In a world filled with basketball court-sized billboards that you can’t miss even if you wanted to, sixty second commercials of how to ‘surprise’ your love with a Tiffany & Co. ring, and radio waves pumping sweet melodies that make you nostalgic; Valentine’s day is not a holiday but a day to look forward to and never forget. From bright red roses, chocolates, mixed tapes with your favorite songs declaring your undying love to your partner and dinner reservations at a top notch restaurant, the do’s and don’ts of the dating game are last on the list. So let’s get down to bottom of the rabbit hole: Have you ever wondered who should take the initiative and ask for the date?
Traditionally, it’s the man that asks the woman for a date, dinner, maybe a movie etc. If a woman asks the man, she’s belittled and called ‘desperate’ or ‘easy’. You see, there are certain traditions, expectations or rules that there are when dating. Allegedly, one must follow them in order to have a prosperous relationship. But in the queer world, that doesn’t apply to us, right? At least, that’s what the world around us believes.
When I was growing up my parents would share pointers with my brother and I about our roles when dating, or how we should act when we liked someone. My brother was told that he should respect and protect a girl at all times–that he was in charge and he was supposed to pay every time they went out; opening doors and getting flowers is expected. Also, that he shouldn’t pay attention to girls that were ‘encimosas’ or easy, like those that called the house, because ‘good’ girls don’t throw themselves at boys. With me, it was the opposite. I was expected to be a lady, not show emotion if I liked a boy and play hard to get, because the boys would appreciate you more. These rules of engagement never made sense to me, specially since my dad also would tell us: “If you ever fall in love, only give half of your heart, because if they hurt you…it won’t hurt as much, and you’ll have the other half to help you get through the pain”. As my brother and I grew up, we followed those traditions in small doses, but those rules stopped with the evolution of women in the world and with queers coming out with flying colors.
When I first started dating girls, I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t know what was expected. Queers don’t have mentors telling you the do’s and don’t, we have to figure it out or learn from others experiences. Sometimes, I think it’d be nice to have a “Do’s & Don’ts for Queer Dummies”, this way we would minimize whatever doubt, expectation, hearsay and anxiety can take over our mind and body and also leave our non-gay friends from trying to place you in a box. I recall when several friends would find out that I liked a girl, they easily would assume I was going to take the initiative and ask for the date. When I asked them why the assumption, they replied with: “well, you’re like the boy right? You are the more masculine one, so you should ask her out”. I simply laughed, for it reminded me of my parents guidelines.
Over the years we’ve seen a significant growth of women that have established their own law firms, worked in the blue collar field, and established positions as judges and political leaders. The men’s side of the world has fallen into its own shift, as more men are the stay at home spouse: cook, clean, take care of the house chores and even take care of the kids. Does this signify and end of traditional values and roles? Actions speak for themselves, yet what we’ve fallen into is merely a cycle of equality…something that the gay community has been fighting for years.
Because of the changes in the world, our growth as a gay community and our comfort zones, I took the initiative and asked several femmes on the topic of expectations when dating and how they viewed themselves or wanted from their partner. A small group replied with dating butch women for a reason, and that’s because they took more of the action to set the date, pick up, pay and simply wanted to feel protected. However, it came as a shocking that the majority of the femmes replied with an “I can do it all” attitude; that it didn’t matter who took the initiative because they see it as a 50/50 effort, their concerns were respect and equality. When I asked the butch/studs about their stance in all this, a couple of them as it was expected, replied with a Howard Hughes attitude and said that they took the commanding role and that they didn’t need the femmes to do anything. But, then a couple others said that it didn’t matter, they didn’t have expectations because “chivalry, isn’t dead and you do certain things out of respect for the other woman, but that it should go both ways; even though the pressure is mostly on the butch” or “being old-fashion” makes you want to do certain things but if the femme wanted to pay for things, then it was welcomed. Then there was another group that didn’t like to be put in a box of butch/stud or femme. Several mentioned that “being a butch/stud or the more masculine didn’t mean you should take a man’s role”, that “many (not all) femmes feel as if something is owed to them” and therefore don’t take the initiative. When I asked all groups where did they think these ‘expectations’ came from, they all said that: culture, family, society and media have a huge impact. One femme in particular mentioned that she “didn’t have expectations when she came out and maybe it was the butch women perpetuating the behavior”. A couple others went as deep as saying that the queer community is “mimicking’ the hetero world because ‘only in gender roles the community finds normalcy”. As I pondered on the answers and listened to the passion behind each one, I realized that I had opened Pandora’s box. What I thought was suppose to be a simple Q&A, became a tidal wave of answers in which many are afraid to surf.
To imagine that the queer community is mimicking the hetero world is ridiculous, right? Why would the butch women need to look or act a certain way to show society that they are the dominant being or providers? Or why would the femmes need to play the delicate role with a butch. Last time I checked, butch women need to feel protected too and there are a lot of Alpha-femmes that beg to differ; many of which are the providers in their ‘butch-femme’ relationships. To say that in order to find balance and equality one needs to be more masculine or feminine, is preposterous. Last time I checked, 60% of all personal wealth and 51% of all stock ownership in the U.S is held and controlled by women, that should tell you that regardless of what box you fall under or identify as, this collective is quite a force. What if, the world was reversed and instead of having a ‘hetero’ world, we had a ‘homo’ world. Visualize that for 5 seconds. What would we wear, look, act and sound like? Imagine if the non-gays mimicked us. Wow, I just visualized a lot of colors and pussy-cats. Ha! – I guess, we will never know. But the point here is that it doesn’t matter what you look like, as long as you find equality in your own disparities.
I much rather leave that pending battle on Mt. Olympus for another day. In the mean time, us mortals have to accept the gifts that the gods have given us. Instead of us having ‘rules & regulations’ or ‘expectations’ of what each ‘role’ must do. Shouldn’t we be using our human instincts to simply show our generosity and love at any given time? Regardless, of what we’ve been instilled since childhood through family, culture or society. We are the ones that will be educating the baby-queers in how to react to their feelings towards someone. Think about it, as queers we are starting our own families, cultures and societies – what we do today- will reflect in our youth, years from now. Whether is a simple date that we have in mind with someone or curious about what it’ll turn out to be with that person. So, DO tell the person you have a crush on what your views are, – DON’T assume that because she is the more dominant one, that they’ll always pay or pick you up – DO maintain honesty about what you want, DON’T try to change a person – DO step out of your comfort zone – DON’T give half of your heart like my Dad told me – and DO love genuinely.
Communication is key to a prosperous beginning and assumptions will be the decay of the relationship. In respect you will find equality, if not, I guess I better get to writing the “Do’s and Don’ts for Queer Dummies”.
Till next time!