You are the one whose photo I had downloaded off of Facebook, zooming in on your face on my tablet every other night before going to bed. I had memorized all of your features perfectly: the color of your eyes, the tiny freckles on your cheekbones, the way your bony hand had spider-like veins on it and how you were smiling freely at the camera.

You are the one whose copybook I had stolen – risking severe consequences – just so I could know what your handwriting looked like. Just so I could have something that belonged to you.

You are the one whose number I had looked for in the phone directory, and whose address I had learned by heart.

You are the one whom I dreamed of marrying in the far future, when everything would’ve magically worked out. I imagined myself living with you at that address, walking to the bakery (that I knew from my field research was nearby) every Saturday morning. I would get along great with your parents and siblings, and we’d have a son who looked just like you.

Like a foolish, stereotypical teenage girl à-la-Taylor Swift, I daydreamed and waited around for my happy ending. Even though I considered myself to be a hardcore feminist. Even though I was deeply aware of how strong, independent women do not require male validation, how they take the reins of their lives in their own hands. I handed my reins to a moron, knowingly.

I was Katniss at heart – but in real life, I just couldn’t help acting like Bella.

Why? Why do so many women struggle to act in accordance with their closely-held values when it comes to men? Why is it that, even though we cannot stand to see injustice being done to other women, even though we urge our friends to leave their douchey boyfriends, we sometimes just cannot bring ourselves to follow the principles that we ourselves set, to listen to our own advice?

I wonder if it’s human nature. Maybe men do the same, maybe they go against their core ideals just for the love of their lives too, who knows. But somehow, that image is hard for me to visualize. After all, how many guys name the kids that they want to have with their crushes? How many men take the time to painstakingly screen through a potential date’s Facebook every existing social media profile, eager to glean any info they can? How many teenage boys excitedly tell their best friend about how their crush had glanced at them for slightly longer than a millisecond?

I’ll tell you how many: not nearly as many as there are girls and women who do those things. Yes, we are socialized to be stereotypically feminine as kids – we are mothers of Barbie dolls as kids and lead characters of romance novels by the time we are teenagers. And then, at some point in our adolescence or adulthood we see the light and suddenly realize that we can be so much more. We try to break free from societal norms and the bullshit that the media feeds us, and finally, we say, we can start thinking for ourselves.

But now I wonder, what if the damage has already been done by then? And if so, then how do we cure ourselves?

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  • Saffron Shirazi loves spending time alone and having endless conversations in her head (with both real and imaginary people).