Unhinged: Coming out & dating in your 40's
Dating is difficult in any gender, sexuality, age,
place… lifetime. It’s often portrayed in shows, social media, and articles as
sexy. Liberating. The ultimate freedom to one’s sexual fantasies. I was
embarking on a path that I had always dreamed of taking, but never experienced. I secretly identified as bisexual before I had my awakening and
knew my truth: that I’m gay. Being free to date as a lesbian was a whole new
journey for me. And now a couple months later writing this article, I'm glad that I have put that journey to rest.
I was eager to come back to the states living in my truth after being abroad for sixteen years and even more excited about what that would be like for me single. I had never dated women. I had been with a few women when I was bi, but I was not romantically involved with any of them. They were bi-curious moms, friends, neighbors, ladies inside my social circle who came to my door looking for a queer experience. Women who reflecting back, I believe, always knew I was a lesbian. But at that time, we were all in roles of married mothers or in a committed relationship with men. Dating wasn’t an option. Until my life changed, and I came out.
As my daughter bluntly put it, I
was a serial monogamist who needed to understand other women before I settled
down. I was clueless. I had no idea what I liked, what my type was, if I even
had a type. What my role would be when dating another female. Would I be the
masculine or the feminine? Do I even need to choose? The only way I was going
to find answers was by dating. I was a baby lesbian amongst a pool of
experienced swimmers, and I had two choices: to sink or swim. I decided to test my survival skills at one of the east coasts most popular lesbian
Walking up to the front doors of the lesbian bar was intoxicating but also terrifying. My knees buckled as I took a step closer to the androgenous bouncer closing the space between us. I was going in. Alone. I had a team of friends messaging me, a lifeline on my phone ready with support at the ping of a text. An SOS. I knew I could back out, turn around, call an uber and flee. Come back another night and try again with a friend. A safety net. But as I heard the electric cords of the women loving women music streaming out from the entry doors, I knew I was going in. No matter what. I had a solid action plan that I rehearsed with my best friend. Walk to the bar, sit at the counter, order one drink, talk to one woman and fucking leave. Those were my ambitions for that night, and I am proud to declare I was an overachiever. After swallowing my nerves, I strutted up to a bar stool and ordered a drink. I looked way more confident than I felt. I sat down and casually pulled out my phone as I listened to the chatting and laughter of all the surrounding women celebrating a Thursday night. It was my first time in a lesbian bar and the cramped room smelled of liquor and vanilla body mist. The club was on the second floor, and it was just a matter of time before the ladies went up. I arrived early. On purpose. I wanted to be long gone before everyone got drunk and started dancing, so I came beforehand to scope out the scene.
The energy was soft and lighthearted. I took a sip of my stiff margarita; fully aware the bartender sensed my anxiety and knew I was a newcomer and poured me a double. It was the way she eyed me, a small smirk played upon her ebony lips as if to say, “don’t run off too soon. You’ll be okay.” I responded with a nod and tried to relax my shoulders as I introduced myself. Only to hear my shaky voice blurt out that I just moved to the area and, well, this is my first time in a lesbian bar. And for the big bang, I just came out. The wall came down after that. Two women standing from behind sidled up next to me in vacant seats and I felt one of their knees graze mine. The shorter woman. I knew they overheard my conversation, and I spied them whispering to each other, smiling at my tattooed sleeve through the bar mirror. Their eyes landed on my shaved hairline at the back of my neck. My spine straightened as the shorter and bolder one scooted closer to me. I never had someone flirt with me publicly before and I could be certain that they were like me, into women. But when I felt her hand lightly stroke the gypsy tattoo on my forearm, I knew her intentions. She wasn’t just into women; she was into me. I took a deep breath and spun around to face the pair. I delivered the same speech I gave the bartender, and I watched with an amused smirk as they pretended not to have eavesdropped earlier. They greeted me with excited smiles and flirty looks that took in more than just my face, which made my heart skip a beat. So this is what it feels like to go out and get picked up by the same sex.
There was something so exciting about being in the company of other queers. I wasn’t interested in going home with anyone. I had a plan, and I was sticking to it. I chatted away while I finished my drink and soon exchanged names with more ladies. I felt a kindness from everyone I met. It was a community, and I was being welcomed and celebrated for my bravery. Apparently, the movies exaggerate, and few single lesbians go to bars alone. I was proud I did it. I left without giving my number away and without asking for any in return. The night was a rush, but it wasn’t my scene. I left feeling accomplished and recharged, but also disappointed and sad. How else was I supposed to meet women if the bar and club scene weren’t for me?
That’s what led me to dating apps. When I became hinged. My straight friends all use apps, and I received a laundry list of everyone’s recommendations. Their favorites. I wasn’t too keen about going on an app and swiping right or left based on a person’s photo and what characteristics define them as a potential partner. Nor was I interested in reading about their idea of a perfect date. What I despised even more was uploading photos of myself and doing my own answers. It felt fake. Just like my old life. But I didn’t know how else to date women in my area. I tried to be as authentic and honest as I could and quickly became overwhelmed by the messages and likes pouring in every day. Apparently, being honest was a commodity and something the women who were messaging me were not used to receiving on the dating app. I was told it was a "turn on." But that comment just made me sad. I don’t enjoy dating. I kept reminding myself I’m a serial monogamist. I’m not supposed to date random women, but I had to remind myself that being a serial monogamist wasn’t healthy for me after a nineteen-year marriage to a man. And at forty-four I felt I lacked experience as a lesbian. I wanted to connect with other women and learn something about my sexuality. This was the only way I knew how to make that happen.
I talked to people for a while knowing all I could gain from this process was finding someone I could have a superficial connection with, and then meet them in person. What I wasn’t expecting was that I would be popular with younger women in their mid-twenties and thirties. This blew my mind, and I soon discovered that age doesn’t hold a stigma, which took away the fear I had of coming out in my forties and dating. If I learned anything healing from this experience, it was that. And looking back, that was one of the biggest benefits to my current state of mind. The second biggest lesson was being a lesbian in public. I was going on dates with women who were unapologetically queer. I wore cute miniskirts, rocked a smokey eye, styled my hair, met my dates at coffee shops and restaurants inside the city. It was surreal. They weren’t timid to hold my hand, sneak a kiss, or even make out on a crowded street corner. Their bravery and liberation absolutely blew me away. It ignited a desire to be with someone. To have a partner and feel comfortable being myself in public, without worrying about others judging me for showing affection to another woman. A whole new experience. Another world.
The boldest date I went out with was a mom who was a few years older than me. She was a force. She knew exactly who she was, what she wanted and wouldn’t trade her sexuality, individuality, freedom, or lifestyle for anything or anyone. It was life changing to feed off this energy to sample that independence. But, at the end of my summer dating escapade, I realized what I had always known. I’m a serial monogamist and I’m not ready to commit. I shouldn’t be dating. I wasn’t looking for a relationship with these ladies. I had already fallen in love with a woman, but we weren’t together. I knew I couldn’t fall in love with another woman after her. Not this soon. I had to get off the app.
It was a decision I battled with. But if I kept going the way I was, someone would get hurt and it would be my fault. I was fully aware I was dating to learn, grow, experience this unknown world that I’ve read about, watched movies on, but never lived. I felt tired and sad. I wish I had done this younger, because the person I am today learned so much from each woman I met, but it only made the hole inside my chest grow. I didn’t want to date. I’m a serial monogamist.
That’s when I realized I had never been alone. I’ve always been in a relationship. I needed to sit in my situation and learn how to love myself as this new version before I could be ready to accept love and reciprocate love in return. It felt scary deleting the app, becoming unhinged. I knew my ties to the women loving women community just closed. I shut the door and was now on the other side. Dating wasn’t for me, and neither was meeting a potential partner through an app or at a club. I had to trust the universe to take over. I needed to let love find me organically. If it comes, then it’s meant for me. If it doesn’t, then it’s not. And the longer I fall in love with myself, the more detach I become. The less I think about it. Because I have other abundances in my life that sustain me and I’m fully aware this is a period of self-growth and spirituality. There’s so much I’m learning about being me and the more I discover, the more I realize I’m not supposed to be in control. I might be a serial monogamist, but I’m also now a serial self-lover. And I’m content sitting in my company. No one can love me better than I can.
No going back, no regrets!