I just wanna look good for WHO?: Dressing, dining, and dating as a feminist

My boss lady friend Ariel wrote a great post about “That stupid Selena Gomez song and second wave feminism.” Just from that title in quotations, you probably know the song I’m talking about. I sure did…

So the gist of Ariel’s post was a conversation that ensued between her and her husband about whether or not that song is gross. I laughed, because I had that exact same conversation, except it was just with myself in the car the other day…

“WHAT!? You want to look good for WHO!? Naw girl, that’s awful. Look good for YOU.”

“Oh, but Megan, did you not just wear a skin-tight dress out to dinner the other night in front of a bunch of strangers because your man thinks you look amazing in it?”

“Yeah… shit. I did, huh? That was both fun and weird. Does that make me a bad feminist?”

“It makes you a fun partner.”

“But does it make me a bad feminist?”

“Maybe.”

“See! I want to make choices for myself not for him.”

“But you made that choice for yourself to make that choice for him.”

“I’m confused.”

“Me too.”

“Just enjoy the music.”

This has been a kind of over-arching theme that I’m self-conversing about a lot lately. There are a lot of times that I have questioned my choices and have questioned the concept of choice itself — What is and isn’t my choice? Am I giving myself a choice? Do I even like my choice? — while dating.

For example, my boyfriend happens to be really passionate about restaurants, and he loves dining out. It happens to be one of my most favorite things to do as well. So there, that’s good. I’m doing something with him that I love to do as well, all is fine. Nothing to worry over here.

EXCEPT! Imagine you’re me: A girl who spent the last 10 years with a partner who didn’t like to go to new restaurants and flat-out didn’t like fine dining options, relegated to restaurants where we knew there’d be a “hamburger” or “pepperoni pizza” options. And you’re now you’re newly single and on a date at a new and super-trendy Mexican restaurant with a guy you really really like. (“Yes! Mexican food,” you think. “I’ve got this.”) Then you are handed a menu that feels more like a yearbook, and the first thing you set your eyes on is this:

Queso Fundido
melted asadero, oaxacan and panela cheeses over roasted pasilla chiles with sautéed cremini and chanterelle mushrooms, fire roasted tomato salsa, avocado tomatillo sauce and house-made flour tortillas

So you think, “No worries, I’ll just order a simple taco. That should be easy.” And instead of “steak, chicken, or fish,” you get hit with choices like, “Crispy Sea Bass, Chipotle Tofu Lettuce Wrap, or Cochinita Pibil.”

I had climbed out the burger and pizza frying pan and into the boutique, shared-plate format, “Barrio Style Fine Dining” fire, with an emphasis on organic as well as a full vegan menu with gluten-free options. After a 10 year dearth of interesting culinary experience, menus are very different and confusing to me now. I was instantly overwhelmed and panicky.

So I started to do this thing where I just let my boyfriend order. Like… every time. What started out as an “anxiety hack” on that second date (“I’m feeling overwhelmed, why don’t you just order”), is now just a relationship default. What we eat is about 90% his choice — the 10% that is mine is stipulating “no bacon, nothing cooked ‘rare,’ and not too spicy.”

In a pre-boyfriend world, I was eating frozen burritos. This is what my culinary world looks like now that he’s ordering the meals.

 

The thing is, while our meals are 90% his choice, I’m 100% happy with this arrangement. I, in fact, fucking LOVE this arrangement. I love sitting down, and glancing at the mostly-Greek-to-me menu for fun, but knowing full well that I don’t have to worry about it. Mike is good at food, he knows a lot of shit, he knows what I might like and what I definitely don’t want, and, beyond that, I’m finding it super-sexy to have my partner just take control of the situation.

Er… does that make me a bad feminist? Does that make me a submissive partner? Do I look weak? Are servers going back into the kitchen and being all, “you should have seen this bitch just sitting there why her boyfriend just decided everything they were going to eat. Naw girl, that’s awful. You should order for YOU.” Honestly, I don’t know. And I wish I could say that I don’t care. But clearly I do. I definitely can’t shake some of this second-wave feminist guilt.

While confronting these issues at the beginning of my (albeit short-lived) dating career, I felt the existential angst rising up, and threatening to quickly overtake me in a tsunami of questions: What should/will/or do I wear now when I go out as a single person? Would I want or need to change the style my hair to make me seem more approachable? I was getting bored with it before I became single, but would changing it now look like I was changing it for someone else? Is this all in the quest to make myself attractive in order to find a new parter, or do I want to do be doing this for myself too? Am I eating this because I want to, or because he wants me to? I mean, sure I wouldn’t have ordered this, but I like it. Does that make me look like I don’t know what I want in life? Is this what dating is like? Is this going to be forever? I’m confused now. Can’t I just enjoy the music???

Through all these conversations with myself, I’m realizing that it’s totally possible to want to look good, or enjoy something for your partner and for yourself AT THE SAME TIME. I like to think of that tight dress I wore “to look good for him” as an analogy for (my type of) dating as a feminist…

rocking my sexy chainmail dress on a date

Yes, I wore a skin-tight dress that felt very “not me” to wear. I was uncomfortable with the fact that I was inviting the general male gaze. But I didn’t let that ruin the fact that I was actively inviting and delighting the one male gaze that I desired. While, at the same time, I made damn sure that my “sexy” dress was in a very kick-ass, geek-chic, chainmail fabric, that both represented and made me feel like the bad-ass bitch that I know I am.

2 thoughts on “I just wanna look good for WHO?: Dressing, dining, and dating as a feminist

  1. KathyRo

    You’ll have to excuse my saying so but this dress does in fact seem very you! I have watched you Instagram plenty of sexy clothing. I think it was the change in venue ( posh restaurant ) that made you more uncomfortable.

    The way I look at it, it’s not the purpose of feminism to weigh in on every single like or dislike I have, every tiny action. I don’t think being a feminist means you can never do anything that conforms to gender stereotypesl. In fact from my perspective you can be completely stereotypical and still be a feminist.

    It’s completely ironic that something that was supposed to be liberating – feminism – now has it’s own stereotypes. Sometimes people are surprised to find out I’m a feminist because I like wearing dresses. To them I say, “A feminist is somebody who believes men and women should have equal rights and that’s it.” I still like to cook ( sometimes even for my man! ). I still like to sew and knit. Got nothing to do with feminism.

    What can a feminist wear? ANYTHING. What does a feminist look like? ANYBODY. Some feminists even have penises. How patriarchal is that??

    Look, I’m not blind to the fact there’s socio-political issues buried in fashion. And I’m familiar with the statistics on what happens to girls’ self-esteem in their teens. I have a niece in middle school and the struggle is real. I get it. But you didn’t show up at a middle school dressed like that. And I bet there was a bunch of other stuff you did later on that night just to please your boyfriend that are also not appropriate to share with children. Are you going worry about that being feminist too? No, because it’s got nothing to do with feminism.

    You are a feminist because you believe that men and women are equal and no sartorial choice minimizes that.

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  2. soundtek

    I look at it like this… if I made the choice, then that’s feminism… no one else made me dress that way or shamed me into it… I did it because I wanted to – the reason for wanting to (looking good for him or just because its what I wanted to wear) is not as relevant…. I got to make that choice

    As for the restaurant, who cares if he is ordering for you – if its your choice for him to order for you (which it was)…. there is no shame in learning something new, or admitting someone is better at something than you (like knowing what to order) – and if they are better at it then you, then letting them use their talents to help you out is not anti-feminism… in fact, its kind of feminism in a different form – it means equality for everyone, right? It becomes a problem when you do want to finally order for yourself and are not allowed to – as long as you have the choice, then you are cool….

    Im sure there are plenty of things that he lets you take the lead on too, which is what makes a good relationship – its being good for each other while being good to yourself

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