I told him that I had met a man who was very special, but that I was struggling to make a deep connection with him. The cultural messages that surrounded me in childhood made equality feel like a battle (it is) that had to be won by adopting the traits that make men successful and dominant: strength, composure, decisiveness, confidence (not so much, actually).
It seemed that I had, like Clinton perhaps, paved over my emotional self, favoring instead an impenetrable façade that I thought made me powerful. Messy feelings like grief, passion, love, and fear seemed inconvenient, problematic even.
There were many who pointed to this break from her steely exterior as evidence she was, in fact, human.We decided to just be friends and I decided to start seeing a therapist.When my new shrink asked me why I was there, I told him bluntly, “My father died of AIDS when I was a teenager and I know it’s affected me, but I’m not sure how.” I told him this the way most people would narrate the contents of their refrigerator to a friend who stopped by for lunch.The debate was about what it meant for a woman in power to reveal her feelings, whether that was OK, whether it would damage her, whether it made her dangerous as a leader, and whether she could be trusted.Even though Clinton ultimately won the New Hampshire primary, the fact that her getting teary-eyed was as big a story as it was tells us everything we need to know about our discomfort with a powerful woman’s displays of emotion.I found it anxiety-provoking to sit across from him: Over email, with the buffer of technological hardware, my authentic self flew effortlessly through the ether from my laptop to his, but in person I adopted an aloof, entirely self-conscious persona that I thought made me seem cool and alluring.It turns out he thought I was disconnected and hard to access.As we met weekly over the next several months, I told him how I had hidden my father’s illness from everyone at school for years.I told him how it was not until long after my dad died that I really cried about it.And, I assumed, they would have scared the pants off (not in a good way) any of the hunky, all-American-male type dudes I was often attracted to.Over time, though, I noticed that both my therapist and Nick seemed interested in my past, in my pain.