When Jay invited me to his housewarming party after only a month of dating, I was a little wary. We hadn’t been dating long enough to have any sort of “definition” and frankly it seemed too soon to meet all of his friends. He was divorced with not one, but two kids. He had baggage written all over him. But then again he had been crushing on me for months before we went out, he cooked me dinner from scratch, texted me all day, commented on every Facebook post and was seemed to be a good guy. Maybe I needed to get over my reservations.
So I went. But after three hours of him saying next to nothing to me except for “here’s the spinach dip” and “do you want a shot?”, I couldn’t help but feel like a leper of some sort. It was as though Jay was going out of his way to not talk to me; as though he was embarrassed to introduce me to his friends.
Just for the record, I’m about as social as they come. I’ve traveled by myself through numerous countries solo and can make new friends at the drop of a hat. So I wasn’t uncomfortable to be alone — I didn’t expect him to be glued by my side. But I did expect him to be at least somewhat stoked that I was there. After all, why invite the woman you’re dating to a party and not talk to her at all?
I was contemplating whether I was overreacting, being too laid-back, and whether I should stay or go when I saw out of the corner of my eye another woman sitting on his lap.
I was stunned. In fact, I was pretty sure flames were shooting out of my eyes. Never in my whole life has a man I was dating behaved so disrespectfully right in front of me. We weren’t a couple and I could have given a rat’s ass what he did when I wasn’t there. After all, I was dating other people too. But I would never ever flirt with another guy in front of him or sit on someone’s lap. And he actually expected that I’d stay over and sleep with him?
I was so offended I got up and left. Jay insisted on walking me out. And though I tried to play it cool, when he asked me what was wrong, I confessed it felt weird to be ignored all night and doubly weird to see him with a girl on his lap. He rolled his eyes and let me leave, not bothering to stop me. Later he gave me a half-assed text apology the next day and we made plans to hang out — plans that he cancelled the day of, breaking things off for good. Why?
Because he thought I wanted something serious.
Enter the sounds of screeching tires. I was flummoxed. How did wanting to be treated with respect and feel like a woman he enjoyed hanging out with equate me to someone who wanted a serious relationship? I didn’t know him well enough to know if I even wanted that. I was still trying to decide how I felt about him — and whether I liked him more than the tattooed graphic designer I was also dating. I couldn’t fathom how he could be so narcissistic, nor could I understand why I had to explain such simple concepts to a grown man.
Another friend of mine found herself in a similar-in-principle predicament when she went out with a guy we’ll call Will. While she was out with him she mentioned that she had an “amazing time in Spain traveling solo” and that she had met “a ton of people.” All she meant is that she had fun. Will took that to mean she was easy. When she rejected his request to come back to his apartment and have fun “like she did in Spain,” he demanded to know why she was suddenly being such a prude.
Related: Dealbreaker: He Had Low Self-Esteem
Women are branded as sluts because they want to take care of their sexual health, fem-nazis because they simply want equal rights, or relationship hungry for the simple fact they’re female. We’re deemed psycho when a man does anything that causes us to fly off the handle. When women demand respect, it’s often misinterpreted, dissected, or otherwise lumped into some category so that the status quo (whether that be society or a man) can feel more comfortable.
Did I want to be in a relationship? Yes. Did I want one with Jay? That I wasn’t so sure of. On the contrary, I wanted to get to know him first. After all, isn’t that what dating is about? But ultimately I wanted to be treated with respect. And whether we’ve been dating for two days or two years, when I’m around you I want to feel like you enjoy being around me. If that’s too much to ask, by all means bow out of the situation. But if confronted with the truth, don’t flip it around. Not every woman wants a ring from you. Maybe in the ever wise words of Carly Simon it’s just that “you’re so vain.”