Virgin's Guide to Burning Man

A Virgin's Guide to Burning Man can be found here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

This I Used to Believe

Once upon a time, I used to believe it was of utmost importance to command the respect of my significant other in my relationships. I choose those words precisely. I say "command the respect" because, in my little belief system of the time, it was more than just having his respect. The way I understood respect was something more along the lines of having him bow at my feet. Whatever I wished, he would make so. If there was anything I did not wish, he could not press me. I thought it was my duty as a woman of the modern age, my duty as a feminist, to have total, complete control in the relationship. Of course, that also meant respect was a one-way street. For how could I respect a man who did not stand up for himself, even if it was me he must stand up against?

My command of my boyfriends' respect sounds atrocious now put in such words, and in all honesty, I am exaggerating to some extent. I am not unkind and I do care for the people in my life. I do try to please and find ways to make my loved ones happy. But when push came to shove, there is more than a kernel of truth to my statement above. Part of it came from having a supremely strong mother, and part of it came just from what I understood it meant to be a strong woman. And I was happy because I pretty much got whatever I wanted. And the men I dated were happy to supply it. And when I was ready to move on, well...I'm sorry darlin', but it was good while it lasted, right?

But then I fell in love. And I don't just mean the love you feel for really special people in your life. I mean real, head over heels, no one but him kind of love--where rationality has no place because logic--or even Haagen Daas ice cream--can't fill the hole in your soul in which only he belongs. Where you can't even put up any defenses, because somehow he got past them when you were looking the other way. And then I discovered there is no such thing as feminism in love. There's no such thing as 'commanding' respect. Because when you love, when you really love with your whole being, there is no room for pride. There is no ego; there is only the two of you.

And then respect becomes, unerringly, a two-way street. Because respect is intrinsic to true love; without it, love wouldn't exist. Love wobbles without trust, but it perishes without respect. You don't have to fight for your rights as a woman, you don't have to prove your equality. You just are and he just is, and everything clinks into place. Gender roles don't matter. You just do your thing and he does his...and on everything else you meet in the middle. Because really, who the fuck cares who does the dishes and who smashes the big, scary bugs? At the end of the day, all that matters is you take care of each other. Not saying it is easy, not by a long shot. Just saying, in true love, there's no such thing as keeping score.

I heard a segment on NPR today discussing "This I Used to Believe". It's not about what you believe now, but what convictions you once held. It's less about who you are now, and more about how you've changed and what brought about that change. So I invite you to comment: What did you use to believe?

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