I’ve been transported back to high school, back to the time between fifteen, when I got my first kiss, and seventeen, when I started to date.
Over the past few months, my partner, Christopher, and I had continuously kicked around the idea of introducing other people into our relationship. Contrary to stereotype, these talks weren’t centered around satisfying his fantasy of sleeping with two women — though he certainly didn’t mind the idea. No, we spit-balled ideas about other women for my sake, to see how I could explore my queer identity within the context of our commitment.
I had realized the extent of my attraction to people other than men when I was 26 and married. My husband was comfortable with a threesome, but I wasn’t — I’m still not. I’ve searched for a ‘unicorn’ —a woman who would be open to joining me and a partner for a threesome— and thought about becoming one myself, but whenever I got close to following through on a plan, I couldn’t go through with it.
No matter how attracted to these women I was, and no matter how thoroughly I had discussed how to approach and carry out a ménage à trois, I was and continue to be someone who cannot meet up and go home with someone in a matter of hours — even with a partner by my side. The level of comfort I require to sleep with someone, even to be naked in front of someone, simply wouldn’t be possible in that span of time, not to mention that I felt ‘squicky,’ to quote Dan Savage, about watching a man I loved have sex with another woman.
For the past two years, the same tedious idea of sleeping with a man and two women waxed and waned in my mind. Then one evening, a possibility opened up.
Christopher and I talk regularly about ways to spice up our relationship, whether it needs spicing or not. We’ve pretended to meet as strangers in the street only to wind up in bed later that night. We’ve played “what if we’d hooked up in college instead of staying good friends?” We’ve made purchases that ought to be hidden from house guests. So when we started talking about game-playing for the purpose of arousing pique, this was nothing new.
“You could be more absent,” I suggested.
“Absent?” Christopher asked.
“Just go out more. Go out to bars without me.” He nodded. “Hell, maybe even have a date or something.”
“Yeah, like if I knew you were out with some girl, it would drive me crazy. I’d be dying for you to get home.”
“I mean, I can reactivate my Tinder now. If you want, we can do the open relationship thing.”
I shrugged. “Sure.”
The strangest thing was that, while the decision to open ourselves up to dating other people happened quickly, it felt anything but cavalier. While we made our separate profiles, we worked out our ground-rules, and since then we’ve comfortably discussed messaging strategies, congratulated each other on matching with interesting (or particularly attractive) people, and discussed our impending dates with frankness. Best of all, our relationship feels consistently emotionally and sexually charged. It’s one of the better decisions we’ve made as a couple.
There is, however, a disparity between us: Christopher has 16 years of experience dating women, whereas I kissed a few girls in college but never dated anyone besides hetero-cis-men and, as a woman creeping steadily toward thirty, I feel like the time for nervous sexual naïveté passed some six or seven years ago.
The worst part is that I have two dates coming up on the horizon. On the 10th, I’ll be talking over cocktails and tacos with a curly-haired intersectional feminist with intimidating eyes, and on the 12th, I’ll be perusing a cafe and bookstore with punk-ish writer of novels whose hair color I can’t quite anticipate. I have no idea what to expect.
I’ve been transported back to high school, back to the time between fifteen, when I got my first kiss, and seventeen, when I started to date. I’m long and bony and awkward and unsure. I don’t know how to kiss, if I should wear heels or ballet flats or cute sneakers when I meet someone. I’m not sure what to do with my hands.
I’m beginning to have anxious dialogs with myself:
1. Who makes the first move?
Whoever wants to!
But if I’m taller, am I obligated…?
No, don’t be ridiculous. You’re thinking of queer dating in terms of heterosexual confines.
That’s all I have as a reference point!
2. What if they want to move at a faster pace than I do?
Then you say, “hey, can we slow it down some?”
But we’re adults now and people expect —
I feel like the queer community has more knowledge about consent than the average bear. And if they push, then you don’t want to date them anyway —
Yeah, no. You’re right.
— no pun intended.
The bear thing.
Oh. Ha. Nice one.
3. Liz, no one has said the word ‘date.’ What if this is a friend date?
I don’t think it’s a friend date. I don’t get friend date vibes.
What if queer girl vibes are different than straight guy vibes?
…Maybe I should have sought out an LGBTQ+ guru ahead of time.
One part of me wants to eschew the entire ‘dating’ scene and find the Peter Dyer to my Georgia Nicholson (if you haven’t read Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, please run off and do that immediately — or at least search the Wikipedia for the plot) before I make a fool of myself with someone I actually like. In my mind, she’d be a bi/queer woman in her mid-thirties who’d play at the idea of being a Mrs. Robinson, but only as a joke. In actuality, she’d be patient, sexy, unattached, and straight-forward, without hurting my fragile ego.
This is a small part.
The remaining 90%+ of me remembers how impossible it is for me to be sexual without an emotional connection, that I waited much longer than my peers to enter my first relationship, to have my first kiss, to lose my (heterosexual) virginity — and that I never regretted any of those cautious choices.
I texted Ms. Cocktails and Tacos in the midst of writing, to ask how her day had been (My exact words: “How was your Monday? Manic?”). After the usual back and forth, she asked me about my writing for the day and I revealed the topic of this essay, somewhat reluctantly. I hadn’t planned to make my inexperience a secret, but I wanted to see if we clicked in person before getting personal and I said as much. A frightening few moments passed as I watched the dot-dot-dots on my iPhone screen. Then:
“Well, that’s very considerate, so thank you. And everyone has to have a first. You can not have dated women and know you’re queer. I knew before I had. And if someone is legit questioning/experimenting, that’s really fucking valid too.”
I told her she was fabulous, reassured her I wasn’t experimenting, and remembered, sadly, that three days remained till our first date, wishing for the first time since I entered this strange, open, allowed-to-be-queer space that I could hurry up and feel awkward already.