I HAD limbered up for a war of words. A feminist v non feminist slinging match. I cracked my neck and threw some Rocky air punches prior to meeting Matchmaker Jane Rapin. I had assumed we weren’t going to get along.
You’re a feminine woman, your desire to have a kids and husband is no less relevant than someone who wants a career
While a certified 'Love Cook' from Bury, Rapin’s press release made me roll my eyes so viciously it gave me a migraine.
‘…no woman is a feminist, and strong, independent women scare men off and ultimately all women really want to do is look after their man.’
‘She wants dating to feel more traditional, where men and women know their roles.’
‘…a way to man’s heart is through his stomach.’
Cue a ceremonious slam of my head to my desk.
You have to understand, at 27-years-old I was born when Thatcher was still Britain’s first woman Prime Minister; I grew up singing pro-woman, sassy and assured ‘girl power’ tunes by the Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child:
“The shoes on my feet. I bought ‘em! The house I live in. I bought it! All the women who's independent, throw your hands up at me!”
At 12, I waved my little hands.
Today you’ll find me debating whether to free the nipple, grumbling over tampon taxes, tweeting about slut-shaming and unequal pay, while proving I can be educated and twerk to hip-hop on a Friday night with no judgements. My empowered generation of women is currently dyeing its long armpit hair pink because it doesn’t give a shit, for goodness sakes.
And we’re told we’ll find men to love us and our fierceness anyway. ‘Gender roles’? What’s that?
But I’m single – very single - so what do I know? Could I really be a victim of my own strength, independence, and Beyoncé-fuelled sass?
“It's interesting how independence works. You either refuse to settle, which I’d be happy with as I don’t want people to settle, or it can make you so choose-y that you lose sight of what you really want in a relationship,” thinks Rapin.
When we finally meet she bounds towards me smiling enthusiastically. We hug. I immediately unfold my arms and unfrown my brow.
Still, I had to ask, what’s the deal here? Did she only see a mad cat lady, banging on the ceiling with a broomstick, in my future just because I dare call myself a feminist?
“Ah, this is why you wanted to talk to me,” she laughed.
“We were a little bit naughty and employed some artistic licence to get people’s attention. But it’s not far off the mark. Men want to come home to someone who loves them, to someone who cares for them and supports them. Women want someone who looks after them. We lose the balance in modern life. I was a kickass business woman, who came home and acted like a man. That’s not okay – there’s only room in a relationship for one man.”
That’s the peculiar thing about Rapin, she is a kickass business woman.
Her work has seen her fly to LA to be trained by leading Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger and she works to match clients with a database of singles, while offering coaching. She’s a trained lawyer and entrepreneur, a mother and a wife - she has what I would say is the ideal. I couldn’t believe that she believed what she was promoting.
“I was brought up in 1969 right on the edge of ardent feminism and was told you could be anything you wanted to be. You don’t have to get married. You don’t have to have children. You can be completely independent and choose your own destiny – awesome," she explains.
“But research shows that 80% of women who are my age and are childless aren’t the latter because they can’t medically have kids but because they let opportunity pass them by."
She continues, passionately: "Now they’re saying, 'I made the choice to be the strong, independent women who can have anything she wants but actually I wanted kids, I wanted a husband but I wanted it on my own terms as modern 21st century woman. But in reality I didn’t get any of that, I got a career and that isn’t entirely fulfilling. I missed out.”
I see. As a woman approaching her thirties I’m often reminded that at some point in my life my ovaries will sound a loud death knell to my womb. If I want kids it's time to get cracking. Yet will wanting to establish my career first really hinder me having the ideal family unit? It sounds so outdated...
“Women who want a family and a husband before a career are afraid to say that nowadays,” says Rapin. "You’re a feminine woman, your desire to have a kids and husband is no less relevant than someone who wants a career."
“I’m not a feminist but in my experience there are many broken feminists. It's become a dirty word. It became a mask for women that hate men,” she adds.
Haven’t we kicked the old man-hating feminist stereotype to the curb? Haven’t we learned that feminists can be homemakers, married, caring, feminine and look like Emma Watson?
Everything is a little too black and white with Rapin. Women want support. Men want mothering. Men bring home the bacon. Women know their Dettol from their Febreeze. I struggle with believing it’s all that simple.
Is the answer to a healthy relationship or bagging a man, as Rapin describes, to ‘strip away our defences’? After all, the antonym to ‘strong’ is ‘weak’…
She says: "There’s a natural balance that happens in a relationship. You won’t notice that you’re doing the dishes, changing the beds, putting in the washing. Or that the man is doing the things that traditionally men do. You just fall into a happy coexistence that’s not forced and you won’t feel bad about it. Don’t over think it."
I can’t help but overthink. Ultimately I want a relationship which allows me to be both independent and, yes, doesn’t emasculate the man. Truth be told, I’m looking for the Obama to my Michelle. Can’t I have it all?
“I think you can. Men have a masculine persona at work but come home, be loving, encouraging and able to be a more sensitive character. Women also need to know that they can be a strong at work and come home and be the woman in the relationship.”
But does that mean I have to do all the cooking?
“Men love food,” laughs Rapin. “A woman who can cook is a winner. It’s disappointing if you’re a woman who can’t cook. There’s a special chemistry cooking together. It’s almost like a dance. Food knocks down a lot of barriers.”
After we talk, Rapin begins to find out why I’m single and her advice is to date more and date a lot. That I can get behind.
While our opinions differ, I did find I felt hopeful for my own relationships. Rapin is positive about my eligibility.
“We’re all capable of having amazing relationships,” she smiles. “I don’t believe in soulmates and I don’t believe there’s only one person out there that’s meant for you. That if you miss that person, that’s it, you’re stuck. I believe there’s a whole raft of people out there that are.”
I believe so too. And yes, of course, I would love a man who brings home the bacon, but as long as he’s cool with me bringing home some steak.
Find out more about Jane Rapin and her service on her website.
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