DATING WHILE QUEER: Why Am I Such A Weenie About Asking Girls Out?

For a lot of queer women, myself included, dating feels like setting off into the desert with no map.

Jan 15, 2014 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

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Dinosaurs are also easy.

I've never had a problem with asking dudes on dates. 

I mean, not really. When it comes to long-term friendships that tiptoe around being romantic relationships, I have definitely never said a word to push us over the edge. But in terms of meeting a cute guy at a bar and deciding I want to put my parts on his parts, it's never been that hard for me to ask him for his number. 

Sure, I get rejected a lot. But asking for a near-stranger's digits (and then engaging in some fortnight-long emoji-based foreplay) seems so low-risk to me. When compared to the terrifying things we can and do encounter on a daily basis -- climate change, drivers who ignore crosswalks, the creeping feeling that you've accidentally tricked everyone into thinking you're a competent human being, bears -- the prospect of a guy not wanting to hold your hand and/or tit is pretty inconsequential. 

Because if the dude says no, so what? I go home, maybe feel a little vulnerable and hurt for a while, eat a donut in bed and halfheartedly masturbate in an electric blanket burrito to some Melissa Ferrick until I pass out. That's a much better prospect, to me, than hitting it off with someone and then chickening out of pursuing them. Missed Connections aren't that effective, after all.

It's seriously that easy: Strike up a conversation with a stranger, tell him he's attractive, ask for his number, bang and/or perhaps do not bang. It doesn't have to be an ordeal. Life's too short for that.

Of course, I say all this, and then the minute I meet some cute girl I immediately lose the ability to speak, build myself a den made of my own dried drop-sweat and retreat there like a wolf spider who doesn't really understand arachnid habitats. Pretty much every woman I've ever dated has had to make the first move, sometimes after weeks of circling around each other.

Admittedly, "women being afraid to ask out other women" is something of a cliche. I've heard some women say that it's because we're socialized to be chased, so we're not sure what to do when there's no stereotypically designated "pursuer" in the equation. I'm not sure that's true, though -- decades of lesbians have managed to engage in some high-quality heavy petting without having a guy around to push them in the right direction, after all. 

For me, I think it's more that my boundaries are hazier when it comes to women. Even though I've been out for years and am pretty much equally interested in all genders, part of me still defaults to pursuing women as friends rather than sex partners. Because I'm a pretty flirty person by nature, I spent a lot of time as a teenager being afraid that I was going to freak out one of my lady friends by accidentally hitting on them.

And though I've always been lucky to hang around with people who aren't jerks, I've still encountered my fair share of women who assume that because I'm queer, I must automatically be interested in them. This, in turn, begets a lot of unnecessary defensive posturing about how VERY STRAIGHT they are and how THEY'RE DEFINITELY NOT INTERESTED IN MY VAJAY, which makes me feel like a dirtbag just for existing near them.

So even as an adult and in established queer spaces, I generally don't make the first move on women for fear of accidentally creeping someone out. This isn't necessarily a bad thing -- I'm never going to be grumpy about having more friends, and I'd rather be cautious than ever make someone feel unsafe. But it can lead to months-long pining campaigns, and again: Life's too short.

Another problem, I suspect, is that I just don't have a lot of models for queer dating. I come from a long line of women who know how to get what they want: My parents met when my normally reserved mom, having gone straight to the local bar from the dentist and tipsy from the combination of lingering medication and a few beers, sauntered up to my father and told him he was good-lookin'. Later, when she saw him in the parking lot, she hollered at him again until he took her number.

(He was on a date with someone else at the time. Their first date was at a cowboy bar. My mom fell off of the mechanical bull. These are the people I come from.)

My grandma, meanwhile, divorced her deadbeat husband in the 1930s, then married his next-door neighbor (and drinking buddy) less than a year later. 

Though these maybe aren't ideal forms of courtship to aspire to, they did show me as a kid that if I wanted to find a dude for the long haul, sitting around and looking artfully bored just wasn't going to cut it. When it came to dating women, though, I had no such examples to work from. 

Even in pop culture, most of the queer women we see in the public eye are in the kind of monogamous, Ellen-and-Portia, two-cats-and-a-subscription-to-Mother-Jones relationships that seem to carry very little context. Much like Athena being born full-bodied from Zeus's skull, women in couples might as well have come out of the womb attached at the hip. We usually don't get to see them single, or flirting, or falling in love. We don't get to see them making the first move.

Though a lot of straight relationships on TV and in movies may perpetuate boy-always-asks-girl-out stereotypes, at least those develop tropes to subvert. For a lot of queer women, myself included, dating feels like setting off into the desert with no map. There are no established social cues, no script to follow (or consciously choose not to follow), no way to ensure, even nominally, that risking rejection will be worth it. It's an adventure, sure, but it's also terrifying. Here There Be Dragons, or worse, someone who just thinks you're repugnant.

Hopefully, for the sake of my heart-crotch, I'll eventually overcome my fear of asking women out. Until then, I'll have to stick to safer pastures.

Kate is fighting dragons: @katchatters