Guest Post #499: Muddling Productively In Search of Romance

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a pretty simple question. How do I nurture my own sense of romance?

A bit of background: I’m a twenty one year old queer girl. I was born in Mississippi, though I spent my teenage years in the north east. I’ve never dated a girl because of my own issues with repression. I’ve hooked up with girls, dated guys, and hooked up with guys. I’ve spent alot of time trying to be romantic guys, and have come to a place where I’m really happy with the friendship and sex I have with guys. (Yay!) I know thought that I want to be romantic with girls not guys, though, and I’m really confused on how to go forward with that. Let’s just say that all of the angst, self repression, disappointment, and forcing hetero romantic situations have left me a bit bitter. I’m not sure how to get what I want or even talk about what I want. I’m spent so much time being bitter and violent towards myself.

I’m basically just talking to girls I like and using the “you’re a person I’m a person maybe we could interact in awesome romantic people ways” rules to muddle through. Any advice on how to muddle productively? Do I basically just have to accept that I’m going back to being say where I was at fifteen with guys? On top of this I have the problem of not finding mainstream depictions of romance desirable- its all so based on magic and love fixing everything. Do you have recommendations for art that depict romance in a more nuanced and awesome way?

Onward latebloomers!

Hi Gallant Girl, Elodie Under Glass here. This question! This is the sweetest question! Gallant Girl, it is so nice to hear from you.

Unfortunately, after the Captain gave me this question, I sat on it for four months. I discussed it with my friends while drinking wine in the Netherlands: “Where does romance come from? Particularly the kind of romance that we practice.” I asked friends who review books and friends who write books and friends who read books:  “What art depicts romance the way that we live it?” I asked queer friends, married friends, married queer friends, friends-with-kids, and people that just looked interesting. I started to lunge at people out of mailboxes: “HELP ME WITH THIS QUESTION ABOUT ROMANCE.

“How about Malinda Lo?” people suggested, “She did a thing. Or that movie where Piper Perabo and Lena Headley hold hands.”

“True, they’re good enough in their way, I guess,” I’d reply, “But I want, like, queer Dorothy Sayers banter, I want Tipping The Velvet but with a happy ending, I want stuff that isn’t stereotypical: I want stuff that will cheer Gallant Girl up.”

People said “Catherynne Valente! The L Word! A television show with dogs in it!”

All of which are wonderful but none of which quite touched the thing I wanted to tell you: that you’re right, that you should stop worrying if you can, that you’re doing pretty well.



Romance is weird. I know that I have it, and I know when I’ve had it, and I know that I live it. Romance was in  the fingers of the tangle-haired girl on the sea-island who trailed her fingers down the inside of my wrist. Romance was how I loved an asexual boy and brought him flowers, red roses because he took things so literally, red roses instead of the kisses that he didn’t like. Romance was in the people I loved over the internet, the way their words could crack my heart open even if I’d never touched their skin, the way their long-distance caring and love always reached me. I may be flawed and terrible, and I may have smashed hearts with my terrible mistakes, and I have made terrible decisions, but I know that I’ve touched romance. After nearly two years of the science experiment called “marriage” I know the romance in my husband noticing that I am sad and offering to take me to the hardware store. “Would you like to look at the paint chip displays? You love looking at the paint chips.” I’ll bundle that up and call it romance: that vulnerability, that caring. That language.

Romance is the language that partners use to communicate their care for each other. Get to that and you’ve gotten there.  I can’t recommend you much non-heteronormative art that touches this, because the stuff you describe as “mainstream depictions of romance” are not really meant to do that. At its heart, most commercial romance is meant to enforce and encourage the status quo. That’s why magic solves everything, nobody has real conversations, and the only real emotional work consists of resolving a forced love triangle. Real-life romance pretty much involves talking honestly about food, female orgasms and/or poop. (Or food/male orgasms/vomiting, or other variations thereof.) Real-life romance is scary, dirty and radical.

What I can do instead for this part of the question is to recommend you some real-life stories. Like Shannon and Seema. Like Arin and Katie. Like me and Dr Glass. Like FunnyGrrl and her fella. Like the Awkward Army, who may even share their own love stories with you. We all live our lives and our romances at depths that sometimes art cannot plumb.

"SHANNON + SEEMA: INDIAN LESBIAN WEDDING." Web log post. Steph Grant Photography. Ed. Steph Grant. N.p., 09 July 2013. Web. 06 Aug. 2013. .
SHANNON AND SEEMA. Grant, Steph. “SHANNON + SEEMA: INDIAN LESBIAN WEDDING.” Web log post. Steph Grant Photography. Ed. Steph Grant. N.p., 09 July 2013. Web. 06 Aug. 2013. <>.

Now onto the hard part of the question: where to put your pantsfeelings.

Part One: Break Glass, Seek Help

I want to check in on you. Since we don’t know each other, I don’t know if you’re okay, and I don’t know if it’s a throwaway comment, but this part of your question worries me: I’m spent so much time being bitter and violent towards myself.

Feelings like that are CLEARLY above the paygrade of an internet advice blogger, so I will flag them up as a sign that you might want to speak to a professional. These feelings worry me, Gallant Girl; growing up queer isn’t fun or easy, and your queerness is nobody’s fault because your queerness is not a problem. I’m going to suggest starting with this page of resources for QUILTBAG folks in the Northeastern United States. (Resources for other states | CanadaUK | Global: Muslims | Global: Jews.) I cannot vouch for the content of all of these resources, but they may be a place to start. Queer support groups exist for a reason: because we shouldn’t feel bitter or violent towards ourselves. Nobody should. Talk to someone if you need to.

Because you have expressed some insecurity with where you are with this, I think it would really help for you to connect with other queerladies and general queerfolk. Get some friends. Get into some online communities (this is a particularly great one right here) and hit up sites like and Match. If you’re affiliated with a university, there will doubtlessly be a QUILTBAG social group. If you live in desolate bible-thumping terrain or in countries where homosexuality isn’t safe or legal, then create a safe online identity to find your people.

Part Two: Muddle Productively! The Basics of Healthy Flirting

So you want to flirt with girls! This is great! Here is the flirting disclaimer!

Flirting is lovely when all parties feel comfortable and safe. Flirting is basically doing a sassy walk up to somebody and going “PANTSFEELINGS?” and having them sassily respond “PANTSFEELINGS!” and then you pretend that you’re communicating about something else while really you’re going “Ha-HA! We are such attractive people.”* People do not always do this, nor are they obligated to. Flirting is not for everyone. Not everyone is good at it. This is okay. It is pretty complicated social stuff, and if you look at it dispassionately, it’s kind of odd behavior! It’s all about social cues and playfulness. Flirting is not the beginning of negotiations for sex, although many people think of it that way. Flirting also happens platonically between friends all the time, although the expressions may be limited or expanded by culture.

* Note: Your experience of flirting may vary. See store for details.

As a sort of small female Captain Jack Harkness, I personally get lots of energy and pleasure from comfortably flirting with people in social situations – and the converse is that there are lots of people who find flirting to be exhausting, annoying, inappropriate and uncomfortable! If you are one of those people, then maybe don’t flirt, or only flirt when you feel comfortable (lots of people enjoy flirting online, for example, but dislike it in real life.) If you are flirting with one of those people: STOP. Do not practice flirting when either person demonstrates anxiety, discomfort, dislike, uncomfortable body language, or boredom.

arin and katie
Arin & Katie. Sieczkowski, Cavan. “Arin Andrews and Katie Hill, Transgender Teenage Couple, Transition Together.” The Huffington Post., 23 July 2013. Web. 06 Aug. 2013.  CONTENT NOTE ON PAGE: Some exotifying, generalized descriptions of trans* experiences.

Do not flirt if your flirting will cause you or another person to become unsafe. Although we are all doing our best to work on this, there are many situations and spaces where it is inappropriate or dangerous to express sexual/romantic interest – especially when you are expressing explicit interest in someone of the same gender. In general, do not flirt in sketchy environments (nobody loves the smell of elevators at four in the morning) or professional environments (nobody loves sexual harassment) or when there is a power imbalance that may make the other person unsafe or uncomfortable.  Do not flirt if flirting gives you social anxiety. Your pantsfeelings can wait until you are in a better place! You don’t have to stand there awkwardly and receive deliveries of other people’s pantsfeelings! Flirting is supposed to be fun. If it isn’t, walk away.

This might seem hard or complicated. That’s because it is! Flirting is high-level social stuff. Do what is comfortable for you. And you know what? “You’re a person I’m a person maybe we could interact in awesome romantic people ways” IS HOW YOU FLIRT. You are so good at flirting already, Gallant Girl. SO GOOD.

Part Three: Flirting While Queer

Now, with all of this flirting in mind, it is totally okay to flirt – and it is perfectly fine for ladies to flirt with ladies! Note, though, that the women you flirt with may not be interested in doing the Pantsfeelings-Dance with another lady. Since our cultures are generally uncomfortable with queerness, flirting that may be appropriate with your straight gentlemen friends may not appeal to your queer/questioning/????/straight lady friends. As always, when rejected, the proper response is to graciously accept rejection. If you do not know a lady’s orientation, but you think that she might like to flirt with you, err on the side of clear communication.  Because it is still difficult or dangerous to be queer, in many cases you may prefer to flirt in a safe space. It can be inappropriate to flirt in situations where Straight!Flirting is generally acceptable – for example, a heterosexual meet-cute might involve a barista and a customer getting together, but in the queer version, the barista may not want to out themselves in front of their manager.

Flirting while queer is very much like flirting while straight, with these differences about safe spaces and societal narratives. The thing that remains constant is you, Gallant Girl, putting yourself out there, making yourself vulnerable, daring to shine and look for love. That’s the brave, scary part. The part about the safe spaces can be navigated if you check in with your empathy and your experiences. Don’t practice the kind of flirting that would make you, yourself, uncomfortable if you were on the receiving side of it.

I know that you know all of this already. Which is why you’re already good at flirting (SO GOOD!). A good script for flirting while queer, therefore, is “You’re a person I’m a person maybe we could interact in awesome romantic people ways.”


There is nothing wrong with “going back to where you were when you were fifteen with guys.” That’s a great place to start! After all, it’s gotten you to a place where you wanted to go. A few years later, you are happy and comfortable with the relationships you have with guys.

Elodie & Dr G.
Elodie & Dr G.

Perhaps a good thing for you would be to stop worrying about Romance. Perhaps, for you, it’s better to think about what you want and what kind of person you’d like to share yourself with. You were kind of circling around these feelings when you wrote this letter: I’m not sure how to get what I want or even talk about what I want. The first step here is to romance yourself.

Romance is the language that partners use to communicate their care for each other. I’ll say it again before I tell you that the best way to learn that language is to start teaching yourself. When you find the romance that you want, and I deeply believe that you will, you will have to communicate in the language of care, want, need, give. The best way to practice this language is with a mirror and a bit of love for yourself. It hurts to speak this language at first, but you’ve really got to start.

Remember how I said that real-life romance was dirty, scary and radical? Well, so are parts of you. Learn to get along with them. Try to love your dirty radical bad self. Love will come from that vulnerability connecting with someone else’s. It will make the whole thing easier.

Here is the blessing that ended our own unromantic romantic commitment ceremony, a poem by Elizabeth Loesser:


May you be blessed on your brave search for the truth.

May your soul lead you to pools and rivers and oceans of wine.

May you drink and be intoxicated by love;

May you swim and be strengthened by life;

May you grow bolder and kinder;

May you be grateful.



I wish you the best of luck, Gallant Girl. I think you’re sooo romantic.

Awkward Army, if you can share your own love stories and art recommendations, they would be warmly welcomed here.

95 thoughts on “Guest Post #499: Muddling Productively In Search of Romance

  1. I love the Letter Writer’s question and feel like it is SUCH a good question to ask from a queer perspective but also from a human perspective of wanting memorable, diverse romance stories that look and feel like something we might see or experience ourselves, something imaginable yet weird yet relatable. I can’t wait for comments to begin!

    I am a bi lady currently in a relationship with a bi guy (Matt), and it has been satisfying in a way that I hadn’t expected to know that we aren’t going to default to a hetero script simply because one of us is dating a straight person, and that we don’t assume about past lovers or crushes… it’s hard to describe, but there’s this general feeling of nice, mutual OH-WE-GET-IT-ness that I didn’t know I was missing in past dynamics and wasn’t expecting now and am so grateful to have found.

    Matt and I met online and traded funny, silly, sexy, smart, chilled messages back and forth for a night, and at the time I honestly didn’t think much of it – just, oh, this is fun. I had a few wines the next day and sent a “Let’s meet, PS I’m tipsy so you’ll have to excuse me!” message, which he thought was “ridiculously suave”. Cue our meeting in the world’s sleaziest student bar, where I quickly found I liked this strange, fuzzy-haired, energetic, decisively-spoken man who thought my taste in beer was terrible and my dress was cute. He touched my knee and arm in very intentional yet laid-back flirting ways which thrilled me because it was so new for me for someone to be desiring me so openly and pursuing me in such a friendly, shameless, clear, considerate way. We kissed for the first time on the world’s ugliest sofa in the world’s sleaziest student bar and he walked me out of the bar and I said that if I didn’t stop kissing him right then, I wouldn’t go. As I went on my way, I received a text from him which was clear and sexy and fun and its syntax filled me with charmed glee: “Dear , I want to have sex with you. Lust, Matt” He confirmed in the next text that the enjoyment he felt in talking to me was as fun and exciting as the kissing-lust part.

    I had left him to go on a pre-arranged first drinks date with another guy I’d met online, who was an intelligent, good-looking, interesting, attractive guy who I liked just fine, and who was into me. From there I went to a kink party where I hung out with my kinky friends, with whom I usually have an amazing, intense, playful time. But… I called Matt and said that if it wasn’t too late or too sleazy then I’d really like to come over. So I left the kink party and cancelled a second date with the other intelligent, good-looking, interesting, attractive guy because I was so intrigued, and comfortable, and felt like so much could happen with Matt.

    And it did. We fell in love within the week and had so much amazing sex that we joked that we were stealing all the sex from all the other people, ever. I’ve never had sex like this before, I didn’t really know it was possible for me to enjoy myself so much. We traded stories about mental health and his mother’s death and past lovers and family quirks and fun school stories and hopes and work and what we were proud of. He asked me if, as a woman, I ever felt a pressure to lose weight, and I sent him an email with a journal entry I’d written about making peace with my body, and we ended up trading rare, special emails about our histories of our respective bodies. Showing that intimate, personal relationship to someone else, who was falling in love with my body and all of me, felt like such a different way to get close to someone. He said he felt the same. We’ve talked about fat, poo, pimples, social pressures on women to wear makeup. He says he likes my face without makeup, that he gets that it’s my right to paint my face in whatever way I like and he’s down with that, but that he personally prefers how I look when I go to sleep and wake up beside him. He says I’m a wonderful person to wake up next to.

    I’ve known him less than three months and it feels far longer, yet shorter too. Last week we had a perfect week-day together, working in different rooms, going out for lunch to a gorgeous restaurant in a park in the sunshine, going on a flying fox (“the flying and the foxing”, as we call it), drinking fancy teas at a Chinese gallery, and going home. We swing our held hands and wear furry-cat-eared beanies and make each other Ramen and shake our heads and bite down on our smiles at how unbelievably happy we are. He tells me he’s never felt so loved. Before him I thought I wasn’t particularly good at this love business, but now I think I’m awesome at it. I love that he’s so silly, that he owns a kangaroo onesie, that he reads me to sleep from the epic rationalist fanfiction, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, that his silliness gives me this implied permission to be equally silly and bite his belly and buy unflattering, fun leopard-print skirts. I love that if I have an anxiety attack at his place, he sits with me on the floor and tells me that there’s tea and cuddles waiting for me when the imaginary lions stop their roaring and I stop running from them. We’re not perfect, we’re messy and I get anxious and he gets caught up in work and distracted from conversations. He’s nothing like what I imagined for myself – but this is so much better than anything I could have come up with, and I wouldn’t have known this existed (for others or for myself).

    Good luck, Gallant Girl. Your gallantry and bravery and questioning-ness and honesty will serve you well. As a lady who likes ladies, I would love to be flirted with in the manner you describe as your style. I have no doubt that Future You will have incredible stories of romance for us – romances involving other people, but also a courageous romance with yourself.

    1. this is a beautiful story! i’m glad you are happy and in love and any boy who reads HPMOR as a bedtime story gets mad points. 🙂

    2. Long time lurker, first time commenter, just to say that @homeruncommitment, your story made me so, so happy. Thank you for sharing it! You and Matt sound incredible.

      And Gallant Girl – good luck! Elodieunderglass’s post is perfect, as usual – you got this 🙂

  2. I got here by a different route, but this is the place I’m in.

    Relationships suck. But I’m pretty messed up, and angry at the world because it lied to me about how relationships work.

    I hope the people have something helpful for you because I know I sure don’t 😦

    1. If you give some specifics about how the world lied to you about how relationships work, that could be very useful indeed. It helps to know what the lies are.

      I’ll start.

      Lie #1: Love conquers all.

      I dunno. Maybe it does sometimes? But sometimes seemingly good relationships can be torn apart by circumstance or differing goals. The best partner in the world might be the world’s most incompetent, resentful caregiver, which doesn’t become an issue until somebody becomes chronically ill. The most compatible couple can still break each other’s hearts if one person desperately wants kids and one person desperately does not.

      Lie #2: A person who is bad for you in certain specific ways will make you miserable all the time.

      People don’t stay in relationships because they’re masochists. Yes, there are cases where one person is abusive and the other stays because leaving is dangerous, but I think for the most part, people stay because it feels like there’s still something worth staying for. When the boyfriend who locks you out of the apartment’s only bathroom for hours isn’t in the bathroom, he’s sweet and considerate and cooks you elaborate dinners. If it always felt like a clear case of DTMFA (dump the motherfucker already), most advice columnists would go out of business.

      Anyone else?

      (P.S. I really hope we hear from the locked-out-of-the-bathroom woman someday. I hope she’s doing okay.)

      1. Lie #3: If you have to talk about it you’re doing it wrong.

        Clear communication is essential, and that usually means Using Your Words, especially at the beginning of a relationship. From consent to the mechanics of sexual pleasure to the chore list to which holidays are we celebrating (and where and with whom) to dealbreakers to what does being on Team You mean in terms of offering concrete and meaningful support to triggers and other scars of past trauma and on and on. Over time, as the specific people in a specific relationship become more familiar and comfortable with each other (likes, dislikes, boundaries, limitations, etc) more can go unsaid because a set of shared operating principles is jointly established through communication and practice and refinement.

        But that doesn’t magically happen on its own without any effort on the part of the people involved. And it’s unreasonable to expect someone else to be a mind reader. Mind you, if you are in a long established relationship and feel a need to regularly revisit the basic principles, that may point to some fundamental problems. In other words, if the “rules” of the relationship appear to be unpredictably ever-changing, that may point to something really wrong, such as an abusive asshole who is gaslighting the hell outta the victim.

  3. Hi,

    I don’t know if i’m being apropiate giving my opinion, so fell free to ignore it.

    I think romance should be especial and it’s different for each person. For me, what works the best it’s listening to what the person you like said. Pay attention to the things that person likes and try to do little things to make that person happy. Giving a standar present it’s mildly romantic, but finding that comic she read when she was little or taking her to that place where she met you for the first time. Or maybe something that she said she wanted to try. The important thing it’s that she knows you care. Also, sharing things that you like or are important to you it’s another way to be romantic. Sure, if you know nothing about a person it’s more difficult to be romantic, since not all people like flowers (they could even be allergic), or chocolate (as a joke my friends said that people who doesn’t like chocolate are weird, but still XD), or that you record music to them. But usually, most people could recognice that you are trying to do something nice for them and that’s what counts most of the time. And if someone can’t apreciate your attentions, then maybe you should give them to someone else.

    As for art, since I’m a comic fan, I really like the relationship Mistic and Destiny have in marvel silver age. Good luck with your self discovery 😉

  4. Oh, this is a adorable and made me a little bit teary. Gallant Girl, I feel you! I came out as bi at about 22, having had plenty of flirting, two long-term relationships and a couple of one-night-stands with boys, and having got to a certain level of competence and confidence in the whole boy-flirting / boy-sexing thing, it was COMPLETELY TERRIFYING to suddenly be back at Key Stage 3 when it came to girl-flirting and girl-sexing. Especially since most of my lesbian friends had been fairly sure they were gay from fairly young ages, and had come out in their late teens when we all started university. At 22, I felt like the oldest, last-to-come-out-est person ever. Turns out, though, girls are amazingly worth it. 😀

    I do think queer flirting is pretty different from straight flirting. The things about safe spaces and societal narratives don’t just change the when and where, they change the how and what too. With straight flirting you’ve always got a bit of a cultural narrative to work with or against, which says a) everyone is assumed straight until proven otherwise; b) boys are supposed to initiate flirting and c) girls respond or otherwise. (Sometimes this is good, sometimes it is very bad.) Even in situations where the girls take the initiative, you’ve got a consciousness that you’re working within that framework and deliberately subverting it.

    With queer flirting, you can’t rely on those basic assumptions, so you’ve got all this extra stuff to do: a) send out signals to other women that you are available for flirting; b) identify other women who are available for flirting; c) figure out who is the comer-on and who is the responder, if that’s your vibe; and d) figure out whether your vibe matches their vibe. Flirting with girls, especially non-queer spaces, made me much more conscious of what you have to do to let someone know you’re interested – whether it’s making eye-contact or cruising or wearing a rainbow badge or mentioning that you’re not free that weekend because it’s Pride – and also of how you initiate flirting or invite the other person to initiate it. I went through a stage of just not knowing how to flirt with girls, and then I became the comer-on, because I was frustrated by waiting for women to realise that I wanted to be flirted with. But being the comer-on didn’t really suit me, most of the time, so then I had to learn how to identify the comer-ons and let them know that I wanted to be come-on-to, which I am still learning and enjoying learning even though it is not really about getting people into bed any more. It is a complicated dance! And you get so many different variations on being the comer-on and the responder, and how they fit in with butch and femme and other identities (sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, sometimes they deliberately overlap or contrast in ways that are confusing and queer and hot) and the other signals that you send out. It is brilliant, but it is complicated.

    However! I don’t believe there is any alternative to muddling through in your own awesome way and finding awesome people who think about it in their own ways, so have lots of fun doing it and don’t feel like there is a secret Right Way that everyone else knows and didn’t tell you about. Masses of luck, Gallant Girl. It’s going to be awesome and exciting and scary and brilliant, but you will find lovely people to be romantic with.

    1. I am really uncomfortable with having written “women” at the beginning of the second paragraph! Please substitute “your preferred queer romantic object of any gender”.

      1. Yes! My now-partner introduced me to the concept of “lesbian sheep syndrome”; rams indicate interest by trying to mount, ewes indicate interest by *standing still*, so in a field of lesbian sheep? They’re all standing still waiting to be approached. This is probably not accurate sheep mating behavior, but it makes the point by being a simplification/exaggeration of the cultural expectation that guys do the asking/pursuing and gals indicate receptiveness mostly by not refusing advances. Which is a problem when you’ve both learned your flirting skills by playing the ‘girl’ part. Luckily for me, she was pretty direct and comfortable with initiating the flirting, because at 40 I’m still kind of awkward with it.
        Things I’ve discovered: It really helps a giant amount to be in a circle/community where you know the person(s) you might be interested are favorably inclined towards your gender. Queer space can do this- I met a former partner at a college queer club picnic, so at least I knew I wasn’t immediately disqualified by my gender. And then we really just talked about “stuff” for the rest of the picnic. We were both a bit shy, so having one person to talk to instead of a big crowd to ‘mingle’ in was good. She’d walked and I had a car so I offered her a ride home, I ended up loaning her a book we talked about, and I started attending a student group she ran, well…partly I was interested in the group, but the fact that she was going to be there was a strong motivator. And she seemed pleased to see me, which made me feel not-stalkerish. It was about 6 months before we actually concluded that we were dating, but that was ok! We lived together for 12 years after that, and it was really good for a long time. My point is, you don’t have to have finely honed flirting skills find someone; nether of us did! Your plan of muddling along by interacting with interesting people in awesome romantic ways sounds pretty much exactly what everyone I know does.

    1. I’m such a fan of gws. I once even sent Danielle Corsetto a letter being like “your comic is everything I’ve ever wanted out a comic and makes me feel better about being queer thanks for existing”

    2. I met her once, and she is lovely and wonderful. Also, I know one of the two people who is the inspiration for Clarise. Who is tremendously badass. Yay GWS!

    3. I have spent entirely too much time in the archives, and am putting the comic down now. Thank you for linking to it!

  5. Romance within a relationship, I have that. In a this-relationship-specific-way (such as preparing a food my partner really likes, or getting to put my feet on his lap while we watch funny home videos even when the weather is really sweaty).

    Romance before there is a relationship, in approaching someone, I prefer not to do that (or not much of it), myself. I like just hanging out with someone fairly casually, doing all the stuff I’d do with a friend (in the beginning, an acquaintance where I want to see if they might be a friend). Then see how I like them, and try to get a sense of whether or not they like me (as friends, and if possible getting a sense if they might be interested in trying some sort of romantic and/or sexual relationship). There might be some flirting along the way, but I’m not that good at it. If I’m romantically interested, and I think they might be (or if I’m just not sure), then just tell them. See what happens. Maybe some people would find this romantic, I just like the clarity and the hanging out. If no romance or hook-ups, I might get some friends out of it. Friends are nice. I made a few that initially I was evaluating for possible friendship, but also possible romance.

  6. Ack. Romance is a tough one. For me, I get tied up in the narratives that the world puts out and get so tangled that I decide it isn’t worth it without even trying. I am one of those people who watched “While you were Sleeping” (yes I’m old) and thought love could happen for me…and then realized that I, unlike Sandra Bullock, am not an adorable, friendly catch but a fat, shy, deeply messed-up shut-in. And then I sigh and go back to petting my pretend cat (because real pets are too much effort). So I guess, Gallant Girl, that I’m saying try not to psych yourself into or out of something because of how you think it “should” be. It will be awkward and scary and fun and nerve-wracking no matter who you connect with.

    1. I’ve always thought ‘If I didn’t have you’ by Tim Minchin was romantic. And very funny. The lyric ‘I don’t think you’re special – I mean, I think you’re special, but you fall within a Bell curve’ just makes me go ‘awwwww that’s the sweetest thing ever’.

      Song from 1:36 to 6:36

      (now let’s see if this sharing-a-video stuff works…)

  7. I love Elodie’s defintion of romance.

    I too am struggling with wanting to approach other queer ladies romantically, and not knowing how. I think it’s because I have worked on the assumption that a single straight man will not say ‘no’ to me – so I’m perfectly comfortable asking one directly whether they would like to come home with me and enjoy pantsfeelings. And after that point, romance can blossom in the dance that people dance if they have mutual pantsfeelings.

    But with a woman, there may be all sorts of reasons why she might say ‘no’ to me. I would like to know how to be OK with someone potentially saying ‘no’ to me, as I have never had to learn.

    1. Have you really never had a man say no to you?

      It’s maybe luck, but also, wow, kind of a terrible assumption. There’s all kinds of reasons a man might say no, as well, even if it never has actually come up for you personally. I know it’s Social Expectations that men are always up for sex and women aren’t. It’s bad juju though.

      1. I didn’t read it so much as men always being up for sex so much as misspiggy being pretty good at getting to firmly-established-mutual-interest with men and knowing how to read the signals that say it’s likely to be a yes? There is something about women being more likely to flirt and show an interest but still be keeping an open mind about whether it’s going anywhere, whereas men don’t tend to flirt unless they’ve decided where they want it to go.

        I definitely agree that the idea that men are always up for sex can be a really destructive thing for men, but I’ve had a similar experience to misspiggy (turned down by waaay more women than men!) and it’s more to do with finding it easier to tell when any particular individual man is going to say yes than the idea that men always say yes.

        1. This has been my experience as well.
          It’s not that every man would have sex with me anytime, but that I can usually tell which ones want to.
          It is much easier to be confident in my flirting with them when I already know we are interested in each other.

          Women often have greater variation and more subtlety in how they express their interest, especially when they may not be fully out.

  8. I’m so bad at “romance” and flirting. Like SO BAD YOU GUYS.

    Most Embarassing Story: There was this guy I had very strong pantsfeelings for. We hung out a LOT, we talked on the phone while I was away at college. When I was in town I would do whatever he was doing.

    One night, we were out and it stormed, a big group of us descended on my parents house, but the power had gone out. My Dad, being hilarious, gave us a couple of camera flashes and we went downstairs to run around the basement with them. (In full darkness it leaves a very realistic after image that makes it seem like you can see, but you can’t, and it’s hilarious.)

    So later we’re sitting at a table next to each other in complete darkness laughing and hanging out and I feel his foot on my foot. And I say “That’s my Foot.”


    That was not the only miscue I had with this guy. He would say things to me and in retrospect I would realize they were very normal romancey things that a guy would say to a girl and I would react TERRIBLY. We never did hook up.

    But my current partner always gives me a bite of his pickle (har har) when I don’t have my own, and last week he bought me a sleeping mask because I have trouble with the light from our windows.

    I guess my point is part of finding the right person for you is finding someone whose idea of romance jives with yours. Just be who you are, and find ways to express your attraction to people, and hopefully someday you’ll find someone who loves who you are and how you express that.

    1. Your “that’s my foot” story made me laugh. I feel like I’m still that awkward at flirting even now. But I love your examples of your partner sharing his pickle and buying you a sleeping mask. My partner is a picky eater and so we have a system where I eat the pickles, tomatoes, etc. off his plate because I like them and he doesn’t. And I can’t sleep without my mask, but it always manages to slip under the bed by morning. So every night my partner crawls under our bed with a long pole and fishes out my sleep mask while I set my alarm and get comfortable. Then he tucks me in. 🙂

    2. Ha! “That’s my foot” was so funny and so something I could see myself doing. I am awful at reading nonverbal cues when it comes to romance/pantsfeelings (great at it in other situations), so I needed someone who would very explicitly state their feelings in that regard. Sounds like you found a good partner…can’t say I’d be too happy about sharing a pickle 🙂

  9. LW, this is one of those cases where the Answer Was In You All Along.

    You might feel like a teenager again with women, but: you’re not a teenager full of teenage hormones; you’ve got experience understanding yourself; you’ve got years of experience with sex (yay!); you know what you want now. You’re a grown-ass woman, not a kid again, even when you feel uncertain.

    You know how to hook up with women. That involves identifying women who have pantsfeelings for you, whom you have pantsfeelings for, mutually communicating those feelings, and agreeing to a time and place. That’s some good stuff right there! Super awesome skills! Instead of a time and a place for sex, you can agree to a time and place for coffee.

    When you flirt for a relationship you might flirt more at a woman’s brain than her bits, to see if you’d like more than sexytimes. You can also go with the “repeated hookups oops we’re dating yaaay!” approach.

    Another thing to do is to hang out where the queer ladies are. That might help with your feelings about your queer self, too. You are just fine as you are, you are wonderful and beautiful and deserve great things. On days when it’s hard to hear or believe that, it can help to have a supportive community, though, or maybe a therapist.

  10. 1. The advice to make some queer friends is really key, I think. For one thing, it helps you figure out where the queer spaces near where you live are. For another thing, it gives you a queer social network, and somewhere a few hops away on the network, might be people you want to date. Also, maybe I’m projecting a bit here, but when I moved to a new town a few years ago for grad school, and was mostly around straight dudes all the freaking time, every time I met a girl who was visibly, openly queer, my internal monologue was something like, “wow, you are attracted to girls too?? we should totally date each other!!” which is silly, because you definitely need more in common than that! feeling like you’re not so starved for options can only lead to good things.

    2. there are some cute articles on autostraddle about how to flirt/ask people out/date. maybe spend some time on that site! Going to an autostraddle meetup is a potential way to make some queer lady friends, too. (disclaimer: I have never done this. I do regularly read and enjoy that site, though.)
    for example, here is an article on how to ask out the cute barista you have a crush on:
    the article also links to other related advice from the site. I like the “rejection 101” article too, for example.

  11. That sounds… uncomfortably like where I’ve been only despite being absolutely certain of my bi-ness I’ve never even kissed a girl. I’m almost certain that part of the problem is that, while I’m more attracted to girls in general, only being attracted to specific types of guys makes it easier to pursue them. Especially since I like awkward, geeky guys and being comfortable with myself makes me feel like I have more power in the initial stages of a relationship than them (Disclaimer: the guys I’ve had the best relationships with have been good at letting me know what they want and we’ve been equally balanced but seeming more confident than them early on helps me). With women I feel like we’re on more equal footing from the start and my nerves get the better of me.

    When I was 20 I signed up for a dating site specifically to change that but left my orientation as ‘looking for either’. In hindsight rather unsurprisingly (there were not a lot of girls on this particular site in the first place) I only got messages from guys, replied to one of them, met him after two weeks and 3 and 1/2 years later we’re still together. So much for the girls I never got the chance to kiss.

    I think just muddling along in the ways that feel right to you is the best way to do it.

  12. I was never good at romance, but I have one. It is very full of quotes from books and spontaneous trips out of state and also taking care of each other when we get food poisoning. (I think the true test of romance comes when one of you is vomiting uncontrollably.)

    I have some story recommendations:

    Revolutionary Girl Utena (anime series; 39 episodes, don’t watch the film until you have finished the series; I DO NOT RECOMMEND THE AMERICAN VOICE ACTING). Magic realism/high school coming of age story dealing with gender, friendship, and falling in love. The relationship between Utena and Anthy is very romantic.
    Puella Magi Madoka Magica (anime series; 12 episodes; currently streaming on Crunchyoll and you don’t need a signin to watch if you are willing to put up with ads)
    Magical girl series; dark; deals with a love story between two girls.

    Both of these series have the same premise: love between women will revolutionize the world. I recommend them both.

    1. I want to note a caveat on Utena: While I’ll agree it can be interpreted as romance, I came out of watching it feeling awful because I couldn’t pin down one instance of consent being freely given by anyone but the main character.

      1. I noted that I find the romance limited to Utena and Anthy. I dislike spoilering things, but perhaps I should have warned for rape in the story, since in terms of actual sexual things, I don’t recall any consent in the series, and there are two explicit rape scenes (both fairly brief).

  13. My love stories are HILARIOUS.

    First boyfriend: We were sitting together at the queer student club at our high school, and the topic of the day was “who’s your ideal partner?”. He said, “Looks don’t matter but a sense of humor does.” I said, “Looks don’t matter but a sense of humor does.” He looked at me and said, “How ’bout it?” I said, “Sure.” We hugged and everyone applauded. We stayed together for a year, which is pretty good when you’re 15. Our romance included having a mock wedding where we pledged our troth on a stack of books we both liked, since the Bible didn’t hold much interest for either of us. He shared his pirated Monty Python movie scripts with me and I learned just how to scritch his head.

    Current partner J: We met online and then in person at a party. At the time I was female, skinny, new in town, and boldly outgoing to cover up my nervous shyness. He was one of two guys at the party who didn’t skeeve on me. I found this extremely attractive, especially in context. We got to be friends and eventually hooked up. Then I fell in love with his then-wife.

    (Poly romance stories are… unique.)

    Several months later J and I went out on an incredibly romantic date and shared one of those kisses where the entire world goes away and you completely forget where you are (which was quite a feat given where we were at the time). I left wondering why I wasn’t in love with him yet; I could feel the switch waiting in my brain, ready to flip over from “not in love” to “in love”. Three days later, I was sitting in a coffee shop, he walked in, I looked up, our eyes met, and the switch flipped. I swear bluebirds popped out of nowhere and started circling my head singing their little hearts out. All I could think was “FINALLY!”.

    Current partner X: We were introduced by X’s ex-boyfriend, who was dating J’s wife. I basically made the cartoon face where the eyes bug out and the tongue lolls on the ground. X didn’t notice. Everyone else did and thought I was hilarious. I stalked X online… er, hung out on X’s LiveJournal for the better part of a year, being nice and friendly and useful and eventually saying things like “HELLO I THINK YOU ARE HOT” and “PLEASE VISIT AGAIN SO WE CAN HAVE SEX” when I realized nice and friendly and useful wasn’t conveying the extent of my interest. After falling in love with me, X made a blog post that literally said, I am not making this up, “I love Big Brother rosefox.” I cannot overstate how dedicated and unsubtle I was in my pursuit. But it was totally right for us, consensual, and necessary–otherwise we would have just lesbian-sheeped at each other forever.

    My other past relationship kickoffs have included falling instantly and mutually in lust with a coworker at a new job (it was like something out of a romance novel!), breaking up with my boyfriend and being comforted by his best friend, grieving a partner’s death and being comforted by two of my best friends, making the world’s most cowardly blog post about “I’m totally crushing on a friend and if you were that friend how would you respond” (the friend in question left the first comment in a way that made it clear he knew the post was about him, because did I mention I’m not very subtle), making out in a stairwell, making out at a dance club, spending an afternoon at a no-tell motel… there’s no one way to do it. Your eventual romance with the right person(s) will be appropriate to who you are and who they are. Just look for awesome people and find suitable ways to tell or show them that you think they’re awesome.

    As for art recommendations, look for queer romances and other queer books published by Bold Strokes, Riptide, Samhain, Circlet, Blind Eye, Lethe, and Carina. There’s tremendous variety, e-books are pretty cheap, and you can often find free samples and helpful reviews on sites like All Romance E-books.

      1. Lady-sheep make eyes at the one they like, Dude-sheep approach those who make eyes at them. So Lesbian-sheep just sort of stare at each other awkwardly, waiting for the other to make the first move. It’s a pretty good analogy for the inertia women are socialised to deploy in relationships and explains pretty well why so many bisexual women end up married to men.

        1. Yup. It’s frustrating.
          And it really makes the whole “bi women are just straight women going through a phase” thing a self-perpetuating myth.

          I am very lucky that my first girlfriend was straightforward with her desire to date me the second time we hung out.
          Up to that point my interactions with potential GFs involved either Firthing or being Firthed.

        2. That’s the second time this… saying has come up in this thread, and I just have to say that as a lesbian, I find it and the assumptions behind it really, really, offensive.

          Or perhaps it was just that it was originally told to me as a not-so-subtle insult. (Perhaps the reason the lesbian is “passive” is because she’s not attracted to you. Just a thought.)

          1. I think it is a massive generalisation, but there is a certain tendency there that I recognise. I’m bi and my partner’s female, and we’ve often heard other bi women complaining because lesbians don’t come on to them and saying it’s because of biphobia, when to me it looks like they aren’t making any kinds of overtures to lesbians (or even other bi women!) that would suggest to other women that they want to be come-onto.

            I actually think most women-only lesbians get over the “just wait and they’ll come to you” pretty quickly, because otherwise they’ve just not going to get any action at all, but with bi women or women who come out later, having been fairly comfortable in female-male relationships and dynamics before that, it can take a while to get used to the idea that you might have to work a little harder to let someone know you’re interested.

            I definitely don’t think it’s a thing that all lesbians do or all bi women do, but I do think it’s a dynamic that exists and most queer women I know recognise something in it. Does that make more sense to you or is it still offensive put that way?

          2. I don’t think lesbians (or anyone really) are passive – but I think women ARE socialized not to be the one who makes a move, which is the point of the analogy. I’m sorry that someone tried to use it to insult you, but they were almost certainly a douchebag who doesn’t understand that the only criticism to be taken from it is against our culture for training people that girls and women are sex objects; passive receivers of advances, not independent actors.

          3. I’m a bisexual lady in a long-ish term relationship with a lesbian, and we both definitely lesbian-sheeped at each other for quite awhile before making moves to escalate the relationship physically or otherwise. It was always clear that we were into each other—we met on a dating site, and we continued to date—it was just hard for either one of us to make the first move. On her end, it’s more that she’s shy than anything else I think, but on mine it was definitely in large part a lack of experience being the first one to make a move.

            We’re also poly, and right now my girlfriend is trying to work up to asking out a good female friend of ours who we know for a fact is interested in my girlfriend, but they’ve both been kind of circling the issue because they’re both shy introverts and because there is no assigned role designating one of them to go first. I’d definitely call that lesbian-sheeping.

            But in both of those instances, interest is/was definitely established. Used that way, I see nothing wrong with the term… it acknowledges a real issue, which is that because a) women are not socialized to be the aggressors/are socialized to show interest by not saying no and b) same-sex relationships don’t have gender roles to fall back on to determine who makes the first move, early on in lady-lady dating there is sometimes a lot of circling the issue/timidness. Not ALWAYS, but sometimes.

            On the other hand, using it the way it seems to have been used towards you is totally not cool. I’m really sorry to hear that, and whoever did it is an ass. In my mind, the term refers to an explanation of why no one has made the first move yet despite known or very highly likely (because of positive signs like flirting, but no explicit statement) mutual interest. And I feel like that means it should mostly be used in retrospect, as in “we totally lesbian-sheeped at each other for months before we finally got together” or even “I thought we were lesbian-sheeping at each other but it turns out she was totally not interested, god I’m an idiot.”

          4. I just wanted to second and support Molly Grue’s comment. I also find the ‘lesbian sheep’ stuff to be deeply offensive bollocks (as a lesbian). It doesn’t represent my experiences or those of any of the many lesbians I know and love (or have loved, or have worked with, or discussed lesbian dating with in passing etc.). It’s a horrible and offensive stereotype, and the fact that when a member of an oppressed minority has stated on here that she has found something offensive, and THREE commentors have taken the time to ‘bi-splain’ to her why it is not offensive-GRR seriously what!! It is offensive, and it’s also deeply offensive to patronise her and dismiss her experience because it’s not yours, or because your lesbian girlfriend thinks it’s funny, or whatever. Come on folks, this is Privilege 101…

          5. The way i understand privilege, it’s only privilege 101 if bisexuals in relationships with women have privilege that lesbians don’t have, and I don’t think that’s the case. As far as i’m concerned I’m a queer woman talking about the dynamics of being attracted to women with another woman who’s attracted to women. Neither of us has any particular institutional privilege or lack of privilege in this situation that the other doesn’t have. What privilege dynamic are you seeing here?

          6. Look, I’m just going to answer myself here because several people have stopped to explain to me why this entirely offensive term is not offensive. Not only is it offensive, but it’s really not helpful in this PARTICULAR situation, where we’re trying to talk about female-female romance. The stereotype — and it is a stereotype, and feeding it does NOT help — that women are passive is both insidious and stupid. (Are all the straight women you know passive, too? The ones I know aren’t.)

            1. Comparing lesbians to sheep is insulting. I also doubt it’s biologically accurate, but I will freely admit that farming is not my field.

            2. The image — that lesbians just stand around and WAIT — is another instance of the idea that there IS NO SUCH THING AS LESBIAN SEX (or romance, which is the whole goddamn point of this discussion). This is a) not true b) also insulting c) not true. It reminds me of that IMMENSELY STUPID icon that was going around for a few years “We are having hot lesbian sex! Well, actually it’s just tea. But it’s still hot.” Implication: of course we’re not having lesbian sex! There’s no such thing! We couldn’t have sex without your [epithet of choice for male genitalia!]! *twinkle* *giggle* *sparkle*

            The term you use has the SAME IMPLICATIONS. Of course lesbians just stand around and wait for someone else to take the upper hand! Silly women! They don’t have either the proper genitalia or the proper training!

            If you don’t see those implications, well I DO.

            I get this shit especially a lot, being a femme.

            3) Your “I’m so sorry it was used to insult you but it’s not really an insult” comes perilously close to “I’m so sorry you feel that way.”

            I feel that way because it is that way. Comparing a population of people to sheep is fucking insulting. Period.

          7. One last thing (apologies to the Captain and to Elodieunderglass, because I’m going to use a slur as an example below. Please understand that I am in general opposed to the use of slurs and this is an EXAMPLE).

            If you replace your (GAH) “lesbian sheep” with an equivalent term, like say, “breeder bunny,” do you see the problem with it? “She’s acting like such a breeder bunny!” or “Oh, I totally breeder bunnied there!” would really NOT be an okay thing to say.

            And, yes, I used a deliberate slur on purpose because “lesbian” CAN be used as a slur (I am one, and it has been used as a slur about me). Furthermore, even this isn’t REALLY an equivalent, because I can use all the slurs I can think up about heterosexuals and it won’t really equal the differential in the social power dynamic (they have to worry about me calling them nasty names; I have to worry about losing my job, getting raped, or getting murdered).

          8. I don’t disagree with you at all about the term “lesbian sheep”, and that’s definitely not a phrase I would use. But you also said that you didn’t like the “assumptions” behind it, and you’re saying that the whole discussion that I and some other people have been having about whether typical het gender dynamics have an impact on how queer women have to learn to flirt is “not relevant” to the discussion here. Well, I think it is. I feel like you and Pink are saying that because you identify as lesbian rather than bi, your take on queer women’s sexuality is more valid than mine and you get to decide what is an isn’t relevant to the question. I don’t think know if that’s what you are meaning to imply or if I’m just confusing what you’re saying with Pink’s use of “bi-splaining”, but if is that is what you mean, it’s not cool. I’m not less invested or less authentic in my relationships with women because I slept with men last century.

          9. This is in reply to “Mary.” Then I’m done. Although I think I am going to use the term “breeder bunny” to anyone who uses “lesbian sheep” in my presence in future. (“That’s offensive!” Me: … *waiting endlessly for other shoe to drop*)

            I think you haven’t read my further explications. The “assumptions” are that lesbians are incompetent at initiating flirting or sex because they are biologically women (otherwise, why is an animal term necessary?). This is… inaccurate is the only non-offensive term I can come up with.

            Other problems with the term:

            1. Equating a population of people to animals is insulting.
            2. This particular animal is associated with stupidity.
            3. I don’t even think it’s true FOR SHEEP.

            Lastly, at no time did I say ANYTHING about your experience as queer women. I said that I found the term insulting, and I said why.

            Jesus Harriet Christ on a getaway velocipede with someone else’s fingerless gloves, why the hell am I even trying to explain the problems with gender essentialism on the Internet?

          10. As i said, I’m not trying to defend this “lesbian sheep” term. I just don’t think it’s gender essentialism to say that people who’ve been socialised as women in heteronormative spaces – and that’s most of us – are more used to the role of being-hit-on than hitting-on-someone. That’s certainly been my experience. Not because women are intrinsically like that, or because lesbian sex doesn’t exist, but just because that’s the social environment we grew up in. My first comment was just asking you whether that made sense to you and it was just the “lesbian sheep” comment that you found offensive or whether you found the whole idea of women being socialised to be more passive offensive. I still don’t know which it is because I think we’re talking at cross purposes,

            The part that felt like you we’re challenging my identity was the bit where you were explaining how homophobia works and that lesbian sex is a real thing. I mean, I know. This is also my lived experience. That combined with Pink’s comment about “bi-splaining” made it look like you were treating me as someone with straight privilege and no idea what it’s like to be queer, which obviously isn’t the case.

        3. Another reason that many bisexual women are with men is just math. If we take the generous story that 1 in 10 people are interested in the same gender, that means 9+/10 men and 1/10 women are potentially interested in you as a bi woman. The pool of women interested in women is always going to be smaller than the pool of men interested in women.

          1. I also think this makes it harder for bi women to manage their expectations.

            If you have 9 guys interested in you for every one woman, it’s easy to feel like you aren’t attractive to other women.

    1. Do you happen to know any blogs that review lesbian romance novels? I keep trying to wade into All Romance E-books and getting thoroughly lost. There’s just so many and where do I start and ugh.

      1. I know that Smart Bitches who Love Trashy Books do amongst other things review lesbian romance novels, but their Lesbian tag is sadly fairly bare. They did have a a review/recommendation thread, though, which has a good chunk of recommendations.

        Oooh, and one of the links was to Loving Venus, Loving Mars which does bi and lesbian romance novel reviews, and also has a list of other review sites on the sidebar. Hopefully one of those will click for you!

        Now to wait while all of these links get fished out of the spam filter.

  14. I just wanted to add a movie rec for romance: Before Sunrise is an excellent film in which not much happens other than two people who met on the train wandering around a foreign city, getting to know each other and falling in love. It’s a great movie and unlike the annoying “commercial” version of romance I’ve seen everywhere. The two characters have a very interesting dialogue going, talking about memories and small personal things, and yup, I can definitely see that this is what romance looks like and this is what it would feel like to fall madly in love with somebody because you clicked so well. It’s a great movie.

  15. LW, the way you express yourself makes me think you are articulate, sensible, and self-aware. That is 90% of finding and maintaining a relationship right there. The other 10% is lots of trial and error.

    YMMV, but this is what worked for me in learning to flirt with women without getting flustered or feeling like a creeper.

    Practice flirting with straight female friends:
    Give your friends complements in the moment as you are moved to. Don’t overthink it, toss them off, and move on.
    Start off with non-physical complements.
    “…and then he said ‘Not here you won’t!’ *everyone laughs* Kim, you have the best laugh!”
    “I would have been flat on my face right there. You’re so graceful.”

    When that feels natural move to non-sexual physical complements. Again as you notice them in the moment.
    “I love the way you put that outfit together, you look beautiful.”

    When that is comfortable add casual physical contact to your complements.
    *hug* “You’re glowing tonight. It’s so good to see you!”

    When I do this women I genuinely like and care for, but don’t have pantsfeelings for it’s fun and sweet and happy. There’s no awkwardness of wondering if sex will happen because I’m enjoying time with a friend and not looking for romance.

    Eye contact and smile.
    (If at any point during the flirtation she seems a little uncomfortable or confused, pull the conversation back to neutral for a minute then excuse yourself and walk away)

    As a woman who is now comfortable with showing love to other women, when you meet a woman who makes you tingle, as you are talking with her, if you feel moved to give her a complement, make eye contact and smile when you do it. Then move on with the conversation.
    As it feels natural, do it again. Watch her reaction, does she blush, talk faster, start holding eye contact with you, move closer to you, touch you, or otherwise indicate interest.
    Since you’ve done this with women who don’t want to sleep with you, you know what that looks like.
    Is this different? Yes. Keep talking (and listening), is she still showing interest? Ask her out. Right then.
    If she does not have pantsfeelings she will be flattered, but say no. Congratulations, you have a friend.
    If she also has pantsfeelings she will say yes. Congratulations, you have a date.

    Again, everyone has different personalities. This is what worked for me.

    1. I love this. Straightforward, 100% non-creepy, and likely to result in flattered and happy friends who feel appreciated and loved even if it doesn’t result in dates. That’s all win right there.

      1. Articulate, sensible, and self-aware.
        Or uses their words, has reasonable expectations, and is dealing with their shit, if you like that better.

        However it’s phrased, I think that’s the basic skill-set for being a good relationship partner.

  16. Here’s a romantic story. Mine.

    There was a first date, in a bar, after some OKCupid emailing. The conversation was easy and fun, the man was beardy & gorgeous and had eyes with smiles in them and a giant brain. There was a brief kiss – just a quick “Hey, this is a DATE date” and a promise to do this again.

    There were some text messages. I watched his web series. He found my blog. We were relieved to find each other good at making the stuff we liked making.

    There was a second date, where we had dinner and talking and then I invited him home with me so that we could talk more. And we sat on my futon for hours and told true stories. And then, exhausted, we went to bed, and we didn’t talk for a while, but soon enough, in the dark, and then again in the morning after some fitful sleep, there were more stories. And we made breakfast and told more stories. And he went home about three in the afternoon. And then he called me that night and we stayed up way too late on the phone, even though we were going to see each other in a week. Romance is/was:

    Cherry pie
    Twin Peaks
    Step throat
    Introducing each other to the people we love best
    Introducing each other to the books we love best
    Hurricane Sandy
    Being able to talk about & deal with money
    Singing Les Mis songs as if they are country music
    Staying up way past our bedtime because we aren’t done talking to each other
    Fixing the other person’s plate or coffee the way you know they like it
    Meals cooked, eaten, cleaned up after
    Always intending to watch a movie or a show together but getting distracted and talking instead
    Singing “Jackson” at Rory Lake’s Karaoke Dreams
    Maple syrup breath at Christmas
    When the other person needs to play a song over and over and over again for hours
    When he comes to see my students’ work with me when they are in film festivals
    When he comes to see my work, no question, no argument, and loves it & supports it
    When he talks to me about his ideas and trusts me as a collaborator
    Feeling at home and loved in my fat body
    Loving and feeling at home with his fat body
    Good manners, consideration, kindness, trust
    Making the day we met into a real holiday we celebrate in a big, effusive way
    “Today was a good day”
    Never, ever being bored

    We were both sick most of last week and I didn’t see him for several days, but on Sunday I brought tamales and there we were, him with bronchitis, me with an infected ear and 100 red, angry, itchy disgusting chigger bites all over my legs and feet, sitting across a table and smiling at each other and telling stories, always stories. Romance was in how his hair stuck up and how good it felt when we hugged after so many days apart and in signing our lease and dropping it off and talking about paint colors and planning a life, a shared life. And I hope we will never be done talking to each other.

  17. This is such a kind answer to a great question, elodie, and my favorite part is this:

    I know the romance in my husband noticing that I am sad and offering to take me to the hardware store. “Would you like to look at the paint chip displays? You love looking at the paint chips.”

    I miss having this kind of partner! The most romantic moment in my life was when my then-boyfriend drove me halfway across the city to see a dead mole that he had found on the sidewalk earlier that day. This clearly was a grand romantic gesture that could have gone very, very wrong, but I thought it was wonderful. It was the perfect mix of “Hey, I totally get you” and “I’m cool doing weird shit with you that makes you happy!”

  18. I want to share a really short one. Romance in my relationship is me and him beatboxing awkwardly together in the car. I can’t bb, he can:P Sometimes just him when i ask him to throw together something random with a theme… like when he sings about cats. it’s adorable and i love it :3

    sometimes at home he just wanders around beatboxing and it’s such nice background music :3

    I really like this post and thinking about this because lately I’ve been pooped from work and uni and hormonal fluctuations and yanno, just pooped, and that makes things drone and blur together. This is smushy and nice though.

  19. I’ve been married now for almost 7 yrs. Ironically, it’s the fact that I have someone I’m happy with that makes it so hard for me to give advice to single people. It’s been long enough that I forget how lost and scared and insecure I was before I found the right guy. Being confident now is easy, I married my best friend, but I hated being single and I had such horrible taste in relationships that I still have no idea how I was fortunate enough to find… and not ruin… the best relationship I’ve ever known.

    In my case finding romance was b/c I wasn’t looking for it. I had what I thought I wanted, I had a boyfriend, an okay job, and I made friends with a guy at work. I loved to flirt, yet of all the guys I knew, this guy seemed immune. He wasn’t flirty, he was just genuinely nice. We talked about things, and he actually listened.
    It’s a much longer road to go from friendship to dating… But if your not sure how openly out you can be with a person (if you don’t know if they’re gay) or in my case, when I wasn’t even available to date… It’s a safer place to start. You find someone who listens, who is fun to be with, who shares interests, and you give the relationship space to grow. Maybe you only find a friend… Maybe you find a friend who also rocks your socks in bed… Either way it’s a win win.

  20. I’m feeling a bit bad because I’m someone who’s felt Exactly like this in the past (successful history with dudes, a desire for the same with women, very little idea of how to best go about it outside of online dating where it’s normal to just state things upfront) and has since had a lovely set of relationships and encounters that would make wonderful CommentStories that I just don’t have the skill to tell. Phooey. It is out there though, LW, I promise.

    I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to have spaces where being queer is normal and expected. It doesn’t have to be an organised group, although those are great. It could just be a loose friendship group with a high enough percentage of non cis-straight peeps that no one is surprised or offended by the idea.

    And you’re right, Magic Loveification doesn’t fix anything, fade to soft focus and end scene. My girlfriend and I were initially a one night stand with possibilities for Who Knows, but I got a few clues off her at the beginning that made me think we weren’t suited to being anything more than casual (which was fine). And yet we stayed up all night talking and making each other laugh and telling each other stories about who we were today and how we’d got there, and marvelling at how we’d had such different lives and somehow arrived in such similar places, with such recognisably familiar convictions and priorities. And then we did it the next time, and the next. The sympathetic understanding between us became clearer and clearer every time we met. Hmm.

    She made my heart go pitter pat whenever we caught each others’ eyes, and got my brain whirring whenever we talked about anything substantial (and oh, what a pleasure to talk with someone who doesn’t necessarily share your views, but listens with genuine interest and respect), and as for the sex, I don’t even have words – what it was like to finally be with someone with such intense mutual chemistry plus Everything Else. And romance for us was comparing All The Hot Sauces, and cooking each other unfamiliar delicious food from our respective cultures, and introducing each other to the people and hobbies and events and films we love, one by one, and giving each other ridiculous little puzzles and riddles. And the ways our bodies naturally tangled themselves up into inexplicably comfortable messes, and that time she met me at the station and when we hugged I realised I Did Not want to let go and that my heart had been thoroughly touched by her despite expectations to the contrary. And getting night buses together, and yes, sharing stories, over and over, late into the night when we should have been asleep and then all the rest of the time too.

    It wasn’t hard work, or anything like that. It felt effortless and pleasurable in a way I’d never experienced before. But… it was still an active Thing that we both chose and made happen together. It wasn’t inevitable, it only ever feels that way in cumulative retrospect, not for the Now parts when you’re in them.

    I think when you have both that affection for and understanding of someone, romance becomes a more understandable concept than it is when you’re just trying to think ‘Romance, how does I?’ in the abstract. I’m starting to think that maybe like attraction is a thing that only exists between people, not a property that someone can have or not have in different levels for you to compare yourself against, ‘romance’ too can only ever be contextual. So thank you Elodie for the insights.

  21. I kind of can’t believe that Joachel was name-checked as an example of romance. I am so flattered, Elodie. Awkwardeers, gather around and I will tell you my romance story.

    Joe and I had had the kind of magical summer of magic and sexnesting and delight that tends to be either be the start of a beautiful relationship OR the start of a year of soul-sucking Darth Vadarism and despair. The first weekend I went to visit him after Joe moved away, I was so nervous that everything would be different and that this would be the beginning of the dark descent into Darth Vadarism that my (usually manageable) Crohn’s flared up. I was stuck in Joe’s (tiny, student, ensuite, AMAZINGLY AMPLIFYING) bathroom, pooping for what felt like hours, sort of gently sobbing at the pain and humiliation. After about half an hour, when it became obvious I wasn’t going to be going anywhere soon, Joe propped his laptop on the sink, sat in the shower and put some Glee on.

    Romance, for me, was enduring bottom smells and mild sobbing and indignity to watch a terrible TV show with me, because that was the only thing he could think of to do to comfort me.

    Reader, I married him. Or at least, I will do this weekend.

    LW, the one thing I’d add is that lot of the way we think of ‘romance’ from a woman’s perspective is that romance isn’t something you DO so much as something that happens to you. Women in romance stories are inert at best and actively resistant at worst. This is bad news if you are a non-straight ladyperson because you have no role models for romancing that don’t involve you sort of standing around awkwardly, being surprised while menpeople DO things.

    1. What a beautiful story! That’s not romance, that’s love, which is so much better.

  22. “Would you like to look at the paint chip displays? You love looking at the paint chips.”

    THIS. My ex-husband, who while overall was pretty not-ok*, still had some wonderful moments. Once I was talking on the phone to a friend about a dinner party I had the night before. I mentioned that the brand/flavor of croutons I served with the salad were not my preferred brand/flavor, but the grocery store had been out of my preference. I came home from work the next day to find my preferred croutons on the counter.

    This is romance.

  23. LW here!

    Elodie thank you so much! This was incredibly helpful and just all around wonderful. I had forgotten that I had sent this question in. Then yesterday I decided to read CA in bed before getting up. My reaction to the thread went something like this.

    Hey a new CA post. Cool.
    Huh this is a question that I have also.
    This LW sounds creepily like me. We should be friends.
    Wait this is my letter.

    Finally, I read the actual post, which I’ll do again, and was blown away. Yes, as you said carbonatedwit, this is definitely one where I have the answer inside of me. Its so nice to have help digging it out, though, especially as lately things have felt even more complicated romance wise with my gender feeling queerer and my feelings for boys being maybe not so straightforward. Just. Gah. You said things so simply but truly that even some one who over thinks as much as I do can’t make it too complicated. Showing people I care? I can do that.

    Elodie, you said you were a bit concerned in your letter about me being “violent towards myself.” First off, that wasn’t a reference to cutting/self mutilation, but just self hatred. Its not fun at all. However, I have a therapist who I love and I’m slowly working on meeting other queer people.

    The part in your letter about romancing yourself was timely also because I’ve decided to work on self partnering for awhile. I’m still allowed to hang out with people I like, have sex, even have various flavors of relationships (I’m poly). I’ve vowed for the next couple months to not seek out a primary/life patner/anchor/serious relationship and instead romance myself. The last few months of muddling have shown me that alot of the “omg romance should be all the magic” feelings come from me wanting someone to swoop in, be my everything, fix my life, make me happy, etc. So I’m working on being able to make myself happy in hopes that will help some of the “omg want magic” voices to quiet down.

    So far self partnering involves bathing, getting really into writing as a contemplative practice, running, rock climbing, wearing a ring my Nana gave me on my right ring finger, playing with my gender presentation, managing my time so I’m neither overworking nor procrastinating constantly, asking a sex partner if he would leave so I could journal, and making sure I eat healthily/regularly. It also involves lots of listening to myself without bringing potential partner or current partner or ex or made up partner into the conversation. It involves feeling my feelings, listening to my opinions, taking responsibility for my needs/wants, and figuring out what I value and how I want to live out those values. It is indeed dirtyscaryradical.

    That is my love story for the moment.

    Thank you Elodie, again. And thank you everyone. I know this is a community and we write comments for one another and ourselves and the people who will read this in a few months. Keeping that spirit in mind, though, I still yesterday was walking around thinking “AHHHHH the Awkward Army wrote things for me! For me!” and grinning my ass off. I love you guys.

    1. gallant_queer, you are brilliant and awesome! You deserve *all* the awkward love!

      Also, romancing yourself is a great and wonderful idea. I just want to point out that it is an okay thing to want a primary partner. Not to fix your life and change your world and be all magic and all that, but still — it’s okay to want one.

      Loving yourself, and loving all over yourself, is fantastic and hard and worth it. Just don’t think it’s not working or something if you still find yourself wanting to pair bond or wanting someone shiny to come home to, okay? You don’t have to do anything about it right now, you can be like “oh hey, yeah, I want that someday.”

      Or not! You might be like “actually I don’t want!” That’s totally great too.

      It’s just really hard to fall into the trap of “I AM A STRONG BADASS BITCHIN WOMAN AND I CAN MAKE MY OWN MAGIC DON’T NEED NO PAIR BOND BUT MY CAT RAAAAAR” being so loud it’s hard to hear “actually…. it might be nice….”

    2. Yay, happiness! This is lovely.

      We all have times we want to be swept off our feet by someone bringing the magic, as you so eloquently put it. For me, feeling that way is a sign that I’m low on either (or more probably both) 1) regular happymaking things, like friends I see frequently enough that we’re not always playing catch up and a job and living situation that don’t suck, etc, and 2) some excitement or at least prospects thereof, whether that be the sexy kind or the travel kind or the putting my writing out there kind or anything else. YMMV but I thought it was worth mentioning. I think your plans are all wonderful.

    3. You sound great, and I totally support your radical self-partnering!

      There’s just one thought I had reading the thread that I don’t think anyone else has mentioned — when you do want to meet more people, for friends or dating or whatever, OKCupid is surprisingly good for having a safe queer identity online, because there’s a “don’t show me to straight people” option during account setup. The categories are gender-binary, but a lot of us manage to work around that (approximation, putting notes in profiles, etc.).

  24. “Do you have recommendations for art that depict romance in a more nuanced and awesome way?”

    “Will You Still Love Me if I Wet the Bed?” is a book I think depicts all the little nice things about being in a romantic relationship with someone. It’s a het relationship, but it’s a cute comic book and isn’t at all grand gestures or billion-dollar fairytale weddings:

  25. When I was 15 and starting to romance girls, there was a lesbian publishing house called Naiad press that did lesbian romances, and almost nothing else. You can still find some of them in used book stores, if you’re interested. Understand that these are the lesbian equivalent of Harlequins, though. They don’t necessarily reflect the real world.

    There are — or were, I understand the young queer women are not coming from the background anymore — definitely some things that are dyke-community-specific romance markers that communicate less to straight guys. Movie night at someone’s house, with a double feature of lesbian movies (Go Fish, The Incredible True Adventures of Two Girls In Love, Claire of the Moon and a few others were the standard fare when I was young). Finding silly little things to give as gift that had discretely queer symbolism, because more people were in the closet — non-Pride rainbows, lambdas, black triangles. Keeping your nails very short and smooth, just in case. (Long nails, unless you were obviously going for High Femme, and they were shaped and manicured, was a sign of Not Interested In Dating.) Sneaky things like leaving notes where only they would find them, signed with something other than your name but that makes your identity very clear. If one or both of you has dogs, walking the dogs in the park together as a romantic date. Music by lesbians (our standards were Indigo Girls and Melissa Etheridge, although those were certainly not the only ones). Things that built on the bond of being outsiders, and having a little secret between just the two of you. (Really, a lot of these things are based around discretion, not just because a lot of people weren’t out, but even if they were, being very obvious could be quite dangerous.)

  26. Thanks so much, Elodie, for answering this post, and to the Awkward Army for more great suggestions! It’s great to see posts from other bi women coming out after their teens. I was 21 when I came out, and before that didn’t have a single inkling that I have FULL BLOWN PANTSFEELINGS for a significant subset of women. I had to meet the right girl, who I just couldn’t ignore, to face up to my emotions. I’m about to move to a new city now, a year and a half later, and I’m so glad to have this advice for meeting women.

  27. I too struggle with Notions Of Romance as opposed to the real thing. I have been taken in by romance movies and jewelry commercials, and sometimes I wish for Grand Romantic Gestures (jewelry optional, no diamonds thank you.)

    But here is my real life romance, as illustrated with current boyfriend.

    When I’m having a bad day at work, sometimes he shows up with Twix bars because they’re my favorite.

    When I decided I really, really needed to have pet rats but had no room for them, he basically dragged me to the pet store to buy them and then let me keep them in his house.

    We never, ever get bored of talking.

    When I got overwhelmed once at a party (socially awkward introvert, yay) and had to leave the room, he followed me outside and asked me if I was okay and if he could do anything.

    The other night when I decided I ABSOLUTELY NEEDED to do some writing, we spent some comfortable time in bed, me writing and him playing Robot Unicorn Attack. It was great.

    Sometimes, sure, he drives me crazy. Sometimes I have to be like “Okay, this is a thing I need from you” And to his credit, he steps up and does to the best of his ability to give me the thing(s) I feel I need in a relationship. He knows me. He gets me. I don’t have to hide things or feel ashamed of things about me or things that I love.

    He’s not perfect, but… he’s a good guy.

  28. This whole page makes me very, very happy. I can bookmark this page and come back to it any time I’m sad or cranky or having a bad day, and reading stories about happy people will help me cheer up. (We will leave aside the matter of the times we all think, I’m cranky, raaaar, look at those happy people, I hate them. Because we all have those times.)

    Thanks, Awkward Army, for your collective wisdom and general awesomeness.

  29. Romance, to me, is first and foremost built on honesty, and awkward conversations, and Saying the Things with your Words because goodness knows I can’t read minds and barely take hints on a good day. It grows with touching (when I remember to take down my giant Personal Bubble) and listening, and cannot grow without taking me seriously and listening to my words when I say something. Looking at me, smiling at me, remembering things about me, gifts that say “I remember this specific thing about YOU” or even just “I was not with you but I thought of you”…all this stuff.

    I ❤ that you are romancing yourself first.

  30. Omigod, Elodie.

    You love paint chips? I love paint chips! I don’t know anyone else who loves paint chips!

  31. I would have said that I am terrible with romance and flirting, but I suddenly seem to be doing it without knowing how. Certain Person came to visit me recently and I was so happy and relieved to see him that I actually acted happy and relieved to see him. (Showing feelings is not my superpower.) This seemed to inform him of my interest much more than me trying to tell him that I like him.

    Some things I think of when I think of him:
    making fun of Led Zeppelin lyrics
    realizing that he gets nervous around ME
    the first time I got really drunk, he sat next to me and told me I was going to be ok
    the stupid hat he wears every single day
    he never makes me talk if I’m not ready to

    So things are moving slowly but they are moving and that makes me very happy. I don’t think we flirt, really, we just hang out. Anywho, best of luck to LW!

  32. Gallant Girl, from reading your letter and your follow up comment, my heart is just sending out so much love to you! I am so glad to hear you are working on being romantic with yourself, and I’m wishing you a lot of luck on the journey to self-love. You’ve got a big heart and you deserve wonderful, beautiful things. Jedi hugs!

    I recently had my wisdom teeth out, and I had the surgery in my parents’ town so I could stay with them while I recovered. On the day of my surgery, my boyfriend drove 100 miles to see me that night even though I was bleeding, puffy-faced, and spent most of his visit sleeping. He changed my ice packs in the middle of the night and made me smoothies and slept on the floor of my room so I wasn’t alone. Him making that trip was definitely romance.

    Romance for us is long hours on the highway because we live in different cities. It’s that itching I get in my fingers when I’m only twenty miles away, knowing I’ll get to hold him soon. It’s the first hug when we haven’t seen each other in days, all warm and comforting. It’s how soundly I sleep in bed when he’s right there next to me, in spite of the fact that his bed is too small and the mattress is too sunken in and he snores so loud. It’s how when he tells me why he loves me, “you’re so smart” is always on the list. It’s how he holds me and tells me to take deep breaths when I’m having an anxiety attack. It’s how we’re not shy about kissing in public, showing the whole world how we found each other even though we’re fat and not pretty so we were told all our lives we didn’t deserve this. It’s two spoons in one bowl of ice cream. It’s how sometimes we look at each other and we just break into spontaneous smiles because we love each other so much and are so, so lucky to have this beautiful and precious thing.

Comments are closed.