This post is part of the "Modern Male Brains & the Young, Powerful Women Who Love Them" series compiled by Dr. Louann Brizendine, neuroscientist and author of the recent book, The Male Brain. The series explores how the next generation of women relates to love while balancing complex, stressful lives.
As a woman business owner, my mother always made it a priority to empower me through exposure to different cultures, different people, and different belief systems. When I was 12, she took me to China to attend a Women's Business Conference in Beijing.
At the time, New Year Festivities were in full swing, and I was delighted to see my astrological sign -- the Tiger -- plastered up on walls around the city. Growing up, I had always identified, albeit superficially, with the power, passion and independence of the Tiger. So naturally, when asked my age by the attending Chinese entrepreneurs, I proudly responded, "I'm 12 years old - the year of the Tiger!"
I remember being shocked when met with looks of compassion and consolation from the Chinese entrepreneurs. "Year of the Tiger," they'd sigh, "You're going to have a hard time finding a husband."
Until that trip, the thought that I could be rejected for my drive and ambition had never even crossed my mind. My ultra-liberal, ultra-feminist mother had always taught me that aspirations to power and a healthy, loving relationship were not mutually exclusive. And yet, as we toured the high rises and factories of urban Beijing, woman after woman predicted a desolate and marriage-less future, based on my willful and wily astrological sign.
Throughout my life, my mentors and role models have always embodied the Tiger spirit: they are smart and powerful women who refuse to compromise - in business, in life, and most importantly, in love. And men are drawn to them. Whether they are married, dating, or building a family - they seek boyfriends and husbands who challenge them, and propel them to new heights.
Towards the end of the Beijing trip, we were touring a manufacturing plant, when the CEO turned to me. She asked a few questions about the Conference, about my aspirations, and then, inevitably, she asked my age. I hesitated for a moment. "I'm twelve," I said, "Year of the Tiger." She shook her head, and looked down at me pityingly, "You know," she laughed, "No Chinese man will ever marry you."
Bruised by a week of foreboding and ill portent, I bristled at the comment. A lifetime of teaching had prepared me for this moment, and in true Tiger fashion, I stood up a little straighter, leaned in, and asked, "Well, what makes you think I want to marry them?"
Truth be told, at the time, I wasn't sure who I wanted to marry... or if I wanted to get married at all. But the thought that I could be denied love based on my drive, my ambition, and the relative positions of the stars at the time of my birth, was unacceptable.
As I make my way through the business world, balancing my work and my personal life is not easy. I've loved. I've sacrificed. I've lost. But I come out of every relationship with a clearer picture of who I am and what I want from a partner.
There are the intermittent lapses into Year of the Tiger syndrome; dating in a city like New York can often be isolating and difficult. There are times at which I think I should dial back my passionate and occasionally aggressive work ethic. But then I remember the powerful women that shaped me early on and their refusal to compromise.
So I date on, in search of those rare men who are confident enough, brave enough, and deserving enough, to fall in love with a Tiger woman.