I was 7 years old when I saw my mother slammed against the wardrobe, her head hitting the glass, as my father yanked her by the hair, the shoulders, whatever he could grab, as his eyes were full of rage and his body shook uncontrollably. My father was dissatisfied with how little he was able to save that month and was angry at my mother for spending too much out of the joint bank account on what he viewed were frivolous and unimportant things. I was yelled at to leave the room but at that point I had seen too much.
As I grew up, I noticed expressions of dominance all around me. I observed it as a pattern of behavior that is associated with getting what you wanted. It is characterized by cold calculative thinking that does not involve emotion and does not rely on intuition. I noticed that those who acted in a dominant manner rarely were concerned with the feelings of others. I was taught it was the attitude of winners.
The dating game has always started with the chase. Just by being female, I was automatically forced into a submissive role. I was told to always play hard to get. And when I responded to text messages too soon I appeared as too eager. When I attempted to make plans or paid compliments, I automatically entered man’s territory and was perceived as too aggressive. There is an appropriate length of time we must allow men to chase us. If we surrender too soon, we are perceived as too easy. If we wait too long, then the man will simply lose interest.
I always believed that I could get everything that I wanted if I worked hard enough, but in the dating game I quickly discovered that only men had that right.
I was puzzled when I saw a very attractive woman alongside a much less attractive man. I was alarmed when I heard my friend tell me about the verbally abusive comments her boyfriend made to her. I am continuously horrified by the physical abuse that women endure in their own home. My heart broke for fellow women whom society continuously pushed to accept the terms laid out by men.
And it all started with “the chase” where men believed that they had the grounds to fight for what they wanted and women were told that their standards were too high or that they just needed a guy who was nice to them.
A month ago, I met a newly married couple though mutual friends. They looked so happy together, laughing at each other’s jokes, poking fun at each other’s imperfections, and collaborating on building their new home. They seemed very equally matched. They worked at the same company, had jobs of a similar ranks, and both were rock climbers and avid hikers with love for adventure. So, I asked: “How did you guys meet?” They smiled at each other and he gestured her to proceed. She said: “He found me on Facebook and bothered me for months before I agreed to go out with him.” She laughed and smiled at him at which point he said: “When I first saw her, I knew I had to have her.” My face was frozen in horror and I knew I had about 3 seconds to formulate a culturally appropriate response. All I managed was a short “aww” and I quickly changed the subject.
Unfortunately, stories like these are far too common.
My parents had the same level of education, came from the same town, worked at the same company in the same position for the same wage. Yet my father never viewed my mother as an equal.
Our society continuously romanticizes women being used as objects. We are taught that our value lies in how well we are able to present our own exclusivity. We must play a careful game of give and take where we surrender slowly to our partner’s advances. We are taught that being won validates us as a suitable long-term partner.
The dating game and “the chase” transcends race, sex, and sexual orientation. It’s a phenomenon that travels from country to country and culture to culture. It’s has been so deeply entrenched within us that we no longer question it.
Until what we thought was a perfect marriage, fails.
It’s important for us as women to realize that the chase does not make us more valuable. Instead of being judged for the content of our character, we are judged on looks and exclusivity. We are taught that playing the dating game will make him want us more, but, in reality, we are objectifying and devaluing ourselves, making the act of him “winning us over” a demeaning one. Once we are won over, once we are no longer a prized possession. Once our youthful looks fade, we are discarded.
So, we turn to capitalism for answers: a wrinkle cream, youthful highlights, a new dress, anything to please our partner, to bring back the magic. We are so obsessed with preserving “the spark” that we don’t see that it’s only a by-product of “the chase”, something that we chose to include in the dating phase of the relationship. It is meant to fade as two people get to know each other. It’s not only okay for “the spark” to disappear, it’s preferable, because it’s a sign that two partners have grown so close together that there is no need for games.
We are not prizes to be won so let’s stop playing the game. Let’s reclaim the dating grounds because we also deserve to fight for what we want and not settle for who wants us, worrying that our time might run out.