I’m Fed Up of Playing Mums-and-Dads
Is this real life? Is this just patriarchy? Caught in our old roles, no escape from misogyny…
Last week I helped my ex-boyfriend get over his erectile difficulties with his new girlfriend, which was not at all painful nor painfully awkward. He had approached me to clear some unresolved issues, and to apologise, three years late, for being a douche. “Why now?” I asked. “Because I was having trouble in bed…” he replied.
All throughout our conversation — during which I consoled him for being upset about having treated me like shit, told him we could of course be friends, and then paid for our drinks, we were both acutely aware of how gendered the roles we were playing were.
I was being the kind of “nice” which women are taught to be, which afterwards just makes you feel weak and like you betrayed your own feelings. I was doing the emotional labour of making him feel better, acting like a confession box for his sins. And it was all the more obscene because we were both so aware of the dynamics at play — since we’re both leftist activists accustomed to conversations about gender and feminism- but we still couldn’t do it differently. We just didn’t know how to behave any other way.
When you’re in a relationship with someone, you expect it to be a little microcosm where you escape from society. Except when you are in a heterosexual relationship, instead your couple is the place where you directly play our gender differences. Where we are trapped in our gender roles, as though to feel ourselves exist we need to revert to the most profound source of self-identification that our society provides: girl or boy, pink or blue. Caught in a grotesque game of Mums-and-Dads.
And I am so fed up of playing. It feels like a game of Monopoly at 3 am when no one wants to play anymore — apart from the one person who is clearly winning — but you still remain.
Another recent incident where I watched myself, and my current boyfriend, play out this game: he wanted to do something sexual which I didn’t want to do. I’d told him this, but he was still pushing. Now I enjoy almost everything sexual, and there is little to nothing which I wouldn’t have a go at, and this was just…