Keeping ’em Trim

I took some time off between post #1 and post #2, in large part, because my life sort of exploded. My (now ex) partner moved out of our place. Dyke fail. This happened approximately 12 hours after a colossal defeat at work. Lawyer fail. And, of course, after the work fail and the dyke fail (the dyke fail meant either a roommate or paying for our place alone), money became a source of worry too. So…Money fail. Given all these “failings,” I sort of lost the inspiration or ability to share any wisdom on what are usually three of my favorite topics. But bear with me here.

During the next few weeks, while I continue to pick up the pieces and figure out what’s  next, I’m going to share some older essays that I never bothered to post anywhere.

Despite all the “fails,” there’s no better place or time to be single than New York City in the summer. So here’s a throw back to an essay I wrote during the summer of 2014 about lesbian speed dating.

I had reached date # 9, and across from me sat a self-identified “stone-cold butch.” With cocktails at $18 a pop, I was, unfortunately, stone cold sober; the novelty of speed dating had just about worn off.

The host of the event had encouraged speed daters to deviate from basic questions regarding jobs and hobbies, and refer to a list of “prompt questions” meant to help lubricate the conversations.  Some questions covered your speed date’s favorite foods, movies, and vacation spots. Another asked your speed date to describe, “the most romantic thing” she’s “ever done for a partner.”  The lamentable question, “do you like femmes or butches?” ranked in at #5 on the prompt sheet.

But, with only three minutes per date, I pretty much ignored the prompt sheet; I wasn’t sure if I could render a decision about a potential future lover based solely on a mutual love for sushi or a shared dream of skiing in the Swiss Alps.

The “Butch or Femme” question seemed particularly nonsensical and even painful given the context. The magic of speed dating is that if someone’s not your “type,” by awkwardly covering your clipboard after the three-minute conversation session expires, you can clandestinely select “no” and move on. If you love butchy girls and the lady across from you has on three layers of make up, no problem.  Just check, “no.” You’ve only lost three minutes and many a butch await in the next rounds.

The stone cold butch, a police officer, mostly talked about her job, and I could tell I wasn’t quite her type.  But the three-minute passed easily, after which we both “secretly” checked “no,” and rotated. Next up for a session with the cop was my friend Jane (who had graciously agreed to come along). Jane’s exchange with the officer took on a distinctly less professional tone: “Are you into femmes or butches?” the cop wanted to know off the bat. Jane, always polite, gave an honest but diplomatic answer, “it’s more about the person than her style.”

This equivocating answer evidently did not satisfy the incredulous cop, who quickly launched into interrogation mode: “Come on, now, everyone has a type: It’s a simple question! If you were in a room with two girls—a comely cop like myself and a nice leggy femme with red lipstick and high heals—who would you want to throw you up against the wall and fuck you?” Jane wasn’t sure she wanted any of the aforementioned characters throwing her up against the wall…

The femme-butch dichotomy has always completely puzzled me, perhaps because, physically and psychologically I don’t fall squarely anywhere. I’m quite petite with a feminine face but I dress in plain colors, loathe girls’ bathing suits, and avoid dresses at all costs. That said, in most of my relationships, I do the bulk of the cleaning and virtually all the cooking. When it comes to nagging about leaving the house promptly or picking up after one’s self, I would definitely prevail in any stereotypic female behavior contest.

For reasons I still cannot fathom, several of my ex-girlfriends put me chief-in-charge of the power drill (I have no idea how to use any tools, and rely solely on YouTube videos for instruction). Worst of all, I always got tasked with the killing of vermin and subsequent carcass removal process. Meanwhile, I left other butchy tasks like taking out the trash and lugging the heaviest bag to my girlfriends.

In the dating world, straddling the line between butch and femme often proves almost as awkward as Jane’s conversation with the Comely Cop. I recently went to bar with a somewhat androgynous teacher who asked me out on an online dating site.  The teacher made clear she found me attractive but her one caveat proved confusing: I was apparently far too “butch” for her tastes. But, she implied, if she “drank enough on the date…who knows…” When she offered to buy a second round, I politely declined.

As speed dating progressed and everyone else got drunker (except me, still resisting the $18 drinks), I decided to expand my question set and go completely off script. Dates number 13 and 14 sported intricately painted nails, replete with pieces of glued on sequins. Maybe I did have a type, after all. The very thought of having that much hot pink acrylic inside me, and, heaven forbid, having to fish out a piece of fallen bling brought vomit chunks to my throat. Two minutes and thirty seconds in, I finally asked date #13, “great nails…love the aqua marine with the sparkle border… but I’m just wondering, how do your dates feel about the nails on a less aesthetic and more ummm…practical…level?”

Number 13 confidently replied that she requests a slightly rounder nail shape and sacrifices some length while in a relationship (she didn’t specify whether sparkles would still be on the table and we got cut off before I could ask). When I posed a similar question to #14, she blurted out that she hadn’t had sex in “a really long time” and therefore felt free to invest in manicures. But I had to wonder, whether her manicurist might be prolonging the dry spell.

As I’ve grown more comfortable defying traditional female stereotypes, I’ve also gotten pigeonholed more as a “butch” seeking a femmy girlfriend. But given my rather puny size, I find I’m also not the hulking butch of whom most femme girls dream. Somehow, even in the gay world, I’m still an enigma.

When it comes to dating, everyone one has her preferences (mine evidently is for short unpainted nails). But as a queer community, it sometimes surprises me how easily we fall back on traditional gender roles, and how quick we are to put people in categories based on those roles. I can’t say it’s not fun to categorize; I get a kick out of the creativity with which we label. I’ve been called,  “Andro,” “soft butch,” “femme with an edge,” “chapstick lesbian,” “LA butch,” and my least favorites, “Boi” and “Justin Bieber Lesbian.”  But, categories are for the comfort of other people, and, at the end of the day, I’m just me.

I was less than enthused about coming out. To be fair, I did rather enjoy horrifying my 90-year-old grandmother who believed that my time spent in California had resulted in a full on lesbian brain washing. But, other than that, drawing attention to the matter proved fairly humiliating in my hetero-normative suburban hometown.

When the dust settled though, I was left with a sense of freedom to embrace a more comfortable and natural style. The queer female community gave me that gift, and for that, I’m tremendously grateful.  And no matter how much we still look for a “man” and a “woman” in the average gay relationship, we’re just two people, equally capable (or incapable) of ripping mice from glue traps or plunging a toilet. In any given couple, one partner might shave her legs while the other goes au natural; one partner might work full time while the other stays home with the kids. But, at the end of the day, we should all trim our nails.

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