When I was a closeted baby-dyke living in Westport, CT I would spend the school days lost in the fantasy about the girls I would eventually fall ~in love~ with.
The girls were usually leggy and swaggy and tall and olive-skinned, forever clad in destroyed black skinny jeans, with a head full of acid-blonde-hair falling into faded-blue-eyes and a face defined by cheekbones so sharp they could kill a man.
I would imagine what our relationship would look like: We would be power babes who slayed in our enviable careers by day and hung out in dimly-lit whiskey bars with a bevy of celebrity dykes by night.
We would be fiercely in love and no other entity could ever stand a chance at disrupting our unbreakable bond. The sex! The sex would be kinky and wild and passionate and hot, seven-nights-per-week and we would never, ever have to “work on the sex” like straight people allegedly did. “Sex is work,” I would hear my mother coach her heterosexual cohorts, over steaming cups of tea. I would roll my eyes as I eavesdropped from the next room. Nah, my lesbian sexual connections will be so intoxicating, they will never burn out. My partner’s and I will be living in a blissed-out state, side-by-side, until dyke do us part, baby.
In my early 20s, when I finally fell onto the unforgiving pavement of my first lesbian relationship, I realized it doesn’t work “like that.” I clutched onto my glittery, unrealistic, pre-teen fantasy like it was the last glass of Champagne to ever grace this cruel, cold world.
I had no real examples of lesbian relationships growing up, so the only idea I had of what they might look and feel like were derived out of my delusional, hormone-laden, adolescent brain. This was pre L Word, kids (I’m old AF). And I wasn’t cool enough to know about the indie lesbo movies that circulated around film festivals, after all, I was in high school. In Connecticut. I was screwed.
Here are 10 things I wish I had known when I was a baby dyke. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to learn all these torturous relationship lessons the hard way if only I had been warned. Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference. I don’t know.
Regardless, here they are:
1. A friend will eventually date your ex and you will eventually date a friend’s ex.
The lesbian underworld is so micro, so tiny, so underground (even in big cities like New York and LA) that eventually, at some point in your little lezzie life, a friend will date your ex.
And you will be pissed. You will attempt to get all of your mutual friends royally pissed off at the girl who has the audacity to date your ex, too. You’ll glare at them in dark bars. You’ll yell at them at Pride after you’ve slugged back too many jello shots.
And then one day, you’ll ~catch feelings~ for a different friend’s ex. And you won’t know what to do about it, because there are so few lesbians in your city that you haven’t already dated, and damn. You’re finally (after what feels like forever!) falling for someone amazing, but she dated your friend a few years back! You’ll have no choice but go in for the kill.
And pretty soon, you will realize that this is the nature of the Lesbian Beast. When a community is so tightly-knit, it’s inevitable that friends will date exes and exes will date friends. And you will forgive the friend who dated your ex (they’re probably long broken up by now anyway), because now you get it. She’ll feel relieved. Only your other friend will be pissed off that you’re currently dating her ex, and she won’t forgive you until she starts dating a friend’s ex and that friend excommunicates her from the group in retaliation.
Are you exhausted? Yeah, me too. Me too, girl.
2. You will think the whole “U-Haul” thing doesn’t apply to you… Until it does.
“Oh, that whole stereotype about lesbians ‘U-Hauling’ is so ridiculous. I’ll never move in with a girlfriend that fast, are you kidding me?” you’ll boast to your straight friends when they innocently inquire about the whole U-Hauling trope.
And then exactly three months later, you’ll be sitting in the passenger’s seat of an actual U-Haul with your girlfriend of exactly three months, driving down the highway, en route to the new one bedroom apartment the two of you have just signed a fourteen-month lease on. You won’t even comprehend the irony of your situation because none of your gay friends will dare point it out to you, as they’re all doing the same destructive thing that you’re doing and no one wants to confront reality in Lesbo Land.
And exactly nine months into your lease, you’ll be chewing on your fingernails, palms sweating out buckets of nervous sweat, as you ponder how the hell you’re going to get out of this mess because you realize you made a giant mistake. (Have no fear baby dyke. There is nothing in the world you can’t ever get out of. Leases can be broken. I swear to The Indigo Girls.)
3. The boundaries between being best friends and being lovers is murky AF.
When I first started dating women, I felt like I had won the dang jackpot. “Oh, I get a built-in best friend! Two for f*cking one, baby! I get to have sex with my bestie! It’s like a sexy slumber party every single night!”
It all feels like a glorious dream until you cross a few very specific boundaries… You start peeing with the door slightly cracked open. Then you start peeing with the door wide open. Then you start peeing with her brushing her teeth in the bathroom with you. Then you start discussing your stomach issues. Then you stop grooming yourself, because you’re like, so comfortable with your lover that you don’t even care what you look like anymore.
And the next thing you know, you’re not lovers anymore. You’re roommates. You’re best friends who are so close you share a bed and a dog. You’ve stopped having sex, because when your partner starts gabbing to you about how constipated they feel after they consume dairy, your libido dies a fast and unexpected death. You are not the exception to this rule. Lesbian sex lives are slain when farts are released. A Lesbian Sex Angel loses her wings every single time a couple pees in front of each other.
Advice to baby dykes: Don’t make your lover your best friend. Lovers have sex. Best friend’s don’t. Separate the two.
4. Just because you’re dating a woman, doesn’t mean that she isn’t a misogynistic horror show.
When I was but a meek school girl, I thought I would never have to deal with sexism in my lesbian relationships. I thought that misogynistic behavior was reserved for the straight boys club.
How wrong was I! As a self-identified “mascara lesbian” who is very, very ~girly~ I’ve had to deal with sexist lesbian monsters more times than I care to count, on all ten of my PINK nail-polish-adorned fingertips.
“This is my girlfriend. She’s a lot smarter than she looks,” an ex once snickered when introducing me to her butchy friends. Excuse me? Does cherry red lipstick make a woman look stupid?
Alas, babe. You will find that toxic masculinity is so fervent that it bleeds into the queer community. Masculinity is seen as serious and smart, and femininity is seen as vapid and helpless. However, just because these archaic standards exist, doesn’t mean we have to play by their archaic rules. So femmes, listen up. I want you to keep wearing your sparkly eyeshadow and mini-dresses and sky-high heels. I want you to take your sky-high heel and kick any lesbian who dares to undermine you for your fierce femininity. And then I want you to message me, and together we’ll brainstorm a way to take those assholes down. And we’ll take them down whilst wearing lace and lip gloss and silky faux lashes.
5. The sex will be explosive, intimate and confusing (at least a lot of the time).
Lesbian sex is SO. Intense.
No one ever prepared me for the dramatic rush of feelings that comes hand in hand with a fantastic lesbian orgasm. Maybe it’s because sex between two women is so deeply intimate? Maybe it’s because women by nature are passionate lovers and when you combine that kind of passionate energy, the energy doubles in ferocity and then creates a wild whirlwind of emotion?
Maybe it’s just because we know how to read each other’s bodies, so we know exactly what little spot on her body will trigger a powerful explosion…?
It’s amazing, but holy shit, can it be confusing, baby! Having incredible, intimate sex with a woman can trick you into thinking you’re in love with said woman. Even if you don’t know her. You can easily feel like you’re in the throes of an epic love affair after a one-night stand that has concluded in multiple orgasms. When women cum they release a powerful hormone call oxytocin that makes you feel all sweet and cuddly afterwards. It makes you feel feelings that are similar to the earned feeling of being love. Only it’s not love. It’s just oxytocin fooling you into thinking it’s love. And you’re no fool, so relax, babe.
6. Breakups will devastate you to your very core.
A lesbian breakup can really wreak havoc on your entire life. You lose your best friend, your confidant, your partner, your everything when you part ways with your girlfriend. Two women attain the ability to become so immeshed that you feel like you’re missing a limb when you separate.
Also, your lives are most likely dramatically intertwined. You share friends, clothes, gyms, bars, and your beloved facialist. You will lose things in the fire of a breakup. You must accept this.
Some of your shared friends will go to you. Some will go to her. She might get the Vitamix that you love so much, but maybe you can keep the cat. It feels earth-shattering, but you will survive the natural disaster. I promise.
Sometimes your world needs to come crashing into a million little pieces in order for you to build it up again, the way you want it to look. Sometimes you need to have your heart sliced wide open, in order to let some damn light in there. Sometimes you need to go through the most harrowing breakup of your entire life and then be single for awhile and get your shit together as an individual so you’re ready to meet the person you’re really, truly supposed to be with.
Stay strong, stay fierce, cry it out, and remember: Everything is temporary. Even heartbreak. You won’t feel the way you’re feeling right now forever. That much I’m sure of, sweet kitten.
7. There really, truly is NO need to rush, so calm the f*ck down.
Falling in love with a woman is so crazy and all-consuming that you might feel like you’re on a rocket ship that is ascending into the static air, heading straight toward outer space, moving at a lightning speed. The sex is intense. The passion is intense. The conversations are intense. And the only thing you can do to handle the overwhelming, chronic intensity is TO RUSH into either an engagement, a shared living situation, a shared pet, or an intense gathering in which you vow to stay together forever in some sort of lesbian witchy ceremony (I suspect this is popular in rural parts of Brooklyn. Maybe I’m just jealous because I’ve never been invited!)
I need you to take a deep breath, girl. Calm down. Get some air! She’s not going anywhere. You’re not going anywhere. I understand that your feelings are A LOT TO DEAL WITH right now, but let them simmer down before you dive into an irrational decision, that you might end up regretting.
Remember: The slow burn is way sexier than the rapid-fire romance, anyway. The slow burn heats you up for life, the rapid-fire romance combusts into wild flames, burns the f*ck out of your skin and destroys everything around it.
8. A healthy relationship should feel like a combination of feeling safe and wildly afraid at once.
True love will not feel like you’re falling off a cliff, floating into thin air, enthralled by the stretch of the city, but terrified to crash into the ground. True love will also *not* feel like your sitting next to your best friend Maggie in your footed PJs watching “Better Than Chocolate” without even feeling remotely turned on because EW you’re watching it with your best friend.
True love will feel exciting, tingly, butterfly-ish, but also super-safe, like you’re going to land somewhere soft and plush, all at once. It should feel like a wild juxtaposition. Titillating and secure. Home and adventure. Wild and safe. It’s rare. But damn. It’s fantastic. When you have it, cherish it, babes. Don’t scare it off by acting like a nutty loon because you fear its power. Don’t take it for granted. Accept that you’ve been blessed by true love from the Sapphic gods, treat her like gold, and enjoy the ride as long as the ride is enjoyable. The ride might come to an end. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth the beautiful views your eyes savored along the way.
Zara Barrie is the Executive Editor of GO Magazine. She’s consumed by style, sexuality, women, words, fashion and feelings. She identifies as a “mascara lesbian” and lives beyond her means in Manhattan. Stalk her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.