I’ll never forget the first time I heard about the lesbian U-haul phenomenon. I was underage, just shy of 19, and I was illegally guzzling back vodka tonics at this awesome LA dyke party that took place once a month at a gay boy leather bar, downtown.
I was chainsmoking cigarettes and feeling really cool in my faux-leather jacket, as I listened to my older lesbian friends gab about their sapphic lives. (That’s how I learned the lesbian ropes, you know. I just shut up and listened to my lesbian elders’ gossip, until I finally figured out what the hell they were talking about.)
On this particular night, the ladies were discussing a couple they all knew, Lisa* and Michelle.*
“They are so U-HAULING! Those two! What a mistake!” Cried Rose* the leader of the lesbian pack.
My ears perked up like a cat who has suddenly heard a mouse scatter across the kitchen floor. What the hell does that mean? I thought to myself, feeling alert. I was teeming with curiosity, but I knew better than to ask.
“What does ‘U-Hauling’ mean?” Asked Frankie* the other rookie lez of the group, who didn’t know better than to ask, so she always did.
“Aww. You’re new.” Purred Rose, flirtatiously batting her fluffy lashes at young Frankie—everyone wanted Frankie. (She was one of those swaggy little boi lezzies, with a cute Justin Beiber haircut and teal colored eyes that sparkled when she spoke.) Rose took a lock of her shiny black hair and began to furiously twirl it around her fingers as she explained the ins and the outs of “U-Hauling.”
“So basically, you’re saying that after three dates lesbians move in with each other!?” Frankie asked, her eyes large in horror. Frankie was only 20 years old but she was already a massive player. Third date? Frankie didn’t go on dates outside of her bedroom.
“Yes. And no lesbian is immune from U-Hauling. Not even you two little baby dykes.” Rose said darkly, as if she could see our collective futures in her mind’s eye and the landscape was bleak; chock-full of ugly brown cardboard moving boxes and measuring tape.
Later that night, Frankie pulled me aside. “Hey, that whole U-Haul thing is stupid. Don’t you think?” She lit up two ciggies and handed one to me. I grabbed it out of her hands and hungrily sucked back smoke as I watched a lesbian couple scream at each other in the street. “I don’t know how to love you!” a petite butch kept yelling at her weeping girlfriend.
I blew a ring of smoke into the air. “Yeah. I’ll never do that.”
“Me neither.” Frankie chuckled. “We’re not like them.”
“No, we’re most definitely not.”
If only hottie Frankie and I had kept that promise to ourselves! But alas, Rose was right. No lesbian is immune. There really should be a “U-Haul” vaccine that’s mandatory for all lesbians to get injected into their veins the moment they come out.
In the past decade, I’ve U-Hauled twice, and both times have turned out to be colossal mistakes. I’ve watched friends upon friends upon friends U-Haul only to deeply regret it four months in. I’ve vehemently tried to stop friends from U-Hauling, only to find my efforts to be totally and completely fruitless. Friends have tried to stop me from U-Hauling, and well, their efforts turned out to be equally fruitless.
But it always seems like a good idea at the time, doesn’t it?
I mean you’re madly in love with this girl, and you swear it’s DIFFERENT this time, your frail heart is exploding out of your chest, you’ve met your soulmate, your other half, the girl of your childhood dreams! You’re forever twisted between sweaty sheets having sex, orgasming all over the place.
And you know what happens when you orgasm all the time, my sweet kittens?
You’re practically bleeding oxytocin. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone, that increases in our bodies during sex (and childbirth, but that’s for another article). When our oxytocin is flooding through our veins we feel extra bonded to our girlfriends and all we want to do cuddle them and snuggle them and completely immesh our lives with their lives.
It feels goood, doesn’t it? It’s almost like being on ecstasy! And I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for a good high, and I want to feel gloriously intoxicated by the love-hormone as much as possible.
So why not just move in? After all, you’re practically spending every single night together, anyway, right? It only makes sense that you move in.
And you’re so blissed out that you don’t even realize that’s the oxytocin talking.
So now you’ve found yourself living with your girlfriend, after three months of dating. The first week you have shower sex every single morning before work. You’re glowing.
Until the dishes start piling up in the sink. Until all of a sudden, you’re a housemaid, cleaning up after your slobbish girlfriend all the time. You clench your jaw as you wipe the breadcrumbs from the marble counter, yet again. Suddenly you’re not so into the sex. Nothing will kill a proverbial girl boner like having to flush unflushed toilet, you know what I’m saying, sister?
And then one morning as you’re picking at the zits on your face, you notice how dusty the blinds are. How could your girlfriend never once noticed how disgusting the blinds are?! Has she never cleaned the blinds? Would she have let them grown cobwebs if you hadn’t moved in? You shudder as you envision a spider colony holding court on the blinds to the bedroom. You hate spiders.
And that’s when the walls close in around you. Your mouth is suddenly Las Vegas desert dry. You feel as if the apartment is swallowing you whole and all you want to do is break free!
But you can’t. Because you signed a lease. You’re tethered to this apartment and this relationship for twelve months. And you feel trapped. Which is why you came to me, right?
Well, don’t worry your pretty little lesbian heart. Your lesbian big sister is here to save the day. And as I said earlier, I’ve been down this road. In fact, I’ve never lasted a lease. And look! I survived.
So I want you to look in the mirror, girl. Fearlessly stare into your terrified reflection and repeat after me: There is really no such thing as being trapped. So you signed a dotted line! Big freaking deal. There is nothing you can’t ever truly get out of in this life. Worse comes to worse, you simply continue to pay rent while you stay on a friend’s couch for a few months. You’ve survived much more brutal circumstances than this. I mean, you came out. Once you’ve come out, you can do anything.
If you’re unhappy with your living situation you can always change your living situation.
Leases can be broken. Roommates can be found. You could always find someone to sublet your room, too. Know in the deepest pit of your heart that if you need to flee the scene, you can flee the scene. It’s a lease, not a prison sentence.
And after all, you’re not the first lesbian to U-Haul only to realize “holy shit what the hell did I do?!” And you certainly won’t be the last.
The other thing I want you to remember is that you might just be withdrawing from that initial oxytocin high. It’s totally normal for you to feel super inebriated and electric in the early stages of a new relationship, and then to sort of… flatline.
When you’re used floating on the pink cloud of the “honeymoon phase,” you’re not in your right mind. Like I said, the feeling of being newly in love/lust is eerily similar to being on drugs. And when the newness wears off (that druggie high feeling) it can feel catastrophically sad. You’re so used to living in this elevated, surreal state that living on the solid ground feels bleak and depressing. And that’s what you’re going through right now, babe. Reality has set in. There are dishes to clean.
So before you get ready to break that lease or move in with a friend because you’re trapped and afraid, take a deep breath. Relationships evolve and though the transitions are as painful and as awkward as adolescence, they can lead to a more mature, happier you.
Maybe your partnership will metamorphose into a beautiful, stable relationship.
And trust me, if there is one thing I’ve learned in this haphazard life it’s this: A dependable, stable person, who loves us despite the fact that we leave the refrigerator door open almost every single day, is far more precious than a fiery passionate affair that burns out with the slightest gust of wind. A person who loves us even after seeing us at our ugliest (when you live with someone they will see you in your most vile state), who loves us when we’re sick, who loves us when we’re bitchy and PMSing—that person can provide the kind of relationship that’s going to sustain you in the long haul.
The idea that a relationship will always be a crazy, passionate, oxytocin whirlwind, is a false idea, one that we’re drugged with by all those stupid Hollywood movies. No relationship can stay in that hectic of a place forever, and you learn that real quick when you move in with someone.
In fact, living in that place of passionate chaos 24/7 isn’t healthy. The only way to maintain passionate chaos is through embarking in a toxic relationship, and that’s a dark path you want to avoid. Trust me. It’s fighting against the laws of physics. Repeat after me: What comes up must come down.
So before you run out of your shared space, screaming and naked, give it a second. Pause. There is no need to panic, you’re probably just in the evolving phase.
Just know in the back of your brilliant little brain, there is *always* an out. Let that comfort you in your darkest hour.
And my final point, which is the most important point of all points, is this: You must keep your own life intact when you’re riding on the domestic train. If you become the couple that never leaves the cocoon, you will come down with a serious case of Stockholm syndrome.
You’ll feel like a prisoner, but you won’t be able to bring yourself to leave. This has happened to many a lesbian I know, and it’s a deadly condition (to the soul, that is). You start to resent your partner for keeping you there (but really you’re keeping yourself there). You stop grooming. You stop f*cking. Your personal hygiene flies out the window. You waste a year of your life rotting on a dirty couch with a sexless lover. It’s depressing.
The best way to avoid feeling trapped in your lease and to your love life is to go out with your friends, alone. A lot. At least twice a week. Make sure you have a life outside the four walls of your apartment. Outside the four walls of your relationship. This will keep you feeling like a whole person. And when you feel whole, you’re less likely to panic, because you’re not full of gaping holes that are screaming “FILL ME WITH SOMETHING!” “FILL ME WITH SOMETHING!”
I hope that helps, babes. And if you happen to be a baby lesbian thinking of moving in with your new bae, don’t do it. Take it from all of us. Don’t do it. Just. Don’t.