“What’s your type?” I recently slurred to a new lesbian friend. In typical lesbian fashion, a whole crew of us were cuddled up on an outdoor porch, slurping down Sauvignon Blanc as our wolf-pack of rescue dogs slobbered at our feet. (Oh the glam!)
“Bette. Bette is my type,” my new lesbian friend sing-songed with great enthusiasm. She didn’t even have to think twice. The answer flew out of her mouth faster than a Bugatti speeds down the deserted Montauk Highway in mid-winter.
My lips twisted into a smile. I couldn’t help it. One of my favorite aspects of lesbian culture is our innate proclivity to reference “The L Word” when describing our “types.” Matchmaking runs deep in my Hebrew bloodline. I love nothing more than to set fabulously single lesbians up with one another, so I’m always prying — boldly asking every queer woman in plain sight to wax poetic about what she’s looking for in a partner.
And after a decade of being the biggest lesbian yenta on the block, let me tell you what I’ve encountered. Thousands upon thousands of women covet a Bette of their own. The only other “L Word” character that comes close to Bette in the battle of types is Carmen, but Carmen doesn’t live here anymore (though we’d welcome her back with open arms). So today it’s all about Bette.
Let’s break down what it’s really like to be with the Bette so many women crave. And look: I should know, of all people. Not only have I lusted after Bette since I first started feverishly devouring “The L Word” from my teenage bedroom in the Floridian suburbs; I’m married to a Bette — if Bette had been born and raised in the Bronx and donned wax-coated skinny jeans in lieu of power suits. But those are just details, darling. And a Bette isn’t born in the details of her clothes, her looks, her background, or her chosen career.
Bette is an energy.
A Bette is a woman who moves through the world fully aware of her potential. She doesn’t doubt her talent, intelligence, or ability to do anything. Regardless of where she’s come from or what hurdles she’s overcome, she knows she’s worthy of having a seat at the table. She’s no chameleon, changing her colors to blend in with the mood of the room. What you see is what you get with a Bette. She is who she is whether she’s at a black-tie affair, a board meeting, a couple’s therapy appointment, or a dive bar.
A Bette is fiercely committed to her career but because of her inability to not speak her mind and low tolerance for the male ego, she’s often fraught with conflict in the workplace. Even though her exterior is hard, she lives for beauty. Art. Food. Style. Decor. Women. Her intrinsic sophistication and unwavering self-assuredness can imitate the masses. The way in which she effortlessly embodies both feminine and masculine qualities draws people magnetically to her.
Oh, and did I mention that Bettes are always sexy?
A powerful, unique brand of sexy. They’re the kind of sexy that extends far past the surface. A Bette is sexy because every moment of her life is a sex scene. She’s only stimulated when turned on, and a lot of things turn a Bette on outside the realm of sex. Scoring the dream client turns her on. Having the last word turns her on. Being struck with an innovative idea turns her on. Art turns her on. Discovering new talent turns her on. And being confronted with a challenge? Turns her the fuck on.
Women who move through the world teeming with that desire have what my friends and I call “vagina first” energy. They lead with their pelvises, which is the reason they get what they want so much of the time. The pussy is a powerhouse.
It makes sense that so many lesbians claim Bette as their type. As queer women, we’ve endured a lot, and thus admire strength. Seeing a woman unapologetically take up space is refreshing. It inspires us to do the same. We feel empowered to do what we want when we’re dating someone who does what she wants. Plus we all know competitive women like Bette won’t stop after the first orgasm. And what is life without multiple orgasms?
But the fantasy of a Bette is much more simplistic than the razor-sharp reality. Here’s the realest relationship truth I’ve discovered, not just in my marriage and my yenta-ness, but also in my decade-long career as a lesbian sex and dating writer: Having a relationship with an intelligent, fabulous, amazing, successful entity comes with a set of difficulties so harrowing you’ll sometimes want to rip your flesh off your bones.
Because the very qualities that make a Bette amazing are also the same qualities that make her a royal pain in the ass.
Let me explain.
Bettes are worldly creatures. Worldliness will bestow a person with fantastic taste. Taste so fantastic they often forget that others might have taste just as good — if not better — than theirs.
When my wife, Meghan, and I were planning our wedding, I fully expected that I, a born fashion girl with killer style, if I do say so myself, would have full control over the aesthetics of our wedding.
Oh, was I sorely, sorely mistaken.
My wife wanted to have a say in all the visuals, from the flowers to the colors to the talent.
“But this is where I shine!” I’d explode (because while I might be a fashion girl, I’m no pushover. In fact, I don’t recommend dating a Bette if you’re a shrinking violet. She’ll steamroll you).
“It’s where I shine, too!” she’d explode back.
“But you shine at so many other things!”
Sometimes that would temporarily soften Meghan, but not for long. Bettes come tumbling out of the womb producers. And if you’ve ever worked closely with a producer, you understand that their job is to essentially make executive decisions regarding every detail. And while that might make them the most revered person in the workplace, it can make for a tempestuous relationship. See, Bettes aren’t the kind of people who are going to throw up their hands and murmur “happy wife, happy life.” They must have their say in everything. They don’t know how to not care, even about menial things, like the shape of the glassware that no one will notice when everyone is bombed at your wedding.
Bettes are also fiercely protective. They’re akin to lionesses protecting cubs. Because they’re so intelligent and tapped in, they’re hyper-aware of the fact that the world is chock-full of shit-heads — manipulative, agenda-driven shit-heads who are not to be trusted. They live in fear of one of these shit-heads weaseling their way into the “delicate” lives of their loved ones, who tend to be more open-hearted than they are (Bettes, like all of us, crave balance), who perhaps come from a place of yes, rather than a place of no, who are far more plugged into the softness of the world, than the hardness. Overprotective people aren’t just difficult to date; they’re difficult in all of their relationships.
Never was this more apparent in episode 205 of “The L Word Generation Q,” when Bette’s knee-jerk reaction was to shut down Angie’s request to sacrifice her kidney to the biological father she’s never met, but has learned is dying. (That was a mouthful, I know! But such is life).
“LOOK, SHE CAN’T DONATE HER KIDNEY, IS THAT CLEAR?” Bette shouts at Micah, the dutiful counselor tasked with the lovely job of mediating their oh-so-simple family meeting.
When Carrie, Tina’s soon-to-be wife, has the gall to pipe in, “Shouldn’t we hear her out?” Bette quickly ices her out. “You don’t have a say in this,” she snaps, frost-biting the room with bitter-cold eyes.
And while yes — I agree with her — Bette should take a deep breath before she freezes everyone into helpless statues.
But a lioness, like a Bette, is a primal being. She doesn’t hesitate. She leaps out of her slumber and attacks whatever predator she thinks might cause harm to her precious cub. It’s her role in the family unit. And it comes from a place of deep, deep love.
But the beauty of Bette the lioness, as Tina sweetly reminds Angie, is that once the red mist fades, she’s usually able to see with profound clarity. After the dust settles, she crawls back into her den and emerges with a clear understanding of what the danger of the situation *actually* is.
Bette doesn’t agree to the kidney but is open to letting Angie meet her biological dad. She’s assessed the safety of the meeting but isn’t rushing to let her kin donate a part of her body just yet. My bleeding heart probably would’ve performed my own surgery and hand-delivered the kidney to him myself, because I’m more of an Angie than a Bette. I’m creative, sensitive, and my love of humanity can get me into trouble — but has also helped people in need.
And the Bettes of the world have a healthy fear of us softies getting hurt, which can feel deeply condescending. Just because we’re kind, doesn’t mean we’re weak, asshole.
And Bette knows we aren’t weak. She wouldn’t love us so intensely unless she respected us. But sometimes her instinct to keep us safe at all costs can make us feel like she views us as blithering idiots with no judgment of character.
Bette’s stubbornness, her obsession with detail, her need to win — these are tough characteristics to live with. I will not sugarcoat the sour to you, ever. My wife and I battle. We challenge each other incessantly. I want to stop and smell the roses. She’s got somewhere she needs to be.
However, these tough characteristics are what make her a fabulous fucking woman. You can’t compartmentalize personality traits and utilize their superpowers only when they benefit you.
Do you want to date someone with a brilliant brain? Well, guess what? That brilliant brain can’t shut off when you’re debating politics at the dinner table. That smart mouth can’t just shut up when you’re trying to get out of an unjust parking ticket and the attendant is being unnecessarily rude.
Do you want to date a boss-bitch? Well, guess what? A boss-bitch is a boss-bitch because she’s paying attention to everything. And honestly, it’s quite frankly annoying to have a partner who pays that close attention to you, who notices when you’re slipping through the cracks. (It’s fabulous in the long run, but trust me. Sometimes you just want to rot in the filth of your depression. Or maybe that’s just me.)
Do you want to date someone with a big, important job? Expect to go to a lot of friends’ birthday parties date-less, because bae has to work. Late.
You want to date someone oozing with sex appeal? Expect others to be attracted to them. Set the jealousy on fire, or spend the rest of your life scathing.
The qualities that make all of us sparkly people sparkle are exactly what makes all of us damn near impossible to live with.
I’m sparkly in a different way than a Bette. I’m artist sparkly. I can effortlessly write 5,000 words a day, all pulled from my imagination. My wife finds that sexy. She loves that I can write her beautiful words, bang out poems, make crowd-pleasing speeches on the fly. She loves that I have my own sense of style, and am always wearing something different than the rest. But she finds my incessant spaciness outrageously irritating. I tell her: “You can’t have both, babe. You can’t have someone who is wildly creative who doesn’t spend a lot of time dreaming in the pink, puffy clouds.”
And she says, “You can’t have both, babe, either. You can’t have someone who makes our lives happen with fabulous, ornate planning, without them being obsessive.”
The truth is we all say we want these glittery tropes and then when they show up as a nuanced, flawed human, we often can’t take it.
But I’ve learned that I do want a Bette. Not just her power and her beauty. I want her stubbornness, her over-protectiveness, her sometimes embarrassing tendency to tell people off at inappropriate times. I want the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because I’m a woman who wants a lot. And if you want a lot, you have to be able to handle a lot. In fact, you have to be able to love the hardships of an extraordinary woman as much as the sky-scraping highs.
So tell me. How much do you want?
How much can you take? Is the glitter worth the mess?