Let me spell it out – back home in the UK, I have many, many married friends. All, ALL!, were proposed to by their boyfriends. On beaches, under the Eiffel Tower, one by the sink as she was doing the dishes…the list continues.
Imagine my mixture of delight, curiosity, and awe then when I sit down for lunch with a male colleague here in Sweden and he, brimming with joy, tells me how his girlfriend hid an engagement ring in their picnic basket when they went swimming at the lake by their summer cabin. She proposed to him. He is ecstatic.
Things aren’t totally bereft of tradition in Sweden, though. When my friend Anna caught the bride’s bouquet at a friend’s wedding last weekend she didn’t turn around, call her boyfriend and demand that he get to it, but she did shriek a bit, and send him an SMS informing him of the near-wilted flowers landing in her outstretched hands.
But it was all jovial. It was fun. It’s was light-hearted. In Britain, by contrast, weddings are deadly serious.
I once, at a lavish do in Leicestershire, intercepted the flying bouquet just inches from a bridesmaid’s face, and my oh my, did that girl give me the look of death that could have killed a thousand men on the battle field.
In general, Brits take the whole marriage and tradition thing more seriously than Swedes. I don’t mean that my Swedish friends who do get married don’t take it seriously. Rather the opposite, when they do it, they mean it. But in Britain marriage, etc., is expected, and with that comes more attention to tradition. Including gender traditions.
Boy meets, likes, kisses…. proposes to!… girl. Never the other way around.
Even I, I must admit, never kissed boys before moving to Sweden. Didn’t matter how much I liked them, they had to kiss me first. It wasn’t something I thought about in any great detail. It was just the lay of the land. I took it so much for granted I wasn’t aware I was taking it for granted.
Until one day, when an on-off lover (we never seemed to live in the same city at the same time) told me he hadn’t been sure I was even that in to him. It shocked me. How could he not think so? Not only because I *let* him kiss me, but because I’d thought my words and other less eloquent noises would have been enough to convince him of my undying lust, if not love.
But alas… that lover is now on permanent OFF, with no ON in sight, thank heavens, but his comments resonated with me for years… why did I not feel comfortable kissing boys? It was ridiculous, I mean, I can wage negotiate like any bloke; travel the world like Marco Polo; I’m even pretty sure I could pack a good punch if I ever had to.
Of course, being a feminist doesn’t necessarily mean you have to turn into a man just to be their equal, BUT… what was wrong with a woman showing what she wants?
Nothing, I realized.
A few years later I moved to Sweden. The holy land of equal opportunity. There’s also less moralizing around women being horny here. Two good friends of mine married men they slept with on the same night they met. I had no such luck with an enormously talented (and enormous) architect that I made out with in the bushes at a party last summer, but I still carried home with me a sort of new found pride that I had gone after him. I hunted him.
Not in a ridiculous Jessica Rabbit way (I mean, I was wearing Doc Martins), nor by giggling like a bottle-blonde fool a la Marilyn Monroe. It was simple things. I talked to him, I asked him to dance, and then we stumbled out in to the garden and I kissed him. We made out, danced some more, then walked home, passing a bridge that was lit up by moon-light in a way that was so Monet that we both stopped, to admire the view, and then each other, and kissed again.
I never heard from him again, which was a shame, but not the end of the world. I went on to kiss an Australian banker in a Stockholm pub, and lately made sure to ensnare a friend of mine because frankly… it was about time. I’ve fancied him for ages, but been a bit too scared and intimidated by him (he’s very, very smart) to try anything.
Enough was enough, I thought, don’t let this one get away, I thought. So I kissed him. Do I feel like a sexual predator? Not really. I just felt like I shed a layer of worn-out sexist skin from another world (also known as the UK) where women aren’t allowed to be proactively up for it.
And no matter what they say about Swedish men, I don’t find them shy or retiring at all. I find them careful and considerate. And no areas of conversations are off limits, because nothing threatens their masculinity. In Sweden, I think I finally found a type of man who realizes that a woman’s choice to be with him is the only affirmation of love, lust, and appreciation they need. They are manly and secure in themselves. There is no jealousy, no secrets, no editing, no BS.
I like it here.
Scotswoman Emilia Millicent moved to Stockholm nearly three years ago and works in finance.