When gay people are first coming on to the dating scene, it’s like a second puberty — we’re self-conscious, still figuring out our style, insecure — and we don’t know what we’re doing, while we pretend like we do. Dating while gay may as well be called a train wreck, as the mountain of circumstances crashes you up against a wall at 90 miles an hour; when you just want to get a sandwich.
The thing is; there is no manual. No amount of watching “The L Word,” will save you from awkward encounters, kisses and one-night-stands.
About three years ago, when I went on my first gay date, I didn’t know what I was supposed to say, how I was supposed to act or what I was supposed to wear; everything was new, and everything was unfamiliar.
Looking back, I acted rather cringe-worthy. I was, how can I say, more excited to be out on a gay date with someone, more enthralled with the idea of someone being interested in me in a gay way, than I was with the person I went out with.
And I think, for gay millennials, the dating scene is considerably different from that of older members of our community. Everything is digital now, and gay bars are not the only safe place we have. However, this has also set up the awkwardness of how to communicate on gay dating sites.
It is awkward because, when women are first coming out as lesbian or bisexual, and figuring out their attraction to other women, things can get hairy attempting to distinguish the romantic from the platonic, especially online.
It is an incredibly daunting task, I think, to be confident when flirting with another woman, because there is an internalized fear many lesbian and bisexual women have, that in acting on their attraction towards another woman, they are enacting the stereotype that marks us as predatory.
And when you’re finally out on a date, there are no social norms with which to work within, so sometimes one party may feel as though they have to take on the “role” of the man, because they have no other framework from which to derive an understanding of “the normal” way to act in romantic circumstances.
You can go to Pride, be around happy gay couples and watch every lesbian movie out there — I have — but that still doesn’t prepare you for the real deal of what it is to be gay and date, let alone how to navigate gay romance and love.
I believe for many young people in the gay scene, they’re so self-conscious and terrified of doing something wrong and concerned with giving off the right impression to the people they want to attract, it can be difficult to figure out where to go with what you do when you’ve actually attracted someone.
There is no “normal” or ordinary process to gay dating, because it’s a confusing mixed bag and also a terrifying train wreck of self-discovery. I had experienced just about every facet of the scene, until I actually entered a serious relationship.
And the thing is, my girlfriend and I had been constantly flirting with one another for three months straight before we had even actually started dating, because we weren’t able to recognize that the other was flirting.
This is what I mean when I say there is no rule-book and nothing makes sense. When lesbian love is diluted to mean either gal pals or porn, it’s hard to distinguish the authentic shades of nuance in-between.
Because women’s attraction to other women is consistently shut down as something that can only ever be experienced as platonic since the beginning of our socialization as women, un-learning this and learning the skill of differentiating romantic and platonic attraction can take a long time. For some women, it can take a lifetime.
No one starts out a Casanova like Shane from “The L Word” in real life.
We start out like Jennifer Schecter — confused, clumsy and on long journey of self-discovery in figuring ourselves out in relation to our attraction to women — and we stay and grow on this journey as we enter the dating scene.