I was a serial dater throughout high school and college. For the most part, my boyfriends fell into three groups: nice people who treated me with respect and liked me as a person, emotionally abusive guys who inspired reams of (semi-decent) emo poetry and the vanilla dudes I used as distractions while I worked to get over someone from one the other groups.

I’m not even sure even I took these relationships seriously. I think I just wanted to fall into the deep, young love I’d read about in YA romance novels. Over the years, I did so, with varying degrees of success.

But in college, I stumbled into something real and fulfilling. I was 21 and jaded and when he told me that he really wanted to try to make something work with me – I’m not sure that I truly believed him. Usually, I either I molded myself into the type of woman my suitor seemed to want or I projected all of my “perfect boyfriend” fantasies onto whoever was around. Needless to say, things generally ended badly. Or, at least, weirdly.

But this time, I finally met a man who liked me for me. My goofiness, my rage about the injustices in the world, my enduring love of Harry Potter and horror movies — all of it.

About two months after we started dating, I came down with a bout of alcohol poisoning and he nursed me back to health. The details are gross, but let’s just say it proved to me this relationship was grounded in something mutual. My boyfriend quickly became my best friend, a giver of advice and a keeper of secrets. He also became the perfect person to sample new recipes as I honed my fledging cooking skills.

His critiques are always honest and constructive. He enthusiastically compliments my hits and points out the good parts of my misses. He thanks me profusely each time he fills his belly with something I’ve made, because — and I quote — “You don’t HAVE to ever make me ANYTHING.”

And so I continued to cook. I learned to make my own sauces. I invested in new spices and kitchen utensils. I spent most Sunday afternoons grocery shopping and prepping meals for the week. I turned up my nose at store-bought salsa and pre-made pie crust.

My friends began to raise their eyebrows at these signs of “domesticity.” What had brought about this change, they joked. Did it have anything to do with this new man I was seeing? Our relationship definitely seemed different from any of the ones in my past. Might I be doing this in order to keep him happy?

So the time has come to address the extremely sexist assumption people continue make about my cooking skills: I did not, in fact, learn how to cook in order to “keep a man.”

I realize this might be shocking to some. To win a man’s heart you must go through his stomach, or so the old adage goes. Well, I’m here to tell the world that there is another, much more logical reason why a young, straight woman might learn how to cook: to eat.

I learned to cook because eating out is expensive, generally unhealthy and usually unsatisfying. Cooking is fun, relaxing and I know exactly what is going into my food. I feel better because I’m eating better, and the money I save buys lipstick and books and concert tickets – you know, things that actually matter.

I do not pore over recipes thinking, “Will this make him love me?”

My life does not revolve around carefully constructing some elaborate man trap. And honestly, the idea that one could trick a man into falling in love with a plate of beautifully fried chicken is offensive to men, as well.

I cook because I enjoy it. Being able to share said food with a person whom I love is just gravy. Pun totally intended.

  • Lauren McEwen

    Lauren McEwen is the Lead Partnerships Strategist for The Tempest, based in the Atlanta area. She has written about everything from pop culture to gender to business. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Madame Noire, The Baltimore Sun, Bitch Magazine, Ebony.com, and Comic Book Resources. Although she likes a ton of things, her three true loves are cheese, Harry Potter, and Beyonce.