Originally posted on LJ on 2005-09-04 09:36:00
I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to what exactly I’m looking for, now that I’ve discovered all these wonderful ways of connecting with new people. It’s hard to believe that they’ve been out there all along but I was just too caught up in my narrow little obsessive hobby, as unfulfilling as it was, to find them.
Perhaps I shouldn’t say the hobby was unfulfilling, because on some level it was or it wouldn’t have held my attention for seven years. And I still love some aspects of it. But it doesn’t feed me on a deeper level and I only recently realized how much I was starving.
It’s not as though I haven’t tried to make connections with other people over the past seven years, but I was laboring under the belief that I am still a lesbian and should therefore seek out the company of other lesbians (who, admittedly, I do usually feel fairly comfortable around, even if I don’t quite fit in). I did end up meeting some straight women through my hobby, one of which became a dear friend, but most of the people I’ve met who share this interest are so obsessed with it that it’s all they talk about, with no room for discussing politics, philosophy, gender, sexuality, relationship theory or any of the topics that would bring my brain back to life again. So time spent in their company left me feeling like I was trying to exist on rice cakes instead of real food.
Trying to meet other lesbians never seemed to work out for me. I’d get the date of the event wrong and show up the next day, or I’d show up only to discover it had been cancelled, or I’d get together with them once or twice only to have the mutual interest seem to die away. I felt frustrated by what seemed to be my inability to make deeper connections with people, and began to wonder if that was just the inevitable result of aging, as people retreat deeper and deeper into themselves and lose the intensity of youth.
It took me a while to consider that maybe I was trying to find connections among the wrong people. The universe ended up intervening by sending Cupid to shoot an arrow through my heart that bore the name of a young man at work, and even then it took me a while to get it. I got the crush right away, and was immediately consumed by all the amazingly intense and confusing feelings it brought about, but it took longer to understand that maybe what I was seeking was an actual relationship with a man, a man my own age.
That it was difficult to grasp is not all that hard to understand, given how much of my adult life has been invested in my identity as a lesbian, to the point that I have gone way above and beyond the call of duty to prove it to the world.
But why the need to prove myself? A large part of it is that I never “read” as a lesbian, so people were always questioning me, which prompted me to go to great lengths to demonstrate my commitment to the lesbian community. I tried changing my physical appearance to more readily be recognized as “one of them,” but I still felt like a bit of an imposter on the inside, given how little this outwards appearance reflected how I saw myself in the inside. (And I discovered that while I really do love men’s clothing, especially fine quality clothing, I like it better on men.)
I also tried getting very involved in every cause that sparked an interest, and yet even then I always felt as though I stood on the margins, peering in, never quite accepted. And yet on some level I didn’t need acceptance in order to be part of the group, as I was happy to participate anyway and I enjoyed being in the presence of these women, even if there were many ways in which we didn’t relate. I’ve never been inclined to be in the “center” of any social group, so I am accustomed to the view from the outside.
But I thought that in this case it had to do with the fact that as a culture, we are still suffering from some rather essentialist notions about gender and sexuality, and that even other lesbians had bought into the notion that those who experience same sex attraction must also adhere to a particular gender expression — that, in a word, they must “read” as one of the available categories of lesbian: butch, femme or andro dyke
Although I did try to fit into those categories for a while (tried a kind of baby butch look for a year, and an urban andro dyke look for several years), I resented the implication that a lesbian must “be” any particular type of woman, when, theoretically, couldn’t any woman be a lesbian? I eventually came to see that as my most valuable contribution to lesbian culture, to live as an example of a woman who stands outside the stereotypes and just is who she is, while being no less a lesbian.
And then a funny thing happened. Although the feelings I had for the young man at work were intense and confusing and very nearly overwhelming, it still took me another year or so to begin to grasp what it might mean. The idea that I might actually choose to seek out a relationship with a man threw me for such a loop that I was paralyzed between recognizing it and actually doing anything about it. Surely this was just a phase and the result of simply not meeting enough lesbians in this area, in order to make new connections with other women?
But renewed efforts in that direction yielded more of the same disastrous results, and then it happened. I was wandering around the festivities at the Denver Pride celebration, feeling a bit out of place, when I came across the booth for Loving More, a magazine devoted to polyamory. I had been involved in polyamory years earlier, and still identified as non-monogamous though not actively practicing, but what the magazine gave me access to was an actual community of other like minded people, through support groups, social groups, email lists and a poly matchmaker web site.
Logging onto that site changed my life, as I discovered a world of interesting people, many of them very much like me, that I had never imagined would exist. And more importantly, I started to discover that there were men who were completely unlike the men I had known when I was younger, from whom I had happily turned away to pursue my lesbian life.
So suddenly that meant that not only were there men out there I might enjoy making connections with, opportunities to meet them were about to present themselves to me and I had to decide how to handle that. At first I created the impression, through my profile, that I was mainly interested in connecting with women but also open to the idea of friendship with a man, but that didn’t really reflect what I wanted. However, I had no clear idea of what it was possible to want, or of what kind of man I would attract.
As I gave more thought to it and paid attention to the kind of initial responses I got to my profile, I realized that more than anything what I wanted was for a man to be attracted to my mind. I wanted intellectual attention, from someone who would treat me as an equal and not an oddity for having this mind come in a seemingly incongruous package. And I wanted intellectual stimulation, for men to talk ideas with me, so that I could sharpen the parts of my brain that had become dull with under use, and so that I could begin to better understand some of the many ideas about which I am intensely curious.
And perhaps equally important, I wanted a man who would appreciate my facility with language, and who shared the same skill, and who would indulge me by coming into my sandbox and playing with words and ideas, sharing himself with me through the medium of written language.
Luckily, I have started to meet just these sorts of men, which almost seems too much to hope for in and of itself. But as for what I might want beyond this, I’m still trying to figure that out!