When I first started dating girls, I was very concerned with making sure I acted in whatever way was considered ‘normal’ in the lesbian dating community. I was embarrassed by the fact I was a novice, and I tried with all my might not to act like one.
I was never one of those closeted people who dated a lot to try to prove to herself she was straight. I tried to want guys, but I just could not remain interested, so when I came out I didn’t even really know what was normal in any dating community. I really hadn’t dated anyone of any gender much at all.
I think by my age, most people are relatively seasoned daters who at least have some sort of understanding of what they want and what they are and are not comfortable with. By 23, most people know how to read the signs of who to trust and who to run from because they have already had their fair share of crazy dating experiences. Mine are just beginning, and I am still figuring everything out.
I quickly noticed that my lack of experience, as well as my unwavering determination to do whatever I thought I was supposed to be doing, kept putting me in positions I didn’t really want to be in. More than once, I found myself actively choosing to be in places and situations in which I didn’t feel comfortable. It was all internal pressure. It came from no one else but me.
One night changed the way I look at things now. It wasn’t a wholly traumatic experience or anything like that. It was just a bad date, a date during which the girl I was with made me feel a bit uncomfortable. This girl was very overeager, and beyond that, I could just tell that she wasn’t right for me. Yet, even though I felt increasingly uncomfortable as the evening went on, I stayed.
All I did with this girl was kiss her for a while. Nothing more. But I didn’t want to be kissing her, so there really was no reason for me to be doing so. I could have left. She wasn’t pressuring me or forcing me to stay. I was pressuring me. I was forcing me to stay.
I stayed because I had heard that lesbian relationships escalate more quickly than heterosexual ones, so I thought maybe my desire to not go very far on a first date was somehow wrong now that I was in this world. I stayed because I felt like being out of the closet meant I was now supposed to want certain things. Here was a girl, right in front of me, telling me how much she liked me, how much she wanted to keep dating me. It was too much for a first date, but it was also something I’d been yearning for all my life, and I felt like it would be almost ungrateful for me to turn her away. But a friend of mine astutely reminded me the next day that just because somebody likes me, it doesn’t mean I am required to like her back.
Eventually I realized I should leave before I pressured myself into going further with this girl. Even though I did finally go, I felt off for the next few hours, annoyed at myself for engaging in the situation for as long as I did. I kept asking myself why I had waited so long to walk out the door. I had wanted to go home so long ago, and nobody had been keeping me there against my will. While my date was disappointed that I decided to leave, she respected the decision, so I’m sure she would have respected it if I had left earlier as well.
That night made me realize a few things. The first was that there really is no such thing as ‘normal,’ when it comes to dating. I mean sure there are a few standard guidelines we all should follow, but beyond that, every one is different and every situation is different.
Everyone has different preferences and ideas about the way first and second and third dates are supposed to go, and the important thing is to find someone who shares your vision. Besides, even if there were some sort of ‘normal’ way to move through dates, it wouldn’t mean I had to conform to that ideal. In the end all that really matters is what makes me comfortable and happy, and if whatever that is isn’t the ‘normal’ thing, then I want to find someone else who doesn’t want to be normal either.
Now, if I find myself somewhere I don’t want to be, I leave, and I don’t feel ashamed or guilty or ungrateful for doing it. Instead, I feel proud of myself for doing exactly what I want.