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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

How to be “the man:” a reflection on a term of trying to play the system

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Over Sunday brunches at Burton or the LDC I often overhear conversations, almost always between boys, explicitly detailing their enthralling sexual adventures the nights before. Specific topics often include but are not limited to their several partners: breast size, experience, how far they went, how he didn’t let her sleep over. You can imagine the rest. Besides the horrible way these boys are treating women as commodities used solely for the purposes of sex, it brings up another issue. Often after these stories are delivered, the friends will give a slap on the back or offer some other form of congratulations. He is lauded for his promiscuity and the fact that he has “obtained” multiple women in such a short time span. The most ridiculous part is the double standard. If a man has sexual relations with multiple people at a time, he is a hero, “the man.” If a woman has sex with multiple people at a time, she is a slut. So last term I rather unconsciously decided to put this observation to a test.

At the start of the term, my friend and I decided to expand our dating horizons (because God forbid we would date a Carleton boy or spend all of our weekends at Dixon) and give the St. Olaf “party scene” (correction: no party scene) a try. In our blind pursuit to figure out how to navigate an unfamiliar campus my friend and I created Tinder accounts. It was flattering. It was fun. It was worth it for a couple weeks. It put me in contact with two of the strangest boys I’d ever met. But anyhow, they invited us to a “party”. Boy number one we shall call “John,” who I quickly abandoned. And then there was boy number two who we’ll call “Smith,” who told me I was the meanest girl he’d ever met within two minutes of talking to me. Ha! Then there’s sweet non-Tinder freshman who ended up getting lost and finally walking my friends and me home towards the general vicinity of Carleton. The three boys, in the end, were meaningless, fun little blimps on that other school on a hill.

Despite my failings at Olaf, I continued using Tinder. I thought it was just a way to boost my ego. And for probably every match it was, except for one. We’ll call him by his real name because I still don’t know his last name – Max. Max was a 24-year-old resource manager born in Russia. Max was one of those instantly likeable human beings that made me feel comfortable in what I think is an extremely uncomfortable situation. He had a sweet smile and commented about how he liked dogs. What else could I ask for, really? I ended up going to the cities for a date with Max. I was scared.

It was potentially very dangerous. I didn’t actually know this person at all. What if he didn’t look like the pictures? What if he was a complete jerk? But the amazing thing was that he wasn’t. And the thing was that he was just that, amazing. He was the first boy – actually I’m going to refer to Max as a man – that listened to me. Took my ambitions seriously. Didn’t try to limit my scope of possible career fields because I was younger or a woman. Leaned in at the dinner table with his hands on his chin as I recounted silly stories from high school. He held my hand and made me dance in the middle of Uptown to get over my fear of dancing in public. Before I met Max, I didn’t think that guys like him could exist. He was, I thought, an unrealistic option.

On Halloween weekend I met Max for the second and last time. It was great. I left thinking about how much I wanted to see him again. But that night I met someone else here at Carleton who was good in his own way, but he didn’t sweep me off my feet like in Disney movies as Max did. The next morning Max texted me asking how my Halloween was – a message I never replied to. When I thought about hitting send a mass of thoughts swirled in my mind. The primary one was: Avery – you can’t do this! You can’t be with two people at the same time, that’s absurd! So, I chose one – a fling that was fun for a month and then folded faster than it started in the typical, awkward Carleton fashion.

Looking back I originally thought, “Wow, I should’ve chosen Max.” But now, the right option would have been to play the field. To go on dates with both of them. To feel free to do as I please as long as I was honest. To keep using Tinder and meet random Olaf boys if I so desired. To do as a character from my favorite childhood show, As Told by Ginger, advised me to: “Play the field, life’s too short to bee-line up to anybody’s hive, you follow?” I had such a fear that I would be judged, even by my friends, for doing this. Women are generally expected to be monogamous – to settle on one person and stick with them. I was fearful that somehow if I didn’t settle, I would be thought of, or come to think of myself, as a tramp, if you will. So I went with the safe option, the practical one, the one I met in a “normal” way (as if Cowling is ever a solid option). I didn’t want to be the “slut” boys would talk about at their weekend brunches. But now I wish I was – they could say whatever they wanted and I would’ve stood by my decision. I would’ve been proud in a sense for playing the patriarchal system. In an ideal, equal world I would’ve been “the man” and gotten praise.

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