The Art of Direct Obfuscation: A Lesbian Linguistics Course for Valentine’s Day


Had we not had an ocean between us, I’m sure this would have been my first awkward Valentine to my wife almost 5 years ago.

We met online, and I confess that I forcibly stopped myself from buying the Goonies movie 1 day after chatting with her and seeing she liked Goonies on her profile. Yeah. Literally had this conversation with myself:

“OMG! You were just perusing that Goonies movie weren’t you?? Don’t do that!!!
You are so creepy! She will totally have nothing to do with you ever! I don’t even want to have anything to do with you ever, and I’m your brain!
I’m going to aisle #5 with the frozen pizzas while you collect yourself.
You are so weird. ”

I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but somewhere in the days of courtship, we completely missed the mark when it came to direct communication, and opted for the most indirect, dodge and weave approach. Between inappropriate humor and defensive banter, we managed to suss out we were actually flirting.

Flirtation is an art form that really needs to be recognized as another language entirely. It involves mostly innuendo, and hints of subtlety, wrapped around a complicated dance pattern of non verbal cues that would make an Arthur Murray dance alumni dizzy, and usually reeking of liquid courage.

Lesbian flirtation can be so subtle; it doesn’t even register on the love machine Richter scale. I’ve known women living together for 10 years who didn’t even know they were in a committed relationship with each other, but just liked the way the other one folded towels and made the morning coffee. (Just a hint, but if you find yourself on a Friday night, hovering over the merits of cat toys and you don’t own a cat but a girl you see regularly has one, you my friend, are in a relationship.)

There is a supreme amount of deft and cunning that goes into trying to find out some of the obvious questions before flirting can ensue:

1.Is she gay? That’s the million dollar question. If she isn’t a lesbian, then clearly you risk at the very least, painful awkwardness, and at the most, an annoying straight girl who now knows you think she’s hot and uses this to her every advantage parading in front of you in her undies and trotting you out in front of her boyfriend like her latest Coach bag.

2.Is she seeing anyone? Again, this involves lots of undercover subterfuge and clandestine meetings with all of your friends, her friends (which have some connection to your friends) her dog groomer, personal trainer who jogs on the same trails, and barista at her favorite coffee place, who is not going to give up that information easily or for free btw, because let’s face it, life didn’t turn out for this philosophy major quite the way she intended it to, and she is still harboring a sour feeling for that chemist who dumped her for the cute understudy in “Mama Mia” 4 months ago.

And just to make it more interesting; in today’s colorful wheel of Relationship Status the simple answer of “yes” or “no” is just too vanilla and traditional. These days, there is an entire spectrum of status that further convolutes the waters. Trying to pin down relationship status is more slippery than nailing Jell-O to the wall, and generally as productive.

“Are Tina and Shayla still together?”

“I don’t think so, although they did move in together, rescued three cats and have matching luggage tags. Don’t assume. It’s complicated.”

“Yeah, I don’t want to make that mistake again.”

Lesbians, I have learned, don’t “break up”. They have “Transitions”. I’ve been caught in the crossfire of many a transition and barely escaped with my skin intact.

3.What are her “issues”? This is a classic defensive fortress that is fortified with all the essential building blocks of posturing and spackled with the mortar of the past five failed relationships. Basically, this is akin to saying:
“Hey, I kind of think you are cute, but I won’t be able to take it to the next level until you place all your emotional baggage out here for inspection in front of me, including carry ons, and your bitter tears in no more than 3 oz. containers clearly marked.”

Also, the term “issues” is so vague, and penalties can be fierce. Points can be deducted from a Lesbian membership card for infractions such as being married to a man prior(mandatory review of your sexual identity and a strict curfew of being seen with only lesbians and gay men for a period of six months or a gold platinum card to Home Depot is the only way to keep your membership.)

So, it was with this arsenal of crazy-making logic that I embarked on the journey of online dating and jumped head long into very inappropriate remarks, pick up lines and generally making an ass out of myself in order to find True Love. I didn’t really have any plans to be serious in the beginning. I just wanted to see who was out there. There was a whole big wide world of Lesbians out there: The world was my oyster! 😉

When I came across my True Love’s profile, I was struck by her dynamic smile, sporty background, and her grammatically correct, although politically askew profile. She was witty and funny and referenced 80’s music. By the 5th or 6th message back and forth, I was already off-handedly making references to “not wanting to rush things too much, but I have already hired the caterer and booked the band, and would you prefer steak and broccoli or a Smoked Salmon?” Yes, this is my cool casual demeanor for picking up women. (Having barely any experience doing so whatsoever)

And this is where the magic happened Ladies and Gentlemen, Femmes and Butches, Girls and Bois: She didn’t miss a beat, but stayed right there with me.

“Steak and broccoli of course! We wouldn’t want to be over charged by the Smoked Salmon.”

Every way I zigged, she zagged. She followed my lead and kept me on my toes. After our first real phone conversation, where I swear I used pre-written conversation cards so I would have something to say, we talked for 3 hours and I heard her laugh; a loud and wonderful and genuine belly laugh. She was the real deal, and I fell head over heels for her.

We laugh about our awkward communications, mostly, and the fact that there hasn’t been a playbook written for Lesbian Dating that covers who asks who to begin a monogamous relationship, allows for a wide berth of foibles and mishaps.

I have learned that as women, we were taught from a young age never to say what we needed directly, or we risked being labeled “Aggressive” or “Bitchy”. As lesbians who were still not in touch with our own sexuality, we risked being labeled as too masculine or a “Bull Dyke” for merely speaking directly. It has taken me a lifetime to UN-do the unhealthy patterns of miscommunication, direct obfuscation, and circular reasoning in order to say things like: “I Love you” “I would really like to do this, not that…” and above all, “I’m sorry. That was un-called for.”

This Valentine’s Day I am celebrating with my wife, who joins me in celebrating our quirky nerdy awkwardness, while also working on the real stuff of Communication. I Love You Darling. You are the Best!

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