My boyfriend and I had been dating for a little over a year when he found out he didn't make it in to a comedy festival. It wouldn't seem like a huge deal to anyone else, but he's a comedian. In Chicago, where we lived, there are maybe two opportunities per year for comics to be seen by the "industry" -- the people with the money and the contracts.
"I need to seriously think about moving to New York," was how he greeted me when I went to his house to console him. My heart stopped. I was madly in love with this guy, and though I felt like we could talk about anything, I immediately felt as awkward as a middle schooler on a first date. I couldn't be direct.
"You need to start thinking
about it?" I said, putting as much emphasis as possible on the word. We both gathered our thoughts and then dove in to "the talk". He said that he couldn't imagine a world where we were apart, but he also couldn't imagine a world where he forced me move to NYC.
I was in a post-modern pickle.
I thought through the technical stuff first: In Chicago, I had friends that I loved, and dance classes that I loved, and restaurants that I loved, but was I tied to anything else? I was employed as a licensed therapist but I hated my current work situation, and therapists are never too hard up for work. Besides, my family always wanted me to move back to the East Coast.
Should I Stay (on Principle) or Should I Go?
Then I thought of all the emotional stuff. Would I be OK with relinquishing that much control in this relationship, with him knowing that I moved to stay with him? Would it make me feel too vulnerable, or worse yet, would I end up resenting him if I didn't like it in New York? Hadn't I dreamed of living in the Big Apple growing up? Does it count if you move there with a man?
I consider myself a feminist. To me, this means that I am strong, my opinions are valuable, my decisions are my own, and none of this is because of or despite the fact that I am a woman. I realized slowly that most of the reasons I had to not move were more for the sake of feminism than they were about me, him or our relationship, and once I realized that, we sat down and started talking.
It's About Choices
What was most important to me was that we both owned the decisions we were making. This meant that he would have to acknowledge that I was moving because of him, so that he couldn't later downplay it by saying that he was going either way and "you can totally come if you want to", a favorite of men who are trying to play it cool. He would have to respect the depth of my decision, and I would have to treat my decision to move as if it had been my own idea. That would mean no blaming him if things didn't go perfectly, no resentments, and no holding my happiness over his head. I was moving with him, but no one was forcing me.
Having set up the parameters, we planned and planned and finally made the leap. It helped me to see that he was as scared as I was, and I realized that we were on equal footing, regardless of who came up with the idea. We became this tiny little team against the big New York one. Every day we fought the city. Some days we won and most days we lost, but either way, we grew up a lot individually and
as a couple. And I would have never have had this experience without him.
I figured out that feminism should never be the deciding factor in making life decisions. Doing something because of feminism is just as lame as doing something because a man wants you to do it. Political ideologies are there to help us organize our thoughts and views, but as sex guru Betty Dodson said, "Personal choice always trumps political correctness."
Emily Gordon is a Lemondrop contributor, blogger and journalist who lives in New York.