Why “My Girl/Boyfriend Won’t Let Me” is Problematic

In many relationships, two things tend to happen: 1) you will change over the course of the relationship, and 2) you will find that you need to respect the opinion of your partner. This is just the nature of life in partnerships, and I am not going to argue that either of these things are a bad thing. Really, they don’t have to be. Change can very well be a good thing, it can be a sign of growth and development, while respect is absolutely necessary in creating a happy and harmonious social environment.

But that being said, I do have a growing pet peeve when it comes to relationships that involves both of these things.

These pet peeves show up most often in the form of little comments, things like: “I wish I could change my hair, but my boyfriend won’t let me”, or “I can’t go out tonight, my boyfriend won’t let me”, or “I don’t really hang out with that person anymore, my boyfriend doesn’t like them”. These sorts of comments usually earn from me one of two responses, either “dump him” or “he’s your boyfriend, not your father”, but to be honest, these comments trouble me a bit more than I tend to let on. Not because I think of it as a sign that the relationship is abusive or that either party in this relationship are inherently bad people or anything like that, but it does reflect an attitude that I find somewhat troubling: this idea that one partner in a relationship can and should control the other.

And although I focused primarily on women in the given examples, this can happen to men as well. And I’m sure that this happens in many different ways, taking several different forms depending on who is involved, but the way that we tend to think about most often, stereotypically speaking, is an intentional attempt from the female partner to ‘change him’ – to make him spend less time playing Dungeons and Dragons with his buddies and more time being suave and cool or whatever it is that she intends for him to do now. I can’t personally speak to how accurate this stereotype is, but I’m sure it does happen. I think we’ve all heard the tropes that when it comes to women, they ‘like a project’, they want a ‘fixer-upper’.

And, personally, I take issue with this idea for two reasons: 1) maybe he liked playing Dungeons and Dragons with his buddies. Maybe that made him happy, and yes, you also make him happy, but differently. You aren’t his entire source of joy in this life, and you aren’t making him a better man by taking the other sources away from him. And 2) chances are, you entered into this relationship knowing who he was; shouldn’t you love him for who he is? I mean, yes, we are all flawed, and he might have some habits and hobbies that are kind of annoying, but asking him to stop doing something that he enjoys is entirely different from asking him to pick up his dirty socks off the floor; one matters to him and the other doesn’t. You don’t have to join him in the hobby; you don’t have to understand it; you just need to respect that it matters to him.

But let’s get back to the little comments that I’ve heard women make about what their boyfriends will and will not let them do. Because while these two examples are similar, both of them getting back to this issue of control, they are also very different. The latter example that I gave about one partner intentionally changing the way that the other lives is very overt, and it does require a bit of consent on the changed partner’s part – how rational and well-informed that consent may be is another matter, as they might be agreeing to go along with everything just because they’re so in love at the moment, but nonetheless, consent must be given to make this very obvious, blatant change. The first example is much more subtle.

The first example is limiting what the other partner can and can’t do in small ways, ways that can easily be ignored or brushed off at first, but that build up over time – making them ask for permission instead of an opinion.

And don’t get me wrong, it is perfectly fine to consult with your partner about making plans or changing your style or hanging out with a specific person. You can ask them if they had any plans, what their opinion is, etc., but at the end of the day, the decision should always be yours. This is your life, your body, your friends – you have the ultimate say in what happens with all of it. And if your partner is actually getting outright angry with you because you have respectfully made plans with someone else or because you got a haircut, then that is a totally separate problem and it isn’t fair to you.

The reason why this is such a pet peeve of mine is because, in relationships, the issue of control seems to come up often, but I am personally of the belief that neither party should be in control of the other. Too often, we romanticize this idea that every couple is two halves of a whole that is only completed when they’re together, but this isn’t true. Every single couple in this world is made up of two completed, totally whole individuals who are just trying to make all their quirks and weirdness mesh well together, and both parties in the relationship should be treated as though they are both whole, both capable of making decisions for themselves.

You do not need your partner to make decisions for you. You should not let them make the decisions for your own life. Because you are a partnership; you need to work together. You need to respect one another, and part of that respect comes from respecting who they are as a person and the fact that they are fully capable of taking care of themselves. And while you’re together, you very well might change, but your partner should not be the one in control of that change.

I Long For Selfishness

I long for selfishness. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

I don’t ask for an insane amount of it. I don’t want the solar system to revolve around me. I don’t expect to have others forgive me when I cause them harm. I don’t want to take it too far, to be cruel or harmful. But I want to be selfish. I want to be an individual.

Through most of my life – maybe all of my life – I’ve lived for other people. The words “I don’t want to be an inconvenience” have been on my lips so often that they might as well be tattooed there. I’ve made decisions based on what other people want, not me. I’ve allowed myself to be lied to and manipulated until the world that I lived in wasn’t mine. It was built by others, formed out of expectations and good intentions, but all in all amounting to little more than regret and my own personal loss of power.

So now, I long for selfishness. I long to make my own decisions, even if they’re stupid ones. Even if they’re irrational and emotional and wind up leaving me bitter and alone, at least they’re my decisions.

I long for these decisions to be made with only me in mind, and maybe that’s why I’m so afraid to attach myself to someone. Because once I fall in love, then it can no longer be about me. My decisions must involve another, and that’s the only thing I’ve ever known. I’ve never done anything big for myself, never done the thing that I, personally, wanted to do, and I long to do that. I’m tired of being attached to people. I’m tired of having to make everyone happy at the expense of my own contentment. I’m just so fucking tired.

I long for control, to do the thing that makes me happy even if it doesn’t make anyone else happy. I long for a life that is completely my own.

The only problem with all of this is, I have no idea where to start.

What My Eleven Piercings Mean to Me

“Oh, I just noticed that you have your lip pierced,” says the guy who I’ve been talking to for a couple of hours now.

“Yeah, I’ve got I few piercings,” I say back. Eleven, to be exact, but I’m not particularly in the mood to count them just then.

“And… what do they all mean?”

What do they all mean? My piercings are something that I’ve been collecting for a while now, things that I switch out and redo at random, but it’s never really been something that I think all that much about. I’m fiercely protective of them, sure, refusing to take them out by anyone’s will but my own, but I’ve never really wondered why until then. What do my eleven piercings mean to me?

Well, I don’t know about now, but I remember what the first one meant to me. I remember being the only girl in the fifth grade to show up to school with a nose ring. I remember being so proud to show it off, thinking that it made me cooler somehow, that the tiny hole that I wore in one nostril somehow entered me into a secret society of badasses that my classmates just couldn’t understand.

I remember being so shocked and delighted when I asked my mom if I could get my nose pierced, and she actually said yes! “As long as it’s okay with your dad,” she told me, and it was okay with him so long as the jewellery wasn’t too big. I was so thrilled.

But you see, the problem is that I broke the jewellery-can’t-be-too-big rule, and my dad was never quite so accepting about piercings after that. I spent the eight years following my first piercing just struggling to get more. Every once in a while he’d consent, and I’d walk victorious into the tattoo shop, throwing down my money to get stabbed with another needle. Sometimes he’d be particularly difficult, and the only thing that would keep me from taking out one of my sewing needles and doing it myself was a book that I had read once where a girl tried to pierce her own eyebrow and damaged the nerve endings in her face, paralyzing half of it. No, it was best to leave it to the professionals, I knew that well, so I tried to be good and patient, even when I wanted nothing more than to take the stupid option.

And then my eighteenth birthday granted me the gift of my body, and so I filled it full of metal and called it my own. When a nose ring was no longer weird or shocking, I got a surface piercing, and then a septum ring. I’d take them out and put them in according to how I saw fit. I decorated my form the way that I, not anyone else, wanted.

I suppose control has always been a big thing for me, and that’s definitely a factor when it comes to piercings. Its the control of pain. The control over your own definition of pleasure. The control over your own body to a very deep, very personal level – the sort of control that no one can ever fully take away from you. In order to be comfortable in my body as a woman, I definitely think I needed something like that. Some little piece of metal in my skin to remind me that I could do with myself as I pleased and nobody could take that away from me.

My eleven piercings mean that I am free. They mean that nobody can tell me what to do, not anymore, and I will go forth into the world with that knowledge. I will go forth with control over my mind, over my actions, and most importantly, over myself. And if ever I start to forget that lesson, if I ever let someone come into my life and start to tell me what to do with it, all I need is to look in the mirror, at my face filled with metal, and remember.

And the thing is – there are a lot of people out there who would attribute different meanings to my piercings. They would say that I’m looking for attention (aren’t we all?) or rebelling against something (not so much ‘rebelling’ as taking control of my life), or that I’m somehow incapable of performing a job because of them (as though the tiny, sparkly diamond in my lip has ever made it difficult for me to smile and be polite). They would ask me why I mark up my pretty face like that, call it a waste of good beauty. But, really, it’s none of that. It’s me. We’re all born looking the same, all roughly human-shaped and typical, but I’m not the same, so why should my earthly shell be? Why can’t I show on my skin my search for freedom, my struggle for control? Why can’t I make my outside match my inside?

So in answer to the question that you asked a few days ago and that I needed time to think about, Guy-Who-I’ve-Been-Talking-To-For-A-Couple-Of-Hours-Now, my piercings mean absolutely nothing. They say nothing about my personality, about my abilities, about my morals or place in life. But they do say a little bit about my story. They’re personal to me, a part of me. They’re as much an extension to my body now as my fingernails and toes, and to part with them would be a loss to me. And if you think that they look ugly or unprofessional, then I’m forced to respectfully disagree. I think they’re beautiful, but at the same time, I don’t think that they’re necessarily meant to reflect or improve upon my physical beauty, as much as a woman’s physical beauty is all she is judged upon. No, instead, they’re meant to reflect me.