I’m kind of like Drew Barrymore’s character in that movie, “Never Been Kissed,” except I doubt that my story will end with me making out with my Prince Charming on a baseball field.
Okay, I’ve never actually seen that movie. But I know its basic plot. And I’ll be honest: One of my biggest fears is ending up like the spinster aunt from any number of films and TV shows. I’m nearly 21 years old and I’ve never had a boyfriend or been kissed. So Courtney Fletcher’s most recent column struck a chord with me.
Fletcher, a fellow Daily staffer and a member of the University’s volleyball team, discussed her history with the opposite sex (Boys and arrested development, 06/25/2010). She described a heart-wrenching experience of rejection at age nine (I’ve been there, Courtney), and her lackluster high school dating record (I’ve been there, too). She also said that college hasn’t been much better (Join the club — I’m the president).
I wasn’t encouraged by this tale of woe. Courtney is a lot better looking than me, plus she’s athletic and intelligent. If Fletcher hasn’t been particularly lucky in love, what hope is there for me? I am so S.O.L.
But that’s enough of that pity party. Fletcher meant her column as encouragement to other young women and expressed a gung-ho spirit that I admire, but she reached a conclusion that I don’t agree with. She determined that “boys are merely a distraction.” Being in the same boat as Fletcher, I think the situation is more complex than that. Young women certainly shouldn’t base their self-worth on their relationship (or lack thereof) to guys. But they also shouldn’t let a rocky start to relationships define their perspective of love — or the opposite sex.
Fletcher’s reaction is one that a lot of people have. It’s certainly very prominent thinking in a lot of feminist circles. I often hear strong, intelligent women announcing that women don’t need men.
I don’t buy that. Women need men. And men need women. People need each other.
I think that the “women don’t need men” battle cry is often repeated as an act of self-preservation. It’s certainly easier to become defensive than feel lonely. Or, worse, to feel like there’s something wrong with you. I’ve felt that way. But a quick Google search revealed thread after thread started by young women who feel the same way, and a handful of blogs discuss the topic as well. The search made me feel a bit better. It’s encouraging to know I”m not a one-of-a-kind romantic anomaly.
According to 2005 statistics — the most recent I could find — accumulated by The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, about 75 percent of men and women have sex between the ages of 18 and 19. And 19 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 21 are virgins. The percentage drops to about 8 percent between ages 22 and 24. Granted, having sex and having a boyfriend aren’t the same thing by any stretch of the imagination. But being part of the minority here is still an uncomfortable place to be, because it’s easy to see yourself as the freak.
That’s why I’ll admit that saying that women don’t need men isn’t the unhealthiest perspective a woman can develop. It certainly encourages self-reliance and inner strength. Of course I support these qualities in the modern woman and like to think that I have both. And I certainly don’t think that women — especially young women like me who are in the process of growing and developing their individuality — should feel like they need a boyfriend to be complete.
My outlook on relationships — which has been determined mostly by love songs, literature and bad television shows — is that people need to feel confident about themselves in order to be capable of having a healthy romantic relationship. I’ve known a few people who have vested too much of their self-worth and identity in having a relationship. And that can’t be healthy.
Women should be able to stand on their own two feet before they attempt to lean on someone else or let someone else lean on them. And relationships — romantic and platonic — are about reciprocity. But you can be complete and lonely at the same time. For example, I like to think I am generally a complete person. But sometimes I also feel like the focus of a crooning country song about lonely hearts and neon moons. I don’t think that makes me weak. I think it makes me human.
Rachel Van Gilder is the Daily’s 2010 editorial page editor. She can be reached at email@example.com.