the trials and tribulations of a budding relationship when she said something that gave me an eerie "eureka" moment.

Sister-friend said, "I feel like there's so much pressure to be normal." To which I responded "Totes."

Normal. It is an adjective I have grown to hate and yet one which I feel like I am in constant pursuit. In the beginnings of relationships, it seems to be the only thing that matters. It becomes even more pertinent when online dating because of the speed of rejection and the surplus of other people who play normal better than you.

There seems to be a laundry list of ways to give the illusion of normal: wear only clothes bought at the Gap or similar chain store, do not show too much enthusiasm for anything whether it be your love of cats, your dominance in lacrosse or your enthusiasm for Ron Paul, and, for the love of all things holy ladies, to not appear too needy.

This last one is perhaps the most daunting: how to not appear "needy" when you, as a human being, are clearly filled with lots, and often, conflicting needs.

Last night, five bottles of wine into one banger of a ladies night, I sparked a conversation about women's "neediness" with some of my best Chicago lady friends (This kind, not this kind). From the vocal and self-confessed "narcosiss-filled" Catholic to reserved and pensive brunette, every one of my 20-something friends and I seem to have had moments of feeling too "needy" and thus doubting our own sanity, our own normal.

Whether we are over-analyzing those three magic words, weekly fearing breakups that never materialize, or ceaselessly worrying about a partner's Playboy-approved past, we have all censored ourselves with our partners as to not appear crazy or worse needy. Plainly said, we worry about being too needy, of being "that" girl, "that" girl that the media warns men about and that women are constantly trying to prove they are not.

I see this in every Match.com profile; men just looking for a "chill and laid back" chick, a girl with "no drama" who just wants to "hang out." Who is this girl? A happy fun time Barbie? What these Match men are really looking for is a good actress, because nobody is just chilled and laid back unless they are mixing Valium with a bottle of Malbec.

Everybody, male or female, gets angsty about something whether it is freaking out about their futures or dismaying over the decline of American culture thanks to Rachel Black. It is in attempting to hide this angst that we truly get crazy.

Think about it. What is really crazier? Telling your partner that you need him to spend more time with you, plan a special date or at least turn off the game during sex or repressing that need until it explodes one night over tequila shots and sounds a slurry something like this "I don't know why you just can't love me more?! Is it because you hate my hair? Why do you hate my hair?! Is it because your mother hates my hair? I know she does. Don't lie!" Crazy just amplifies if you don't talk about it.

So why then do women feel the pressure to hide their worry, concern and angst under a veil of smoky eyes and mystery while men wear their neurosis like a grossly oversized Kanye pendant?

After reading a recent Salon article I think it partially from old sexist stereotypes of the needy girl. In the article, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, co-founder of Feministing, explains the needy girl dilemma.

I think it's a matter of recognizing that as a woman when you have needs and ask for them you get put into this sexist stereotype. Part of how you fight sexist stereotypes yourself is having healthy self-esteem, and recognizing what you're looking for and when your partner does not meet your needs. A lot of these conflicts come up when women feel like their very identity is based on male approval.

I would like to think that as a self-professed feminist since age 10, I would be "above" all this silliness but my recent venture into online dating proved otherwise. I found myself trying to impress men I wasn't even impressed with. I just wanted them to like me even if I never wanted so to see them again. And if I did like them, well, good lord, did the worry start.

What would they think of my feministy blog, my Gaper's Block column, my tendency to bruise easily, my crazy Packer loving family, my curiosity with 1920's erotica and my obsessive love of cheap wine? Would they understand my need for responses to my drunken texts, lengthy discussions about gender roles in our society, and occasional backrubs accompanied by traditional adulations? And if I expressed these needs, would I be put in the crazy box?

And mainly why did I care so much if I was put in the crazy box? Why did I care so very much about being a normal non-single girl?

Then I read an amazing article in the Atlantic which spoke to the very real issue of why, despite my feminist zeal, I still wanted to be excessively "normal" and gain male approval and why being single sometimes seemed all-defining.

All of which is to say that the single woman is very rarely seen for who she is -- whatever that might be -- by others, or even by the single woman herself, so thoroughly do most of us internalize the stigmas that surround our status.

I had first hand experience of unintentional "singlism" at Thanksgiving this year when my one of my very favorite people in the world, my 22-year-old cousin, looked me dead in the blurry Miller Lite-induced eyes and said "Nik, I just want you to find someone, get married and be happy."

To be honest, I want this too, but until my baby cousin said it in this almost sad tone, as if the years were slipping by me; I didn't think others thought of this as their primary wish for me. At 26, my priority list currently lies with getting a PhD, traveling to Africa and finishing season three of "The Wire." A partner is in the plan but it is not how I define myself and it wasn't really on my radar as a priority until this drunken tête-à-tête.

Suddenly my own definition of myself was in question; well at least until I sobered up, had an Alka-Seltzer and realized what was really crazy here is trying to fit your life into what your family, the media or society tells you is normal.

Of course the pursuit of normal is not just a lady affliction. I can practically see the beads of sweat rolling from male suitors' temples in their attempts to be "cool." But usually they let that go around the time they let go of the first fart as well; luckily "cool" doesn't last long. Women however cling to the notion of normal for a lifetime.

More than just musings on online dating, this article is a little promise to myself: I will not be normal. I will be honest and real and occasionally sound a little crazy if not just paranoid. I will not be afraid of being "that" girl.

Honestly we are all a little if not a lot crazy. The sooner let your crazy out, the sooner you can see if it matches with someone else's crazy. There are people out there who can handle your drunken high-pitched rants, people who are sympathetic to your 101 anxieties about life, people who love you even if you can't say the L word, and maybe just maybe there is someone out there who loves 1920s-era erotica just as much as this girl.

TIP


I've been meaning to try GrubWithUs for months now. The concept is simple: get eight strangers together and have them split a meal family style. Basically it is eight strangers eating mass quantities of food at delicious restaurants across Chicago. You pay up front and everything including tip is in the initial price.

I selected Irazu, a Costa Rican Restaurant in Bucktown, for my first Grub experience and all I have to say is everything was delightful. From the plentiful delicious food, to the super sweet waitress to my awesome fellow grubbers, it was well worth the 20 something bucks. This is something you can and should do alone. My only tip is get there early so you can score a seat in the middle to maximize conversation possibilities.

Previous Entry: The Best of the Worst
Next Entry: We Met On Match...

 
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online dating survivor / December 1, 2011 1:34 PM

Feeling needy is completely understandable, especially when you're figuring out how to communicate with someone and establish expectations. How do you know what they think of you when you can't read them yet and don't know what they think of anything? It's part of dating. Beyond finding a person you like who likes you back, another important thing is finding a person who tells you they like you in a way you understand and want to hear it.

Niki / December 8, 2011 1:30 PM

The crazy goes both ways it seems: http://scallywagandvagabond.com/2011/12/yikes-rejected-man-sends-woman-1615-word-manifesto-as-to-why-she-should-continue-seeing-him-she-in-turn-posts-it-on-the-web/

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By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

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Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

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