Thursday, December 18, 2008

dating bi-as

So an interesting thing happened lately: I went on a date. With a boy. What? That information elicited a lot of different reactions, everything from laughter to puzzlement. "So you're dating boys now?" "How does that work?" And so on. Blah blah blah. But the truth of things is a lot harder to explain than I've been able to put into words, at least verbally and under immediate pressure. The lines are getting a little blurry.

The boy was somebody I met at Anna's girlfriend's nonprofit's fundraiser a few weeks ago, back when it was still warm enough that I was willing to put on a dress in return for access to an open bar and cheesecake on a stick. We talked (briefly, from what I can recall) and, along with another boy I didn't know, split a cab ride home. About a week later, I got a facebook message.

Being single has a number of interesting side effects that contributed to my actually following through on that message. For one thing, it's infinitely easier for me to define my sexuality (for better or for worse) when I can just say, oh, that's my girlfriend over there, have a cheesecake! The lack of a significant other opens me up to scrutiny, and to assumptions, such as that I'm straight or bi. Which is okay (and in the case of bi, not entirely untrue), but sometimes it's a little awkward. I don't know how to deal with boys, for one thing; it's like I've lost the tools, the skill sets, that seem to be taken for granted by hetero society. Boys approach me differently than girls do. (Well, so far women don't approach me much at all, which is a whole other problem.) And I can't tell when they're flirting, even more than I can't tell when girls are flirting. So I end up (apparently) flirting back, and then things seem to get beyond my control. It's confusing.

All of this would be far less of an issue if I didn't, ahem, feel a little more bi (although I prefer "homoflexible") lately, at least theoretically. I will not deny that I've had makeout dreams about boys, some of them involving victorian dress. And really, with my credo of tolerance, I've been considering giving boys another chance. Should it actually make that much of a difference? I'm not ruling it out as a possibility, although I'm pretty skeptical in light of all the evidence that that train of thought is ever going to get much past the theoretical stage.

But anyway, I basically said, what the hell, let's give this "date with a boy" thing a shot. Here's one thing about being on a man-date: I felt like I had this very, very media-based idea of what what that experience should entail and how I should act. Rules, if you will. I just couldn't seem to shut down this part of my brain that kept whispering "Are you doing this right? Think hard about romantic comedies!" With girls, I've never felt that kind of rule pressure before, and it added a whole new level of nerves to my experience. For instance, I ordered a salad (endive with roasted baby golden beets and whitefish in a creme fraiche, yum), which was actually what I wanted, but I felt like such a girl when I did it. I literally flashbacked about a million bad movies as I said "I'll just have a salad." And he paid for dinner, which for me felt terrible. I mean, here I was feeling like a fraud anyway, and then I didn't even pay for my food! It was the most uncomfortable part of the date for me. (And when I told straight female friends of mine that, they invariably said, "Well, at least you got a free meal!" Which is so not the point, and actually made me feel more gross, like my company was something to be bartered for. "I'll pay for dinner, and you look cute and eat a salad." This was not his fault, but the fault of gross tradition. Ick.)

But really, it was fine. A little awkward (ex-girlfriends kept coming up, perhaps in a very passive attempt to bring the conversation around to the topic that I haven't dated a boy in, oh, five years), but good conversation and good food and good beer. I actually had a lot of fun, except for the fact that I felt like I was sitting around the table with a boy, the personal, and the political. That made me a little antsy, truth be told. With girls, at least the personal and the political tend to be right out there on the table, and they're easier to talk about. If two girls are on a date, there is this whole world of overlap that they can access and assume that the other person will be able to reference. On a straight date, I felt like I was navigating without coordinates, and it was much harder.

I just hope I wasn't a total letdown as a date. "Dude, I went on a date with this girl the other night and she was totally a dyke! WTF!" is what I imagine him telling friends, although in truth I think he's a bit too nice to be so mean about it. But still, I think that through my lack of ability to just say "Hey, so I date mostly girls, but you seem nice," I've become a funny story he'll tell people during conversations about weird dates. Ah well, live and learn.

(Thanks to Anna for the title.)


erica said...

so i guess commenting on the free food would be, um, the wrong thing to say?
ok, i won't.
i have no insights, but this was a very thought-provoking post. and do i know about the victorian boy kissing dreams? do tell.

ammie said...

I mean, whatever. I think there's a significant difference between accepting things from people you know well and accepting things from people you don't, and the same goes for giving. It just felt weird.
And didn't we talk about that dream? I was wearing petticoats and everything and this dashing boy who may or may not have been a bad person kept telling me I had nice eyes, and then we made out in a deserted ballroom. Very strange.

pulley-whipped said...

first, very funny post. i like the romantic comedy thought. second, i think you're looking at straight dating as a kind of ritualized prostitution, which i suppose it is in a sense, but really. you are worth more than your weight in salad, so don't be SO apologetic about a freebie. third, i know how confusing it is, especially for people who only know you as a big dyke :) but sexuality is, like many things, non-linear, complex, confusing. try not to police yourself or your fantasies otherwise you'll end up in a deserted ballroom making out in petticoats. what?

erica said...

i think i've, of late, become rather attached to the elements of heterosexuality that resemble ritualized prostitution...hmmm...
it's not about me it's not about meit'snotaboutme....!

ammie said...

All of these fun comments are making my extremely frustrating morning a bit better :)
Okay, so here are some thoughts: I don't think I exactly have a problem with the ritualized prostitution thing, either in terms of dating or more...involved situations. It was just so weird to see it actually playing out, and to realize the social precedence for it. I may be worth my weight in salad (I hope so, anyway), but it made me think of dowries or something stupid and outdated like that. And I was on edge anyway, so there's that to factor in as well. AND if a woman had paid for my meal, I'd have been less concerned about it, so I was pretty much just overreacting.
I think the main thing I came away from this with was that, duh, gender makes more difference in more ways than I'd anticipated. Those people who say gender doesn't matter? Maybe not in a theoretical ideal world, but in the actual real world it can sure as hell makes things happen differently. (I'm not talking about desire, just social dynamics.) I don't know if it's necessarily bad, but it was kind of fascinating to observe from a different perspective. I don't think about women being women when I'm interacting with them, but often now when I talk to or hang out with men I feel like I can see all these weird power things playing out right in front of me. This was like a super intense version of that.
Okay, enough from me :)

ammie said...

Oh, except for this: thought-provoking and funny was what I was going for. Thanks, y'all.

erica said...

dude, i'd love it if someone bought me my entire weight in salad...that's a lot of'd last for, like, a whole week! i'd totally sit there and look pretty for that!
sorry. i'm intellectually useless today. i'll go back to my knitting.

ammie said...

Sadly, I was thinking that wouldn't be as much salad in my case as it should be. I lost a little weight lately :( but maybe the salad would help! Especially if it was covered in cream sauce, like that one was.

ShanaRose said...

a.) love love the Victorian make out business. noted.
b.) dating women is just as much a ritual as dating men isn't it? there are just different rules, like, for instance, two bis/dykes will almost Always talk about their exes on a first date, no matter how "over it" they may be, no matter how "taboo" it is. also when a woman pays for me I immediately begin wondering about the gender/sex roles implied just in the act of paying for someone else.
c.) boys, no matter how nice they look, are not to be naively trusted. they operate on a different set of rules which allows us to be skeptical of their motives at All times. I mean ALL.