The image from this post is from an amazing site I found cruising the internet. Meg Allen has a photography site with a project entitled BUTCH which pretty much sums up the simple answer to my question. Can I say, yes please?! Go check it out. Thank me later.
On to the post!
Thanksgiving…sigh. Let me start off by saying how thankful I am. Really, I promise, I’m super thankful for a lot of things. However, holidays have always been a time of mixed emotions for me. I’ve always been a bit of an idealist especially when it comes to love. But I’ve also been a bit of a loner, shrinking into my cave of reading and writing for periods at a time only to emerge weeks later to find out that the world has, indeed, continued to spin without me. Add to that whole equation the fact that I am extremely shy and quiet unless I’m extremely comfortable, none of that bodes well for romance.
So during holiday times, I often find myself wishing for that someone to sit beside a fireplace with and drink hot chocolate. Or stand outside admiring the velvet quiet and the magic that accompanies the first snow. But it’s never panned out. But settling just doesn’t seem like an option either. So I often feel stuck. Stuck between just finding someone, anyone, and waiting for THE RIGHT ONE. For a few years, I’ve been discouraged enough to think maybe there is no right one. Real romance might just be dead. But then…I’m honest with myself and I confess, within my heart, the ultimate fact that while I have known about my love for women for most of my life, it’s something that I just haven’t had the guts to act on, for a variety of reasons. One of which is that yes, I think I’m a coward.
But this Thanksgiving, I sat with my sister, possibly the only person in my family who knows for sure that I’m bisexual, while others, I’m sure, maybe wondered a time or two. At one point, she looked at me and said: “I don’t understand butch women. If you’re going to find a woman who looks like a guy, why not just get a guy?” Now, let me just say that my sister can be very frank, and can even be insulting, without actually meaning to be. I’ve seen her do it to those closest to her and people she just met. It’s a part of her personality that she has admittedly been working on.
A million responses went through my mind, but I tend to be extremely diplomatic and often consider everyone else’s feelings before I take care of my own. I looked up from the book I was reading and sighed quietly. “Do you really want me to tell you?” I wasn’t sure if I was actually looking forward to this conversation or not. Her eyes shot around our empty little getaway in the big house to see if anyone was within earshot before she nodded. My older sister has always, and will always have a thirst for life that fuels a bright fire in her eyes. Her curiosity is endless. She is fascinated by just about everything, and she is a champion of all things fair and equal. She’s one of the most beautiful people I know and her emphatic energy was a little infectious.
I paused a moment to try and think about the best way to start. “You know we both love romance novels.” I nodded, she nodded. “I used to think that the biggest problem with romance novels was that the majority of them were written by women. So all those scenes of passion and romance, beautiful touching scenes that we hoped and dreamed would happen to us in real life, were all created by women. No wonder men were so clueless. I was expecting them to intuit how I was feeling and give me the romance I was craving based on a portrayal of them that came from a woman’s mind. The short and chaste answer is, while they may shop in the men’s department, they aren’t men. And that is a fundamental difference. At least to me it is.”
She nodded for a moment, considering what I said.
“Hmm true.” That was the last thing I heard before she launched into another stream of questions where I heard key words like “breast binding” and “butch haircuts” but I couldn’t really get the gist of what she was saying. I was already off in my own mind on another tangent.
It was more than just the romance novels to me. It was about heartache and disappointment. It was about the fact that men and I just have never had a good run. I’ve never felt fully comfortable with them. Fully able to be myself. I always made a better wing-woman than I did a girlfriend. I planned awesome dates, bought amazing gifts, but somehow I was always lacking what they were looking for, and they could never give me what I desired. They could never seem to intuit what I needed, not saying that women are mind readers, but I was able to build much deeper, longer lasting connections with women than I was with men. And by 25 that fact was heartbreaking coming from my conservative heterosexual family.
Why not just get a guy? Well, that answer was in every time I was pressured to have sex before I was ready with a boyfriend. When I finally got the courage up to ask my sister about it she said “They’re always going to think it’s their job to ask. It’ll be your job to say no.” It broke my heart. I didn’t just want my job to be to “say no”. I wanted to be in a meaningful relationship where we could both feel that it was the right time. Where we could both feel the silent cues and pulls of passions that would cause us to orbit one another, getting steadily closer until joining would be inevitable. My answer to why I couldn’t just get a guy was in that first lesson. Men are not going to listen. Not in my experience. And I won’t say that’s all men. But my deal with the universe seems to be such that things just don’t work out with me and the male species.
The answer to why I can’t just find a guy is in every marriage conversation I hear that comes up and I hear women say that most times sex with their husbands is more for men than it is for women. That somehow, men will always enjoy sex more than women. And that’s a complete load. Women are incredibly more sensitive than men. We have more erogenous zones, more centers of stimulation. By all calculations, we should be riding high most of the time. And yet, that same dissatisfaction with selfish and insensitive lovers further damaged my already fragile heart.
Add to that, I was a victim of sexual abuse at a young age and somehow no matter how much they try, the male lovers in my life just have not been able to grasp the gravity of that fact and what it means for me as a person both inside and out,I and I was sold on the idea of celibacy by 28.
And then…lesbian fiction happened. I started reading and it was like the wonder and hope that I experienced as a little girl came back. All of a sudden, there was a world of romance, the gestures that I always wanted, the things I always wished someone would say, the sexual experiences I always wished I’d had, there were others who felt that way. I knew, because they felt it enough to write down their thoughts and sell them. They poured themselves into their works of love, thrills, heartaches, and achievements. They were detectives, pirates, social workers, teachers, and people from every walk of life. Romance and chivalry were both very much alive, and were in the hands and hearts of women. Women who loved women. And I felt comfortable in a way that I hadn’t felt in a very long time.
I hadn’t felt that comfortable since I was in high school. I went to a performing arts school and I refused to date any of the boys there. But I let the girls there flirt with me and take care of me in a way that made me feel confident enough to turn into the woman that I never thought I could be. Leaving high school was one of the hardest things ever. It was the one place I had never been bullied. The one place I felt understood. I knew I was too much of a coward to pursue a relationship with any of the girls there, but it opened my eyes to possibility. It would take me 10 years to find that kind of possibility again.
So when she asks “Why not just get a guy”, I can’t because I’ve already tried that. Again and again and again. Like a broken record. Like I was insane. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing, hoping for different results. But there is love out there. There is that soulmate kind of romance. There is passion to be had and passionate connections to be felt. For me, it just isn’t with a man. There are so many things that come with men. Compromises and concessions. For a lot of women, those are happy compromises. For me, they take away bits of my soul.
Even now, when I see a couple walking together, dancing together, arm in arm together, looking over the festive scenery in New York, I can imagine myself with that kind of inner warmth. But the partner in my mind is never a man. I long for the long lines and strength of a woman. For the slopes and curves and crevices of feminine beauty, even when it holds that touch of handsome masculinity. I think it’s taken me this long to realize that the kind of romance that my heart craves lies in the soul of a woman, no matter what she looks like.
That’s why I can’t just get a guy. I’ve tried that. It’s like trying not to be allergic to something just because everyone else loves it. It just doesn’t work for me. I spiral into a dark place. I get depressed. Maybe Vanessa Carlton said it best when she said:
“How she’d be soothed, how she’d be saved if he could see,
She needs to be held in his arms to feel pretty,
But everything happens for reasons that she will never understand
‘till she knows that the heart of a woman will never be found in the arms of a man…”
But in the end, I found that I couldn’t voice all that. And maybe I’m more of a coward than I thought. Or maybe it’s just that I know that the opinions of others don’t always shape me and my reality. But finally, all I could really do was offer my sister a shrug. Maybe it’s a waiting conversation for another day. But since it’s a a time for gratitude, I’m thankful to all of the authors of lesbian fiction and non-fiction who gave me hope when I had none. Who helped me find my path and my truth when all I wanted was to disappear off the face of the Earth. To those dedicated authors who helped me to see that a fish will always think it’s stupid if you ask it to live outside the pond, I owe you all so very much.