As published in Woman Around Town:
New York and Washington are Mount Olympus to the metropolitan goddesses. For some, Yurmans replace the golden clasps of the white linen robes that are replaced by lovely chiffon dresses and sky-high heels. For others, juicy burgers and frozen custard is their ambrosia. They hit Shake Shack with their closest of friends, joking about the latest sex scandal that’s hit the news. Whether outwardly glamorous, quietly ingenious, or otherwise, ladies of New York are the best of the best— attractive, successful, tastefully interested in everything from cupcakes to fine wines, and socially adept.
Yet as these women float atop the steaming black asphalt towards their yellow cabs or toward the closest subway or metro station, there is still just one thing missing. They remain dateless. Great women are struggling to maintain a long-term relationship, or at the very least, to find a man for a Friday night date. How is it that beautiful, funny, intelligent and fantastic women can be left single? It seems to me that it is a sign of the times. Women are challenging the stagnant gender norms of past centuries and while this change is more than necessary, it is not without its growing pains for both women and men. The redefinition of what it means to be a woman inevitably calls for a renegotiation of what is desirable, if there even is just one model of the ideal woman. It’s easy to say that men just want sex and women just want love, but I believe that with a changing female gender norm and the idealization of the 21st century “Miss Independent,” there is a different explanation that might help us understand our unfortunate single lady syndrome. We’ve gone from Audrey to Angelina, Jackie O to Michelle, and the differences are more than skin deep.
Empowered women are often not seen as groundbreaking, but rather as women who have adopted manly characteristics; this is where is where the real problem lies. Both women and men are quick to label successful and strong women as the “Miss Independents.” You know, the women who run a business, can walk in unimaginably high heels, and can really teach a guy a lesson if he messes with her. Miss Independent doesn’t need a man; she has herself. While there are of course so many great qualities about the Miss Independents, the vulnerabilities, needs and wants of these women are painted over. A woman who is bringing home her own (soy) bacon isn’t seen as strong yet vulnerable, intelligent yet emotionally connected, or self-sufficient yet having the desire for companionship. She is simply seen as a go-getter, tough cookie who can and will take on the world, and this is not the kind of lady that most men want. Men want to feel wanted and needed in some regard. Like women, men do not want to feel like an accessory that may be supplemented at will.
Unfortunately, I think it is this is the impression given to the Miss Independents of our world—it seems that in order to prove strength, women must claim to not “need” companionship at all. They may find it, but to claim a need for a partner is demonstrating some kind of weakness. I worry about this type of thinking. Is it not fair to say that strong women, like all human beings, strive for some type of partnership? And is it not true strength to be able to face your vulnerabilities with the utmost honesty and forthrightness?
As women are breaking boundaries and changing the gender norms, so too are the men facing changes of what it means to be a man, and it is this change that perhaps has men feeling lost or confused when looking at these 21st century ladies. Whether I look around at my friend circle, or I look to the celebrity world, this trend pervades all boundaries. Talented, ambitious and wide-eyed actress Emma Watson is a beautiful twenty-one year old who has said that she has found herself dateless many times, though everyone assumes it must be otherwise. Many of my beautiful, talented, intelligent and fun female friends continue to be without dates, and I am even more shocked when I see whom my male friends end up dating. Is it because no one is interested? Or, is it perhaps because no one thinks that these ladies are interested in them since they are indeed, independent women?
So what are women to do? Certainly the solution is not to give up our mission to become strong and self-sufficient women, but it seems to me that we might want to reevaluate our view of the desirable Miss Independent. I like to think that strong women can also show their vulnerabilities. Let’s show the world that one can be powerful and compassionate, assertive and kind, independent and in want of companionship. Once the men have gained some confidence and recognize that Miss Independent isn’t all that scary but absolutely desirable, they might just stand a little taller and ask you out for dinner or drinks.