Traditional Gender Roles with a Modern Twist

by Carmen Woodruff
Carmen Woodruff

Disclaimer: This may or may not be based on a true story, and in the words of Wendy Williams, “allegedly.”

“I’m from the South! She needs to cook and she has to be cute too. I believe in traditional gender roles with a modern twist. I’ll cut the grass or something but she’ll need to take care of the house.”

This was my third-to-last conversation with the nice and easy going guy—or so I thought—who entered my life about three months prior. There was a mileage distance between us and he roadblocked it further in the age of Covid-19 with his refusal to get vaccinated. I didn’t quite understand why as he was on the fast track vaccine VIP list as a “doctor.”

Speaking of “doctor,” he reminded me of his profession incessantly, in many instances referring to himself in third person. If “doctor” were a SEO keyword or at the top of my Google SERP, I’d be a billionaire thanks to his personal bragging, I mean branding. Oh! In quarantine, I’m taking a digital marketing certification course. This evening I’m studying about paid search with Google Ads.

Back to the story…

My response, “I love to cook! I’ve learned a lot living on my own after all of these years.” Sheesh! It was like I could feel the elephant-sized GoogleAd red flags hurling at me, as I sashayed side to side, Instagram boomeranging my way back towards the fire. I subtly boasted back about my grilling skills to show him I was indeed a lady but with a tough edge too.

In my own defiant feminist way, I reminded him that I was from the North and maybe one day I would cook for him but I had goals and it would be on my terms, docta!

“Every man should get married by the time they’re 25 or 26. They should settle down with a girl if she’s not too crazy while she’s still young (ie. not established) enough to need them,” he went on to say.

Varied sentiments ricocheted my emotions up and down, like Grand Canyon in-flight turbulence. My ears popped and burned in search of freedom for these poor damsels in scenario. I focused on LinkedIn target audiences, locations and budgets, placing my frantic digital marketing typing on mute since the conversation was one-sided anyways. I was the ear, kind of like the wing, whisking through the mountains of the choppy bot chat.

Are you there, God? It’s me, Carmen.

Maybe this was my destiny. Isn’t this what all women subconsciously wish for in their 30s? Could it be time to finally slow down after chasing my dreams and achieving educational milestones?

Yes, it would require moving to a rural town but everything’s online now anyway, right? I could work from home and we could live a happy life. He was smart, he went to e-church and he was a dad, even though it took him a month to tell me he had children. That was okay. I work with kids all the time, I told him, falling deeper into the rose-colored, fantastical narrative.

I entrenched myself further, fanning the Mailchimp messaging flames with my busyness. Even my TikTok “For You” page was sending warnings from male dating experts I’d never even followed or asked to know.

Thinking back to week one, It all started so beautifully, but doesn’t it always? He called me regularly, almost every day, leaving voicemail messages when I was unavailable. I giddily appreciated his considerate, yet bare-minimum gestures. The conversations flowed freely. We spoke about life, mostly his but sometimes mine. We virtually celebrated holidays together: Christmas, New Year’s, birthdays…He even sent me a GIF minus the “t” on every occasion. I was smitten. He was…non-committal.

I thanked the heavens, chuckling to myself in He’s Just Not That Into You awe of this blessing of a connection. A fall wedding, I thought, preferably in Vegas. It’s beautiful in September. I’ll have some friends put together a string quartet! We’ll cocktail hour it up with some live jazz and pre-celebrate in ridiculous girls night style on a tacky “look at me” party bus. Or maybe we’ll play it destination-style on the beach. I revived my Pinterest from the iCloud, cautiously adding some whimsical themes and simple, flowy dress designs.

Second-to-last conversation.

I will give him credit for this one. It was nice and he called me after a meeting in between picking up dinner and heading home the day before Valentine’s Day. I was greeted the following morning with another GIF minus the “t.” I sent one back—nothing more; nothing less—since I’m currently learning how to “match his energy” on TikTok.

Last conversation.

The day after Valentine’s Day. I was curled up on my social media marketing arm chair to tackle the newest module. A call came through and of course I answered on the second ring. Ring. That had a ring to it. But this would be my first ring. We talked today all about his career journey. It was pleasant and I told him I needed to let him go to get back to work on a project for a mentor who had her PhD. I told him I was also considering pursuing my PhD.

And that was it.

I stuck my neck out to send the dreaded, “don’t do it, girl” text to test waters the next day. His lackadaisical one-word response chilled me like the snowstorm all of us Midwesterners had endured the night before. Moral of the story: PhD applications are due this December. Onto the next adventure, with or without a suitor. And ladies, find a man who is into you even if you aspire to share the same salutation!

Until then, I’ll tweak my SEO results a little better and recognize that my value is higher than that of a PPC ad.

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