It was a brisk autumn day in Boston, and I was on my second date with a seemingly promising guy. He had a job and a college degree, both of which put him several steps of most of the men who had asked me out recently, and to top it all off, he was handsome. More importantly, he seemed like he had a really great heart. For our first date, he took me to a soup kitchen so we could serve people together. I mean, how do you not look forward to a second date with a guy like that?

For the first fifteen minutes, everything was going perfectly. The food was delicious, the conversation riveting, and then, it happened. He looked at me, blue eyes sparkling, and declared that he was only interested in being with someone who wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I was surprised. I was sure I’d told him I was in graduate school. We’d talked about our career aspirations. Surely, he must have known I wanted to work. Awkwardly, I tried explaining how much I respect stay-at-home moms, but that, personally, I want to continue working outside of the home after I have children.

Thus began one of the most ridiculous conversations I have ever had. The highlights included his belief that working outside the home would make me a terrible mother and that women were biologically predisposed to be better at cleaning the house, and to enjoy it more than men – to which I responded, “So, what, you think we have a sensor in our ovaries that just gets all excited by the sight of rubber gloves?”. My insistence that I wanted to be in a relationship where we were equal partners was met with a bizarre series of attempted bargains: “Could you consider 80/20 equal? How about 70/30?” For a guy with a career in finance, he seemed to have an unusual amount of trouble with basic percentages. When we finally made it to the end of our meal, I was thrilled, which is why I was stunned when he asked to see me again.

Had we not just been at the same lunch? I wanted a career. I was clearly not what he was looking for, and I tried, very politely, to explain that to him. That’s when we got to the crux of the issue—as it turned out I was exactly what he was looking for. He wanted a woman who was smart and ambitious and had her own goals and dreams, and he wanted her to give them all up for him. Without that, he feared the woman wouldn’t be interesting enough and the sacrifice wouldn’t be sufficient.

Needless to say, there wasn’t a third date. There was, however, a string of other terrible dates. There was the professor from Harvard who dragged me out in the middle of a blizzard for a first date—a date to which he was half an hour late— only to throw a tantrum in the middle of the street (complete with foot stomping) because I wouldn’t sleep with him. The entomologist who ranted for an hour at a miniature golf course (in front of children, I might add) about how all women today are sluts and need to be taught to keep their knees shut. He did not, however, think men should be held to the same standard. There was the guy who took me to a place that rented tables by the hour and was too cheap to rent one, so we ate standing up in the corner. Of course, I was not permitted to rent us a table because he was “a gentleman.”

Dating is hard, and it’s even harder if you’re a woman who’s looking for someone who recognises that being a woman does not make my goals and ambitions any less important or my judgment and decisions any less valid, nor does it inherently make me any better at cleaning the house (as the pile of plates in my sink will attest). Still, I’m going to keep sitting through awkward lunches and excruciating dinners because I have to believe that somewhere out there is a man who wants a woman with dreams and doesn’t want her to give them up for him. A man who understands that the definition of equal isn’t 80/20 or 70/30, a man who is willing to split the workload and who will support me every bit as much as I’ll support him. Who knows – maybe, if I’m lucky, he’ll even like doing the dishes.

Amber Karlins

Written by Amber Karlins

Amber works as a professor in Florida, teaching writing, literature, and theatre. Her first book, a work of creative non-fiction, was published in 2011. She also enjoys academic writing and has published papers in such places as the African American National Biography and the Journal for the Society of Armenian Studies.

Image by

Courtesy of