Rare is the occasion that a senior couple has been together since their freshman year, but they do exist. Recently I've found myself making judgements about these couples. I recently passed one such couple on a sidewalk and began wondering: are they happy? How have they managed to stay together after all this time, after one of them studied abroad for an entire semester? Is the chemistry really that good, or do both of them put a lot of effort and energy into maintaining a strong, healthy connection?
Then I did something that I'm honestly quite ashamed of: I wondered about her. She must be a smart, interesting, and entertaining young woman to have made him want to stay with her, I concluded. Instantly, a sense of utter disbelief spread through me - discomfort that I usually only feel if I've done something wrong. I had just given into an attitude that says women have to prove themselves in order to deserve male companionship, or an intimate relationship.
In other words, I had passively accepted an unspoken social sentiment that a man can have any woman he wants, and that therefore a woman has an enormous standard to reach in order to be equal. I had allowed myself to subscribe to an idea that women do not suffice in and of themselves; and that, in order to be valuable, a woman has to be incredible.
How could I possibly assume that he was a fine companion - a suitable mate for her or any woman, for that matter? How could I possibly imagine that if anything were to test their solidarity, it would be her? I couldn't believe that my thought process had taken such a sexist, one-sided course. I couldn't believe that I dismissed any and every conceivable flaw in him.Why did I immediately question her value when I was contemplating the surprising duration of the relationship?
What happened was that I basically assumed that she had to earn being appreciated or cared for. I assumed that being in a relationship was a privilege for her. This bothers me immensely. I don't know if other people pass the same judgments that I do. Maybe they do, and maybe it's subconscious, but it's a sorry way of looking at things. I hope that the average person does not buy into the same idea that a woman is lucky to have a boyfriend or a significant other.
But I have the feeling that people do, unfortunately, think similarly, and that's the problem. A woman is not lucky for the simple reason of being in a relationship, nor is she more valuable or better than a woman who is single. Women - myself included - need to realize (if they have not yet done so) that getting involved in a relationship with a man says absolutely nothing about their worth or value or potential. If a woman gets involved with a man, it should be her choice - because she wants to share her life with him.
Women need to rid themselves of this absurd ball and chain that says a woman must earn her equality. She was born equal and is equal, but she is told as she grows that her value becomes conditional on how well she performs - how well she keeps her man. This is wrong and distorted, and deserves serious critical analysis.
A woman can find fulfillment and personal satisfaction in herself, in the work and thoughts to which she gives of herself. A woman can find it in a healthy relationship, too, but that should not be her most prized accomplishment.