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It’s OK to stretch yourself to take an interest in your partner’s hobbies.
By Katie Saffell
“So he’s a baseball player, huh?”
“Yeah, I’ve actually been to a bunch of his games. He’s pretty good. I think he has a game this Saturday.”
My friend raised her eyebrows and leaned in with a smile. “And how many baseball games had you ever attended, prior to meeting him?”
I had this conversation, and several similar to it, this summer after I started dating an athlete for the first time.
I get the joke. This new romantic interest was not my typical “type.” As I’m concerned, a description of me and the description for “athletic” are two very different encyclopedia entries. We’re an unlikely pair.
For some reason, though, I found myself irritated at my friend’s question. It didn’t even matter to me so much that the answer was “one.” What mattered to me was that it shouldn’t matter.
My friend’s implication that I was faking an engagement in sports for a boy wasn’t just an insult to my integrity. It wasn’t just a subtle joke about how “into him” I was. It was an assumption that my personality is too stagnant to learn to enjoy something outside the realm of my own expertise.
So that’s the rub: baseball was something I didn’t hate, but didn’t actively care about before meeting this guy. “Is it so strange to show enthusiasm for something that matters to your significant other?” I sat on my hypothetical response long after the conversation was over. My tongue-bit frustration continued to simmer until it boiled into a righteous soup of feminist anger. I was sick of women’s need to prove themselves, sick of the insinuation that women somehow do man-homework as a tactic for keeping their boyfriends around.
And then I had to swallow my personal irritation when I realized men have it worse. If it is completely incredible that a woman should be capable of developing a real interest in her SO’s traditionally masculine pursuits (e.g., sports), then it is, at the status quo, laughable that a man should attempt honest involvement in something his SO cares about, especially when that activity is traditionally feminine. Why should we make jokes about a man who does his girlfriend’s makeup, and does it well? Why should we glorify a father who learns how to do his daughter’s hair or paint her nails? What’s wrong with a man who gets tickets to “Wicked” because his SO likes it and he wants to see what the hype is about?
From the stigma, it’s no wonder this breed of honest fascination in partners is rare. In fact, I’m pretty sure that any time a straight guy pursues a genuine interest in something his lady cares about, Nicholas Sparks is contractually obligated to write a novel about it.
This is not to say that men need to step up their game so the “genuine interest man” graduates from its urban legend status. This is all society’s fault anyway, so take it easy. This is also not to say that no one ever fakes the extent of their fascination with something somebody cute likes. This is not to say that I don’t definitely do that.
This is mostly to say that y’all need to cut me some slack when I don’t know anything about baseball.