I was out with some friends recently and, while crossing the street, a hot guy in a pink shirt looked at my dog and then looked up and smiled at me. I smiled back. He kept smiling. We walked past each other and then we both turned to look back at each other at the same time!
This is some rom com shit! We even exchanged glances that seemed to convey "Wait, should we stop? Is this happening? What happens now?"
After a few seconds (that felt like minutes) I got nervous and looked away. I could see out of the corner of my eye that he looked away too. I kept walking, expecting him to run up to me, but he didn’t. My rom-com moment was over.
I agonized over it for the rest of the day. I was so mad at myself for not running up to him to create my own little romantic meet cute and instead freezing and then letting it go. I expected my friends to give me a speech that people on the internet especially love to give ’cause women, “It’s 2019! You could’ve made the first move!”
Thankfully my friend turned to me and wisely said, “Dude, no. You didn’t mess anything up. You deserve someone who will run up to you and take a risk.” And you know what? She’s right.
I’m a hopeless romantic and also someone who’s independent and outspoken, so in short, someone whose very existence is seemingly paradoxical to some people. It took me a long time to realize that it’s OK that I want to be pursued. But I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it is OK to say that out loud. It doesn't make me a less empowered person. In fact isn't it empowering to be able to name what it is you want in a partner or a potential partner?
For so long I had internalized the idea that equality means I can and should make every first move. I should message first and pursue, even if what I actually want is the opposite. I want to be asked out. I want to be taken to dinner. I want to be wooed, man. And I think it’s bullshit that I should be expected to stop wanting that if that’s what I want.
Look, I absolutely applaud anyone of any gender if they love being the pursuer. And in fact it’s ridiculous when guys are intimidated by a woman who pursues them. I’ve asked out a good number of guys, I’ve sent many first messages, indicated interest first. But in my experience, being the pursuer resulted in me having to do everything else in the courtship. Like if I make the first move, somehow I’m also setting up the first date and the second, on and on forever until I give up and end things.
And by the way my desire to be pursued has nothing to do with it being “a man’s role” or whatever. Regardless of gender (hi, I’m queer!) I want to be pursued; I just do. My love language is “romance the hell out of me like you’re basically a prince,” regardless of your gender. And that’s OK! Not only because I’m allowed to want to be loved how I want to be loved, but also because so many women have been raised not just to want that but to believe that the most romantic thing in the world is to be pursued, for someone to fight for you, for someone to put in the work.
You see it all the time in movies, TV, songs—the message being that the amount of effort someone puts in trying to be with you is directly related to how much you are wanted, loved, and worth. I find myself absolutely wrecked by scenes where a character patiently, persistently pursues a love interest (who the love interest likes back, of course). I’m not here to tell anyone to keep pursuing someone after they’ve given you either a hard no or even a soft nah (dudes, stop doing this!!!). I’m just here to say that wanting someone to put in the effort for you doesn’t make you bad or wrong or old-fashioned or disempowered or weak.
So let’s stop giving women in particular conflicting messages that they have to want to be pursued (because that’s the societally sanctioned definition of interest and romance) and also that they should go ahead and be the pursuer (because that’s what modern women do). In short let’s just all let ourselves and each other want what we want (as long as active consent is involved).
The point of all of this progress is to give women the option to choose whatever is right for them even if that choice is, “Yeah, I’m gonna want you to put in some effort.”
Lane Moore is the bestselling author of How To Be Alone: If You Want To and Even if You Don’t and creator of Tinder Live. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
Originally Appeared on Self