Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Butch or Femme?

One of the landmines of lesbianism is the Butch-Femme phenomenon. I was lucky enough to get a crash course in it as soon as I came out so I’ve been able to hold my own whenever the subject came up.

Calling someone Butch or Femme is considered to be very politically incorrect by a lot of lesbians and even more are offended by the word Dyke. Dyke is used as a slur - thrown vindictively at masculine looking women all the time, even now. They are “labels,” which especially offend the academic types. But there’s a whole faction of people who enjoy the terms. These people embrace all 3 words and feel that they define who they are when they are telling the truth about their lives.

Here are some of the more commonly used terms you’ll encounter, along with my own befuddled definitions:

lipstick lesbian – someone who doesn’t look like a lesbian, such as most of the L-word cast
soft butch – doesn’t always wear masculine clothes but is not feminine either
bull dyke – older, hard core, extremely masculine looking and acting
baby dyke – young, boyish-looking woman.
high maintenance femme – long nails, long hair, very feminine apparel, high heels, makeup
granola lesbian – androgynous looking, academic type, probably eco conscious
daddy – older dyke, controlling, likes to be called Sir
old school butch – chivalrous, traditional, very into role playing
pillow princess – someone who lies there during sex doing all the taking, none of the giving
late bloomer - someone who comes out later in life

Then there are a a whole lot of sexual sub categories, most of which are self explanatory, such as Tops, Bottoms and Stone. Don’t be fooled by appearances – there are femme tops and butch pillow princesses and all possible variations in between. For example, Stone Butches are women who don’t want their female parts touched during sex. But there are also Stone Femmes, although I’m not exactly sure what THAT’S about. For further explanation, check out the butch-femme.com website. Be forewarned though, if you decide to check out their personal ads a lot of women on it are rather … how can I put it … extreme. Don’t let that put you off though, I’ve happily dated people from that site.

Whenever you see a lesbian couple, you can bet that everyone in their lives are interested in two things – who is the boy and what do they do in bed. Even fellow lesbians wonder about these things, not just hetero people. My ex-partner and I had many fun discussions, trying to guess what our friends were all about.

Speaking of my ex, Sam had a lot of confusion about all of this. She was born and raised in Cambridge Massachusetts – home of Harvard and probably more PhD’s per capita than anywhere else. These highly educated sorts did not approve of labels or role playing so Sam came out of there quite confused about everything. She was the butchest thing I’d ever seen but was still wearing nylons and high heels to family events because her Mom and sisters kept saying those magical words she'd heard all her life ... “But you’re a girl.”

I moved her out west and then took her to a Butch Femme Convention in Las Vegas. She was shocked to see everyone so comfortable in their extremes and found that she really enjoyed being referred to as “guy” or “man” by the other butches. Watching Sam become comfortable in her own skin was one of the highlights of my life.

Another note – the way that people ID ( self identify) is what it’s all about in the queer world and that can have absolutely nothing to do with their appearance. The best way to proceed is to address someone as the gender in which they are presenting themselves. As you get to know them, they’ll straighten you out about how they see themselves. Believe what they tell you.

In my opinion, the sexual energy in lesbianism lies in the butch-femme synergy – the ying/yang of the Butch-Femme dynamic. The entire two years I lived in Boston, the only time I saw the butch/femme crowd out in public was at an Evening Of Erotica lesbian fundraiser. Didn’t surprise me a bit. I am a femme and the times I’ve made a conscious effort to date more feminine women, lesbian bed death would set in almost immediately. If you are looking for companionship - that’s fine, but if you want some serious action - go for the extremes.

One of my favorite things about dating butches is how vulnerable and open these amazing women will let themselves become with a beloved femme. They live hard lives – being ridiculed at every turn - at home, at work or just walking down the street. To find themselves being adored and appreciated when they present their true selves, is what makes them open up like a flower. There’s a swagger to a butch walk, a courtliness to all femmes they encounter – these are things that just make me swoon.

As a femme who dates extremely masculine women, I’ve endured my share of ridicule. Just last week I was trying to explain to someone I’d met online why I preferred dykish women. Finally I gave up and said “I don’t know why I do, I just do. Always have, always will.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My First Girlfriend

My First Girlfriend

My very first girlfriend, whom I met online thank you, was a major butch. Triple XXX chromosome butch. I don’t know if that’s what I was looking for, I can attest that I was consciously searching for someone who ID’d as 100% lesbian, my thinking being that I needed someone who knew what they were doing … which led me to Robin.

Robin was a very troubled soul. She was fighting a history of mental illness and not in good shape physically, but very good looking and not put off by my lack of experience. I was surprised to discover initially that most lesbians my age did NOT want to introduce me to the pleasures of lesbian love. They were not amused by my inexperience or curiosity. They didn’t want to take a chance on bringing me out, and then losing me if I decided to return to the world of men. They also were afraid that once I found out what I’d been missing, I would want to do a lot of experimenting. In other words, they wouldn’t take me seriously.

But Robin fearlessly went where others hesitated to tread. She lived a 5 hour drive away. We visited back and forth a couple of times and spent hours nightly IMing and calling each other. At first everything was fine in the world of Robin but gradually talking to her was like receiving missives from the home front. First her roommates were taking her rent money, but not using it for rent. Then they stopped paying their share. Then she was having trouble at work. Then she broke her collarbone and lost her job and got evicted and … OK, OK, OK, … please Robin, I live in this big, empty house, please come and live with me. I was so new, so na├»ve, so exactly what Robin was looking for.

So here she came, not on her own steam of course – I had to go and get her. And I rescued her from her terrible living situation. Well, she didn’t appreciate it at all. She was no sooner on my turf, than she was on the internet and phone looking for her next savior. I’d come up behind her and hear her telling her next victim (an ex named Joni) the same sorry things she told me about her former difficult life. I was livid. When she announced she was leaving a couple of months after her arrival, I happily handed her over to Joni.

I kept in touch with Robin as the years passed by, amused by the trials and tribulations of her life as she bounced from rescuer to rescuer. She actually crossed paths with me about 4 years later, while I was living with my partner in Las Vegas. She came for a visit to check out the situation and went on her way. Her health had deteriorated over the years. Even though she is younger than I was, both knees had given out and she could barely get around.

After awhile we lost touch and then she surfaced again a few months ago. It has been 7 years since we’d been involved. She saw my personal ad online and realized that I was single again and back in southern California. Guess what – Robin was badly in need of rescuing! She had moved across country to live with a woman and her husband and her ex gf in a single wide mobile home out in the middle of nowhere. Inconveniently, her beloved suddenly died four months later and there she was. She was paying rent to the husband and he was good naturedly driving her around to her doctor and dental appointments, as her health worsened. It was a drama free existence but not very good for the soul.

She asked if she could come for a visit. I agreed and soon, there she was. She befriended my daughter, acquainted herself with the dogs and admitted that she really wanted to move back to southern California. Conveniently, of all her exes I was the only one she’d consider moving to be with. I was the only one she’d ever loved and the only one normal enough to have a drama free future with.

Of course, I knew she was still exactly the same person, still running exactly the same scam. But I care about her and I’m grateful to her and I had an extra bedroom and for about a 2 week period I actually considered letting her move back in with me. But thankfully common sense kicked in. I knew for a fact that she hadn’t learned a damn thing. She wouldn’t appreciate being rescued this time any more than she had the first time.

The reason that I am sharing my story with you is as a warning to all of you newbies out there. There are a lot of women who are looking for someone to take them in and support their sorry asses. Be Careful! An experienced lesbian can spot these types a mile away. As a newcomer, you will be fair game. You will find these con artists inhabiting the outskirts of the lesbian world. They bring newcomers out, they date married women, they stear clear of anyone they could actually have a real relationship with. Because this would keep them from their favorite activity – finding their next savior/victim.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Online Dating

You’ll be amazed at the reaction of people when you bring up Online Dating in polite conversation. There are tons of perfectly intelligent people who are still fearful of and totally against it, even though we probably all know happy couples who met this way.

Meeting someone online is just as legitimate a way to meet as any other. Yes, you might meet a nutcase, but you can meet nutcases sitting right next to you in the movie theater. It would be nice if we could all meet people who were carefully screened and chosen for us by life long friends, but how many friends do we have and how many single people do they know that would be our types? Once you’ve met the one or two folks that your friends want to set you up with, you are then are left to your own devices.

Another traditionally accepted way of meeting is through church or face-to-face while out and about. Come on. Most people who meet regularly in a setting like a church, or at work, or your neighborhood gay gatherings are less inclined to get involved – only because you’ll continue bumping into this person if things don’t work out.

Just as a natural extrovert has the advantage in social settings, there are certain types of people who have the advantage online. People who can type quickly and express themselves eloquently in print are going to do better than those who can’t put a grammatically correct sentence together to save their lives.

An advantage to meeting online is that you can share a great deal of information about each other before The Physical gets in the way. You know what I mean – the physical attraction, the magnetic draw or repulsion, the flirting. Once that sets in, communication can rapidly shut down. That’s how you end up involved with someone for a year before you find out about their arrest record, or political affiliation, or former cult membership. It truly just never came up.

So take a chance on online dating. Sites I recommend are tangowire.com, match.com and butch-femme.com. And be understanding if your new pen-pal doesn’t want to give you their phone number right away. They aren’t hiding behind their keyboard or secretly married or something like that, they may just want to get to know you for awhile first.

But before you get started, here are a few personal guidelines I follow to make the experience as safe and user friendly as possible:

  • Set firm boundaries. Don’t let people encroach upon your life any faster than you’re comfortable with.
  • Don’t rush things once you do meet. Keep in mind that an initial meeting is a First Date. Remember your last unsuccessful first date? What if had lasted for 5 days and the two of you had to share a hotel room? Plan accordingly.
  • Don’t expect immediate results. Chances are you'll have to meet a lot of people before you find someone you could really get serious about.
  • Don’t take it personally if people write for awhile and then drift away. It’s hard to keep chatting with someone long distance unless the two of you find a way to truly connect. Periodically keep in touch with those that have drifted.
  • If you plan a vacation somewhere, don’t hesitate to seek out women in that area for a date or two. Take advantage of your travels to meet as many people as possible. But don’t travel just to meet someone - too expensive. Initially, let them come to you.
  • As always when dating someone new, arrange to meet in a neutral, well-lit place. A coffee shop in the daytime is always good. If you hit it off, you can suggest continuing the date at a restaurant.
  • Pace yourself. Successful long distance relationships require patience. If I’m talking to someone new who proclaims that they don’t think they can get through the next weekend without me, I know this person will burn out quickly and not be able to go the distance.

Last of all, remember that even if you’ve really hit it off online and by phone, all bets are off until you actually meet face to face. Until you look at them, hold them and smell them, you just won’t know if there is really anything there to build on. Attraction is a very finicky mistress.