When you are in a long-term relationship, you reach a point where you stop caring about how the other person sees you. You get comfortable enough to show your partner the good, the bad, and the ugly. That ratty t-shirt you’ve owned since you were 13-years-old? You start wearing it around him as well. That unwashed hair that you haven’t really come around to yet? You pop a hat on and still visit him. When that relationship ends, the comfortability also ends. You go back to being single and it’s Hot Girl Summer, which means that you always put your best foot forward. 

I find myself asking, “But why? Why should I put my best foot forward for someone who is not making the same effort?”

After asking my friends and trolling the internet for answers, I concluded that it’s simply what’s expected for me. I realized that rules around dating seem to have one thing in common: It’s about how you want the man to see you, and it has nothing to do with you. The rules make it seem like a man is an elusive creature that I have to trap and somehow trick into staying with me for the long term.

The 90-day rule is probably one of the silliest dating rules that I’ve come across. The idea that a person will respect me more or that I will get the power in a relationship if I wait for 90 days seems ludicrous to me. The question is why I would want to build a relationship with someone who views intimacy as a reward and uses that to calculate my worth. 

I prefer Yvonne Orji’s views about celibacy and the wait.

Yvonne explains how the wait should be about you and not the other person. She says that waiting should be done on purpose and not in fear. I have decided to wait, not because I want men to see me as pure and innocent, but simply because I want to. 

Deciding when to express your feelings and discussing the future is another tricky section of the dating rules. I have been warned about not asking too soon because it might scare the other person away. I have been told that I need to be extremely careful when discussing the future because it may make him uncomfortable. 

I wonder why I have to tip-toe around his feelings while ignoring my own. Why should I carry the burden instead of shouldering it with him? I have decentered men and promised myself to always be open with my feelings. If I want more, I will ask him for more, and I will accept whatever answer he gives me. If I want to know what we are, I will ask what we are, and I will act accordingly. 

The biggest hurdle in decentering cis-men is decentering them from desirability. As a heterosexual woman, I find it normal that I want to be desired by men. The only problem is that I let that need to control my behavior. When I first started working out, I was driven by a yearning for the perfect hourglass shape. I wanted the slim waist, the round hips, and the rounded booty. On days that I didn’t feel like working out, I started asking myself why I even wanted that body in the first place. 

I realized used to think that the “perfect body” has everything to do with the type of woman that men want. It’s the body that we hear men rap about and the one they talk about on social media. I shifted my focus, and I now work out because it makes me feel good about myself. I work out because I want my body to get stronger. I am happy with my body shape, and I will stop trying to manipulate it to impress men. 

I have realized that I actually don’t care about what men think of my appearance. If anything, I care more about what other women have to say about how I dress or put on my make-up. I am not spending hours getting ready for a man to tell me that I look hot. I am spending hours so that a woman will hype up my contour and my highlight. I want a woman to walk up to me and tell me that my edges are laid. I want to post a TikTok and have women call me “bestie” and hype me up in the comments. 

The concept of decentering works beyond the scope of heterosexual relationships. Decentering means dating on your own terms. It means letting go of what society says you should do and making up the rules as you go. It’s a reminder that you are the main character, and you have a choice in how your romantic interactions work. 

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