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.

Harley Quinn and the Stigma We Have About Abuse Victims

The other day, I had a conversation with someone that went something like this:

Person: I really, really hate it when people say that they want a relationship like the Joker and Harley Quinn.

Me: Yeah, I do too.

Person: Don’t they realize that the Joker doesn’t actually like her because she’s stupid and useless?

Me: Well, it’s an abusive relationship.

Person: I never understood why people actually like Harley.

Me: Well, for me, the appeal of her character has always been in the fact that she is an abuse victim, but over time she learns to recognize that and grow into her own strength and independence.

Person: Except she never does grow.

Me: Well, that depends on the version of her that you’re looking at. I’m hopeful for the upcoming Gotham Sirens movie, though, because Poison Ivy’s in it and Harley’s always at her strongest when she’s with Poison Ivy.

Person: Harley has a lady-boner for Poison Ivy.

Me: She does.

Now, I’m not going to say that Harley Quinn is always written as a perfect character; she isn’t. That’s just the nature of comic book characters, when you have so many different writers working with so many different ideas of what the character should be. You have your bad writers of Harley (in my opinion, these are the writers that never allow her to grow into her own strength and just depict her as the Joker’s hilarious punching bag) and then you have your good writers of Harley (in my opinion, the writers that actually allow her to grow and flourish).

But more than any opinion on Harley Quinn’s character, the conversation that I described above made me think about just how much of a misconception there is in our society about abuse victims, particularly about abuse victims who choose to stay with their abusers.

In the conversation that I described above, the person that I was talking to described Harley as being stupid and useless, and while she might occasionally act stupid, it has generally been agreed by many fans and writers alike that this is just that – an act, either for the sake of comedy (something that she has built her whole persona around) or to cater to the Joker’s ego (more on that later). Outside of her act, she is a registered psychiatrist with a PhD, whose backstory hinges on the fact that she was accomplished enough to work with some of Gotham’s most dangerous criminals. In the storyline that first developed Harley Quinn as a character, the “Mad Love” episode of Batman: the Animated Series, she not only successfully kidnaps and nearly kills Batman, but she does it better than the Joker could, proving that she is not useless, at least not as a villain. In some storylines, Harley is even established as having a genius level intellect.

So, really, the only reason that I can think for Harley being described as ‘stupid’ or ‘useless’ would be because she chooses to stay with the Joker.

And this is not the only time when an opinion like this has come up in terms of Harley Quinn’s character. When asked what the hardest part about playing Harley in the recent Suicide Squad movie, actress Margot Robbie said, “I just didn’t understand how she could be such a badass and then fall to pieces over some guy. I found that really frustrating. Fans seem to really love that about her, that she has this complete devotion to a guy that treats her badly.”

And, yes, the Joker treats her badly. Yes, Harley should leave him, and yes, it is an abusive relationship. But personally speaking, I don’t think that any of this reveals a flaw in the way that Harley Quinn is written (again, by certain writers), but rather, it reveals a flaw in the way that we think about abuse victims.

We think of abuse victims as wrong. We can’t understand how they can be hurt by someone so badly, and then choose to stay, to allow themselves to be hurt by them again. You hear this kind of language all the time, and about real women as well: “If that was me, I wouldn’t stay.” “I would never tolerate a man hitting me; I’d dump his ass in a second.” We assume that relationships are all black and white: that if one partner hits the other, then it’s a completely evil relationship that not only should but can very easily be ended in a heartbeat. So if an abuse victim chooses to stay with their partner, then they’re stupid and useless. They’re outside of our realm of understanding.

But it isn’t as simple as all that. I mean, it would be nice if it was; if abusers were all horned, grinning monsters that could be easily defeated by our heroine. Trust me, I wish the world was that simple.

But abusers have their ways of making their victims stay with them, and these ways are meant to be difficult to ignore; if they were easy, we wouldn’t have abuse victims. And one of these ways is by making their victim love them. Now, I’m not necessarily saying that abusers specifically lure their victims in with some sort of Dracula-like seduction, all with the intention of turning around and hurting them later; in fact, while I don’t feel like I know enough about the mind of an abuser to speak for all of them, I am fairly certain that many don’t even know that that’s what they’re doing. They just genuinely love their victim, in the mentally ill way that they do love.

Victims and abusers develop relationships. The victim grows to care for their abuser, to want to be there for them through anything. Maybe they don’t plan to be there for them through pain and abuse, perhaps they don’t see that coming, but they do still grow to love them.

And to return to my discussion of Harley Quinn as an abuse victim, this is a part of her relationship with the Joker that many writers have taken care to establish. In the previously mentioned “Mad Love” episode of Batman the Animated Series, she spends time talking to him and getting to know him. She begins to feel sorry for him because of a reported abusive childhood, and then she feels sorry for him because he continues to get beaten and abused by Batman. She begins to love him, and she even develops a desire to protect him along the way.

But this love is not the only method that abusers use to make their victims stay with them. There is a method of abuse known as gaslighting, where an abuser will gradually manipulate a person into questioning their own sanity, their own mind. They will use little tactics over time to make the victim wonder about their own competence, and they will eventually come to feel dependent on the abuser. For example, an abuser might say something insulting to their victim, and when their victim later confronts them about it, the abuser will deny ever having said it at all. This will effectively make the victim paranoid about whether or not they made it up in the first place, whether or not they can trust their own mind and memory. So later on, when their abuser is again cruel, they find themselves wondering if they were really cruel, or if they made it up in their own mind.

Abusers will tear down their victim’s self-esteem. They will make them feel as though they are stupid, they are worthless, they are ugly, they can’t do any better than them. A lot of this comes from the abuser’s fear that their victim will leave them, and so they need to make them realize just how much they actually need them, because they’re the only ones who really love them, or who really have their victim’s best interests at heart.

Again, this method is seen in the “Mad Love” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Harley borrows one of the Joker’s plans for killing Batman, and not only that, but she improves on it so that the plan actually succeeds – something it didn’t do when the Joker tried it. When the Joker finds this out, rather than being happy for her and supporting her in all her cleverness and ability, he gets angry, tells her that she doesn’t know what she’s doing, that she ruined the whole plan. He then throws her out a window, and when Harley lands in a bloodied heap on the floor, she chokes out what are, in my opinion, some of the most heartbreaking lines in DC history: “My fault… I didn’t get the joke”.

Abusers will make their victims feel as though the abuse is somehow their fault – that they earned this by being stupid, by pushing the abuser’s limits.

So between the two methods that I’ve discussed, we should already see that there are two huge, glaring problems here: the victim knows the abuser, they love them, they don’t want to hurt them. They see them for a vulnerable, hurt person already, someone who will be broken to see their victim leave – and this is an image that the abuser will most certainly perpetuate, telling their victim again and again that, if they leave, they will never get over it, they might even kill themselves, or disappear forever. It’s really hard to condemn someone you love to that, especially if you actually believe that they will go through with it.

And then, on top of that, the victim already has a low self-esteem, something that they might have come into the relationship with already, but which most certainly hasn’t been helped by the abuser. They don’t think that they can live on their own. They think that they’re too stupid, too worthless. If it wasn’t for their abuser, then where would they be?

But sometimes, abuse victims do manage to work through all of this, and sometimes they do manage to leave their abuser. And sometimes, when they leave, they go back.

This is something that happens to Harley Quinn as well. It is a running theme throughout many of her narratives – her recognizing her abuse, starting to leave, and then being pulled back in. As I’ve talked about the “Mad Love” episode a few times already, I might as well continue with that, because this is a theme in that storyline as well. After the aforementioned throwing-Harley-out-a-window scene, we later see her in the hospital, bandaged up from head to toe with her arm in a sling. During this scene, we as the viewer hear her inner monologue about how she’s decided that she’s done with the Joker, that this was the last straw – she is not going to go back to him. She then takes note of a flower by her bedside with a note reading “get well soon – J”, and upon seeing it, she starts to swoon, and the viewer knows that she will be going back to the Joker after all.

And why? Because he made an attempt to reach out to her. He did what he could to show that he cared about her, that he wasn’t going to hold a grudge or end the relationship. And as long as he is still willing to try to make it work, she still wants to try as well.

In real life, different abusers will try different tactics to the same result. They might promise that things will be different. They might apologize profusely, say that that “wasn’t them”. They might deny that what they did was abuse and claim that the victim is being cruel and unfair. And especially if the abuser and the victim have children together, they might try to use them as a reason for why they should stay together, why they shouldn’t “give up” now.

And in many cases, the victim wants to believe the abuser because the victim does love them and want to help them, or they don’t want their children to have to live in a “broken home”, or they might still be afraid of what life without their abuser might look like, especially if they continue to see themselves in the way that their abuser has described them.

There are many, many reasons why an abuse victim would choose to stay with their abuser, and it is cruel and belittling to refer to them as ‘stupid’ or ‘useless’ for doing so.

But despite these reasons, despite what rationalizations victims come up with at the time, they should not stay with their abusers. There are no reasons good enough to keep yourself in that sort of situation. If you find that you are in a situation similar to the one I have described, if you are being abused either physically, sexually, or emotionally (and the latter can hurt just as much as the two former – it is just as important to address here), then you need to get help. Try to talk to either a friend or family member if you can, but if you can’t, there are plenty of resources for you out there: if you are Canadian, here are a list of resources for victims of crime (including domestic abuse), and here are a list of resources if you live in the United States.

And, as I hinted at before, part of the reason why I love Harley Quinn’s character is because she discusses these issues so openly, in a way that not everyone is always comfortable with. Some people might say that she’s stupid and useless because she has a hard time leaving the Joker, but I say just the opposite: she is a necessary character in our media because she shows just how hard it is to leave an abusive scenario.

And more than that, especially in recent comic book or video game adaptions, she has managed to separate herself from her abusive past. In her comic book solo series (Harley Quinn #25, for those of you who are curious), Harley actually confronts the Joker and decides, once and for all, that she is absolutely done with him, that she will never have anything to do with him again. And in the recently released video game Injustice 2, Harley Quinn not only has her own gang and her own independence, but she actually reveals (through an encounter with Scarecrow, a villain who is capable of forcing people to experience their worst fears), that her greatest fear in life would be returning to the state that she was in when she was with the Joker. As time goes on, the writers of Harley Quinn are becoming more interested in developing her strength, helping her to overcome her insecurities and move passed being a victim of abuse. And that is such an important image for us to have in our media, because too often, victims of abuse feel as though they can’t stand on their own, as though they aren’t strong enough. And Harley Quinn is proof that you can do it – you can pull through, you can build yourself back up again, and you can look fabulous doing it too.

Disney Princess Movie Reviews: The Little Mermaid

Part of reviewing Disney’s fourth princess movie, the 1989 animated classic the Little Mermaid, involves admitting my history with the film. Because when I was a little girl, the Little Mermaid was my favourite Disney film (may or may not have been tied with Peter Pan, and it would later be replaced by Pocahontas, but more on that later).

I wanted to be Ariel. My family still tells stories about me as a snot-nosed three-year-old obnoxiously trying to sing like her, stuffing both of my legs into the same pants leg so that I could pretend to be a mermaid. Because a big part of my obsession with this movie has to do with my lifelong obsession with mermaids that started at a very young age (partially due to the Little Mermaid, partially due to a little-known horror film called She Creature that I also watched obsessively as a child). My love of this movie may or may not be responsible for the fact that I would later start dying my hair bright red and haven’t been able to stop since – who knows? All that I’m trying to say is that this movie impacted the little girl who first saw it.

But I’m twenty-two now. My tastes have changed, I’m a bit more mature, a bit more critically minded; how do I feel about it now?

To be honest, I still sort of love it. Not for any specific, intelligent reason that I can discern – in fact, I don’t really know why I do (besides the fact that I’m still obsessed with mermaids). What is it about this movie that has kept me coming back after all these years?

Could it be the villain? Because when I think about this movie, Ursula is one of the first things that comes to my mind. Once again, Disney has made use of the figure of a wicked woman for their villain, but there’s just something fabulous and wonderful about her. I remember hearing that Ursula was inspired by the famous drag queen Divine, and my first thought was that that makes total sense. Ursula perfectly captures the personality of the stereotypical drag queen performance, the overall big-ness. And unlike the last three female villains, Ursula is not necessarily a woman with power. She’s a witch, yes, but she lives on the outskirts of society, banished for reasons that I still really want to find out. She has no influence over anyone, unlike the Evil Queen of Snow White, the stepmother who rules with an iron fist in Cinderella, and the castle-dwelling fairy who demands respect from even the monarchy in Sleeping Beauty. Though a small change, it does a great deal in altering the message that woman should not be given power lest they misuse it and hurt someone that could be read into the prior films. In fact, the argument could even be made that Ursula acts as she does directly because she has been robbed of her power by the King, as we never really know why she was banished from society in the first place. Her cruelty might actually be a desperate attempt to seize back the power that was taken from her.

And if this moral can’t be read into Ursula, it most certainly can be read into Ariel. Ariel who quite literally loses her voice, her ability to communicate and stand up for herself, and in the process loses everything. It isn’t until she takes her voice back and once again gains the ability to speak that she is able to fix the mess that has become of her life. Though most of this is on the metaphoric level, a lot of it seems to be indicating a message that women need to have their own voice. They need to have power in their own personal lives if they are ever going to find happiness. That’s why I don’t mind the changes that this movie makes to the fairy tale – the unhappy ending works brilliantly for a Christian tale, but when you take the Christianity out of it (as Disney does) you need to replace it with something, and a message about girls shaping their own future as opposed to leaving it in the hands of their fathers or lovers is as good as any.

But I have heard a lot of people argue that this movie is actually incredibly sexist, claiming that the story is all about how women should have to change to get a man because Ariel trades in her tail and her family for legs and a husband. Personally, however, I never quite saw this in the movie, mostly because… well, Ariel wants to be human before she even meets Prince Eric. It’s her defining trait, the thing that makes her different from everyone else in her kingdom. Heck, she even sings Part of Your World before laying eyes on him! Eric just becomes a part of this great, big package that she already wanted. So the way I see it, she isn’t sacrificing her tail and family for a man, she sacrificing them for the life she always wanted, the life that she thinks will make her happy, the way that real people without fins will sacrifice things for the arts, or to live in a specific city, or go to a certain school. The deal just becomes a little sweeter when you throw love in there as well. And, to be honest, as a writer I can completely relate to the longing to reach a world that everyone and everything around you tells you you can’t. A mermaid can’t walk on land, and I can’t make a living off of creating fictional stories off my life. So maybe I just like to watch Ariel prove them all wrong.

And I’ve also heard some people state that the Little Mermaid can be read as a metaphor for life as a transgender person – being born in a body that you’re dissatisfied with, longing to be able to change, not being accepted by your old-school father because of it. And, personally, I think that any story that is able to resonate with people in that way is awesome.

So now that I’m a grown-up person, maybe I love the Little Mermaid based off a bit more than just the fact that Ariel’s pretty and I want to be a mermaid. I don’t entirely know if I’d still love it in the same way if I didn’t have that history, but fortunately I’ll never have to find out. I can just spend my life sitting in front of the TV and singing along with Ariel about how I long to be part of her world.

Valentine’s Day – The Holiday of Love

Every Valentine’s Day, you always hear the same complaints about the holiday brought up – to such a point that I’m almost surprised that I’m still bombarded with little hearts and cupids every year, considering so many people are opposed to it.

And it makes sense. Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be the only day of the year that you show your partner that you care for them. And more than that, you shouldn’t have a day of the year that reminds you, “oh yeah, I’ve kinda been neglecting this person lately. Guess I should get them some chocolate or something.” You should be making romantic gestures like that all throughout the year, not at some predetermined date agreed upon by society at large.

And what about single people? People who can’t seem to make a relationship work for whatever reason? People who just aren’t ready for or don’t want a relationship? Aromantic people who want nothing to do with the whole ordeal? People who have other things on their mind? The world doesn’t revolve around romantic love after all – there is more to life than that. And yet every year, there’s this predetermined date that society has gotten together and agreed should make these people feel bad for being single. We should bombard these people with images of happy couples everywhere, indirectly implying that single people just can’t be as happy or fulfilled. I have to admit, I fall for it a little bit, even if I’m perfectly happy being single. It doesn’t seem to matter – the constant, inescapable message that I can’t be fully happy until I’m in a relationship kind of makes me wonder if they have a point.

But maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t really about all of that – the flowers, the commercialism, the shame. Maybe Valentine’s Day is really just as simple as a celebration of love. Romantic love, sure, but that isn’t the most important kind of love there is.

There’s the love that we have for our family and friends.

There’s the love that we have for ourselves, and our own validity and purpose in what we are.

There’s the love that we have for our fellow humans – that love that makes us want to keep total strangers protected from the horrors that life has to offer.

Love comes in all shapes and sizes – it’s not just one thing. When we reach a helping hand out to someone in need, that act is done in love. When we tell ourselves that we’re just fine the way we are, that we don’t need someone else to complete us, that act is done in love. When we accept that maybe our loved one can’t afford all the flowers and the chocolates this year but you’re okay with that because at least you have each other, that act is done in love.

The problem is not Valentine’s Day itself. The problem is that we’ve limited our definition of what love can be, and we’ve prepared preset ways to enforce how you show love. But today shouldn’t be about how society tells you to love. It should be about your own love, and how you can use that love to make the world a better, less fearful place.

Life’s Simple Narrative

When I was around twelve or thirteen years old and planning out what my future was going to look like, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want children to fit into it.

No real special reason. It’s not that I hated kids or anything like that. I just couldn’t see myself as a parent. It was one of those roles that I couldn’t realistically imagine myself in, the way that I could never imagine myself realistically becoming an astronaut. It’s not that I don’t respect them, and yeah, I suppose I could do it, but I just didn’t have the drive or interest to really pursue it.

And, besides, kids are a huge commitment, and I started to realize that around the time that I started planning out my life. The things that I really wanted, after all, were things that required a lot of time and money. I wanted to travel and I wanted to write – those were the two most important things that I needed to do, and both of those things were difficult to balance with two-point-five mouths to feed and brains to develop. So the answer, to my twelve-or-thirteen-year-old-brain, was simple – I couldn’t have everything, so something needed to be sacrificed. And fulfilling my womanly role of repopulating the human race just wasn’t that important to me.

The reaction that I got from this decision was varied. On the one hand, I had my peers, and none of them really cared all that much. Nobody questioned me extensively, nobody thought it was weird. As I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered that a lot of people from my generation have decided to forego parenthood, in fact, and I’m not actually that unique for coming to that conclusion. We’re the generation that grew up struggling financially, after all, the generation that was told repeatedly that the world’s overpopulated enough and we don’t need any more people. And we’re also the generation that, from what I can tell, has started questioning the roles that society expects of us more openly.

Then, way over there on the very opposite hand, I had the reactions of much older relatives of mine.

Once, I told an older, paternal figure in my family that I didn’t plan on having children, and he got so angry at me that he wouldn’t talk to me for a few minutes – and he was one of the better reactions. At least he actually took me seriously for a moment or two! For the most part, my claims were completely dismissed by people.

“Ciara doesn’t plan on having any children,” I remember my mother telling my great-aunt once, to which my great-aunt responded with a very easy, very brief, “oh, that’ll change.” And after that, people would just continue acting as though the claim hadn’t been made at all. Even after I announced my plans against parenthood, older family members would still speak to me as though my future was set in stone, reminding me whenever I brought up writing that I might have to give that up someday so I could care for my two-point-five sacks of poop and drool. As though my becoming a parent was more important than my being satisfied within my own life.

There was a period of time in my teens where I didn’t just not want children – I was actively against the idea, because the thought of procreating felt like playing into the simple narrative that they all expected of me. I was to grow up with these big dreams, and then throw them away because some handsome person with a penis came along and my biological clock was ticking. I didn’t have a choice in the matter, and the fact that I thought I did would change because that’s just how life is. No freedom. No choice. Just shut up, play your role, and be happy.

I’m twenty-two years old now, and less bitter about the whole ordeal – but mostly because I’ve embraced the fact that I do, in fact, have choice. We as a society tend to think that there are only so many acceptable ways to live your life, but that’s a lie. The world is endless, and people are varied, and we can do with our lives as we wish. And so long as it makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone, no way of living your life is wrong.

As of now, I still can’t see myself in the role of the parent, but who knows what the future will bring? I’m not saying that my mind will change because I have a biological clock to maintain here, but I am saying that I’m very young and I have a whole life ahead of me. Maybe I will marry a man, and have two-point-five screaming kids with him. Maybe I’ll marry a woman, and have children with her. Maybe I’ll marry someone who escapes the gender binary completely and have no children at all. Maybe I won’t get married, and just spend my life writing and travelling. No matter what, they’re all equally valid options. All we have to do is choose the option that makes us happiest, and anyone who dismisses or disagrees with your choice doesn’t have to live with it anyway.