Nellie Eden | Debrief Contributor | Friday, 14 July 2017

High maintenance

Half-Hearted: In Defence of Being High Maintenance

The Debrief: Every time we refer to another woman as ‘high maintenance’ we’re being misogynists. We’re encouraging everyday sexism

According to the internet I’m ‘high maintenance’. The Google definition reads:



 1.     needing a lot of work to keep in good condition.

                ◦       informal

Fine. That makes sense. Now let’s refer to the bit where they put it in a sentence to let you know how best to use it (very sweet of them)… 

2.  (of a person) demanding a lot of attention. ‘If Martin could keep a high-maintenance girl like Tania happy, he must be doing something right’

I know what you’re thinking, Fucking hell, Martin must be absolutely hung, or completely loaded because there’s no way basic woman like Tania, who probably gets her nails done, and requires emotional attention from her partner could simply be satiated by something as pedestrian as a healthy relationship. Silly, silly women. Lucky, Lucky Martin, ‘cos she must look great in underwear. 

Ok, you’ve probably picked up on my facetious tone there, but as someone who’s been consistently referred to as ‘high maintenance’ throughout my life, I have a T-rex sized bone to pick with all the people still using the term to refer to women negatively. It’s become short hand for girls who look good on your arm or in bed, but are in fact only motivated by two things: stuff and drama. Oh, and ‘attention’- the greatest of all the female sins.

This is, of course, total drivel, but we have to remind ourselves that every time we refer to another woman as ‘high maintenance’ we’re being misogynists and we’re encouraging every day sexism. Why? Because the phrase encompasses traits we’ve been brainwashed to recognise as being essentially feminine: needy, materialistic and insecure.

 Please see this believe list of connotations listed on Urban Dictionary:


-Having frequent professional cosmetic consultations, such as hair-dressing, manicures and pedicures

-Excessive worthless spending (tricking)

-Attention craving

-Being too delicate or suavé

NOTE: high-maintenance is primarily used to refer to attractive straight women or a person/people that's stuck on self.

#appearance #emotion #high maintenance #low maintenance #low-maintenance #women #vanity


Sorry last one was actually added by me. Lord knows what ‘tricking’ means here, but, whatever. They’ve really spelt it out for us, so, why, as women, and I’ve been one of them, do we let this continue so blithely.

‘High maintenance’ is a phrase that is deployed to objectify and belittle us whilst simultaneously celebrating the physical (something we’re also taught to prioritise by society) so it’s confusing and conflicting messaging which creates a loose/loose situation for women. ‘Beautiful’, ‘impractical’ and ‘expensive’ things, like, cars, require attention and care. The boy I’m actually seeing now, who will absolutely hate that I’m writing about this anecdote once told a group of our friends that he couldn’t date me because I was ‘too high maintenance’. Actually, he told a friend that I was ‘a Ferrari’ and that he was more in the market for a ‘hatchback’. Romantic or what, reader? 

I know this because said friend made it her Facebook status and upon reading it I knew it was about me because I also knew he’d fancied me for years (sorry mate). I just knew it and I was so furious. I was furious that I’d been objectified. I was furious that, from a distance, he’d cast me as ‘high maintenance’, and decided I was too much; too much ‘hard work’. He’d decided, instead, that he might plump for a more meagre church mouse. In doing this, he implicitly condoned the ranking of women based on our physical appearances. You can be ‘high maintenance and not a fan of the manicure, hatchbacks break down too you know. 

If I sound riled, it’s because I am. I’ve since shared dinners and beds with the guy, and I sense the giant ignorance that shrouds this somewhat slippery phrasing. I was also referred to as a ‘Rolex’ about a fortnight ago (‘I’ll take a Timex if I can’t afford the Rolex’) by a woke, educated, feminist, male friend over a bottle of wine I’d paid for. Jesus in a manger, people. 

For a long time, I didn’t question the label. I have a wall of shoes in my house. I get my nails done. I Uber. A lot. I don’t drink beer. I’m not trying to be Kate Hudson in How To Lose A Guy In Ten Fucking Days, nor is my life an episode of SATC but I was carrying with me a burning sense of shame, that I might appear…superficial. The idea that purely because I dress in what you might define as a hyper-feminine way makes me look less intelligent is where we’re at now- in 2017.

For a hot minute, I became paranoid. I do not think shoes are more important than friends but I like them a lot and I will ask the mortician to erect my middle finger as you all draw my final curtain if I have to put up with any more of this ‘high maintenance’ stuff because it’s damaging. Words like ‘diva’ and ‘bitch’ are frequently attributed to camp behaviour that caricatures and denigrates the feminine. What we’re doing is teaching people, from a young age, to expect less. We’re infantilising women and encouraging people to be less emotionally candid because if they dare show emotion they’ll be deemed ‘too much’. 

If I’m honest with you and with myself, I think that being labelled ‘high maintenance’ contributed to me feeling unlovable at times. I’ve not had the easiest romantic life over the last half decade. There have been times where I’ve felt self-conscious that I prefer to wear heels over flats. I’ve played it cool for fear of coming across ‘like I care’. I deleted my Instagram out of the sheer anxiety of being reduced to my last selfie. I’ve ignored texts and turned a blind eye to being blown off at the eleventh hour in a bid to prevent my true werewolf-like-being from appearing in the cool moonlight - that of a person with feelings that can be hurt.

I knew for sure that I loved reading Tolstoy, watching Tudor history documentaries and playing football but had lost faith in a man being able to see past my long nails, or rouged cheeks to get to that point. We live in the age of the image: how you look defines you. I know that the way I present myself will turn a whole demographic off whilst exciting an opposing cohort of men. I’ve been desired from afar and dismissed up close. I do often wonder if that’s because my exterior and interior Nellies sometimes have little in common.

 To the outside world I’m a weed that takes over your garden, sprouts after you’ve removed me and grows in the dark- because I can be cold, tough, I don’t love hugging, I will have a debate with you, I’m self-assured and I think I women deserve a certain level of respect (particularly if you’d like to exchange saliva with them). I’m also, deep down, a tiny orange Tamagochi that requires regular love and the odd meal. I will text you frequently and roll over and play dead if I need to get your attention- but I’m tired of apologising for that. 

I really admire women who are fearlessly, vocally emotionally, demanding of their partners. I fancy they’ve often had solid upbringing, that they have self-respect and that they’ve also suffered rejection. Every time I hear a friend tell me they’ve asked their partner for ‘more

support’ or ‘kinder words’ I’ve loved them a bit more, because, as a woman, that can sometimes be risky. That is to say, as a sex, sometimes by simply saying how we’re feeling within a romantic context, we’re rolling a dice and running a risk- which is

n.o.n.s.e.n.s.e (I understand it can work like this for men too, so please allow my sweeping  observations pro-tem).

At this point, there’s not much I can do as an individual to make this loaded phrase disappear. But, the next time you see a person in heels, with long tonged hair and nails, hauling a massive monogrammed suitcase and you snigger, remember they’re smarter than you because they’re thinking ‘see you at baggage reclaim hoe’.

They know they’re going to find their suitcase first.

Liked this? You might also be interested in: 

When It Comes To Dating, When Did We All Start Being So Horrible To Each Other?

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Millennials Are Terrified Of Being Alone, No Wonder We're All Zombeing Each Other 

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Tags: Dating Confusion