I Will Never Ever Date a Man and Lose Myself: A Manifesto

The other day I had a conversation with a close friend that freaked me out. Whereas in the past this friend and I used to bond over our shared feminist singleness in the patriarchy, this conversation felt more like a defense of settling for mediocre men. While I love this friend, parts of this conversation stressed me out so much I literally opened a Word doc to draft a blog post titled “What If I Date a Man and Sacrifice All My Values and Become a Husk of My Former Self.”

Imagine this: I, a queer red-haired Vietnamese man, recline in an office chair in the guest bedroom of a generous friend. A near-empty glass of orange juice sits on the turquoise desk where I stare at an open Word document, journaling about my anxieties surrounding men and patriarchy. What if I date a man and then post about him on Facebook or Instagram so I can conform to the societal norms of promoting my romantic partner because I’m actually empty on the inside? I continue staring at the Word doc, its whiteness obscuring my vision just as whiteness obscures the vision of those who still support Donald Trump. What if I settle for a man who isn’t good enough for me and I’m unaware of it just like other femmes I know and then I’m trapped in the sinkhole of male mediocrity for all of eternity where I have to listen to Ed Sheeran, Ernest Hemingway, and a man who advocates to close the wage gap but doesn’t believe in reparations for people of color? I break into an internal sweat because my generous friend has AC, thank goodness, as the following question burns my soul: What if I date a man and I lose who I am?

This scene – me staring at the Word doc, finishing off my orange juice sip by sip, freaking out about ending up dependent on a man like some friends and acquaintances, played out for about 15 minutes. But then, as I processed my emotions more, I reflected on my internal strength and thought: you know what Thomas, f this, you’re so much stronger than this heteronormative patriarchal nonsense and you’re hotter than it too, even though I don’t know how you can be more physically attractive than an abstract concept. As BlackPink’s “Ddu-du Ddu-du” filtered in through my pink earphones, I thought, okay, even though I love this friend she def misunderstood me in specific parts of this conversation, which I’ll survive, because Hemingway misunderstood women his entire life and still succeeded because of his white male privilege, so I can survive this slight misunderstanding and still thrive.

Which brings me here, to my in-progress manifesto on how I will never, ever date a man and lose myself. By writing this and then sharing it in public, I am once again over-disclosing about my internal processes ugh when will it end I set forth my vision and hold myself accountable.

blackpink boombayah iconic shot bless up

Thank you to my queens BlackPink for helping me internalize femme confidence and strength with no man necessary. The other day I hung out with two romantic couples at the same time and I literally listened to “Boombayah” to clear my mind of the heteronormative haze. We have to stan BlackPink.

Number freaking one: I will always form a strong community of social support outside of a male romantic partner. Ranging from acquaintances to close friends, I know people who, especially right out of undergrad, move to a new city or a new stage of life and then go on dating apps and date someone to cope with their feelings of loneliness. I get it, it’s hard to find connection in our capitalistic society that separates us from one another, dating apps are convenient because they’re patriarchal scams to send us spiraling into compulsory monogamy, sure. But just because it’s hard to find connection doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I commit to striving to prioritize friendships, commitments to organizations and groups, and other forms as connection just as much, if not way more than any man.

Number two: I will avoid the “bare minimum” phenomenon of dating men. This phenomenon is essentially when men set the bar so low, any decent man looks like our icon and savior Lizzo herself. Two examples include when men who don’t text back make men who can hold a basic conversation seem amazing, and when our abusive and/or emotionally unavailable fathers make men who show any form of kindness look like pariahs of warmth and compassion. As I always tell people, instead of falling for this trap, I always compare potential romantic partners to my close friends, which sucks for men because my friends are iconic, but it also saves me a ton of time.

Number three: the “this man’s love taught me how to love myself” trope and/or the “this relationship with a man taught me about relationships” trope. I understand that all relationships can serve as ways for us to grow and learn more healthful ways of connecting with others. Yet, it’s patriarchal to assume that most of this growing and learning has to occur in relationships with men. I’ve learned way more about healthy communication and boundaries in my friendships, mentoring relationships, and in therapy than with any man, probably because men are literally socialized to suck at providing emotional labor (which I and many others are fighting to change). I will always highlight how non-romantic relationships have shaped me into the strong, caring person I am today, more so than any romantic relationship has.

So many times when people start dating men, they lose themselves, they deprioritize their friends, or they adhere more to heteronormative lifestyles. While I have not yet met or talked to a man who comes close to what I want in a romantic partner, this manifesto will help ensure that if I do, I will not lose myself. Many men have hurt me, yet I have survived every time; it would hurt more if I let myself down by losing myself to a man. I love myself too much to let that happen. I hope you do, too.

lizzo truth hurts an ICON

Thank you @ Lizzo for both creating the iconic bop “Truth Hurts” and then creating a masterful music video for the song where she marries herself. An icon of self-love and not adhering to heteronormative norms! Queen of subverting patriarchy, I have to stan.

How do you feel about maintaining a sense of yourself even if you engage in romantic relationships? What strategies and tips do you recommend? Not gonna lie having close friends who are starting to adhere closely to heteronormative dating culture is rough, I’m still processing it so any advice would be appreciated. Sometimes I worry about what will happen if I come across a man who actually interests me in a romantic sense, but 1) I have this manifesto and 2) that man most likely does not exist given the state of patriarchy in 2019, so, whew. I’m a little behind on responding to my previous post’s comments but I loved each of them so so much so thanks friends for reading and commenting and I will get back to you when I can, soon!


Filed under Personal, Society

7 responses to “I Will Never Ever Date a Man and Lose Myself: A Manifesto

  1. I think once you have more of a sense of yourself – you have grown up (and I mean one, not YOU) – this can be a bit less of a problem. Having said that I’ve seen all sorts of people of all ages losing their self when they get into a relationship – heteronormative or otherwise. And you run the risk of being too MUCH yourself and independent and being effing difficult to live with (HELLO). So I think the trick is to have a wide hinterland of friends and interests, keep those on (who finds someone who is interested in all the things they’re into??) and keep conscious of maintaining your identity while also being vulnerable enough to let someone else into your life. Not easy. I still haven’t got it right but I know I have a life outside my relationship and this is precious to me, my friends reflecting back to me who I really am if, for example, I have difficulties with people in extended family. etc. But do some stuff together (we are learning Spanish and enjoy listening to music from our mis-spent (or otherwise) youths together, not at the same time, but he does birdwatching and photography and I do running and officiating.

    • Love all these points, thank you Liz! So important to honor the idea of both being vulnerable and letting people into our lives while still maintaining our own independence and casting a wide net beyond our potential romantic partner. I do look up to you in how you facilitate that process on your blog and in your life. Also appreciate your use of the word “hinterland.” 🙂

  2. I was not expecting this entry. You strike me as someone who knows what you value and look for in a relationship. I know you’ll decide what you can trade off. I think having time for your own friends and even time for yourself is important. Do your friends try to set you up with people they know? It would be interesting to see how accurately your friends have perceived you.

    Oh, when you wrote “I break into an internal sweat because my generous friend has AC,…” I thought you meant Anderson Cooper. Then I realized what you really meant.

    And finally, if you ever do write that blog entry, I would come over and kick your butt. And I think your friends would too.

    • Awwww thank you for making me feel understood and supported, it means a lot to me. Also lol big time at Anderson Cooper, I think he’s not a bad-looking silver fox! My friends don’t really try to set me up with people because they don’t know anyone who they think is good enough for me, haha. We’ll see what happens with time. (: Thank you for your validation and for taking the time to read and comment again.

  3. X.w.

    Hi Thomas,
    I love your questions. I have been thinking about those similar issues in dating because recently I have met someone and I am back in the dating game. I think it’s a leaning experience. Since I can relate to the feeling of losing myself when dating a man, now I decide to focus more on my overall happiness. From do I like this person, to do I feel happy or anxious when I am with him, how we treated each other, I take more time to understand what I really want. I am not saying finding compatibility is easy. It is hard. And like you said, dating to fill up the loneliness for a short time is easy. But finding someone who is your friend but also a lover is hard. I agree with you that we need to love ourselves first then we can learn how to love our parents. And over the time, I think both sides need to make the same great effort. Our society has got used to let women be the nurturing part. I found that some of my relatives and friends even comment me of “selfish” when dating. I think I am just trying to be a good girlfriend and a good friend. The problem is, the equal partnership is still very new. I am learning that as well. Also, dating needs a lot more time and energy, sometimes I would feel I lost half of my “me time”, and got afraid that I would lose myself. Then I realized it is normal to feel fear. It’s not easy dating men!! It’s not like they understand feminism or white privilege, and provide us safety and love 24/7, they are not that perfect. !!!
    They say when in a good relationship two people can learn and grow together. But I agree with you, we shouldn’t waste our time and life to pursue people who do the bare minimums.

    • X.w

      Sorry, partners, not parents. :p

      • Yes I love this perspective! Thank you for your thoughtful sharing and commenting. I appreciate your intentionality about how much of yourself to invest in a relationship while also trying to hold onto yourself and your values outside of the relationship. It’s especially complicated when dating men based on how men are socialized in a patriarchal and/or toxically masculine society. It sounds like you’re doing your best and entering this process with some clarity and intentionality which is cool. I’m sending my best, lots of strength and warmth as always, and hope you’re well. (:

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