Tales of a wandering lesbian

Category — Practicing Imperfection


“Honey, I think what you’re putting out there is, ‘roadblock’.”

I’d asked my roommates for a little reflection.  It’d been an interesting few weeks on the dating front.  I’d gone from nursing a broken heart, to not wanting to date anyone, to playing around with online dating, to realizing that I value the shared experience of a long-term relationship, to finding myself in a love triangle, on a date with a straight woman, considering dating women living in other states, and falling for a wonderful, but unavailable woman – all as I prepared to continue my personal journey on two other continents.  It was a bit much.

My poor roommates.  I love them so very much.  They’ve watched me through all of this.  And the roadblock comment seems pretty right on the mark.

I’ve been identifying my warning labels, sharing my limitations, and holding back the parts of me that might overwhelm.  Or pushing them forward as a kind of test to see if they will.  It’s like when I get someone a present.  Or make a fabulous dinner.  I lead with an apology. “They didn’t have what I really wanted to get you, so I got this…” “The onion isn’t exactly what I’d wanted, but I hope it’s okay…”  It takes the sting away if they don’t’ like it.  And it’s the same for me.

If I don’t give my full self, and I’m rejected, the other person isn’t rejecting the real me, so it’s not so bad.  If I overwhelm the person on purpose, I’m getting what I expected, so that’s not so bad either.  If I throw up a roadblock, or make sure there’s one in the way, it’s a bonus if I can find a work-around.  But it’s only what was expected when it falls apart.

I’m done with that now.

So here’s my statement to the universe:  I am ready.  I am ready to accept into my life adventure and passion and abundance.  I am ready to unleash the full me and to welcome with open arms all of the beauty that comes.  I am ready.  For a life of radiant love.  For a life of wonder.  I am ready.

Oh, and also thank you.

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May 4, 2010   1 Comment

The Profiler

This is the second installment of my match.com diaries.  After deciding to give the online dating world a go, I sat down at the keyboard to take the first step from voyeur to active participant:  creating a profile.

I have actually posted profiles on three different sites:  match.com, Curve personals, and okcupid.  The three have slightly different processes for creating a profile, and thus for matching you up with others.  This was a fascinating process.  I got a lot more out of it than I expected.

Match.com takes you through a series of topics, ranging from how many times a week you work out, to where your hot spots are for spending time.  There are 22 of what I call “check box” topics designed to help match you with people who are similar.  These are the religious preference and height requirement sections.  But most of what match provides is room for a lot of text.  You can express yourself in your own words, which, for some is great, and for others is daunting.

With Curve personals you can provide a lot of information using the check box system.  The profile setup takes you through several steps, kind of like TurboTax, to make sure you’ve provided the most complete information. After all, nobody wants an audit on their date.

Okcupid, on the other hand has something like 4,000 user-generated questions you can answer to assure the best match.  Once you answer 25 it tells you you’re good to go, but it’s pretty entertaining to continue on, answering questions like, “should burning your country’s flag be illegal” and “how often do you bathe.”

All of these sites let you post your profile, and also select the profile components of the person you’re looking for.  Unlike the others, okcupid has a weighted system, in which you can indicate how important the answer to the question is, on a scale from mandatory to irrelevant.

About the time I was halfway through my second profile, I realized that I’ve never really sat down and tried to define myself this way.  I’m not entirely sure how I feel about defining myself through a series of check boxes, but I’ll tell you that the Curve process made me stop and think a bit.  Aside from telling me that my usual “flicktastic” username contained profanity, the Curve profile asked me to choose from a list of “important things.”

The list included “Attending Religious Services Often”, and “Having a High Sexual Drive”.

Apparently I’m not that concerned with “Keeping the House Neat and Clean” or “Giving to Those Less Fortunate”.  Apparently.  Of course, I also didn’t check “Having a High Sexual Drive,” even though (close your eyes, Mom) that’s actually pretty important.  So, apparently I’m also a little concerned with what I’m putting out into the world.  Which is interesting, as I’m finding that maybe what I’m putting out into the world isn’t exactly what I want to be putting out.  Take the pictures I chose for my profile, just for example

Each of the sites allows for a certain number of profile pictures.  On match it’s 5, on Curve it’s 25, and on okcupid it’s 10.  You choose one picture that displays first when people are searching through profiles.  And although I’m a fairly photogenic person, I have repeatedly chosen pictures for my online profiles that I feel best highlight my personality, and not my looks.  I think that’s a good thing.  Screens out the people who are just looking for a pretty face, or ass.  But in the last week alone, I’ve had a friend, my mom, and a woman I’ve been dating use the word “scary” in reference to pics I’m using.  My mom even went so far as to ask, “who are you trying to scare off?”  Now that’s an interesting question.  Here are the pics.  Tell me what you think:

Yes, maybe a little scary.  Maybe I’m a little scary.  Maybe I see myself as a little scary.  It kind of looks like that’s what I’m putting out there.  And it’s all about what you’re putting out there.  More to come.

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April 21, 2010   6 Comments


Here are a few questions I get on a regular basis:

“How do you know you’re a lesbian?”

“Why aren’t you writing as much?”

“How do you stay so thin?”

Here’s the answer:  girls.

Superman has kryptonite.  I have girls.  At least that’s the way I’ve seen things for quite some time.  Sure I have bouts of self-doubt, and sure I have moments of deep loneliness.  I work through those.  But there’s something that really, really can stop me in my tracks and make me abandon all sense of rationality, reason and pretty much anything else.  Girls.  More specifically, beautiful women.  Beautiful, intelligent, articulate, athletic women just knock me flat.  And if there’s an emotional/spiritual connection in addition, it’s like I find myself in a movie where everything else becomes background and then fades to black – while my heart pounds.

I don’t blame them.  I blame me.  I get distracted.  And I get nervous.  Which means I spend more time thinking about things other than writing, and I get so nervous that I burn off anything I eat.  So I’m pretty sure that makes me a lesbian.

It’s kind of annoying (not the lesbian part).  Here I am, a somewhat accomplished, intelligent woman who has been trained in the art of logic.  I have systematically developed the left side of my brain.  On top of that, I’m one of the most introspective people I know.  I’ve embarked on a journey to cultivate those things that are important to me, going as far as abandoning most everything that tied me to any one perception of myself.  And still, I find myself throwing caution to the wind and diving ass over teakettle as soon as I feel a connection with a pretty girl.

Damn it!  What the hell is that about?

I like spending time with people.  And when I can get over my nerves, I really like spending time with the beautiful, intelligent women.  I’m not so sure, however, I can be responsible in these situations.

When I left for Italy, it was in response to the little voice.  I heard it loud and clear, and I listened.  It was a rare moment of clarity, and I embarked on a journey to listen to the little voice as much as possible, and see where it led me.  As a result, I’ve been able to hear it and listen to it more and more.  Except when I’m clouded by the lovely and befuddling fog that surrounds women.  Then, either I’m unable to hear the voice, or (more often) I’m willing to debate and ultimately disregard it.  DANGER!  DANGER!

Here’s the rub:  I know that if I fight against this part of me, it’ll just get stronger.  But it’s become more and more clear to me that I’m missing something that is leading me to make the same mistakes over and over.   And I’d like to stop making those mistakes.    So what have I been missing?

This week, I made a pretty big realization:  for some reason, I’ve developed a story line that has me living my life alone.  For years I’ve been repeating things like, “I will probably end up alone,” “I never want to change my life for a woman,” “I’m in no place to be dating anyone,” “it’s safer for everyone if I just don’t date.”

I’ve believed that, in order to be true to myself, I need to be alone – to a large degree.  That to be a strong woman, I need live a singular existence.

I do recognize how important it is for me to be comfortable in my own skin; to not NEED to be with anyone; to not NEED external validation.  And I have more work to do in that area for sure.  But this is something different.  I’ve been believing that, if I make a decision based on my desire to be with someone, it’s automatically invalid.  That wanting to be with someone to the degree that I would want to change my plans to include them in my life is somehow a sign of weakness.  And in believing that, I’ve belittled the idea of being with another person, and come into conflict with myself the second I found someone I wanted to be with.  I hadn’t realized that.

In fact, until this week, I never really considered that wanting to share my life with another woman could be a valid priority for me.  I wanted it, but I discounted it.  How sad!

But this week, as I was checking boxes to indicate my priorities and preferences for online dating sites, and wondering why I haven’t moved on to the next leg of my travels, I started to make sense of things.

One great lesson I learned while I was in Italy came on my last night in Venice.  I’d spent an incredible few days seeing the city, eating fantastic food.  I found myself in the hotel about to sit down to write about my day, and I physically turned to talk with someone who wasn’t there.  I wanted to relive the experiences of the day.  But I was the only one there.  That’s really great for writing – but not so great for emotional stability.

I value shared experience.  I write to share my experiences.  I publish for others to resonate.  The times I’ve been most happy in my life are when I feel connected.  I love playing softball.  I loved playing rugby.  Being part of a team makes my heart sing.  The jobs that have made me most content and brought out the most passion in me have been those where I am connected to a community of people with a common experience.  Why would my personal life be any different?  I don’t know why I would ever believe that wanting to have someone to share my life with is shameful, but that’s how I’ve been living – for a long time.  As an apologist for myself and my willingness to adjust my plans to include the possibility of a relationship.  Because I didn’t see that it could be an important priority for me, in and of itself.

I’m someone who loves deeply and values connection with others.  Usually I see those things as my greatest strengths.  But every time I find myself attracted to someone, I tell myself I won’t sacrifice, won’t compromise, won’t change whatever it is I’m doing with my life.  Even if I don’t know what the hell I’m doing with my life.  (Which is more often than I care to admit.)  And it’s possible that all of those grand statements about what I won’t do have kept me from having an authentic experience with myself or anyone else.

I don’t talk about my relationships very often.  I don’t want my friends and family to know how much I’m affected by another person.   That means I act differently when I’m with someone, like I’m hiding something.  Being ashamed of being in a relationship isn’t so healthy I think.  (I mean, I’m not a shrink, or anything, but I think I’m fairly solid on this point.)  It’s totally possible that I’ve doomed my relationships by isolating myself, as a way of not sharing what I see as weakness.

By ignoring the importance of my relationships, I’ve been invalidating a very critical part of me.

Talk about being self-loathing!

The reason I haven’t been writing isn’t girls.  It’s me.  The reason I came back to Portland is because I valued the potential for a deep connection with a wonderful woman.  The reason I haven’t moved on to the next leg of my travels is that I haven’t heard the little voice telling me where to go.  It’s possible that it’s a little unhappy that I ignored it last time I heard it.  But it’ll be back.  And I’ll be more likely to listen this time, because I won’t have to argue with it about my priorities.  Women aren’t kryptonite, and my desire to share my life with someone isn’t a weakness.  And that realization is a great gift.

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April 12, 2010   8 Comments

Matchy matchy

It’s true confessions time.  I joined match.com this week.  Go ahead, commence with the ribbing.

It’s the first time I’ve ever joined an online dating service.  It’s been a fascinating experience.  I liken it to the Twilight series.  Check it out.  When I was reading the Twilight books, I would take them with me to a coffee shop and shuttle them quickly from my bag to my lap, shielding the cover from view.  I found them entertaining, but I didn’t want anyone else to know that.  I’d judged far too many people for reading them.  Then, when I decided I wanted to give them a try, I was pretty well ashamed and embarrassed to be seen with the black-covered vampire novels.  Seriously, who reads that stuff?  Turns out I do.

And so it is with match.  I’ve been fortunate enough to find great women throughout my life with relatively little effort.  (Don’t give me a hard time about this.  It’s not because I’m kick-ass or anything.  I just know a lot of people.)  I’m not sure I’ve actually ever even dated.  Even if the other women were just dating me, I’m pretty sure I’ve moved into full-blown relationship mode.  (Yes, I know that in admitting this, I’m throwing up huge warning flags.  Like the rest of my posts make me look sane and stable…)  And I’ve been socially active to a ridiculous extent, giving me a zillion acquaintances.  So the idea of wanting to use an online dating service to find people hasn’t made a lot of sense to me.  Until recently.

I’ve started meeting a lot of women (offline) who are using online dating sites to meet people.  They’re interesting, intelligent women who are using the online sites to broaden their social circle.  Not just to date, but to make friends with common interests who they wouldn’t otherwise run into.  Finding new groups of people can be hard to do in a community as small and connected as the lesbian community is.  And these women are great, which totally blew my perception of who is using dating sites, and why.

I still wasn’t totally comfortable with the idea, so I began the rationalization process.  I told myself, “I’m in no place to be dating anyone, but I could end up with some cool friends and maybe even a travel companion or two”.  I told myself, “This could be a fascinating social experiment”.  I told myself, “I could use this as a way to get over my fears around rejection”.  But basically, I was totally curious.  Who is out there?  And how are they using these sites, exactly?  And so I started filling out the online profiles, choosing which picture to upload and checking the boxes that define my priorities.

I thought maybe I’d make some interesting realizations in going through the process, but I didn’t expect them to come so quickly.  More to come on this, but basically I’ve found myself seriously considering the way I see myself, the way I portray myself to the outside world, the way I see other people, and the way I view relationships on a really fundamental level.  So far it’s been flattering, humbling, and absolutely fascinating.

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April 12, 2010   1 Comment

The marginalized masses

Okay, let’s review:

We commit emotional violence on each other all the time, like when we talk about neighbors or delegitimize people’s feelings.

We do it because we’re suffering from mass Post Traumatic Stress Disorder brought on from the emotional trauma we suffered in junior high and high school (and every day after that).

Which causes us to use power-structures to marginalize each other.

We find ourselves in a hierarchical system that requires us to rank ourselves in relationship to each other.  What kind of car do we drive?  How much education do we have?  What kind of job do we do?  We all know which cars are valued more than others, which jobs are respected more.  If there’s any question, just watch an evening of tv and commercials.

Or we can look back at high school.  I remember clearly the day someone came up to me and asked the question, “so are you a jock or a hic?”  Boom.  There it was.  I was stunned.  I realized a couple of things in the seconds it took me to compose myself:  1. I don’t have a horse, but maybe I’m spending more time than I thought with the Rodeo crowd; 2.  I get to define myself; 3.  I better be careful how I answer this question.

I knew exactly where jocks fit in, as opposed to hics, as opposed to stoners, and punks and drill team, and student council and band.  Even the loners, who refused to be part of a group had a label and a rank in the system.

In this system, those at the top have more power, more influence.  In order for this to be true, the system requires there to be other people on the bottom.  So, in order to stay in control, those on the top need to marginalize those on the bottom to keep them from gaining influence.  To give them a label, and put them in their place.

I think I wore my letterman jacket every day for the rest of my high school career.

Here’s my background.  For a number of years, I worked in the realm of GLBT politics.  I worked first as a community organizer, a ground-level trainer, and then served in leadership positions on state and national boards.   I organized door-to-door canvasses, phone banks, community meetings and political rallies.  I sat in rooms with high-level operatives and I sat in rooms with disillusioned naysayers.

I learned a lot.

When all was said and done, I learned one thing in particular.  Something that has informed the way I approach individuals and groups representing communities of individuals.  Something that has informed the way I reach out to and react to others in both my political life, and in my personal.

We use systems of power to marginalize.  We do it as individuals.  And because organizations are made up of individuals, we do it organizationally, too.

Here’s how I started to see this in my life.  The organization I worked for purported to represent a minority community.  It was perhaps the best job I’ve ever had.  I loved training people to talk face-to-face about their lives.  I loved listening to community members who had ideas about how to best engage in a political and social movement.  I loved planning rallies, and bringing people to see legislators.  I loved making sure people felt heard.

I was a true believer.  I believed deeply in the issues, and in the people I was representing.  I believed in the power of people to affect the views of their neighbors by simply talking with them.  I believed in the power of communities to affect the views of legislators by doing the same.  I believed in my organization.

I watched as the organization I loved, an organization representing marginalized individuals, moved into a position of relative power.  I worked hard to help make this happen.  I watched as it gained relevance, found its voice, and developed friends in powerful positions.    Then I watched as the organization chose to use the precise system that had marginalized it and its members to isolate and marginalize others.  I say “chose,” but it wasn’t something conscious.

It took me a little while to figure out what was happening and why.  I was uncomfortable with the snide comments that would be made about fellow organizers – “competitor” groups representing the same community, and individuals with differing views.  The categorical discounting of anyone who didn’t agree with the game plan developed by my organization.  The unweilding push to isolate and discredit those who questioned.

So I volunteered to attend the “coalition” meetings of competitor groups, to engage those who had been discounted.  To talk with the people I felt we should be representing, and not just those who could bring the organization the institutionalized power it was seeking.

As I did this, I heard the fear in the voices of those who felt they had no voice.  I heard the anger of those who felt they had been shut out.  And I saw a different path emerging.

The power structures that pedal influence, that require a hierarchy to function, assume that there’s a limited amount of power and influence available; that anyone who gains power, does it at the expense of another.

But we don’t live in a world where there is a finite amount of power.  That’s not reality.

The reason we set up the systems that we do is that we’re stuck in a cycle.  We’ve been hurt, we’ve been wounded, we’ve been discounted and marginalized and isolated by those who we saw as having power.  And the second we find ourselves in a position of relative power, we do what we think we’re supposed to do when we’re in power.  We hurt and wound and marginalize and isolate others.  Because that’s the system we have been operating in.

But we don’t have to.

If we can take a step back, look at what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it, we’ll be able to find a new path.

Those of us who find ourselves marginalized at some point in our lives (and that’s all of us) can either work to put ourselves in a position of power, using the systems in place to marginalize others, or we can do something different.  We can reject the system altogether.  And that’s scary.

It means opening up.  It means being available to hearing conflicting ideas and opinions.  It means being vulnerable and engaging others with the imperfect language that we have, and the incomplete vocabulary of someone who is learning.   It means trusting that, by giving power to another, everyone’s power will increase.  That by helping someone else to find their voice, all of our voices become clearer.

It means forgiving ourselves and others for the harm we’ve done and recognizing that it was done with a complete lack of awareness.  It means committing ourselves to non-violence in our interactions with each other and ourselves.

And it means that we’ll have to stop ourselves, with great kindness, when we forget and fall back into the old patterns.

But it also means that we can move forward, intentionally, creating the relationships and the interactions that we want, unencumbered by our wounds.  Doesn’t that sound really excellent?

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March 17, 2010   3 Comments