Or, alternate title: Dyke in a Small Town Revisited
I've spent a lot of time in larger metropolitan areas where finding the gay community was easy - or at least certainly much easier than I've been able to find here. So there was at least a place where you knew folks would pool who were also like you. Dupont Circle, the entire city of San Francisco, West Hollywood... You get the idea! So if you were interested in finding a date, at a minimum, you had at least one place you could go.
No such luck here. Trust me.
But in real life you never know who you're going to run into and whether they might be your soul mate or future life partner, or even a lovely fling. In real life you should leave yourself open to possibilities because you never know who might come along.
Here's the problem. If I hit on you in West Hollywood, and you're straight, you shouldn't be so surprised. If you're in my "hood" (so to speak) you should be comfortable enough that someone might think you're not just a tourist. Okay, that's not the problem... The problem is how we identify each other outside of the "hood".
When I came out in college, I kinda did it in a big way, almost without thinking, my first year by sitting at a "Coming Out Day" table (Coming Out Day is October 11th - so you can get an idea of how relatively early in the year it was). People I had gotten to know in that first month and a half reacted in a variety of ways. One woman (who admittedly later had a torrid lesbian affair her senior year) came up to me and gave me a big hug without even realizing or caring what I was doing. But others weren't so friendly. I had several straight female friends who suddenly became afraid I was going to hit on them and began to keep their distance.
Now this is problematic in two ways. First, so what if I did? Were they not capable of politely turning me down and being appropriately complimented that I might be interested? Apparently not. And the second, which is often a reaction that is part of this polite conundrum dance, is the idea that they were so "arrogant" as to think I would.
And there we have the two steps of the Polite Conundrum Dance. It's quite a simple dance, really.
Two women are talking and one is already out and known as a dyke. The other's sexual orientation is unknown.
If the dyke takes a chance and hits on her, if the other woman is straight, she may run away (and yes, even if she's also gay, she could run away...). So, one step backwards.
If the other person early on quickly clarifies - before the dyke takes a chance and hits on her - "I'm straight" she risks offending the dyke that she's so arrogant and that she's so scared that the dyke is going to hit on her. This may or may NOT be what the straight person is trying to indicate, mind you. That's not relevant in the Polite Conundrum Dance. What's relevant is what MIGHT POSSIBLY INCONCEIVABLY be nonetheless conceived, and not wanting to ruin or risk a new burgeoning friendship.
Now, for you straight people, one word of advice I have for you. Early on in the conversation, please feel free to drop in handily something about your boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend. That is a nice subtle way (if it doesn't seem too contrived) to clue us in that you are not available to us (although, for the record, I've discovered it does NOT necessarily mean that you might not still be interested, but that's a whole other world and a whole other post... See, for example, Married Women Like Breasts..!). Yes, unfortunately, stating outright early on, "I'm straight, by the way" won't typically go over well - even though in some ways it would be much appreciated - there are more subtle ways, nonetheless, to let the other person know.
Now, a little bit of wisdom about me, in particular. This may or may not apply to others like me - I can only speak to me. I am a shameless flirt. I love to flirt. It may or may not mean I am interested in something more, but sometimes, I'll admit, in whether I'm interested in something more may depend upon your response to me. However, given that I flirt with men, women, and dogs, alike, it may mean nothing at all as to whether I am interested in being more than friends. You should not be worried, upset, offended, or horrified if I flirt with you. Flirting is fun. If you enjoy it, then flirt back. If you don't, don't. Simple. And those rules, I think, generally apply to just about anyone - if you enjoy someone's flirtation, flirt back, and if you don't, then don't.
If you may be interested in something more with me, I'm dense. I'm dumb. You'll probably need to be explicit or spell it out. Or just really, really flirt a lot, and either way, I'll have lots of fun with you. ;) (I've discovered, apparently, sending me pictures is an effective way of letting me know... although I'm not necessarily a "visual" person....and wouldn't necessarily expect or want them, I can still appreciate the statement, apparently!)
But I have a lot of conversations with new people whose company I enjoy where I find myself engaged in The Polite Conundrum Dance. They already know I'm a dyke. Is that why they're interested in getting to know me better? Is that what they're interested in? If their twitter handle has the words "lesbian" or "dyke" already in them, those I got a clue who I'm dealing with. "Mama" however in your twitter handle does NOT exclude you from the possibility of playing on my team. And surprisingly I've run into very few people who have "straight" or "STR8" in their handle. The only Twitter handle I've found where it's been BEYOND clear that they weren't interested in a romantic relationship with me simply from their handle was "GODH8SFAGS" (although technically, when they wrote me, they did tell me that THEY loved me... so I'm so confused... ;) )
So if you're a new friend, please feel free to drop the gender, subtly in conversation, of your last significant other in order to clue me in... and if I flirt with you, don't be offended.. ;)
Now, check out my next post where I teach everyone how to do the Waltz. (1-2-3, 1-2-3...)