almanac

Between the Sheets: No more nonsense: putting an end to ghosting and games

For my first article of the 2016 academic year, I want to talk about something close to home for me, both literally and figuratively. Typically, I try very hard to keep my personal life separate from this column, but this semester I am blessed to live in a house with seven boss-ass bitches (BABs), and even in these first few weeks I’ve noticed patterns in each of our romantic and sexual lives I find impossible to ignore. 

Although I’m writing from my own perspective as a straight girl, I want to acknowledge that these frustrations can happen to anyone of any gender and sexuality. 

We drive ourselves mad nearly everyday trying to communicate with people we want to date, smooch, hang out with, etc. Watching myself and the ladies I love torture ourselves in an effort to come off in the right way to the ones we’re interested in has me fed up. 

I have a hypothesis about the cause of all this frustration, which is that gender is a goddamn trap. 

For many of us the term “gender roles” probably makes us think 1950s, where women cook and men go to work, but when we think about gender roles in our daily lives at UW-Madison, we might think of it more as boys making the first move and girls always looking for serious relationships. 

Even though we’ve come a long way, I personally believe that, in some aspects, we are just as trapped by gender roles and expectations now as we were in the days of poodle skirts and sock hops. 

A while ago I made a commitment to myself to start “making the first move” and “stop playing games” when it came to my love life. I started trying to actively reach out, show my interest, make plans and tell people what I wanted or how I was feeling.

Each time I did this it went the same way. Everything would start out great. I would feel really confident and like that I was taking control of my life—eliminating gender-based power dynamics, even. But then, I would get ghosted (when two people hang out and one person thinks everything is going great and then the other suddenly cuts off all communication), or things would end in an embarrassing or awkward way.

I was left feeling unresolved and confused. What did I do wrong? How could I have been more clear? Does he just assume I want to date him, even though I’m actually only looking to hang out and eat Toppers and make out? 

This happened enough times where eventually I thought to myself, “Screw it. I can’t have my heart stomped on by some dude’s elephant feet one more time. I’m just going to wait for someone to show their interest in me so I don’t get hurt—thus reinforcing the very gender stereotypes I was so adamant about breaking. 

So why is this happening to me, the girls I live with and so many others? Why do we continuously meet great people and have a fantastic time and then end up disappointed? I don’t think it’s because the people we’re seeking are evil, heartless cretins who have no respect for our time and/or feelings (although I’m lying if I say it doesn’t sometimes feel this way). I think it’s because we are all blindly and obediently following the unwritten rules of what it means to be single, 20ish-year-old “girls” and “boys.” 

Every text or snapchat we send, everything we wear, say and do is controlled by our urge to be perceived in a certain way by those around us—especially the ones we’re trying to start romantic or sexual relationships with. 

Every time I meet someone I’m interested in, I find myself asking the same questions: “But if I text or snapchat him too much, will he think I’m high-maintenance?” “If I ask for what I want between the sheets will he think I’m demanding and get turned off?” “If I message him to tell him I had a good time and I’d like to see him again is he going to think I want to date him and get weirded out?” “Or worse, what if he doesn’t respond at all?” 

If you find yourself asking these questions, tell yourself, “That’s ridiculous, do it anyway. Get what you want and deserve.” Even though it takes a lot of courage to push back—even ever so gently-—against how we’ve been taught to act, think and behave based on gender. 

I’m not saying that boys who are interested in girls don’t have these same thoughts and fears, but I am saying that girls and women are more often cast as “crazy” or “nagging” based on their romantic interactions. As one of the BABs put it, in general, “Men are not afraid of being crazy or feeling too much.”

We are trapped by gender roles, and hypermasculinity in particular. It dictates how we treat other people and how we expect to be treated. It controls whose actions and bodies are sexualized. It makes men and boys act in ways they don’t really want to. It makes women and girls expect to be treated and looked at in a way they’ve been told is desireable, and it makes people who don’t fit in the boxes of “men and boys, women and girls” feel like they are wrong because they’re “different.”  

Complaining that we’re trapped is one thing, but what can we actually do about it? One answer is: “Who the hell knows! Let’s just keep mindlessly repeating the same maddening cycle and hope that one day we either find our ‘soul mate,’ or find the sweet release of death!” 

A different, more hopeful answer is to stop living as though we are our body parts or our genders. We have to stop making choices of what to do and say with our bodies based on what we have learned is acceptable to do and say for “boys or girls”. 

Turning the second answer into real action means being as direct and clear as we possibly can be, even if we feel 1,000 percent sure it will terrify or scare away the person we’re crushin’ on. And ladies, I’m looking at you when I say being direct is not the same thing as being demanding, and anyone who says/acts like it is doesn’t deserve an ounce of your precious being.  

Part of being direct means that when it’s been three days and there has been nothing but silence from a love interest the right move is not to text them something vague and random. I know many of us have probably done this in the hopes they respond with, “Wow! You are so funny and I now realize I was an idiot for not texting you for three days. Let’s hang out right now,” but that response will never ever happen. 

Instead, a better thing to do is to send something like, “Hi. I really enjoy spending time with you and I would like to start doing that more. Is that something you would like too, or are you not interested?” This may seem a little blunt, but here is the hard part: It is imperative to resist the urge to add a disclaimer to this question. Avoid adding something like “Ha sorry, I know that’s a tough question,” or “I hope I’m not coming on too strongly…” We must never apologize for asking for the information we deserve. 

Being unapologetically direct means the respondent’s only options are either to not respond at all and show their true colors immediately, giving you the answer you needed, or to respond directly saying how they are feeling and what they want. 

Another caveat to being direct means possibly getting ‘ghosted,’ or getting a response we weren’t looking for. While this can be scary to think about, getting a complete answer will hurt much less in the end.  

To recap: Finding oneself in a sickening cycle of falling for someone. Getting let down has nothing to do with our quality as people, and everything to do with people acting how they think they should based on their gender. No matter who we are and what we’re looking for, we should feel confident asking for clarification. Love is not a game and we are not players. 

Remember kids: pizza rolls not gender roles!  

If you have ever felt personally victimized by Regina George (or gender roles) email Anna about it 

Do you or someone you know have a funny/ridiculous/beautiful/generally entertaining story about hooking up that you think people might want to read? Please write about it and send it to sex@dailycardinal.com and we might just publish it in the almanac! P.S, please keep stories anonymous and leave out any identifying information about involved parties. 

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