The lesbian dating scene in Nashville can be described in sweeping generalizations of Carrie Bradshaw-esque proportions. The pathetic size and homogeneity of the community alone allow for fairly accurate stereotyping and justified skepticism about the prospect of finding love. As we peruse the lone rack of seemingly distasteful choices available, it can be easy to conclude that we won't find that perfect fit. So, as I sit in front of an older-model MacBook, sipping wine and smoking a cigarette in my Upper-East Nashville apartment, I can't help but wonder: When it comes to dating in Nashville, is an eligible lesbian as elusive as an affordable pair of Imogene + Willie jeans?
I suppose "eligible" must be defined in lesbian terms: The first standard, across the gay board, is the absence of romantic history with any of our own exes or good friends. Girlfriends, like jeans, should not come secondhand (unless they are vintage, and there are rules about how soon is too soon). My personal list of desirable attributes, and this obviously varies with particular tastes and sizes, includes a few other requirements (i.e., smart, talented, well-read, interested in things other than sports and drinking, funny, beautiful, no baseball caps or board shorts, etc.) If you are lucky enough to find someone who meets the first requirement, and I can tell you this is next to impossible, she probably does not meet the other ones. The types of lesbians that we wish to date — the people we are attracted to and compatible with — are already found squarely within our own social circle ... and nowhere else. Our most suitable match, on paper (and, almost always, on OKCupid), is either our best friend (OFF LIMITS) or a good friend we've already slept with a few times and still feel guilty about giving the wrong idea.
While straight women are faced with a similar problem, I would argue that ours is much worse. Lesbians, like our straight female counterparts, tend to gravitate toward other like-minded women, forming bonds based on shared interests, hardships and social status. Straight women, however, don't expect to have emotional and often codependent relationships with all of their straight male friends. The constant "are we friends or more than friends?" questioning blurs lines and makes the rules of traditional dating, as I understand them from romantic comedies and Victorian novels, go swiftly out the window. It is often hard to know if we are even on a date or maybe just getting a bottle of wine at Rumours alone with a new friend with whom we have obvious sexual chemistry. My accuracy in guessing my date statuses has been about 50 percent. Women have weird and confusing ways of showing that they want to be close to us and, eventually, acting shocked when we muster the courage to make a move.
At this point, you may ask why I don't just head over to the local lesbian bar and check things out. I have been to these bars plenty, and as my friends can attest, these trips usually end in drunken, hysterical tears of hopelessness.
So we are left with a few options: We can move to a larger city (which many of our finest have already done), wait for someone new to come to town, or adopt a broader view of our dating pool to include (gasp!) non-lesbian women. Since I'm still here, I've attempted the two latter strategies.
My pursuit of the "new lesbian in town" angle resulted in a now-infamous encounter with a mentally unstable drifter with an affinity for the recitation of impromptu poetry in bed ("From my heart / to my lips / energy flows through my fingertips") and the sharing of all details from her traumatic sexual history after knowing me for about four hours. The string of 30-plus unacknowledged text messages that followed my run for the hills, which amounted to a very lively conversation between her two selves, served as a warning to steer clear of the new lesbian next time.
Now, as a musician and general woman about town, I have had multiple encounters with the bi-curious/ "straight" type. The results have been alternately fruitful and heartbreaking — usually both. While my friends plead with me to abandon my ways, which they view as self-destructive, I justify this behavior with the simple mantra, "It is better to have a crush on a straight girl than on no one at all." There are variations of this mantra that substitute "inadvertent one night stand" or "relationship" for "crush," depending on the circumstance. Who knows? Maybe the next chance encounter is the person with whom I will soon be sharing nauseating pet names and making hummus.
In our quest for love, at what point do our standards and fixation on identity get in the way of finding that custom fit? As women of Nashville, can we come to terms with the fact that there is more than one place to find the perfect, curve-hugging denim — just as there are multiple ways to find a mate? Maybe, once we stop worrying so much about the label and focus on making ourselves more rounded individuals, everyone will begin to look much better in whatever we happen to be wearing.