I actually had this thought ages ago and kept meaning to write about it but didn’t.
I’ve realized that I have kind of an entitlement issue with dudes; on a gut level, I believe they’re supposed to take care of me.
I’m quite certain this came from my dad, who (as most abusive personality types do) tried to isolate my mother and I from other people and make us dependent on him – mostly by insisting on driving my mom and I everywhere, even though I had a bus pass and she had a driver’s licence. So I’d be getting ready to leave for work, bus pass in hand, and my dad would be like “No, no, just wait a second, I’ll drive you.”
When we went shopping, I used to make my dad deal with the cashier; I’d give him my items and money and he’d do the actual transaction. (I wasn’t familiar with the concept of social anxiety back then, and too much in denial to recognize that I was afraid of people anyway; I gave some other excuse, I forget what.) My dad accepted this quirk of mine – probably loved it, really, because it cemented my dependence that much further – and did not delve into the reasons why or encourage me to make my own purchases.
My dad would also jump in and do technological stuff for me, like setting up a computer or a tv (not teach me how, mind you; do it for me). I mean I’d be about to get out the instructions and do it myself and he’d practically shove me out of the way.
Basically, my dad repeatedly taught me not to bother being independent because it was easier just to let him help me. My ex-husband was very much the same way, right down to insisting on driving me places even though I was willing and able to take transit; I suppose I married him partly because he repeated the same comforting, familiar patterns of behaviour I grew up with. And oh – ew – I guess The Pedant’s unsolicited technological help touches a soft spot in me for the same reason. All things considered, it makes sense that I would associate technological help with feeling loved and protected, but still – it grosses me out to associate my dad with anyone I’m fucking.
So yeah. My dad (and mom) never bought things for me; I was always pretty independent in that regard, and never got the idea that dudes should pay for my shit. My dad was never particularly chivalrous toward me (he’s a total dickhead, actually), so I never felt that dudes were “supposed” to open doors for me or give me their jackets when I was cold or anything like that. But a few months back, I began noticing that if I was talking to a dude I was fairly close to (friend or lover, doesn’t matter) and mentioned that I was having computer problems and he didn’t offer to come by and take a look, I’d get this surge of rage. Some part of my brain was like “What the fuck, dude!!! Why aren’t you helping me?!?!?” – and this only happened with men, not women.
For a long time I was the same way with my social anxiety stuff – if I told my boyfriend that, for instance, I needed to call a store and find out how late they were open but I didn’t want to, I assumed he would offer to do it for me (actually, I didn’t always wait for an offer; I used to flat out ask guys to do that shit for me). I didn’t expect a dude to play therapist and actually fix my anxiety, mind you; I simply expected him to enable my behaviour by going places with me or doing shit for me. You know, like my dad did. My ex husband was actually happy to comply with this (and kept going out of his way to enable me even after bitching about my dependence on him and wanting a trial separation because of it. Once again, an abusive personality type trying to isolate me from the world). Sometime after my marriage dissolved I did some soul searching and realized I needed to own my anxiety and stop expecting my partners to bail me out.
My post-separation rebound fling was the last person I was with who owned a car (and that was eight years ago) so I haven’t had an opportunity to get mad at a guy for not offering to drive me places – but I think I’m over that, too. At this point, preemptively offering me rides would probably be a red flag; I never want to be as totally dependent on anyone as I was on my dad or my ex husband.
But the assumption that guys should help me with icky hard technical stuff persists, and I’m actively working on fixing that. I think I’m making progress. At the very least I’m making a point of outright asking for help when I have an issue instead of passive-aggressively mentioning the issue and then waiting to be rescued.
And while I love that The Pedant has taken it upon himself to equip me with a fancy phone and reset my router for me (and salt my front path and help tidy my living room and help assemble a dresser), I’m being careful not to ask him for assistance very often**. I don’t want to feel dependent on him and I don’t want him to feel used. If I must get help with things around the house, I’ll at least rotate it among my other capable friends – both male and female.
*That’s the other thing – my dad was a software developer and big-time nerd, and so were most of my long-term boyfriends. It just became totally par for the course to me that guys all know how to fix computers and hook up tvs and stuff. I have to keep reminding myself that having a penis doesn’t mean you’re automatically gonna know how to troubleshoot electronics. Bad feminist. BAD.
**I got him to hook up my DVD player after I tried to do it myself and couldn’t figure it out. And I got him to carry my new tv home from the post office that time. That’s about it.