What Carolyn Moos, Out NBA Player Jason Collins’ Ex-Fiancee, Tells Us About The Power Of Gender Roles

Credit: The Hollywood Gossip

When NBA player Jason Collins came out on the cover of Sports Illustrated in April, one of the odder things people criticized him for was having been engaged to a woman, and how he supposedly handled breaking off that engagement. So it’s not particularly surprising that Carolyn Moos, the former WNBA player that he was engaged to, would eventually come forward to tell her side of the story, as she’s now done in Cosmopolitan.

But what is interesting about Moos’ account of her relationship with Collins is the clear extent to which traditional gender roles and expectations weighed on her, as well. “I loved this man deeply. He was intelligent, good-humored, handsome, and importantly, taller than I am—7 feet,” she explains early in the Cosmo piece, noting later that she was initially attracted to Collins when they met at Stanford because it’s rare for her to come across men who are taller than her in heels, because she is six feet tall. She describes her height as a factor that made her less than normal as a child, something that lead her to embrace both traditionally masculine and feminine childhood activities. And Moos mentions Collins’ height again when she talks about how they started dating after reconnecting after college, saying “We were very compatible, with our shared athleticism and academic background, and his height was a bonus.”

It’s also clear that Moos felt a lot of pressure to hit certain life milestones in her relationship with Collins. “I began to feel like it was taking forever for him to propose, but I knew he’d do it when he was ready. We’d discussed marriage, but we were young, in our 20s. I felt sure it would happen by 30,” she says of getting more serious with him. After he proposed, it seems that age was significantly on her mind again: “I remember feeling overwhelmed with joy and also thinking: finally. I was almost 30.” At the end of the piece, Moos’ age comes up again, when she explains that “Today, I am 35 years old and dating…I froze my eggs last week as a backup plan. It’s an empowering option, something I had been planning to do for some time. I realized recently that maybe I had put it off because there was some seed of hope that Jason might come back to me.”

The one place where Moos acknowledges that gender roles have affected her life, though, has more to do with being penalized for conforming to them than with being punished for not meeting expectations. “I ran up against a reverse stereotype in the WNBA: People said I was too ‘feminine’ to be a pro player,” she tells Cosmopolitan. “I quickly proved them wrong, showing that my nail polish and dresses had nothing to do with my ability to compete on the court.”

I can’t imagine the personal pain Moos must be feeling: a broken engagement seems like a dreadful thing to go through. And I can understand why Moos, in her position, says things like “He’s being hailed as a pioneer, but I believe true heroism is a result of being honest with yourself and with those you love,” even though I think that’s a sentiment that deeply underestimates the power of the closet, and the pressure Collins was under to conform to the public expectations of what it means to be a man, and a professional athlete. But ultimately, Moos’ confessional to Cosmopolitan doesn’t really make her seem like a victim of Collins’ deception. Rather, it suggests how much trying to meet her own set of expectations sharpened Moos’ hurt and disappointment when Collins did the right, if painful, thing–and did it in a way that kept them from doing further damage to each other.