Just because I can change my oil doesn't mean I don't like a door opened for me.
On my 18th birthday, I went to the biker tattoo parlor and got my navel pierced — alone. Later that year, I moved 600 miles away to a state where I knew nobody. I got a Master's of Fine Arts in fiction despite everyone telling me it was a bad idea. I quit a Ph.D. program when I got pregnant on purpose.
The point is, I make my own decisions; I'm independent.
This independence comes out in other ways, too. I can open my own doors. I can check my own oil. I make my own hippie parenting decisions and stick with them, even if that means I'm pulling out a bare boob in public. I'm a stay-at-home mom who bucked the yoga pants and red wine trend to start my own career as a freelance writer. In short: I do my own thing.
There's a sense that you're independent, which means you eschew all men and men-related goodness or you're dependent, which means you have someone else making all your decisions, but you get your feet rubbed.
That's a false dichotomy that's harmful to women everywhere. It sets them up to fulfill unrealistic expectations; it damages their self-esteem and their ability for self-actualization. Women can be independent and pampered at the same time.
When we think of an independent woman, we think of Idgie from Fried Green Tomatoes: alone, beholden to no man, totally self-reliant. Independent women generally don't have kids, unless they're single mothers, and they do stereotypically masculine jobs: fixing sinks, installing light bulbs, taking out the trash.
There isn't room for men in this image, unless they're panting along behind with their tongues hanging out. The Independent Woman ignores them, or possibly sleeps with them and kicks them to the curb. She knows what she wants.
Then there's the Dependent Gal. I'm from the South. Women here are expected to be soft and demure, to defer to their husbands' views on everything from politics to barbecue. I know many women who have to ask their husbands before they make plans — not because it's polite, but because their husband honestly might deny them the right to hang with their friends.
This is actually a thing. If women don't act this way, their husbands are considered whipped. If he helps with the kids or the cooking, he might as well take it up the ass.
These dichotomies harm women. There's a lot of ways to be independent, just as there are a lot of ways to be dependent. An independent woman can make room for men. She can make lots of room for men, in fact. But this independent/dependent dichotomy doesn't help anyone.
Just because I can change my oil doesn't mean I don't like a door opened for me. I appreciate that men stand when I walk in the room. I like being called "ma'am." When men offer to carry heavy things for me, I hand them over. I don't have to have to be a model daughter of the South to appreciate gestures of politeness.
I'll go further than that. I like having a husband who takes care of me. He lets me sleep while he watches the kids. He gives me foot rubs. He gives me back rubs. He does other stereotypically un-masculine things I'm too prude to mention here. It's not uncommon that he'll give me a present for no reason, often jewelry, often just because he can. He's been known to wash my hair for me. I basically won the pampering-husband lottery.
But all those gestures have nothing to do with my independence. I've got my own car, in my own name, and my own cell phone, also in my name. I share custody of the house, unlike many women I know. I can theoretically change a tire and when I decided I hated the educational system in our country, I made the decision to homeschool, while married to a public school teacher.
I've randomly come home with piercings. Getting custom-made Spotify playlists (the 2015 equivalent of the mixtape) has nothing to do with any of these things.
I've talked about race on CNN and been called a Jew, a hypocrite, and a racist. I got slammed for writing about Dylan Flood and the Charleston shooting. I'm outspoken about mental illness, particularly postpartum depression, and have never shied away from detailing the drug cocktail that keeps me alive.
My husband has nothing to do with any of these things. I love that he washes my hair. I need those nighttime cuddles, but they don't preclude me from speaking my mind.
I'm independent, but that doesn't mean I don't want pampering. It doesn't mean I don't want a man in my life, and it doesn't mean my sons damn well better call me "Ma'am." After all, it's only polite, and politeness and independence aren't mutually exclusive. At least, most of the time.