Guest post by Nadia Morris

*This post is specific to hetero dating

Every now and then, I dip outside my cozy feminist bubble and date someone who leans a little more mainstream. Who agrees that women should have equality and autonomy, but who hasn’t really tried to deconstruct their culturally inherited expectations of gender. Who maybe hasn’t thought a lot about the subtleties in our language that are disempowering towards different groups of people. Who isn’t a misogynist by any means, but also might not know how to pronounce the word “misogynist.”

I made a little list of mainstream dating practices that are always meant in good faith but are pet peeves of mine. This isn’t meant as a rant, but as suggestions to people who want to show affection to their special lady friends without being condescending. This is a personal list, so I’m sure not everyone will agree with me. The important thing is to know your audience and ask your partner with your words!

1. Don’t call me baby

One guy I dated used to use “little” as a descriptive term a lot. When I had something on my face, he’d tell me I had a smudge of dirt on my “little chin.” When I hit my forehead on something, he would tell me he was sorry I bumped my “little head.”

Why it bothers me: I know he was just trying to be affectionate, but I found the language he used trivializing towards me. Yes, I’m on the short side, but I pride myself on my strength and athleticism. I make a living by working outside doing demanding physical labor. “Little” might be a term of endearment to some people, but I always feel like I’m being equated to a child.

What you could do instead: Cut down on words that one commonly hears as describing babies. The world “little” is the primary one, but for me I prefer it when people keep words like “adorable, “cute,” and “sweet” down to the occasional rather than the regular. If you’re trying to compliment me, I prefer language like “beautiful, delightful, awesome.” Be creative, and remember that I’m an adult.

2. Don’t get territorial about paying for everything

One time I was on my way to a hiking trail with someone I’d just started dating and we stopped to grab lunch. I was searching in the car for the wallet I had dropped. My date wanted to go inside, so he asked me “why are you bothering? You know I’m going to pay for you any way.”

Why it bothers me: No, I don’t actually know that you’re going to pay for me. I will never assume that someone is going to treat me out unless they specifically say “I’d really like to take you out to ________ tonight.” Independence works both ways—if feminism means I can have a job, be treated as an equal, make my own decisions, then I damn well am not going to assume someone is going to pay my way.

What you could do instead: I like it when people offer to pay instead of making it a mandate! Saying something like “you don’t need to find your wallet right now, I’d love to get this one,” is a great alternative. And if sometimes a woman wants to take YOU out, accept it graciously. I offer because I like you, not because I want to emasculate you.

3. Don’t make blanket assertions about gender.

“You’re not like other girls”

“You’re the first girl I’ve met who doesn’t [insert annoying habit]. ”

“You’re a girl, you should know about [insert annoying stereotype]”

Why it bothers me: I appreciate it when you’re trying to compliment me. But don’t do it by dumping on other women. If I’m awesome, it’s because I’m awesome, not because all your other options are grizzled nagging harpies. Maybe your life experience truly has included a lot of women who happen to be really difficult to get along with, but when you start talking about how “women are crazy,” that’s a huuge red flag for me.

What you could do instead: Remember that there is not some secret girl club where we get together and teach each other about hair and shoes. Tell me about your experiences with people in your past, but don’t ascribe everything to a person’s gender. Appreciate or dislike people as humans, not as spokespeople for all of man or womankind.

What about you, dear readers? Any dating pet peeves to add to the list? Why do they bother you, what do you wish people would do instead? How do you go about initiating a conversation about it with your partner? Share in the comments below!!

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