I’m bisexual, so people like to ask me how dating ladies is different from dating guys. (I also get a lot of “Wanna have a threesome?” and “How do girls have sex?” The first question is a lot easier to answer.) Sometimes people ask the question with a little competitive edge in their voice — they want to know if gay girls have better relationships than straight girls, if guys are more satisfying than lesbians. But, despite the occasional delicious dream in which a dyke and an androgynous boy are fighting to give me the first orgasm, it’s not really a competition. Basically, people are people, and the people I date are more similar than different—my two serious partners have both been blazer-wearing writers who demand I “fix the back” after self-inflicted haircuts. The real differences between life in an opposite-sex dating situation and life in a lesbian one come from people’s expectations and responses. Here are a few of the major ones.
1. The parents. My parents are downtrodden when I’m with a girl and excited when I’m with a boy. They assure me that their sadness at girlfriended Camille has nothing to do with homophobia — they just don’t like how secretive I’m being and how I’m ignoring their religious beliefs. Besides, it would be one thing if I was dating a lesbian neurosurgeon model author, but if she happens to work at an art house cinema/tutoring program/manicure place–she’s not going anywhere! The thing is, they love my boyfriends, even though I’m incredibly secretive about them too (I’ve never once listed a relationship on Facebook, even when I’m living, and discussing possible futures, with someone), I do some pretty irreligious things with the boys as well, and they’re all writers, activists, or organic gardeners. Hardly shining career paths, Mom and Dad.
2. The body image. My body image is a lot healthier when I’m with a woman—and that’s not because the men I’m with aren’t complimentary. In fact, I’ve been lucky in that none of my partners have ever criticized a single thing about my appearance. The difference is that when I’m in a lesbian relationship, I spend hours every day looking at a woman who’s not airbrushed—and to whom I’m still incredibly attracted. When I’m with a guy, I’m not getting that reality check and sometimes I miss it.
3. The salads. My go-to date restaurant charges $3 more for the same salad when I come in with a guy than when I come in with a woman. I don’t think that’s an example of anti-straight prejudice—I’m guessing it’s the male cashier’s attempt to flirt with me when he doesn’t think I’m already taken. But this plays into a more serious issue: heteronormativity. People assume that a guy and a girl at a restaurant are on a date; it doesn’t occur to them that two women are together. I can only imagine how annoying that lack of recognition must be when you’re gay: instead of only half of your relationships being real, none of them are.
4. The birth control. This is less about societal expectations and more about physical inconveniences. Women can’t get me pregnant. Most guys have a shot at it. So, dating guys is more expensive, reproductively speaking. Plus, the time I’ve spent in monogamous relationships with women is time I haven’t wasted finding the right birth control or dealing with spotting, dryness, and mood swings while searching for my hormonal Holy Grail. I’ll admit that I’ve prayed to be relieved of that pesky portion of my straightness so I wouldn’t have to deal with birth control.
5. The catcalls. People in public spaces are much more interested in two women holding hands than they are in an opposite-sex couple holding hands. I get a lot more honks when I’m with a girl, and infinitely more dudes yelling “Dykes!” (I also get more smiles from women in three-piece suits, which makes up for a lot.) I’ve only been catcalled twice while walking with a guy. Both times, it was an SUV passenger shouting to the guy I was with to “hit that pussy.” Thanks for the sex advice, pal.
6. The expectations. People ask me where my straight relationships are going. They want to know if I love him, if I’d marry him, if I’d have his kid. Somehow this just doesn’t come up as much when I’m dating women. Maybe they think I’m going through a phase with my girlfriends, or they don’t want to rub salt in the no-legal-gay-marriage-in-my-home-state-also-babies-are-more-difficult-to-come-by-with-two-ladies queer wound. Whatever’s going on, I sort of enjoy the decreased pressure on my queer relationships, and wish people would act the same way about straight ones.
[Photo from Shutterstock]