The Hook Up: 10-12-2011

Hi Anna, I came out when I was 18 (I am now 28) and I was dating actively and continuously from that point on until I was 23. By dating continuously, I mean there were a few women I dated for spans of months to years, and I was never single for more than a year, and I even snuck in a few one night standers (which are totally, absolutely yucko and never to be repeated).

After I ended my last relationship five years ago, my dating and sex life has almost been nonexistent. Part of the excessively long dry spell was a combination of me not wanting to be in a relationship for a while after my last ended, and partially because I went back to school and was insanely, crazy busy for several years. Now, school is done and I am super empowered and happy about being single, and I am incredibly grateful for what I have gained from being single. But I have love to give! And I’d like some TLC myself. And sharing and intimacy are notably lacking in my life, and my heart feels starved. I thought that with the increased time and money I now have after graduation, dating would be easy and natural. For some reason, in my recent pursuit of trying to bring sex/dating/relationships/intimacy/romance/love/or any combo of that back in my life, I am at a standstill.

I have some insights into my struggles: First, I look straight. So much so that gay friends with whom I have only presented myself as homo have asked if I’d want to date a guy and question me with the whole “Are you sure you’re not straight?” bit. So, part of the problem is having to continuously cope with being invisible and not taken seriously by my own people. I am not one to bring up my sexuality, mostly because I have been so incredibly single, so there was no love interest or girlfriend to reference.

Second: Yes, I’ve had a few girlfriends, but none for longer than a couple of years, and I’ve only had a few. This means I am nearly paralyzed with worry that expectations about my sexual “skills” and experience will be about, well, five years beyond where they are. And people will find my long-term singleness as a red flag, or they’ll be turned off by my lack of a longer long-term relationship. And so I’ll have to suffer the embarrassment of being rejected for being bad in bed and the frustration of being overlooked for lack of experience.

Third, related to the “straight look,” I seem to get pursued by these super-top butches, which I’m not really into. I wish I could be as confident about getting back on the lady as I am about other big, scary, worthwhile, and necessary areas of life.

I’d appreciate any insights/advice you might have for me so I can move forward from my stuck spot.

Anna says: I’m happy to, but I think you’re putting the U-Haul in front of the horse a bit. Let me tackle the easiest question first. Don’t worry about your sex skills. Bedroom talents aren’t like milk products: They don’t have an expiration date. Plus, I assure you, people have been screwing each other for thousands of years, and it basically hasn’t changed. Sure, now we have sex swings, and toys shaped like presidents (Don’t Google that, Mom), but all you really need to be stellar in the sack is confidence and communication skills. Based on your letter alone, I know you have the latter. Now you just have to work on the former. Let’s discuss that, or “get on the lady” as you say, which is maybe my new favorite expression.

First, the straight appearing/invisibility problem. Yes, it sucks. I wish we would all wear queer badges, and I’m not even kidding about that. It’d make flirting so much easier. If only the hanky code wasn’t so confusing. Unfortunately, we live in a world where straight is the default assumption. Even those super-top butches you mentioned still have to correct people from time to time. But! Your appearance is just one small fraction of who you are. I’ve never been read as anything but straight in my day-to-day life, and because of that, I’ve had to devise other methods for getting the message across. If you can get over the initial discomfort, talking about it as much as possible helps immensely. You don’t have to be all, “Pass me the Ovaltine. I’m gay!” But there are tons of cultural cues and symbols you can draw from if you are trying to send a message about liking girls. Music, art, TV shows, movies, books, jokes about Birkenstocks/tofu/cohabitation, gay events, gay politics, and on and on. In other words, you don’t have to reference a girlfriend in order to get the point across.

I’m sorry that your friends feel the need to question your sexual identity. That has more to do with their biases than anything you’ve done. Still. Tell them to cut that s–t out. Remember, too, that you’re hardly alone. Lots of queer people don’t “look queer.” If you’re need of some reinforcement or inspiration, read books and essays about femme visibility. A few to start you off are Brazen Femme, The Beauty of Femme,” or Visible: A Femmethology.

In regards to the periods in your life when you were focusing on other things besides love, that’s not a red flag. If anything, it’s a green flag. It proves you were living your life. Contrary to, like, every women’s magazine in the Western world, being single isn’t a disease. I know it seems that way. We can’t help but live in a society that demonizes those who aren’t in a relationship or constantly seeking one, but you don’t have to listen to it. Long periods of being single are common. There’s nothing to be ashamed of for prioritizing your life to meet your non-love goals.

I wish I had a crystal ball to tell you when you’ll meet Ms. Right. But I can’t. Because the patent is still pending. Until then, embrace your life, your accomplishments, and savvy. That confident girl who knows what she wants and goes after it is there, just under the surface. Live the life you want, with as few regrets as possible until she bursts free.

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