Look. I am not very good at dating, period.
I am awkward, and not always in a cute or endearing way. I make real actual lists of questions to ask people that I really actually pull out of my purse while on dates with them. And I will not, under any circumstances, kiss you first. I may even dodge your first attempt at kissing me because I am so thoroughly embarrassed about wanting to kiss you that I’m wishing the floor would open up and swallow me whole.
And yet, I do really like going on dates. And kissing. And all the things that developing a new relationship with someone entails. I’m just not not very… suave.
This is not the grand coming out story I wish it could be.
I’ve known I liked girls and femmes ever since I was 11, when I kept a poster of Christina Ricci in my closet to “practice” kissing on. I told close friends I was “basically bi” in high school, and started identifying as queer when I was 24. But I didn’t go on a date with a girl or a femme until I was 30 years old. In fact, prior to becoming polyamorous, I had only ever had three real relationships, and they were all long-term, back-to-back monogamous relationships with dudes.
So I’m going to be totally real here: as much as I love and desire and really really wanna be with them, dating women and femmes terrifies me.
It’s no coincidence that I am also a woman and a femme. Even though I am attracted to people across the spectrum of gender and gender presentation, I find it hardest to flirt with and date people who are most like me.
Some of the things that go through my mind whilst attempting to woo other women and femmes include but are not limited to:
I know she says I’m hot but does does that mean she thinks I’m H O T?
Will they think it’s weird if I send them a selfie rn? Does this selfie look too Overtly Sexual??
Okay she just called me her girlfriend but did she mean that like ‘girl friend’ or like girlfriend-girlfriend?
They just asked me out on a ‘femme date’. WHAT THE HELL DO THEY MEAN BY THAT??
She’s really hot and smart and funny and nice… but I’m not feeling it. FUCK am I not really queer after all???????
Etc. and so on forever.
Here’s something that’s hard to admit — I think when I was younger I dismissed or avoided IRL girl crushes altogether because, even though I was okay with calling myself “basically bi,” I wasn’t necessarily okay with the social ramifications of actually dating a girl in my teens. And since I was attracted to dudes too, I could take the “easy way out” and date the gender I was “supposed” to date.
Flash forward over a decade and I of course do not have those hang ups anymore. I just lack a social script for dating other women and femmes.
Last year I posed a question to my femme friends on Facebook about how they navigate the murky waters of femme-on-femme dating. What ensued was a 50+ comment thread from a lot of my favorite people essentially saying “it’s hard! I haven’t really figured it out yet either!”
But I also got some really great advice, much of which I have been able to apply to the scary world of dating people who ID as femme and also to women, too.
If you’re in a similar boat, these gems may be useful for you!
1. Be direct.
“If someone is already my friend and I want to see if they’re interested, I am typically very very direct. And as someone who has had friends approach me in both (direct and more subtle) ways before, I appreciate directness a lot. ESPECIALLY from femmes, bc JFC it can be so hard to tell otherwise. Internalized misogyny much? Ack.” — Leigh Rich
“I really like being direct partially because I can be oblivious, but I also think that it is important to have that honesty in a relationship. Like, ‘I am interested in making out with you, what do you think about that?’ direct (with some kind of ‘no pressure’ caveat).” — Katie Tastrom
“I think text is so easy sometimes and I say a lot via text. I say my intentions and my desires up front. I think as femmes we are so used to putting other people’s needs first. So I very specifically say what I want. ‘I want to take you out on a date and be cute with you and maybe hold hands and get to know you because I like ____ about you.’ Then state a timeline ‘wanna go on a date? I’m free this week on ___.'” — Dolores
2. If you’re shy, you still kinda have to be direct.
“If you really feel like someone’s trying to find the words or the moxie to ask you on a date, I still find that directly asking them is best. But also, ‘You know, if you asked me on a date, I would say yes to that’ or similar can work if you’re not experienced in directly asking people on dates.” — Mira Bellwether
3. Use super clear language.
“It’s hard when ‘femme date’ gets coded as a friendly hang out.” — Mary Senyonga
“I use the word date and usually will express a crush or interest or something directly.” — Jen Venegas
“We tend to use such coded language as femmes, and I’ve started to just say things like: ‘I think you’re gorgeous, and I’d love to take you out on a date sometime.'” — Elisa
“Ask people on dates. It’s formal, easy to decline, and in my experience, way less of a let-down when you have some structure to work with.” — Mira Bellwether
“There’s a lot of opportunities to misinterpret things but there’s also a lot of opportunities for people to state clearly what they want. I really like when folks make things obvious and if it isn’t clear, I ask for clarity for safety.” — Dolores
4. If you’re already friends, handle with care.
“With existing femme friendships, I prefer to text, in order to give some time and space to process. I’m always clear that if the desire to be not platonic is not mutual, that I’m still overjoyed to be platonic friends.” — Elisa
“Normally I’d say be direct, but if the femme in question is already a good friend (and you don’t want to lose the friendship), I think it’s wise to feel things out for a while. If she responds positively to a little flirting, wants to hang out with you a lot, initiates texting frequently, acts differently with you than with her other friends, etc. then you can more ‘safely’ take a leap and ask her how she feels about you.” — Renée
5. Don’t be afraid to show your desire for them.
“I have only dated femmes who were already forthcoming with ME from the beginning with their feelings and inquired with me if I was feeling it.” — Natalie
“The thirst [for femmes] is overwhelming. I need to feel wanted though. I mean, I want to be adored, right?” — Carrie Fuentes
“I love compliments and attention and I love to give them. When someone is cute I usually say it and wait to see how they respond kinda as feelers. If I think I’m reading them correctly then I proceed.” — Dolores
6. It’s okay if it doesn’t work out.
“I guess most of all be ready to be vulnerable and know that as femmes I think we know gentleness even if we are rejecting someone so be easy on yourself and easy on other femmes.” — Dolores
“Typically worst case scenario is they are flattered but not interested and things go back to normal. I recently propositioned a femme friend of mine and though we decided it wouldn’t be a good idea, I feel like our friendship got stronger from it.” — Katie Tastrom
7. Even if your first few attempts fail, you are still queer.
“I’m tired of dating straight cisdudes just because I’m bad at trying to date women/femmes.” — Claire Cortright
Since becoming polyamorous, I have flirted with, dated, and/or slept with a handful of women and femmes. And each time it didn’t work out for whatever reason, I became plagued with self-doubt. After all, if I was really queer, wouldn’t this all be so much easier?
The thing is, dating isn’t easy period. And I’ve never questioned my attraction to men just because I had a bad date. Or a string of bad dates! Sometimes, the thing that holds me back the most is my own fear that I am not queer enough. Experienced enough. Good enough.
But I am.
And I promise you are, too.