Women feel so guilty Looking for Stars

How does one ask for the finer things without looking like a shallow, gold-digging wench?

Dear Modern Austen,

I would like some further discussion on the whole dinner-eating-date thing submitted by Starving for Affection. Clearly, portion size is not the only thing on Starving’s mind. Though I haven’t proof, calorie count goes hand in hand with the number of stars an eating establishment might receive on Zagat; this has direct bearing on whether a first date leads to a second. It’s all so complicated, you see.

The appetite is surely not fairly divided among the sexes! And, in truth, I simply need a man to know that I need more than food to survive. This may seem off topic, but dinner leads to other things…hopefully. If I can’t enjoy a good meal with man, in all likelihood I won’t enjoy much else. How does one ask for the finer things — like five stars on a menu — without looking like a shallow, gold-digging wench?

Looking for Stars

P.S. What’s mead?

Dear Looking for Stars,

What I have come to learn about myself more and more is that I have strong wants and needs and desires. These are appetites, are they not? As for men, I can only claim to know and understand them as much as I understand my own experience as part of the human race — they are the other half of it. My thinking is that to want, to need, to desire is human. To have an appetite is human. Men and women I then presume both have appetites that are fairly equal — a man is no hungrier than a woman, for example.

The difference between sexes lies in how and whether we can express these appetites. Can I ask for what I want? is something you need to ask yourself, Looking for Stars. Can you ask for what you need? Can you say you’re hungry to a man you admire and would like to pursue a second date with? Women do have a harder time asking for and expressing this sort of thing than the opposite sex, but that’s not the real inequality that exists between how the two sexes express their appetites. The real inequality is that women have to ask for their desires to be met while men expect it.

Your main question is how you could possibly ask for the finer things life has to offer from a man without appearing to be a shallow, gold-digging wench. We do care very much about appearances, don’t we?! The answer, I’m afraid, isn’t simple: Don’t feel guilty and embrace feeling vulnerable. I know what you’re thinking: Is not vulnerability weakness? Do not men want some strength in the women they intend to marry? You’re confusing vulnerability with fragility.

Fragility is something of a weakness, an appearance people put on to move others to take care of them. Vulnerability, though, is strength. It’s an anxiety that comes with being true to your feelings and acting on them. This requires courage!

When I replied to Starving for Affection’s letter, I felt unable to act on any of the true feelings I had. I still believed I could find love and marriage and happiness through the old conventional means of curbing my appetite physically, emotionally, mentally, all the time knowing I was only doing this because men fear women’s appetites. And we fear appearing needy to men. These are unusual roles we all have to play. You’re right: It’s complicated. We’d live much simpler if we could all just act in accordance with our feelings and be ourselves. Would a man really be afraid of my appetite? My desire to be with and see him? I try not to think about it. I simply ask for what I need and do what feels best. I’ve declared this my year of living vulnerably, and I suggest you do the same.

In short, you’re not a gold digger if you ask for what you want. Surely you know that many gentlemen won’t even look at a woman at a ball who couldn’t add 10,000 a year to his income. As my mother says, “that’s just the way things must be.” But they don’t and they shouldn’t. My point is that you shouldn’t have to feel so guilty about asking for what you want when the man you’re sitting across from at dinner expects to get what he wants because “that’s just the way things must be.” (No sexual innuendo was intended here, though I feel there are a few throughout your letter.)

There are many men who will be open to hearing your desires. Some won’t, but those are the men you decline further invitations from. You should not feel guilty about your wants, needs, desires, appetite, and no man has a right to make you feel that way. That’s really what’s behind this fear of appearing to be a gold digger: Guilt. But really, why shouldn’t you be concerned with money? Men are. In the end, I know you’re not going to marry a man just because he takes you to fine restaurants and encourages you to eat rich foods. Though it is an endearing quality in a man.


P.P.S A simple honey wine you can make at home.

Do you have a question for Modern Austen? Ask a 19th-century woman at [modernaustenblog at gmail dot com].

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