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Dear Amy,

I am 14 years old and starting my first year of high school. Recently a new friend of mine asked me out and I am unsure how to react. He is a great guy and I like him a lot, but I am uneasy about his views about women. For example, he complains women pretend they want equality but still let the guy pay for meals. He tells me he will never marry because he doesn't want to support a family. Though I consider myself a feminist I'm often unsure how to defend my views. And while it's charming for him to carry my books and open doors like a gentleman, I want him to know I can do things for myself.

How should I respond?


Your situation/dilemma is certainly not unique. I think that many people struggle with the "rules" of dating, before realizing that there aren't any rules, just finding ways to negotiate that space with each person.

Personally, I like to be taken care of as much as I like taking care of the person I am dating. I spent a lot of time rejecting traditionally female things, like cooking and cleaning, only because I never wanted to be expected to do these things. But soon I realized that I was denying myself things that I actually enjoyed, like cooking and cleaning. I had to get to a place of choosing these things rather than having them expected of me. Similarly, I like to treat and I like to carry my own bags, which are two things that are traditionally considered male roles, which I also came to from a place of choosing.

Bring your whole self into the relationship--sometimes that means embracing feminine things and sometimes it means embracing masculine things. Hopefully, that will lead to all of these things being valued independent of their gender association. I think that we need to choose our battles carefully. You can find a way to tell your friend what you like to do and what you expect of him by your own example. For instance, say that you can carry your own books, treat him, but then make sure that he does the same for you. Hopefully you can find this balance. Acknowledging it is half the battle, so you are more than halfway there.

Good luck.

- Amy

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