I’m Done Changing Who I Am For Men—And You Should Be Too

One time as a teenager, I was baking chocolate chip cookies with my best friend. Or, most likely, she was baking the cookies and I was distracting her, and her normally very delicious baked goods would turn out to be one big cookie as a result of my antics. For a long time, we joked that we would start our own baking business called “The Big One.” I’m not sure what I’d offer to a baking business besides the distraction that leads to delicious failures, but it’s still on our list of backup career options, so no one steal that name—at least, not to describe cookies.

This particular time, there were other people present. I remember a boy I had a crush on saying, “I don’t like chocolate chip cookies with too many chocolate chips. They’re too sweet.” I immediately agreed with him.

But did I?

The words that came out of my mouth were, “Oh yeah, me too!” but I wasn’t sure if I really agreed with him. Though I would never let myself consider that I could have lied to him and myself, even for a second. I was not that girl.

For years after that, I would add less chocolate chips to the cookies I baked (or attempted to bake) because I liked chocolate chip cookies that weren’t overwhelmed by chocolate chips. Right?

Wrong.

Turns out, I love chocolate chip cookies with twice the amount of chocolate as called for. Chocolate chunk, double chocolate, give me all of it. One of my daughters is the same way, and she has the same taste in peanut butter and chocolate. One time while I was driving an otherwise quiet car, she spoke up and said, “Mom, I could never say no to a Reese’s.”

It hasn’t been until my mid-30s and after years of therapy that I have begun working on what I like. What I enjoy. What I want. Who I’m attracted to. Not what men I’m attracted to like, not what I think I’m supposed to like or dislike, but what I like. For someone who feels so strongly about raising girls who turn into women who know who they are, it turns out that after three and a half decades of conditioning, it’s hard for me to grasp what I actually like. One of those things are double chocolate chip cookies.

The other day I was at Kaladi’s and there were two baristas who looked to be men in their early 30s. One of them made *gasp* eye contact with me. And then as I waited for my drink, he looked at me again. And again. (Not in a creepy way—not every time I write about men is it complaining, promise.) I texted a few of my friends and said “So is confidence assuming a man is looking at you repeatedly because he’s attracted to you and not because you have something on your face? Because I looked in my phone camera just to check and I didn’t see anything abnormal.” One of my friends suggested I make prolonged eye contact back and I nearly choked. “Okay, I don’t know who you think I am, but just making eye contact at ALL is a success for me,” I replied.

Another friend asked me if I thought about going back. I said, “Oh, I mean sure, for coffee. But I wasn’t attracted to the barista.” She said “So…we are analyzing if this guy was checking you out, but…you’re not attracted to him? I think we are still talking about whether or not someone likes you, and not who and what you like.”

I then asked her if she’d been in cahoots with my therapist and WTF she had in mind calling me out like that, and if she’d made any chocolate chip cookies lately.

So, here’s to baking (or buying, or distracting) the kinds of cookies you like. Here’s to never saying no to a Reese’s, even if the boy you’re crushing on thinks they’re too sweet. Here is to texting about and TO the people you like, not just the ones who like you. Here’s to knowing you don’t need permission to like what you like, love who you love, and there is enough space and cookies in this world for all of us.