I remember being around nine years old, and watching my mom getting ready to go out. I loved it. She always looked so beautiful; and I was fascinated by how she could color in her eyes and lips so steadily, without going outside the lines. I was so intrigued by how she could seemingly go for hours wearing shoes that looked like they had chopsticks strapped underneath them and was curious to try them out for myself one day. But most of all, I used to ogle at her clothes; blouses, skirts, and dresses, they all seemed to be beaded, sequenced, or embellished in some way, and they glittered with her every movement.
I couldn’t wait for my turn, and nine years later, dressing up had become a part of my life too. I was walking around – after a night out – looking for a cab with three boys and my best girlfriend, Shannon. It had snowed that day so the pavements were slippery and the breeze was strong; Shannon and I were wearing dresses and stilettoes – just like the ones I had envied on my mom – so the boys walked ahead. After a few minutes of teetering around I saw the boys flag down a cab, “Shannon, look! That’s so sweet of them, they got us a cab” I was elated and ready to get into the warmth. But before she could reply me, we saw our three “gentlemen” hop in and speed off around the corner. We looked at each other, speechless, and after several beats Shannon finally found her tongue, “What the hell just happened?”
As ladies today, we are under so much pressure to conform to an “ideal” image set by society. Have curves, but don’t be too voluptuous; wear make-up, but make it look natural; wear heels, but make sure you can walk properly; be friendly, but don’t be overbearing; wear short dresses, but still maintain elegance and class; and finally, speak with poise, but don’t appear over-intelligent. No woman in existence actually satisfies these criteria wholly, yet we still strive towards it. Why? Because we want to please, capture, and hang on to our men. And it is these men who impose those rules of beauty on us; as Amanda Bynes so eloquently put it in She’s the Man, “Heels are a male invention designed to make a woman’s butt look smaller… and to make it harder for them to run away.”
And so we comply. We squeeze into body-fitting clothes, we cringe in those painful heels, and we spend huge sums of our allowances on make up. But in return, women expect chivalry. We want men to appreciate our efforts, to be fawned over, and showered with complements. If we’re wearing heels, we want them to offer their hands; if we’re carrying bags, we want them to carry the bags for us; and if we’re wearing dresses, we want them to give us their jacket. Unfortunately for the female population though, we are today’s generation and the attention bestowed onto our mothers and grandmothers rarely apply to us. And why should they? Men seem to think that feminism has redeemed them from all display of manners and courtesy. The men of our generation refuse to comply with the standards we set them by and now function to the beat of their own drum.
So women sit and wonder why it is that their needs of belonging and affection are seldom met, while men seem to be relatively satisfied with having their wants met. This is because women are emotional, and men are visual. Sure, having a good looking man on your arm doesn’t hurt but that doesn’t mean women will just settle; we want to be wooed. In 10 Things I Hate About You, Bianca gives up the sexy – but arrogant – model, Joey, for Cameron – the sweet, affectionate, and dependable guy. And much like the way she quickly grew tired of Joey’s ego, Shannon and I were unimpressed with the boys who were supposedly our escorts. It did not matter to us that they were charming, or had invited us out that night, but it mattered that they believed it acceptable to leave two girls stranded in the cold at 3:00 am.
This is why women put up with discomfort over and over again; their need for affection overcomes all the failed attempts of the past. They cling to the hope that they will one day be “rewarded” by the male population. Their wish is to be the recipient of chivalry; of a man who notices them and opens the door, or of one who realizes they’re alone and walks them home. Because the moment they are exposed to a chivalrous act – even in its most insignificant form – they are hooked. And so, women never give up, always primping and grooming to better their exterior.
Men, however, feel less of a need for affection. They simply want to enjoy the company of a good-looking girl, or be seen with one as a sign of achievement to others. A couple of years ago, a movie called The Women told a comparable story. Mr. Haines – a married man – cheats on Meg Ryan, his devoted wife and the mother of his child, with Eva Mendes. Eva plays a saucy sales lady with a gorgeous body that is permanently on display in the tight dresses she is pictured in. Shannon and I experienced something to a similar effect with our friends; the boys were happy to be in our company during the party, being seen with two pretty girls. However, when it came to the end of the night, they were satisfied with their time and did not think it necessary to see Shannon and I through the end of our night.
And so, it becomes more evident that men rarely find it necessary to comply to the standards ladies expect them to meet; because their rationale is: if girls are always going to make the effort to look amazing in order to get our attention, then there is no need for us to try anymore. Regardless of our actions – chivalrous or not – we’re getting what we want out of the ladies. So the men’s visual requirements are continuously satisfied, while the women’s emotional desires are not. Consequently, we find ourselves in a vicious and inescapable cycle, surrounded by a different breed of men altogether than that of our grandfathers, or even our fathers.