Besides a drunken makeout with one of my close friends upon my arrival in New York, I had never made a move on a girl. Then I met a woman on OkCupid — and this tattooed, dyed-hair, horror-movie-loving woman stole my heart. We went on three dates before I confessed to her that dating women was new to me. That’s when she quietly took a few steps back. I didn’t see her for three months. I fumbled through a few experiences with women after that, more like baby steps than anything else.
Then I met a man who convinced me that perhaps my year of yes could have multiple meanings. After years of casual dating, this guy made me consider saying yes to monogamy.
But in three months, we hit a wall. We were aware of our vast differences — his career necessitated that he live in New York indefinitely. I knew, whether it was this year or three years from now, that I would return to the West Coast. He was traditional and wanted to be in a committed relationship, while I wasn’t sure I was meant for monogamy.
I cared for him, but I worried that a part of me was trying to be in a relationship because it was expected of me. Nearly every close friend of mine was married, engaged or living with their partner. As much as friends and family supported me pursuing my career, everyone wanted to know when I would settle down. Then there was the lingering question that worried him more than it worried me: “Are you done dating women?”
I wasn’t done dating women in the same way I wasn’t done dating men. My sexuality is not a phase. For me, the gender of the person is as important as their eye color — a fact of who they are, not the attribute that makes me choose to date them. But he saw it differently. We were at an impasse, and I hated that in order for us to stay together, I would be the one who had to change. So we broke up.
Around the same time I landed my dream publishing job and decided to stay in New York. Starting in a new office afforded me the opportunity to be open about myself from the start, and I told my co-workers I identified as queer. A few weeks later, I attended the Lambda Literary Awards to accompany an author I worked with who was nominated for Best Bisexual Fiction. My OkCupid lady came with me to the ceremony and after-party. We drunkenly kissed at the end of the night, labeling ourselves “friends who sometimes make out.” It wasn’t enough for me, but I took it anyway. When you want someone, you’ll take whatever scraps they offer you.
This pattern marked my summer with her, with other lovers peppered in, a few men and one other woman. When she and I went on one of the best dates I’ve ever had — outdoor movie night, dancing until the early morning at the queer ladies’ night at a Williamsburg bar — she told me something that made me believe the universe was playing a cruel joke on me: She was moving to Oakland in the fall. Eight months earlier, this had been my plan, and now she was going, and I was staying put.
My year of yes has been over for three months, but I’m still trying to live as authentically as possible. I certainly don’t have all the answers — far from it. It’s still a struggle to explain to people that not only am I queer (I prefer this term over “bisexual” as that feels too reductive), but I also prefer my relationships to be open. For now, I’m more excited by fluidity and change than commitment. And just because I’d like to explore non-monogamy now doesn’t mean someday I won’t choose monogamy. If I date a woman now, I might date a man later — or vise versa.
One thing I know for sure is that my sexual identity is as much a part of who I am as any other aspect of my identity — writer, feminist, etc. — and I’m done making excuses for it.