Standing in a check-out line recently behind two young women, I heard one of them saying to the other: "I wish I could find a man who would love me even if I stopped shaving my legs."
The two of them went on to lament the dearth of straight men who would love them for various choices they identified as failures to be sufficiently feminine/lovable. Men don't love women who don't shave their legs. Men don't love women who are fat. Men don't love women who are smart. Men don't love women who are ambitious in their careers. They knew some men who liked smart women, or some men who wouldn't care about hairy legs, but to find a man who loved a woman that was all of these things...!
That man is a unicorn. And, even if he weren't, he would be impossible to find. I wouldn't even know how to find a man like that.
They spoke of the prospect as if they were contemplating the Twelve Labors of Hercules.
One of them reached for a copy of Cosmo, as if the answer might be in there.
"You have to be the person you want someone to love," I blurted out. I couldn't help myself. The Cosmo had rendered my filtering mechanism nonfunctional, like some kind of glossy, perfumed Kryptonite. They looked at me, at my face reddening with shyness. "If you want a partner who loves you with unshaven legs, stop shaving your legs. I think, um, you only find someone to love the person you want to be by being that person, by giving someone the chance to fall in love with you with hairy legs and all."
They blinked at me.
"Like, don't try to be perfect?" one of them asked.
I nodded. "Like, don't try to be perfect." There was a pause, while they contemplated. I wanted to hug them and tell them that everything they hear is wrong, that they should not suppress their individualism in pursuit of some generic brand of perfection, as arbitrary as it is elusive, that love is really only meaningful when it is honest, and that love should free them, not be an exercise in maintaining an artifice that only serves to make them feel small. Instead, I said: "Anyway, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to stick my nose into your conversation. My apologies."
"It's okay," said the other. They smiled and turned back around. Cosmo went back on the shelf.
I looked at the cover. Sex tips. How to look good naked. Fashion trends. How to cater to your man's emotional needs. Try to be perfect.
What a cruel lie it is that we should be something we don't want to be, in order that we may receive the love that we need.