In the fifth grade I was sent home for punching a boy in the face. He confessed his love for me on the playground and without hesitation I responded in the form of a knuckle-sandwich. From that moment on, it was apparent that I had a difficult time accepting romantic love and that I may have a complex relationship with the male sex. After my fifth-grade outburst, my parents decided that the best course of action was to send me to an all-girls Catholic school where hopefully I could focus more on my schooling and less on my right-hook.
For six years of my life I was empowered intellectually but also told that I would tarnish my “inner golden Buddha” if I lost my virginity. We once had an entire class dedicated to how birth control could kill us and were forced to watch an abortion on VHS. I cringed every time I had to find a prom date and eventually resorted to joining my Church youth group in a desperate attempt to find eligible boys who would look good in a tux. I graduated a virgin with an excellent education but a very confused outlook on sex, love and relationships.
When I fell in love for the first time, I fell head over heels. Unfortunately it was with someone who was also very difficult to love. For two years I poured my heart and soul into the relationship only to be met with resistance, fights and emotional abuse. Being so young and having no former experience to draw upon, I let myself be dragged into the chaos and when the relationship finally ended I was left in pieces.
Since then, I have picked myself up and rebuilt my life in a way that makes me proud. It was a long process and finally at the age of 25 I am happy with my path and the people who grace it. In the years following that first relationship, the men have come and gone. I have yet to enter into another long-term commitment and each time a fling ends I ask myself, “why am I so difficult to love?”
My story is not unique. I see many of my friends struggle to find a relationship that sticks, not due to lack of opportunities but due to their desire to protect a hard-earned lifestyle. Society is becoming increasingly more feminist and open, but through this change the evils of machismo have been further revealed. Many of us were raised in a transforming society where we were taught as teenagers that sex is scary, but in our twenties discovered how to be sex positive. We are aware of the power and beauty of our bodies and feel no shame in being sexually experimental, but are also acutely aware of the danger and frequency of sexual assault and domestic violence. These dichotomies are confusing and often overwhelming in the dating world. Like my fifth-grade self, I feel the need to demonstrate my strength and independence when someone develops feelings for me. Not because I truly dislike the individual, but because as a modern woman I am aware of the dangers of love.
We no longer see love as a fairy tale, but rather as winding road, full twists and turns and potential dead ends. As empowered women working towards successful careers we are often compelled to get in the car with a partner. However, after a quick cost-benefit analysis we bail after the first turn in the road. With soaring divorce rates, marriage is no longer viewed as an unshaking promise of dedication, but rather as an excuse to have a fancy party that looks great on Instagram or something you “should do” before having kids. It is no surprise that we are hesitant to commit to someone, create a shared life and potentially compromise our career goals, when there is no guarantee that it will work out. While uncertainty is one of the most prominent themes of life, we also live in a time where it is considered far more acceptable to be a successful single woman and mother, therefore far more women view marriage as a choice and not a necessity.
Women like me get branded as flippant, eager to be with someone but once it becomes serious we flee. We want to have a partner but also don’t want our independence to be threatened in any way. I find an intensely emotional and loving partner to be suffocating, but a distant and cold one torturous. I want a partner that will respect my space and understand that I have my own career and money, but who will also get along with my family and be a great parent. Every time an individual tells me they love me, I immediately recoil and run through a list of “what if’s.” Do I love this person? Will this person distract me from my goals and dreams? Is this person worth being distracted for? How long will this love last? While this may all sound incredibly cynical, I will argue that I do believe a happy marriage and lasting love is possible, it just requires the right partnership and a social awareness that we women juggle throughout our entire life.
I genuinely believe that for women, love is far more complex. We choose someone not merely based on physical and emotional attraction, but also on their capacity to respect our independence, understand the emotional complexity of sex, and commit to us in a way that does not smother us but also does not leave us hanging. Due to these standards, we often find we are much happier alone than in the confines of a relationship. I know my busy life currently leaves little time for actively seeking out the perfect partner and I’m ok with that. So the next time that I ask myself, “why am I so difficult to love?” My response will be:
I am difficult to love because I have a difficult definition of love. I am difficult to love because we live in a difficult society. I am difficult to love because I have chosen a difficult career path. I am difficult to love because being a woman is difficult. I am difficult to love because it was difficult to create the life I have proudly built alone. Finally and most importantly, I am difficult to love because I believe that the difficult things in life are the most rewarding.
Now accepting applications for anyone willing to take on the challenge.