DUN DUN DUNNNN!!!
You were all waiting for this title to roll around, weren’t you?
On the subject of underwear, by the way, my favourite pairs are these:
Totally my “fresh laundry day” pairs.
And no, that’s NOT me in the picture there.
Also, I was having a little #FunWithSearchTerms session just now and, as though perfectly timed to drive home how squicked out I can be by the term “panties”, I came across “natalie reed used panties ebay”.
What the fuck.
I’m just going to convince myself that’s some kind of prank or absent-minded “I wonder what pops up!” search rather than someone ACTUALLY trying to purchase my underwear from e-bay.
What the fuck.
I also noticed a bunch of search terms trying to figure out whether or not I’m a lesbian. I found those a tad more charming.
The truth is no, I’m not. But I’m not exactly straight, either. Lately I have no idea what I am, and I honestly LOVE having no idea what I am.
Though “straight” WAS the identity I found myself quite suddenly thrust upon going full-time as female, after having lived and identified as a gay man for many years. It was actually really difficult to adjust to.
Probably the strangest thing to adapt was re-entering the world of dating. For one thing, “dating” means something very, very different amongst gay men than it does amongst straight people. And it’s often not really necessary at all, unless you’re a particular kind of gay guy. However, if all you’re really after is getting laid, it’s entirely possible to just hop onto to Craigslist and arrange a hook-up.
I wasn’t very sexually active during my years as a gay guy. Mostly for the obvious reason that sex, while stuck with only a male body and male genitals and male sensations and male hormones and a male hormone driven libido to work with, just wasn’t ever really going to be able to meet my desires and needs, however much I wanted to “just” be a “normal” gay man. I HATED my body, and that one particular part of it that gay men were interested in was possibly the most alienating and creepy aspect, emblematic of everything else. I didn’t like doing anything with it. Instead I just subbed, and did my best to provide pleasure to other men, performing some vague approximation of my identity through that. It never really worked though.
But being suddenly a “straight” woman, and after a long time of putting things aside suddenly finding men expressing in me, I felt I needed to start exploring that side of things and see how it worked out. And it… weird.
The world of heterosexual dating seemed very alien. It was a world that seemed suffocatingly comprised of unspoken expectations and “rules” and the performance of predetermined roles. Doors were to be opened for me. I was not to pay. He was meant to initiate any intimacy. I was to set the pace at which it advanced through subtle signals. Etc.
Obviously, not all heterosexual people, or heterosexual couples, or heterosexual dates, follow these scripts. But those first dates I went on did. And it felt very, very weird.
One guy, on what was in fact my first date as a woman, insisted on opening absolutely every single door. Even when I arrived at the door first, and had already reached for the handle. “No, no, no… let me get that for you.”
When I started asking about things like that, he said that his motive was simply trying to make sure he treated me “like a lady”. This performance of roles persisted throughout the evening, and was often attended by repeated assurances that he saw me as a woman, and nothing but a woman. They came unsolicited, not in response to any insecurities expressed by me. That particular evening, I was feeling very confident in my identity, and didn’t really need to be reassured. But still, along with the rigid, coded behaviours of The Date, he persisted in letting me know, over and over again, that I was a woman to him.
Eventually I started to question which one of us he was actually trying to reassure.
I suppose, in a sense, that it wasn’t really a “heterosexual date”. Maybe I’ll never actually be able to have such a date. Maybe, by virtue of my gender, every sexual or romantic situation I’m ever in will be a bit queered by default, by proximity to the essential queerness of who and what I am.
Because really, the rigid performances of roles were probably just as much a product of his attempts to make it clear, either to me or (perhaps more likely) to himself, that there was nothing “gay” about our date. It became a sort of weird, exaggerated caricature of heterosexual dates.
It’s strange the way that normativities about dating, sex and gender operate. It’s a set of expectations that go so unspoken, and are so ephemeral and shifting, and so narrow in how they can actually be achieved, that instead of an actual type of life that people actually live, it’s instead a weird, fleeting, shifting shadow that we only ever chase. This idea of what everyone else is like but that, secretly, no one is like at all.
An idea that draws its strength from everyone thinking their failing to meet it, even as everyone assumes everyone else has succeeded.
The normal couple isn’t just a false aspiration. It’s a paradox.