Pedestals – Part One
I am a huge history buff. Any where I visit, the first step is always scoping the area out for famous landmarks or museums. Some of the most dramatic of these places and objects are the statues that honor past heroes. From the statues of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington in Washington D.C., to the Statue of Liberty, to all the many giant fish statues dotting the landscapes of the Midwest, we see examples all around us. And of course, there are thousands of examples from the earliest of human history – in fact, some of the oldest artifacts ever discovered were memorial statues. What do all of these statues, ranging over thousands of years and thousands of miles, have in common? They are all imposing, awe-inspiring, and present the subject in the most perfect light possible. They are meant to demonstrate not just the likeness of the person or people, but also to make them represent something greater than a single life.
Women can be frightening. No, I’m not talking about when they wake up without makeup and with their hair sticking out on one side, or when you mistakenly steal some of their food and they come looking for you. One of the most common issues I’ve seen guys around me have with dating and relationships is fear – a fear of rejection. Our society has long made it the norm for guys to ask girls out. When you read about it in a book or see it in a movie, it can seem like a great, old-fashioned tradition. But when you are sweating through your shirt, running through all of the horrifying scenarios that are about to transpire as you walk up to a girl to ask her for her number, it doesn’t seem so great. Because the responsibility for initiating is usually placed on the man, it can be easy to start feeling that way in any conversation with a girl he doesn’t know.
So what is it that makes women so hard to approach and talk to (even when the goal isn’t asking them out)? It’s the fact that, often before he has even met or talked to her, the guy has put the girl on a pedestal.
The media is one of the biggest culprits for creating this attitude. Many of the movies we watch glorify a very typical hero: a man who can fight the bad guys, stays true to himself, and “gets the girl” in the end. This stereotype is dangerous for two reasons. First of all, the phrase “getting the girl” is already fundamentally flawed: it suggests that girls are a prize that a man earns when he is “worthy” or “ready.” Secondly, the hero has not completed his mission until he ends up with the girl – it implies that he is a failure without her.
Women see the same movies guys do – movies that show that a lot of the female characters are simply perfect, beautiful sidekicks to the down-and-dirty heroes. They’re expected to save the man from his inner demons; to comfort him when he’s lost something dear; to always be there at the end of the movie when he’s ready to ride off into the sunset. There’s no time in the narrative to develop them – they need to wait on their pedestal. However, it turns out that women are actually independent people with their own hopes, dreams, goals, desires, and fears. Most women aren’t waiting around, constantly applying makeup and waiting for a man to appear and whisk them off. Instead, they’re going to work, trying to pass their classes, dealing with family issues, worrying about their car, binging on Netflix instead of doing the laundry, making travel plans, and altogether living real lives. On top of all of the stresses that come with everyday life, women are being shown and told that they should DESERVE to be on a pedestal.
I fell into this trap myself – I was too paralyzed to approach women because I saw them all as better than me. “Why would she want to talk to me?” “I’m not good enough for someone that beautiful.” These thoughts, while tough on a guy, are also unfair to the girl. You aren’t even giving her a chance to show you who she is, and what she wants. Obviously not every girl will be interested in you romantically; it probably won’t even be a large percentage that are. But learning to see girls as people, and talking to them as people, will greatly improve your chances of both finding a relationship and making friends. When I met my fiance, it was as a new coworker – I thought she was cute, but I saw her as a potential friend first. We had the advantage of forced time together, but it was the way we talked to each other (favorite movies, joking about customers) that led to us connecting. I didn’t walk on eggshells – I just tried to get to know her. It took us over a year to actually start dating – but the same thing applies even to someone actively looking for a date. Instead of worrying about succeeding or failing in “getting the girl,” focus on succeeding or failing in making a connection with another human being. Find out where she grew up, ask her about her favorite music, make fun of the way she dips fries in bleu cheese dressing. Not only will this dramatically improve your odds, it will also ensure that even if you don’t get her number, you have both had a good time and improved each other’s nights.
It’s easy to see how hard it makes everything to assume one side is perfect and the other must be worthy to even approach them. However, it’s just as dangerous to have that attitude once you’re actually in a relationship. I will talk more about that in Part 2 – thanks for reading, and feel free to leave thoughts, stories, and questions below!