Take Up Some Space / by Sarah Schwartz

Oh, darling, this is your invitation to take up some space.

Stretch out your arms, feel the tips of your fingers, wiggle your toes. Delight in yourself enough to believe someone else could delight in you, too.

Listen, I see you, and I know that you are smart and brave, capable of turning the world upside down. I know you are no damsel in distress, you're slaying your own dragons, dreaming your own dreams. You are not a supporting character in someone else’s story, you are writing your own.

You work hard, so hard, to be seen past the stereotypes, to live outside the straight jacket like constraints of rigid gender roles that breed more death than they ever could life.

But sometimes, dear one, I'm afraid that in your fervor to be seen as strong and independent, you've forgotten that it is neither weak nor wrong to need another person.

You see, I've been you. There was a time where I used to spout off lines like, "Oh no, I'm not like those girls. I'm independent and strong, low maintenance. I don't need that much from people, and certainly not from men. I can take care of myself."

I thought I was fighting against harmful gender stereotypes, by asserting that I did not fit the trope of the "crazy girl", when actually, I was feeding them.

Because in order to set myself apart, love, I bought into a script that casts the majority of women as the unreasonable, overly emotional, needy partners in romantic relationships.

And sure, I know some women who cling to their partners in unhealthy ways, who have issues that manifest themselves in toxic relational dynamics. But I know some men who are prone to that, too, who ask more of their partners than any human could possibly provide.

It's not a characteristic unique to women, and for that matter, it's not a characteristic found in the majority of women. And so when we go around commending ourselves for not being, "like the rest", we paint our sisters into untrue stereotypes. Everyone loses.

You are not "low maintenance", like a car with great gas mileage. You are a human person, with needs, strengths, flaws and gifts. And if someone wants to be in a relationship with you, they should want to be in a relationship with all of you. The rest are just imposters.

So if a man ever tells you that you are different from the rest, that you're special, that the last one was so needy and hard to please and he’s ever so glad to have found not needy you, give him a firm handshake, wish him well, and get the hell out of there.

"...remember that, if you are a woman, you are not the exception. You are not so cool and fabulous and levelheaded that they will totally get where you are coming from when you show emotions other than 'pleasant agreement.'

When men say 'most women are crazy, but not you, you’re so cool' the subtext is not, 'I love you, be the mother to my children.' The subtext is 'do not step out of line, here.' If you get close enough to the men who say things like this, eventually, you will do something that they do not find pleasant. They will decide you are crazy, because this is something they have already decided about women in general." (Jennifer Wright)

Darling, don't be afraid to voice disagreement, to challenge opinions, to, well, be an adult human in a relationship with another adult human. Believe me, I have spent enough of my relational life convinced that if I could just make myself small enough, if I could ask for nothing and give everything, I could convince people to stay. Friends, family, boyfriends. And let me tell you, it's complete and utter bullshit.

Don't cower in fear of upsetting someone else, or make yourself less so someone else can be more. BE YOURSELF. FULLY, COMPLETELY, UNAPOLOGETICALLY, WILDY, WONDERFULLY YOURSELF.

Know what you need, and don't be ashamed to ask for it. Love yourself, be dedicated to healthy, whole living. And trust your heart only to those who are worthy of it.

My best, safest, strongest relationships are the ones in which I am not afraid to ask for what I need, to be sad, scared, angry, frustrated, or not in the mood to entertain. Those are the relationships where I am not afraid of the other person running out the second I prove to be human, experiencing the breadth of human emotion. Sadness, fear, infatuation, delight, joy, insecurity, excitement, melancholy.

Those are the relationships that remind me that I, Sarah Schwartz, am worth loving.

And you, dear one, are worth the same.

This is your invitation to take up some space.