I’m that friend. The one who overshares on Facebook. The one who rants about the men on Tinder who think the appropriate response to “What are your other interests?” is, “I’m interested in fucking you.” Every time I post about my online dating woes, some helpful married friend pops up with advice. And, while their words are meant to be supportive, they often make me feel worse.
So can we retire the following phrases, please?
1. "You don’t need a man!"
You’re right, we don’t. And we know this. I’ve been paying my own bills since I was eighteen, I bought my first house on my own, I’ve held a minimum of two jobs since I was sixteen, traveled independently to over six different countries…I can handle life on my own. But as I tell my five-year-old son, there is a difference between "need" and "want."
When a single, feminist friend is sharing with you her feelings of loneliness, or missing sex, or wanting connection, it doesn’t undermine her ability to take care of herself. She’s not turning in her feminist card. What she probably wants is for you to listen, to pour her another glass of wine, and to tell her that she’s gorgeous, awesome and smart and that men are idiots. Telling her that she doesn’t "need" a man can come across like you’re dismissing or invalidating her emotions. If, as feminists, we’re allowed to get angry, to be aggressive, and are told that expressing formerly off-limits emotions (by society's standards) is now cool, why can’t be lonely, too?
2. "Once you stop looking, you’ll find someone!"
Okay, I’ll just sit on my couch knitting every Saturday night and wait for Amazon’s new delivery service – Build a Boyfriend – to launch. In every other area of our lives, women are told to "lean in," or to go after what we want. Want a promotion? Ask for it! Set goals, make a plan, be a boss bitch…but not in your dating life. We’re allowed to be aggressive and ambitious in our careers, but not when it comes to pursuing a relationship.
Just because I want to date and find a boyfriend doesn’t negate all the other amazing things I’m doing. Like getting my MBA, launching a feminist fashion website, raising a five-year-old on my own, and traveling.
And isn’t it a little sexist to basically tell a woman she should sit around waiting for a guy to show up and sweep her off her feet? Or go out in public hoping for that "meet cute"? Please stop telling me how you "just ran into" your husband in the grocery store, as if my actively looking for a boyfriend is somehow a bad thing. If I spend any more time in the frozen foods aisle, I’m pretty sure the manager’s going to hand me an apron and put me to work.
3. "You have to be full and complete in yourself before you can have a good relationship."
Connection is a human need. For many of us, sex is a human need. Would you tell a friend who’s hungry that, once she stops needing food, she’ll be fed? While not a basic need like food, water and shelter, sex is a part of the human experience (unless you're asexual). Feminism hasn’t made it go away; it’s just given women more agency in the matter. Worse, this phrase oddly blames your friend for her emotions. She’s single because she feels lonely, or isn’t happy by herself. So it’s her fault that she can’t find someone. If she only stops wanting a boyfriend, then one will magically be delivered (seriously, Amazon, get on that).
I actually like spending my Saturday night knitting on the couch and binge-watching bad vampire shows. I prefer to run by myself, and get annoyed if someone talks to me before my morning coffee. But I also miss having someone to vent my frustration to when my male co-worker is telling me how to do my job (again). It was nice, during my last brief relationship, to wake up to a "good morning" text. There are pros and cons to being single or being in a relationship. I have evaluated them, and come down on the side of “I prefer to be in a good relationship.” If, as a feminist, you think your friend has the intelligence, reasoning ability, and right to make her own decisions, then that applies here, too.
Look, your single feminist girlfriend gets it. You’re just trying to be helpful, or to make her feel better. You think she’s amazing and deserves a great relationship, and if you’re a good friend, you probably feel bad for her when she shares her loneliness with you. But, trust me; she’s heard all of the above before.
If you truly want to help out, maybe scan all your single guy friends and see who you could set her up with? Or tell your guy friends on Tinder to take down the shirtless fish pics? If all else fails, buy her a bottle of wine and listen. Just listen.
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Dena Landon is a single mom who eats raw cookie dough, passionately debates intersectional feminism and frequently tangles herself in yarn. Her work has appeared on xojane.com and in Dance Teacher and Dance Spirit magazines. Her first novel was published by Dutton Children's Publishing in 2005. She blogs at femmefeminism.com, and can be found on Instagram or Facebook.