About six years ago I moved to the charming city of Charleston, South Carolina. For those unfamiliar with the area, Charleston has all the enchantment of an old city (cobblestone streets, picturesque buildings, etc.) combined with the beauty of the water (we’re about ten minutes away from the beach) and excellent cuisine (so many good restaurants). However, a significant flaw about the area which I discovered pretty quickly was that every person I knew loved country music.
Six years later, I humbly admit (is it actually humble if you say it’s humble?) that I have come to enjoy country music quite a lot and listen to it frequently. I’m not really sure how the conversion happened, but here we are.
A song that came out a few months ago that especially caught my attention was one by Dierks Bentley featuring Elle King called ‘It’s Different for Girls’ (which incidentally was nominated for a Grammy this weekend). The reason why it shocked me is pretty obvious when you listen to the lyrics:
“It’s different for girls, nobody said it was fair: When love disappears, they can’t pretend it was never there.”
The song goes on to describe the differences between how men and women cope with break-ups:
“A guy gets drunk with his friends and he might hook up. Fast forward through the pain, pushing back when the tears come on…it’s different for girls.”
My first thought when I had heard the song was: “this is going to get a lot of backlash.”
In today’s hook-up culture that especially encourages women to put themselves out there and not get too attached, this song contradicts the popular notion that women can and should pursue casual encounters with men, becoming both physically and emotionally intimate without any commitment.
Not only that, but even more surprising was Ms. King agreeing with him, echoing the song’s controversial message with her lines:
“She don’t sleep all day and leave the house a wreck. She don’t have the luxury to let herself go…”
This is coming from the woman who is behind the hits: Ex’s and Oh’s and ‘America’s Sweetheart,’ both of which have very different perspectives from this country tune.
While I certainly am an advocate of all people being created equal, I do see where Dierks is coming from; after all, though men and women are equal, we are also different.
This is especially evident in our relationality (the importance we place on our relationships) and the way closeness with another person affects us deeply. We largely define ourselves by our relationships: with our family, our friends and our boyfriends/husbands.
That is not to say that men are unaffected by intimacy, rather because of the way we are made, even ‘casual’ intimacy (physical or emotional) touches women deeply, whether we want it to or not.
Part of that is due to a chemical called oxytocin, also known as the ‘love hormone’ that is released after having sex, having a baby and even during more casual physical contact. This hormone is called the ‘love hormone’ because it creates a feeling of affection and trust in the person it is attached to.
Think of having a baby, how incredible of a miracle that is, the level of attachment that exists between mother and child. You don’t have to have experienced it personally to know that there is nothing more powerful than the love of a mother for her child. Safe to say, oxytocin is a powerful hormone. And in the right context, it’s an amazing thing. Oxytocin bonds people. So, even when you’re mad at your husband or frustrated with your daughter, there’s a deeper connection that goes beyond how you feel for them at the moment…it’s a chemical, biological bond.
However the trouble starts with the words we hear in Dierks Bentley and Elle King’s song.
We can’t just “fast forward through the pain, pushing back when the tears come on.”
We don’t say “it’s okay, I never loved him anyway.”
We might try; we might go out, drink too much, go home with another guy, max our credit cards, tell our friends we’re ‘over it’…but the truth lies in the tears that come when we’re alone, the unwanted memories, and the longing for the phone to ring.
Not only are we sad the person is gone, we’re frustrated that we aren’t okay about it. Days, weeks, months go by; we should be over it but we’re not. Why? Because we’re physically wired so that intimacy matters; is has a deep impact on our lives.
This is actually a pretty cool thing because we’re made to love and be loved; and love by definition has two components: exclusivity and permanency.
Therefore, anything less than that, for example a one night stand or a five year marriage that ends in divorce…isn’t going to cut it. It’s not supposed to.
So what does this mean for us?
Emotionally, psychologically and physically we’re made for more…and that is what we should look for. Not a fling, not a rebound, not a guy who doesn’t know what he wants or isn’t ‘ready’ to commit. That is going to end in heartbreak, it’s not what we are made for.
Love is ultimately a gift of self…how can we give ourselves to someone who isn’t going to stick around? It’s similar to pouring money into an investment that is going to fail…not a smart decision.
We have to start expecting more from our relationships. There’s a lot of cynicism out there because of the high divorce rate and fewer and fewer people committing to each other for the long-term…it’s up to us to turn that around.
Romantic love can start from a healthy friendship, it can grow and flourish when we push through the fear and risk encountering someone and becoming close to them, not just using them for a more favorable relationship status or fleeting pleasure. But it starts with our expectations. If we expect a healthy, committed relationship, that is what we will attract. Of course this is harder to come by than a hook up but I think good things are worth waiting for.
As women we should honor ourselves by only accepting the kind of love we were made for…not anything less. I suspect more often than not, men respect that. They may not be able to always come through for us, but one day one will…and that’s all you need.
I know Valentine’s Day can be a sore subject for many of us, but I like to look at it hopefully. True romance is a beautiful gift and when we have the patience and courage to wait for it, we experience firsthand how powerful and wonderful it really is.
“There is no greater force against evil in the world than the love of a man and woman in marriage.” – Raymond Burke
Elle and Dierks may have caught us off guard with this song. I wouldn’t be surprised if some listeners were offended by their message; but Elle’s contribution adds credibility to what is already scientific fact. She sings from her personal experience as a woman which has taught her that it is different girls. And thank God it is, because our desire for authentic love is what centers us and men and is a reminder of what really matters.