I read what you wrote, a few days ago, but I needed to think a while. Mostly I pondered on why one word can be so horribly misinterpreted and sometime, I think, intentionally.
You said you are fiercely independent, and you can take care of yourself. The “feminist ideal” you called yourself, of not needing a man for a damn thing and I cringed reading that. But still, despite that, you need a man. Need.
You said when you see an old couple, white haired and stooped, walking down the street holding hands you watch and think — that. I want that — and that part squeezed my heart in a way I don’t think there’s a word for.
I wanted that too, once, but now it’s just saudade, after all, which is a beautiful Portuguese word for something you loved and lost, but maybe I’m just another luftmensch and I probably shouldn’t have said maybe.
Here’s the thing. I think over time we have muddled the meanings of want and need and I’m not surprised by that, really.
But if I were to grab you by the legs and pull you underwater for 30 seconds longer than you are able to hold your breath, it would give you an entirely new understanding of the word need.
I’m not some sicko, I promise. That’s from an old story about a young man who goes to a zen master to ask for help finding direction. And the zen master takes him out to the middle of the lake and then pulls him under water and holds him there a few seconds too long.
When the young man finally shoots up out of the water, desperate to suck in air, the zen master tells him when he wants anything as badly as he wanted air in that moment, he will know what he should do.
Babies. If you’ve ever heard of failure to thrive, you know that babies need love. A baby who does not receive love can actually die.
But we adults? Somehow we can make do with a cat or a dog to snuggle, a daily walk with friends or neighbors that smile to see us coming and while it’s not remotely close to ideal, we can actually survive alone.
There is nothing wrong with wanting love. And it is a want, because you will not literally die if a man doesn’t put his hand at that small part of your back. That said, literally is another word we seem to have screwed up.
For either gender, I might add, because men want to be loved, too.
Love is one of the most beautiful things in this ugly world. Who wouldn’t want to be loved, held, treasured?
But, can we play pretend for a minute?
Let’s pretend you find love and then one random Tuesday when you have two preschoolers, your husband comes home and says he found someone, and he’s so sorry. He didn’t mean to, and he’s crying too. He’s so sorry, so very sorry, and then he packs his things and says the house will need to be sold.
Or maybe it plays out a bit different. Maybe one day he’s so mad, he pushes you. And the next time he’s mad he hits you. And after one too many times, you’re crying on your Mom’s doorstep with a baby on your hip.
There’s a thousand zillion ways marriages end. Maybe it’s him. Maybe it’s her. But that’s not the point, except maybe to point out that divorce happens. A lot.
Life goes on.
When you apply for a job, and you’re sitting there next to a male applicant, will you have an equal shot at the job? Will they ask you about your kids? Will they wonder if you can be as devoted to the job as a man will?
And if you get hired, will you get paid the same as a man for the same job?
Will the rate they pay you be enough to cover the bills and the daycare?
Because those things — those are needs. Single mothers and single women need to be able to provide, and those are what feminism is about. If you spend 10 minutes googling women and poverty, you’ll know what I mean by need. Women need to be able to provide. Not all women. I know. Hahah. Sorry.
Feminism was never about not wanting to be loved, and what a horrible world that would be. Anyone who tells you feminism is about lack of love or not wanting to be loved is so many shades of wrong I don’t know where to start. And I’m sad for whatever brought them to that place.
Feminism was only ever about making sure the world treats women fairly and equally to their male counterparts and so far, it’s failing miserably.
I hope you find that. I hope one day you are a white haired old woman holding the hand of an old man that has loved your forever and ever, amen. And I hope both of you are feminists.