“So do you need a ride?” Your friend asks.
“Well, I don’t need one.” You can see the tip of your street from where you stand
“But do you want one?” She leans close, and you can smell what must be her deodorant: Old Spice. Like your ex wears.
“Yeah,” you say. “I do.”
When you’re not dating a butch you almost forget. What it feels like to have your needs anticipated and met. That particular brand of attentiveness which makes you feel catered to; cocooned.
How do you explain it to someone who argues that gender expression plays no role? That anyone, male, female, masculine, feminine can take care of you? All it takes is an observant eye and a willing heart.
You start with the way she watches you slick shiny gloss across your upper lip, then press your lips together to spread the sheen. You mention her hand at your low back or the nape of your neck, how usually it feels like guidance, and sometimes a command. It’s not about who pays, you say, it’s about how she has your drink waiting when you join her at the table. How she walks the sidewalk’s edge to separate you from traffic on your way to the car. Maybe you talk about the way she smiles when you’re debating between one pair of shoes and another. “You’re beautiful no matter what you wear,” she says.
Still, your words are inefficient. “You could just as easily be talking about a man,” someone might say.
But you couldn’t.
Why couldn’t you? Maybe it has to do with the space she occupies on the ol’ continuum. She’s woman enough to understand the complexity of your needs, masculine enough to satisfy them. Her knowledge begins in sameness, ends in tantalizing contrast.
Of course it can go wrong, just like anything. Sometimes her actions infantalize, her words diminish. “Calm down,” she tells you, as if your easy access to your emotions weakens you. “I better drive,” as if before you met you couldn’t tell brake from gas.
Or maybe it’s you who’s wrong, flawed, for craving her rescue. You inspire a classroom of students or tame a boardroom of subordinates, so why should you let her lead when you dance or light your cigarette?
You can lose yourself, dating a butch. In the best and worst possible ways. Beneath her you might find you’ve slipped from your body; she’s sent you arcing across a star-strewn sky. Or maybe she siphons your strength. She only believes in the sort she understands. Sometimes you wonder, when she calls you a princess, does she mean the kind who rules with authority, or the kind who throws her breakfast tray at the wall when her tea is too cold?
Maybe you’re better off with someone more like you. Someone who needs help zipping her own dress. Someone who’d rather you drive. Still, you’ll never shake the longing for that leather scented, don’t worry babe, I got this, soft-serve swagger, that seductive mix of warm admiration and steadfast support.