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June 15, 2009

The Man Who Loves Womyn

couple in bed

Photo Credit: Blend Images Photography/Veer.com

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When a fancy new French restaurant opened in my neighborhood, I had visions of going with my boyfriend—me in my sexiest halter dress, him wearing an expression halfway between desire and pride. "You'll have to take me there," I said to him. He corrected me: "We'll take each other there."

Here we go again.

He explained: It's not that he didn't want to go to dinner with me, or even that he wouldn't pay. But he objected to the notion that I should be "taken" anywhere. "It sounds like I'm putting you in a briefcase and carrying you along," he said, slipping his arm around my waist. "I mean, you'll be eating, too, right?" I am a feminist. And yet, like many third-wavers, I cherry-pick my battles—no to Howard Stern and the C word, yes to depilation and miniskirts. But since I started dating a guy who could decry the patriarchal paradigm as fluently as I could, I was forced to admit that I hadn't exactly been walking the feminist walk in my kitten heels, especially where romance was concerned. Probably because I, like most girls—er, women—have always wanted to be treated "like a lady"—given gifts and compliments, whisked away for romantic weekends.

My feminist boyfriend and I were friends for years before we got together, and in that time he'd seen how frayed the "gentlemen" I'd dated had left me. When we finally hooked up—shortly after I found out that one Mr. Whisk Me Away was whisking away someone else on alternate weekends—he said, "I don't know how someone could treat you as anyone other than you." He had a point. I'd been treated like a lady and a fool. I was ready to be dealt with as an equal.

But life with the feminist comes with frustrations. I fish for compliments about my appearance; he refuses to join the female-objectification pile-on. I crave reassurance when I gain weight; he asks if it's the size of my ass that's bothering me or the pressure to be thin.

Still, while he'll never be the guy who "takes" me out to dinner, he gets it: He noticed the sexist treatment Hillary Clinton received during the '08 campaign before I did; I never have to explain to him why a cleavage-laden ad for, say, toothpaste is annoying; he asks for my opinion and takes it into account; and he supports me in my choices. He's still a guy—playing handyman with door latches and fixing my temperamental PC. And once we're in the bedroom, all politics go out the window.

But when he sees the state of my bikini line: Not. A. Single. Word.

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano has written a number of other dating stories for Marie Claire. Read them here. She lives in New York.

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