Sexuality has never been a big deal for me. Growing up, my mum dated women and men at different times, and I understood from a young age that sexuality is fluid. I have always identified with pansexual (attraction towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity) because I’m attracted to a person for who they are and how they make me feel – full stop. But I only went on my first date with a woman at the ripe old age of 25.
Living in a heteronormative, patriarchal society (like most of the world), I defaulted to men. It wasn’t that I had no interest in women, it’s just that I was decidedly straight-passing and the opportunity never really came up. Enter online dating, where you can set your search to include any gender. I did so, and suddenly all of these available people could see that I was not only on the market, but on the market for anyone. This was both daunting and exhilarating, and I remember heading to my first “girl-date” earlier this year with a whole different set of worries playing on my mind. Instead of the standard “Will he be a creep?” and “Will he insist on paying?” and the far more shallow (but important to me, as a 6 foot tall woman) “Will he be taller than me?”, my thought process went something like this:
Okay, you’re finally doing it. A real date with a real life woman. Not some giggly high school hookup during spin the bottle or a wayward threesome. This is actually happening. Oh god, what if I’m not attracted to her? I wonder how much experience she has with women. Will she expect us to flirt or kiss? We’ll just pay for our own drinks, right? What will the dynamic be like, without socially constructed gender roles breathing down our necks?
That last thought may be an addition, I admit. A revelation, in fact. What followed was one of the best first dates I have ever had. I wandered into the cute Korean café we had agreed upon in the city, and there she was. Rather like a swan, she was perched on her seat waiting for me. She held herself with an admirable certainty. Head high, white, flowy top cascading along her slender frame like wings. We spotted each other across the room, then smiled as we embraced. My first thought was that she smelled really, really good. We ordered our drinks and settled comfortably into conversation.
She told me about her PhD in ancient virus evolution and the recent death of her father, insisting that she “didn’t want to cry” as her eyes welled up. I told her not to be silly and sipped my drink while she moved through the wave of grief. We relished in our shared love of the planet and all of its inhabitants, her vegetarianism and my veganism. We even talked of our ex-boyfriends, who ended up looking so similar we couldn’t help but burst out laughing in shock. We spoke of our families, our studies, our travels, our favourite foods. We sat in that little café soaking up each other’s company like hummingbirds to sweet nectar, and before we knew it four hours had passed. It wasn’t necessarily romantic, but it didn’t have to be. It was a new experience for both of us, and we just let it flow, because there were no expectations. No preconceived notions about how we should act around each other. No rigid gender roles, valuing certain actions and personality traits in one person over the other. Our dynamic was simply that – our dynamic. It was precisely what we made of it, which was whatever we wanted it to be. It was, more than anything else, refreshing. When we said goodbye, without a kiss but with a promise to meet again soon, I glided from the café feeling lighter than I had in a long time.
Here’s the thing about online dating: while it can be exhausting, trawling through more dates in a month of desperation than you have in your entire life, all it takes is one person. One person who doesn’t drain you. One person who fills your cup as you fill theirs right back in a sweet ceremony of mutual soul quenching.
It all seemed like a waste of time, until her.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what her opening message was, she complimented my cat.
What was your best (or worst) first date like? I’d love to hear your stories!
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