He’s sitting there, and we’re talking, or, rather, I’m silently nodding while he tells me about his day. About his job. I smile gently, because I know that’s why I’m here: I’m here to listen, not to speak. My role on this date is not a speaking role, it is as the supporting actress/romantic interest, but in order to be romantically interesting to him, I have to smile and nod when he talks about his job.
When the question is returned to me, “How was your day? What did you do?” I brush it off quickly, mostly because I know that I wasn’t brought here to tell him about my interviews and my emails and the events I worked on and my suddenly blossoming career. He has just finished telling me about his day and his work, and I know that he didn’t ask the question in return so that I could compete with him. That’s not what he wants. That would clash with the internalized monologue we are both signing off on wherein he is the successful, financially responsible one of the pair right now.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly why I find myself downplaying my accomplishments in life: I don’t want to scare him away. It’s something I only slightly resent, but I’m starting to get tired of it. When we finish our round at this bar and then head to the next one, we’ll find ourselves in a situation that he won’t know how to handle: I’ll know everyone at the bar, and he’ll know only a few. Which is another interesting dating phenomenon I have to come to terms with; when I was younger, I was always so impressed when I went out with men who knew everyone at the bar or the club. I thought it was so cool, and in that moment I decided I wanted to be like that: well known, well respected. I thought for some reason that by being on the same social level as the men I date, that I’d be more appealing and seen as an equal. Now, however, as I swim around being single, I have found that men actually don’t want someone who can keep up because being able to keep up is being perceived as outpacing. I am outpacing them.
So I sit here, and I don’t talk about the things I do, and I try to wave off the people I know, but the fact of the matter is: as soon as this date is done, I’m going to go back to my normal life, wherein I am doing things and knowing people and not apologizing. I will not be trying to downplay my accomplishments or my social standing just to make a man I am on a date with feel better about paying for everything tonight. In fact, maybe I should stop going on dates with people who are beneath me, although, no, that’s not it. It’s not that they’re beneath me, it’s just that the power I have accumulated in life is a lot more flashy and quantifiable than theirs. It’s not that I think I’m better, it’s just that I grasp the nuance of power dynamics in gendered relationships better than they do, so as soon as I see the insecurity welling up around their eyes, I pull back. Not to mention, I’m not a dominant, controlling person, and I play my gender role gracefully. Really, I’m just a submissive girl looking for her dominant equal, but where have all the good doms gone these days? I’m sick of being more powerful and pretending to be powerless. It’s not a fun game, and in all honesty it just seems like no one can keep up these days. Can you?