As you may have guessed from the letters, photos and dismembered teddy bears I’ve been sending you, I found our breakup very difficult. After spending two years of my life committed to someone, I couldn’t bring myself to accept the reality that I was really alone. I realize now, with the help of my feminist fashionista support group, that in order to move on, I just need to let you know how I feel. What better way to make a girl feel self-assured about her independent lifestyle choices than with a whole bunch of bitching about how much she needs a man?
What I’m trying to say is, I understand that you want to get out there and play the field. After all, it’s not your fault that we subconsciously play out the socially acceptable sexual roles instilled in us by the hegemonic forces of a patriarchal culture, trapping us in what is deemed to be male and female behavioural normalcy by centuries of systemic misogyny upheld by exploitative mores and inegalitarian practices of — where was I? Oh yes — your new super-macho, floozy-loving life of oh-so-manly debauchery. So, I want you to get out there, Jack. Meet some girls. Prove your manhood. Why commit to someone with the same interests, goals and aspirations as you when you can have a vapid, trampy coed too dim to wonder why a successful man in his thirties is still hitting on college girls at a bar?
In no time you’ll be back on your feet, scanning the dance clubs every weekend looking for Ms. Right. She’s bound to be there, hidden among the hundreds of drunk girls in morally questionable attire, grinding to bad remixes of commercial hip hop and thinking, “Wow, this guy who keeps trying to grab my ass could really be the one.”
So you’ll buy her a couple of drinks, tell her she’s pretty and go back to her place. Then you’ll wake up the next morning in the uninspired serenity of her catalogue-clone bedroom and realize you can’t remember if her name is Tanya or Tammy. You’ll concentrate on not waking up your new special friend as you tiptoe through Ikealand past a panel of tiny circular mirrors, each one reflecting back a six-inch slice of your pitiful, unshowered self.
But oh — she’s heard you, and she’s rolling over off her mascara-smeared pillow and asking what your plans are for later. Last night was wonderful and she wants to see you again! She’s also super-excited that you’re a lawyer because her third-year criminology class is totally lame and maybe you can, like, help her study for the mid-term next week.
You try to think of an excuse — Work? It’s Saturday. Yoga? Not manly enough. Gastric bypass surgery? Crap — but she’s already picking your T-shirt off the floor, putting it on and asking what you want for breakfast. (She has Slim-Fast and Pop-Tarts.) Also, she wants you to meet her roommates Sandy and Candie, her cat Twinkles and her mom, who is coming in an hour to pick her up for lunch.
So you panic. How bad can she be? After all, she’s pretty and — pretty, and it’s not like you’re making any sort of commitment. Isn’t this what playing the field is all about? So you give Tanya (you’re pretty sure it’s Tanya) your phone number and agree to meet for coffee the next afternoon.
Jack, you should consider yourself lucky you’re a guy. There’s no underlying social current urging you to simultaneously be a demure and docile wife, worthy companion and perpetually available, hypersexual toy. As a woman, I’ve mastered the art of split-personality acrobatics. It’s a delicate balance. Too much demure docility and you’re a prude, but too much hypersexuality and you’re nympho Jill, a turbo-slut extraordinaire.
Men don’t have that issue. Unlike women, promiscuous men are praised for their sexual prowess, and if men are inexperienced, then women chalk it up to sensitivity. That’s how I felt about you. I thought, “It’s so nice to meet a guy who doesn’t need to sleep around to prove something.” I liked that you had only been with a couple of women, even if it did mean putting up with months of sexual awkwardness. But don’t worry, I actually found your bedroom banality refreshing. Who needs an attentive and innovative lover when you have the never-ending cycle of you on top, then me on top, like a passionless merry-go-round that I could never manage to get off? But lack of sexual compatibility aside, I can only imagine that your next relationship will be nothing short of earth-shattering. I mean, Tanya seems really nice (which is impressive for a figment spawned by the envy-inspired rantings of my deep-seated rage) and I can picture everything working out for the two of you.
I can see it now: You and Tanya have been seeing each other for a couple of weeks, and overall it’s been great. You taught her the role legal institutions have on the maintenance and production of social order, and she introduced you to Hugh Grant’s career repertoire. You brought her to your office Christmas party wearing that leopard-print tube dress, and she brought you to a Delta Zeta Mu kegger where people kept telling you how much you look like Dr. Weinberg, the new biochemistry professor.
But one evening, after a particularly painful rerun of The Hills, Tanya turns to you, tosses her brazen curls over her shoulder, and tells you it’s not working. She just thinks you’re, like, too adult and serious, and well, kind of nerdy. You’re always working and reading and paying bills and stuff, and she’s just, like, really looking to party and have fun. She really likes you and you’re really cute and stuff, but she thinks you guys are just too different, and Sandy and Candie agree.
You’re stunned. Boring? Nerdy? Is she serious? But you’re cool, you have tattoos, you play guitar. In high school, you even had a mohawk, and that was only eighteen years ago. Sure, maybe you’re a little nerdy (your weekly D&D meetings come to mind, and the fact that you used to write me love letters on Doctor Who stationery doesn’t inspire much confidence) but it’s an endearing kind of nerdy, isn’t it?
So Tanya wasn’t the one. But don’t sweat it. I’m sure there’s another young, impressionable girl just waiting to bring you blissful weeks of hourly text messages and in-depth conversations about ugg boots. Besides, you don’t want to rush into another serious relationship, clinging to the first girl who bats her eyelashes and jumps into bed with you. You have to be a man about this whole playing the field thing. It’s all about finding girls, making them think you like them, using them, and cutting them loose. Girls love that kind of thing. They may cry or yell or stalk you at first, but deep down, they are truly feeling fulfilled. Don’t worry, Jack — you’ll get it eventually. I have complete confidence that with a little practice you can shed that pesky sensitive-man exterior and join the ranks of the real jackasses.
And Jack, I want to thank you for listening. I feel much better after sharing my feelings. In fact, this breakup gives me the chance to go out and meet new people as well. If I’ve learned anything from Sex and the City, it’s that I don’t need a steady, healthy relationship to be a self-sustaining, independent woman. The secret to faux feminist well-being is to take control of your sexuality, your career and your life by using your body to get what you want under the guise of self-determined autonomy (I should probably also update my shoe collection and start drinking cosmopolitans). I wonder what Betty Friedan would think of my plan to embrace a self-deprecating existence of no-strings-attached sex and Manolo Blahniks, all the while secretly aspiring to achieve the ultimate goal of finding a husband to live out my 1950s domestic fantasy.
Oh well, I’m sure everything will work out for the best.