A female experience

I’m going to begin this post with a sort of disclaimer.  What follows concerns things that I have experienced as a woman (that I think just about every woman has experienced in some way).  I have been female my entire life and thus speak from that perspective.  This post is not about the ways that women can misbehave or treat others badly.  I know that there are those people out there.  I want to avoid the comments about ‘what about when girls do this’ because I’m aware of it.  This. is not. about. that.  Go write your own blog.

Portrait of the artist as a young tomboy.

Portrait of the artist as a young tomboy.

I am a very lucky person in a lot of ways.  I have a good relationship with my parents.  So I grew up with a supportive father.  I have a sister close to me in age and when we were growing up our parents were best friends with a couple who had two boys, each close to us in age.  We had male cousins that we were close to growing up.  Basically we grew up with good experiences being around guys and with the knowledge that guys could be friends.  Not all women are as lucky, (and some have been very unlucky) but this is the background that I came from.

Perhaps this is why I continued to have close guy friends growing up.  (I had female friends too, my best friend is a lady who has had my back for over thirty years, this post is not about that.)  One of my best friends in high school was a guy whose soul was similar to mine.  We sat in each others rooms together and made cheesy mixed tapes for our sweethearts.  He told me how he loved her so much that when he hugged her he wanted to smush her all the way inside of him. He told me all about when she was breaking his heart and I listened and did my best to console him.  I gave him letters to burn from a relationship that had caused me a lot of pain and asked him to promise not to read them.  I still know that he didn’t read them.  We trusted each other that much and were entirely platonic.  You can scoff.  This was my experience.

I’m going to skip on now that we have the background and get to what I feel compelled to address.  

In my twenties I decided to take martial arts classes. (If you’ve known me in life or clicked around on the site at all, you’ll know that I went pretty far with this.) Early in my martial arts career, there was a rather uncoordinated, rather stiff, balding, dorky dude who was about the same rank as me. I often partnered with him because he was never anyone’s first choice of partner and I felt bad for the guy. We ended up being partners a lot because of that, and thankfully most of the instructors made us switch partners often so I did get a well-rounded experience. At a certain point, I had to change my class schedule because I was cast in a play. After I told my instructors, partner dude asked if I wanted to get coffee after class since we wouldn’t be seeing each other in class for a while. Now, Partner Dude was married with kids and we’d had the odd platonic coffee before. I had a long term, live-in boyfriend at the time, although it was rocky. The coffee invite raised no red flags, but I declined because it was too late for coffee if I wanted to get any sleep. He suggested a drink instead at the bar next door.  He said it was his treat. Why not?

We go next door and find that a table of black belt instructors is also having a post workout beer. Before anything beyond introductions can be made, one of them has bought our drinks and is ushering us to their table. I was in total naive awe of the company I was suddenly keeping. One was an instructor whose class I attended, one was a previous instructor whose class I had graduated from and one I did not know. We chatted, had fun, a couple more rounds were bought and we made our way out. One of them offered me a ride home as his car was right out front. Partner Dude strode off without saying goodbye. I remember calling out goodbye to him as he crossed the street and feeling that he was mad at me when he didn’t respond but I didn’t know why. Since I couldn’t think of a reason, I forgot about it.

Two kids just out of college who moved up to Chicago together as platonic roommates. We lived together for a year without anything other than the normal bickering over who was responsible for which mess in the kitchen.

Two kids just out of college who moved up to Chicago together as platonic roommates. We lived together for a year without anything other than the normal bickering over who was responsible for which mess in the kitchen.

Flash forward several months. I break up with my boyfriend. Everyone in the school learned this fairly quickly because I tried to take a yoga class the morning after the break up and ended up crying through the entire thing. The following week more people tried to ask me on dates than I had ever imagined. It was … unwelcome and overwhelming. My ex hadn’t even moved out yet. No blame on anyone there, I’m sure there are a lot of girls who would have enjoyed jumping right into the dating pool, or at the very least would have liked the attention, but I wanted to be alone for a while. Partner Dude mentioned to me that he was trying to find a roommate in the city for when he couldn’t get back out of town since he often worked long hours. He said he was trying to save money. I didn’t want a roommate at the time. I wanted to be alone.

Flashing farther forward, he found another girl in the school to room with. He became her partner in classes. She eventually ended up in a relationship with him. Later, looking back, I remembered that he had taken the time, when giving me a ride home from class once, to tell me a story about how he had been asked out. How he had told his wife about it and how she was totally cool with it and he went on the date with the woman. At the time I remember thinking it was a weird story, but I just wanted to get to where I was going and didn’t read anything into it. I put all of these events in a sequence to show the order of things. There was a lot of time in between things and many things were not this obvious. I was naive, but not that naive. Later, when I put it all together, I was annoyed. But it was a lesson I learned. Just because you’re both in committed relationships, doesn’t mean you’re ‘safe.’

I learned a lot of these lessons quickly at that school as it was kind of a pressure cooker. Another one is just because someone is your instructor, doesn’t mean you’re safe. Some guys do have the care and self awareness to treat a student/teacher relationship, or any kind of relationship with a hierarchy discrepancy, with a little more delicacy. This post is not about that.

I try to be very careful now. I still very much want friendships, but I also know that just because I’m married, doesn’t mean I’m safe. Just because I’m very obviously happily married, doesn’t mean I’m safe. I had a friendship with a sweet, if awkward introvert, also happily married, who would occasionally send me kitten pictures or inspirational quotes online. Eventually, he also sent me a long message informing me that he was poly-amorous and that I had been one of his crushes for a very long time. He said he respected both of our spouses and would never act upon it. I responded very basically that I was incredibly monogamous and then stopped responding to anything. There was a moment where I thought that maybe this guy had been drunk or something when he sent the message or that maybe he felt embarrassed now. This was quickly followed by a moment where I realized that it was not my job to make him feel better about or comfortable with the choice that he made in sending that to me. Because what could it really be other than a probe?

I know that there are people out there who read my account of my high school friend who said to themselves, “Yeah, he probably was attracted to you, he just never said so.” You know what? Maybe. We’ll never know because we lost touch in college. But also, it’s possible that he was attracted to me, but he also knew that I was not attracted to him. Or that we were both in relationships with other people. And perhaps he actually valued the friendship that we had together more than a chance at a sexual encounter. There are hundreds of possibilities, but the thing that matters is that we had a safe and mutually supportive friendship and that we could talk to each other openly about the differences between perceptions across genders without worrying about being embarrassed. Why? Because he opted not to ever mention being attracted to me, if that indeed was the case.

This is a path through the woods to represent ‘working hard and going somewhere.’ I thought about posting a picture of some of the guys who ‘add to my life’ but I didn’t want to embarrass them. They know who they are.

This is a path through the woods to represent ‘working hard and going somewhere.’ I thought about posting a picture of some of the guys who ‘add to my life’ but I didn’t want to embarrass them. They know who they are.

I do have a guy friend like that now.  I am STILL learning at forty years old.  Yes, I’m much more careful now, but I still ask ‘what does this mean and how should I respond?’  And thankfully I do have someone who will have that discourse with me honestly and openly.  And I feel safe and I learn.  I know that this could span the spectrum of genders and relationships, but I don’t have that experience, so this post is not about that.

A friend of mine did a repost on Instagram of a PSA that stuck with me.  It said something like “if you see a woman who is working hard to become who she’s meant to be, and to achieve the things that she wants to achieve, and you have nothing to add to her life, or to give back to her in any way, please just leave her the hell alone.”

I see a lot of stuff about nice guys finishing last and about being ‘friend zoned.’  If you are some one who has to constantly tell people what a nice guy you are, maybe you need to take a look at yourself.  Because I find that those people… aren’t really nice.  If you don’t want to be ‘just friends’ with a woman, then ask her out.  Maybe you’ll end up with exactly what you want, maybe she’ll move on to a guy she can actually just be friends with if that’s what she wants.  If she does decide to remain friends with you, please do both of yourselves a favor and start dating other people.  I have so much else to say, but this post is not about that.

Also, realize that a lot of women are aware that most men could kill them if they wanted to.  If a woman decides to ‘be nice’ and ‘tone down’ her rejection.  Don’t take it as soft.  Especially if you’re someone she sees on a regular basis or if you’ve got her alone in your car or something.  She may just be afraid that you’re going to kill her.  The reason I started martial arts in my twenties?  A friend of mine was followed home and brutally raped and almost asphyxiated in her own apartment on New Years Eve.  Did you read the news story about the dude who (was thankfully caught before he acted) had decided since he was a virgin that he was going to go out and shoot as many women as he could get?  I saw it.  Nothing my martial arts can do if a random dude decides to shoot me from across the street as I’m going into Walgreens.

These are things to just be aware of.  They’re not ‘painting everyone with the same brush’ they’re things to know.  This is a perspective.  It comes from my experience.  I am still learning.  Maybe you are too.