I always prided myself on being the cool girl. I didn’t have expectations, I didn’t get angry when I was hurt, I was level-headed and calm. It thrilled me when partners would talk about how ~chill~ I was, and don’t even get me started on how good it felt when I heard them tell their friends that. I avoided being a “high maintenance” woman at all costs.
Years later, I was talking to my therapist, and I mentioned how happy that made me. I’ll never forget what she said:
“You may enjoy being low-maintenance, but it’s okay to have higher expectations. Nothing’s wrong with being high-maintenance when it comes to your standards.”
I realized that I was picking partners that were bad for me. I repressed all of my pain, my anger, and my pride in order to seem unbothered. And in doing that, I was eradicating the self-confidence I had in myself, instead watering down my internal sense of self-worth.
Women are terrified of being seen as “high maintenance.” But why?
The definition of high-maintenance on Dictionary.com, when it comes to people, is someone who is “demanding a great deal of attention, money, or effort.” And then, surprise: the example sentence is about a man having a high-maintenance girlfriend who refuses an engagement unless her diamond ring is huge.
Urban Dictionary’s examples of being high-maintenance include: “having frequent professional cosmetic consultations, such as hair-dressing, manicures, and pedicures,” “excessive worthless spending (tricking),” “attention craving,” and “being too delicate or suave”.
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It’s these definitions that perpetuate the stereotype: a high-maintenance woman – never a man, of course – needs constant attention, cares too much about how she looks, requires money from significant others and then spends it carelessly, and plays the damsel in distress too often. She doesn’t wrestle with the boys, get her nails dirty, or save money, like a “low-maintenance” woman (you know, someone level-headed and practical) – she’s demanding, settling only for grandeur.
Urban Dictionary and Dictionary.com should be ashamed. It’s the 21st century, and women who know what they want are still being labeled like this? Why are we not allowing women to have high standards and expectations, to know what they want out of work, a partner, friends, and so on?
The answer is simple: because society has not yet accepted that women can be whomever and whatever they want to be.
When it comes to relationships, those deemed high-maintenance women know what they’re searching for and won’t settle for less. This can lead to some branding them as snobbish, as if knowing what they want and setting the bar high for potential suitors is asking too much. Staying true to themselves – knowing their core values and needs – rather than compromising to have (or keep) a partner makes them high and mighty, indicates that they think they’re better than others.
If you need proof of this thought process, just read this user’s question on Reddit. He criticizes women who are “high-maintenance in a stereotypical way” for wanting to be “treated like a princess.” But what about the quote “if you treat him like a king, he will treat you like his queen” – why does the man have to be treated like a king in order for women to be treated the way they deserve? Why is it not the reverse? Why must we prove ourselves to be worthy of respect, effort, and care?
And on a downright depressing note: why are there so many articles on “how to treat your man like a king?” Where are the men criticizing these?
Most likely: they have lived in a society that tells them that they deserve the world just as they are.
Men are also threatened when women make a name for themselves, especially in their careers. For example: in one study, 105 men were given a hypothetical situation in which women either outscored or underperformed in math and English courses. When asked which women were more desirable in concept, the men reported that women who were more intelligent would be more ideal romantic partners. Then came being physically near the women who outscored them…and the men quickly changed their tune.
“Men said ‘smart equals sexy’ but only when they imagined women in the abstract. When they met the women, or thought they were in the next room, their interest faded,” explained Lora Park, one of the authors behind the study.
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High-maintenance women are not afraid to show their smarts. How else are we to demonstrate our competence in a world that continually assumes our intelligence is lesser than a man’s? We must be strong in our self-assurance, confident in our abilities. And even then, we don’t always win. We all know that women earn less than men on average, but did you know that this isn’t simply because we don’t speak up?
In a paper published in Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, the researchers found that women actually ask for raises just as much as men do – they just aren’t as successful in getting them. Only 15% of women received their raises, while 20% of men received them. When it comes to leadership roles, only eight percent of women were CEOs at the Fortune 500 companies. It’s a step in the right direction, but eight percent is still a tiny number, especially when you compare it to the 92% of male CEOs.
LEFTRONIC released an article comparing men and women in leadership roles. In 2019, only 29% of senior management were women, while 31% held senior roles. Solely 12.5% of women were employed as Chief Financial Officers at Fortune 500 companies, and it was found that women were 45% more likely to be fired than men holding CEO positions.
We also can’t forget that women are also expected to be the primary caretakers in homes, managing kids, cleaning, and cooking. We are expected to be the nurturers, gentle and quiet, always helping even when we’re not asked to. So, when women put their foot down and question why they must be the only ones to take care of the everyday tasks, they’re considered high-maintenance for not “sharing the household work” – even if they do the vast majority of home maintenance.
Think about the praise companies receive when they show men doing laundry – where is the praise when women do the behind-the-scenes work?
Let me push this all further. Why is it a bad thing for women to take time to do their makeup? Why does it matter if they pay a small amount of money every few weeks to clean their nails? If they aren’t spending men’s money and can afford these simple pleasures, this should have no effect on men. I make this point because women are told to take care of themselves to be attractive. Yet attractive women who follow this narrative are branded “high-maintenance.” How does this make sense? How are women to win?
Here’s what I think: women who are “high-maintenance” are some of the most boss-ass babes I know. The ability to undo the internalized misogyny is admirable, especially when we’re constantly facing sexism that undermines our belief in ourselves. We aren’t perfect – we have days just like everyone else, where we fear that the outside world is right and we are undeserving. But we are intent on self-love – we are aware that it’s a constant, evolving process. But we persevere, because we know our worth.
Just because we get our nails painted and take time to do our makeup on big nights out doesn’t mean we’re undeserving of the best. And it also doesn’t mean we believe we’re better than others – it means that we see ourselves as equals, and we deserve the best. Everyone does. So, sure, call us high-maintenance – we’re enjoying the lives we’ve worked hard for, because we know we’re strong, smart, and capable.
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What are your thoughts on being “high-maintenance?” Let us know in the comments.
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