By Ian Taylor
As a card-carrying member of Generation Z, I’ve grown up being bombarded with messages that I should be in an intimate romantic relationship, or at the very least I should want one. I’ve been in relationships in the past, albeit very brief ones, but relationships nonetheless. While they were enjoyable in their own right, I’m perfectly happy with my life right now as it is. In fact, I’m positive that my life isn’t actually lacking anything because I’m not in a relationship. So, why do I still feel like something’s missing?
I often think about how we raise men in this heteronormative culture. We’re inundated with messages that female companionship = masculinity. “Get yourself a wife, son.” “Do you have a girlfriend yet?” “You’re gonna be a lady-killer when you grow up.” The list goes on. By linking this accessorization of women directly to our personal identities, we’re robbed of our ability to view women as individual people and figure out why or even if we want a romantic companion. As I step into adulthood, I’ve slowly begun to unravel this conditioning and come to terms with the fact that I’m perfectly content with being single.
I owe this contentment to the personal development I’ve undergone throughout college. Early on, I subconsciously took it upon myself to unlearn everything I had previously been taught about my relationship with women. Two classes that radically changed my perspectives were a feminism class and an anthropology of sex class. These classes shed light on many unconscious biases I had about women and their roles in society and relationships. After those classes, I began to view women through a much more empathetic lens, and my respect and appreciation for them increased tenfold.
This change in my mindset influenced a change in my behavior. I began to chase away the conditioned desire to have sex with every attractive woman who I interacted with. It was incredibly liberating once I got the hang of it. Not only did I free myself of this restrictive idea that affected basic interactions, but it also helped me begin to view my female friends as human individuals, complete with their own beliefs, preferences, desires, and flaws. Not to say I didn’t see them this way prior, but it felt like a proper declaration rather than an unspoken agreement within my mind. It also advanced my personal development because I began to decide what I did and didn’t find attractive. I pushed myself to look beyond appearance and consider maturity, personal tastes, social and political opinions, etc. By considering potential partners through a more well-rounded lens, I became more well-rounded myself by developing my own personality.
This shift bolstered my confidence and solidified my own identity far more than any fabricated societal standard ever would. I was finally able to be confident about who I am and express myself without fear of judgment. I realized how much of my identity was clouded by my desperation to acquire a sexualized female companion, and once I overcame that, I felt indescribably better about myself. I began to view female sexuality as a symbol of power, not a goal to conquer. I also fully embraced my tendency to be friends with mostly girls, and I began to forge far more meaningful and intimate relationships with these friends once I tackled my restrictive insecurities.
It’s this development into loving and respecting myself as an independent individual that’s granted me the privilege of security as a young man who’s single. This has also massively changed my idea of relationships. I greatly value companionship, but I’m not someone who gets attached to others easily, and that’s caused issues in my past relationships. I would want the same thing in a partner, because not only would we have that mutual understanding of each other, but we’d also both be able to maintain our individuality. I used to think my independence was insensitive to my romantic partners, but I’ve come to realize that it’s OK, and I’m not a bad person because of it. I have hope for my future because, in this day and age, the traditional monogamous standard for relationships is constantly being challenged. I know there are people out there who have as much interest in exploring those dynamics as I do. But that’s a story for another day.
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