The golden standard is the twenty- to forty-something, living on your own or with a spouse and possibly children; able to do maintenance work around the house as well as the domestic chores; in a job where you’re earning enough to support yourself and any dependants; emotionally stable–relatively speaking, anyway! The underlying concept is that when any of the ordinary problems in life pop up, such as a flat tyre, blown fuse, large wine stain on your shirt, or sudden bout of acute appendicitis (you know, the minor things)… you can handle it without asking anyone else for help.
So let me indulge in a little boasting here. I lived on my own until family issues called me home. I know my way around a car jack and a dipstick, understand the terms “Phillips head” and “flat-head”, wield a mean saw (nearby spectators beware!) and can wire up a home entertainment system without too much trouble. I can whip up a decent Asian meal–though my specialty is still microwave cooking–and I have a pretty decent grasp on the subtleties of when to use a mop, broom or vacuum cleaner. I’ve worked out how to get bank loans, make insurance claims, and fill out my tax returns. I have no problem travelling alone to the other side of town on roads I’ve never seen before, or to the other side of the world where the strange, strange people drive on the other side of the road. I can pull apart a computer (and in most cases put it back together again), or solder a PCB. I’ve seen enough of children to know how to keep them alive. (Whether I’d want to after a few straight hours of crying and screaming would be another matter.)
So why, then, do I still feel the need for a partner who can do most of that for me?
It’s something I’ve been pondering the past few weeks, as I’ve increasingly used the worlds of various shoujo manga–Japanese comics with a heavy focus on romance–to escape from my own. In the few series that I’ve been reading repeatedly, the protagonist tends to be of the “I’ll do my best in (insert activity here) and give it my all!” type, while the love interest tends toward the “I shall watch over your progress but stay one step ahead of you and help you when you stumble” type. (Insert your preferred genders for the protagonist and love interest.)
I’ve come to realise that it speaks to the deep need in me to not only be loved, but to be protected. Sure, I have the skills to board up the windows and lie in wait with a weapon should zombies come calling, but I’d much rather have someone there to protect both of us while I watch their back. I want someone to tell me everything will be okay, and they’ll sort it out. And I realised that this unspoken desire is something I’ve been much too embarrassed to admit so far. It goes against everything I’ve spent my life trying to avoid… and yet, it’s not as though I can wish it away, either.
If you look at some of the best-selling novels these days–need I name any names?–I think it’s a very common desire amongst women, at least. (It may well be the same among men, but women are the target audience for these particular books.) It’s not simply airheaded, helpless girls who read these stories–there’s a large contingent of strong-willed and strong-minded women who are out there living their own lives as well.
It makes me wonder if we’ve gone too far the other way. In all the emphasis on being your own man or woman, where the trait of independence is one of the most highly prized, have we neglected one of the greatest ways of displaying love? Have we forgotten the simple comfort of telling someone, “I need you” and meaning it? Perhaps we need to let go and place complete trust in someone else to take care of things for us sometimes.
If there’s anyone out there handy with tools, I do have a few things around the place that need fixing.
Leanne Yong is an aspiring Aussie author who is working on her second young adult novel, when she’s not trying to do everything herself. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.