Something happened to me between the self-revelatory statements “I’m gay” and “WHY DON’T I HAVE A BOYFRIEND?!”
And not just jar after jar of Nutella. (But who’s counting?!)
It was more of a self-realization about the dating scene. A realization that a lot of people are having in this iPhone-driven, text-heavy age.
Let me preface this by writing that a few of these problems aren’t necessarily LGBT-centric. But since I’m a flaming mo, my perspective’s a bit skewed.
From best friends and family members, to colleagues and angsty passersby, I’ve developed more than a peripheral knowledge of the most effective dating [avoidance] strategies.
Avoidance strategies, you ask?
Because (1) It’s damn difficult to click with people in person. Like the time I tried to flirt with this one guy, pivot on a dime, and walk away confidently. Instead, I stuttered a goodbye and whipped around so quickly that I slipped, overcompensated, and knocked over a lube display. Classy lady.
And (2) It just gets exhausting writing profile after profile after profile on the most cutting-edge, most widely used dating sites “Proven to get you a date is less than a month!” or “At least get you laid.” Because then you turn into that person whose profile reads, “I HATE EVERYONE. THERE ARE NO REAL PEOPLE LEFT!” with an accompanying profile picture of a pixilated torso.
It just became easier to throw my hands up after a few bombed dates, blame it on the economy draining the last of an increasingly shallow dating pool, and sidle up to my computer for a Golden Girls marathon.
Alright, so I hadn’t quite spiraled to the point of a Goldie Hawn Death Becomes Her cat mo—mostly because I’m allergic, and can’t stomach that much frosting. But I did break out the hole-ridden jeans and stained hoodie to venture to Harris Teeter for a sweet treat.
At least self-checkout stations make eye contact avoidable.
Most of the time.
Maybe I’d just become so far resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going to find someone that I finally did. When I least expected it.
I know, I know. I hate that saccharine “It happens when you least expect it!” bullshit. Because I’d recited that to myself time after time (whenever I took my head out of my chocolate-covered pretzel feedbag).
But I ignored the fact that entertaining that very thought meant that I was still seeking out that ever-elusive complement to myself, even if I told myself I wasn’t.
So I figured, “Finally! I’m set. Relationship maintenance can’t be too demanding. The hard stuff is over!”
Now, before I have to sleep in the guest bedroom, I’m not saying the effort involved in maintaining a relationship is bang-my-head-against-the-wall bad. Quite the contrary–it’s made me more mature, more patient, and (hopefully) more empathetic.
Still, there’ve been unexpected issues that’ve challenged us. Issues that I think other LGBTs encounter and, sometimes, can’t quite reconcile.
Andy and I hadn’t been together two months before I got horribly sick and had to go to an urgent care clinic, then to the hospital. I could barely keep both eyes open, and had to deal with filling out mountains of paperwork.
Then I got to a page I’d seen plenty of times before when I was single–one I’d never panicked over or had to think intensely about. It was the “right to medical information” page–where you list out who’s able to receive your medical information or request it, and their relationship to you.
The ink blot started to grow larger as I wondered, hesitating about broaching the topic for fear of freaking out Andy and making him think I was moving too fast.
Did I list him?
Should I tell him that I’m listing him?
What if I don’t list him and they run me to the E.R. and he’s not “privileged” with the information regarding my whereabouts?
Would they acknowledge a gay relationship?
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t danced through my sleep-deprived mind.
But one good side-effect of feeling crappy is that you give less of a damn about dating etiquette than usual. And while potential hospitalization isn’t a desired litmus test to see if you have a keeper by your side, it does the job.
We cleared the hurdle.
Even if the “A” was more of an inkblot than a letter.
Albeit thankfully short, that situation made me think about my LGBT friends, and the whole topic of “gay relationship time” versus “straight relationship time.” Sure, the latter are good topics for poking fun, but I think there’s a little something to it.
For a lot of LGBT couples, it’s hard to avoid heavy-hitting topics like healthcare, end-of-life decisions, housing issues, and property rights. In fact, like Andy and I learned, you have to broach them much, much earlier than some straight friends. That’s not to disparage our allies, or presume that heterosexual couples don’t have to engage in such intense dialogue. (The latter is clearly not true.)
By and large, though, most LGBT Americans don’t have the luxury of a temporal cushion to lighten the blow of such charged topics; we can’t assume that we’ll be afforded particular rights just because we have a partner of the opposite sex. So, a few months in, Andy and I were well-versed in familial histories, medical issues, end-of-life decisions, health and life insurance providers, and general contingency plans.
But for every story like ours, plenty of others don’t go so well–and not necessarily because of ill-suited matches. Heavy conversations have a way of exhausting a relationship speedily, smothering the initial flames of exuberance with overwhelming, sudden responsibilities and stressors. Pressures specific to LGBT relationships aren’t often understood by the general public. To everyone else, on the surface, it’s yet another failed LGBT relationship; it’s easier to default to that stance rather than think about the heteronormative, theocratically-legislated context in which LGBT relationships are established. Instead of attempting to change that context, though, ignorant people are more content to buy into the crazed, Santorum-ish perception of the “inherent instability” of LGBT relationships—and use that fallacious argument to continue LGBT-based discrimination.
Traversing bumpy relationship terrain early on does have a bonding effect, too. Even if conversations along the way don’t exactly come easily, and may shave off a few weeks from the honeymoon period. Because very few want “More peas?” followed by “Cremation or burial? Organ donation?”
Still, in the span of a few weeks, Andy and I jumped from hesitant-to-fart to peeing-with-the-door-open. Because with other, more pressing matters at hand, who really cares?
(Other than visitors.)
So, while Andy and I aren’t Olympians, we’ve cleared a number of hurdles.
Not without a few stumbles or scuffs.
But we’re still going strong.
And if we can do it, plenty of y’all can, too.