Relationships With Women
My first kiss was with Kris — short for Kristin, and it was a rough one. She was all about tongue and teeth and nibbling on my bottom lip and I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I was fourteen. We were in my parent’s backyard. We dated for about a month. She slept over a lot. I think my Dad just liked the idea that I couldn’t get pregnant. I have no idea what my Mom thought. A month later I was crying into the phone, saying something along the lines of — “It’s not you, I just don’t even know what’s wrong with me. I can’t feel it the way you do. I’m horrible. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
I tried fingering my friend Sara when I was sixteen. I don’t think either of us enjoyed it very much. She giggled and sighed and wriggled against me. I was just trying out what my limited experience had told me was enjoyable. By that age, I’d figured out I would have more social currency if I was at least “bi.” So I tried to be. I experimented with friends who would let me guinea pig them. I got drunk on cheap beer and $20 bottles of whiskey and was non-discriminatory in truth-or-dare games. I told boyfriends that I was “totally down” with having threesomes. I even tried one, once.
I remember complaining to my college roommate that I just couldn’t figure out how to have a healthy relationship with a man. Her solution? That I was a closeted lesbian and I should forsake the male gender in favor of vaginas. That didn’t exactly play out the way she predicted. I have continued to date men, and solely men. I have yet to have a healthy, well-functioning relationship with one, but still, I persist.
But I’m not a lesbian…?
Most of the time I identify as “straight” or “heteronormative,” because I don’t think I have enough experience to know whether or not I’m queer. I’ve never had a romantic or sexual relationship with a woman. I’ve thought about it, fantasized about it even, but never actively pursued it. Sometimes I even wonder if I’m queer enough to call myself “bi.”
As a woman who doesn’t actively pursue romantic or sexual relationships with anyone other than straight males do I have a right to distinguish myself as anything but straight? Does the distinction even matter? I don’t feel quite at home in the queer community, but I feel a bit too weird and other for the white-washed heteronormative community. Where do I belong if I don’t feel wholly welcome in either?
My foray into queerness probably began as a naive desire to play into men’s fetishes of “girl on girl action.” On the inside, I liked the feeling of being completely safe and in control with women — a feeling I had never experienced with men. It was open season in terms of experience, trial, and error; which made relationships with women a relatively even playing field. Though I never took them seriously, I became known as “the bi one,” out of my friends. If there was another person in the room who even remotely identified as queer — everyone assumed that I would go for them, as the only non-100% straight person in our friend group.
I have only been romantically attracted to two women in my entire life. Both were complicated and unavailable, and they were completely opposite in appearance and demeanor. One was a total stranger, who I met on a subway train in Boston in my early twenties. She was pure Banana Republic stereotypical pretty. The other was a shameless flirt and outwardly queer tending towards gender-neutral. The bottom line is: attraction is wholly subjective.
You won’t know till you know.
We’re conditioned as women to be attracted to men and only men because that is what our more traditional culture expects of us. Even if we experience early attraction to women, it’s dismissed as childhood experimentation or girlish fantasy. No one ever taught me what kind of woman I should be attracted to. I was taught what attractive men look like and act like, along with what heteronormative relationships and sex should be like. It’s no wonder that stories are popping up of women only discovering the fluidity of their sexuality after the marriage and babies.
Unfortunately, it’s a total crapshoot with queer relationships. Which can either be incredibly paralyzing or liberating depending on how you look at it. I can either move forward into the unknown with a testing mindset or let the fear of what I don’t know keep me where I am. Regardless of how I approach it, that theoretical first foray into a queer relationship is probably going to be awkward. That’s OK because when you know, you know.
I don’t believe that attraction is truly heteronormative for anyone. I believe that we are all attracted to spiritual, emotional, or hormonal qualities in other people, regardless of their performed gender. I do believe there is a person out there who can bring out the best in me, who will challenge me, support me, and love me — and I have no stake whatsoever in the gender of said person. After all, if it’s meant to be, it’ll be. Come on universe, surprise me!