Thursday, September 23, 2010

Trapped in the Shallow End of the Dating Pool

In the gay world, the dating pool is generally pretty small, no matter where you are. In the straight world, if you see someone you're attracted to and with whom you hit it off, you have a pretty good chance that the person at least goes your way. It's estimated that 10% of the population is gay; among that 10%, I don't know what the actual breakdown is, so I'll just go 50-50 on gender. If you look at the numbers, straight people have pretty good odds (90%) and a pretty extensive dating pool. When you're gay, things quickly turn a bit incestuous on the dating front.

Nowhere else does this hold true more than in the lesbian community. It's impossible to avoid, no matter where you live or how hard you try. You end up creating a network of lesbians, and the more the web builds, the more incestuous it gets. Working in the same circles and socializing with other lesbians, you repeatedly cross paths with the same people. People you know, people who know you, people who know the people you know, and so on.

A most interesting phenomenon to me is that when lesbians break up, there is so much more of a tendency to remain friends than in any other orientation. I don't know why we do this, but it's so true. I have remained friends with nearly every girl I've dated and the ones that didn't make the cut were excluded for good reasons, such as toxic craziness.

Having people in your life that know you better than anyone else is extremely nice. I heard once that having a romantic relationship with someone is like taking a lengthy, upper division course in them; while you're together, you are majoring in that person. You spend so much time learning about this other person, you see the real person, you've seen them at their worst, shared intimate and vulnerable moments together, you know who they are and vice versa. When you break up, what are you supposed to do with all the knowledge?

I imagine any straight guy reading this is boggled right now, unable to get unstuck from the notion of being friends with exes. Uh, what? My girlfriend gets jealous if I even mention the name of an ex! That may be so, but in the lesbian world, it's more accepted than not. Now, I'm not saying there's no jealousy, or that all lesbians keep their exes around. Just that it does happen frequently enough that it's understood. Individual results may vary.

So, why does this happen?
The way I figure it, I really cared for and admired all of my exes at one point. There's usually good reason for this and it doesn't end when we figure out we don't make a good couple. When it comes to that sudden arrival of excess knowledge and experience, I want to bank it, not throw it away.

I don't have a lot of family and the family I do have, I'm not emotionally close to. For someone like me, it's a cherished thing to have someone I was myself with and who, at the very least, has a deeper understanding of who I am than other people. I'm a guarded person and I can be difficult to know. A couple of my exes expressed frustration at trying to chip through the walls. It's tough for me, so it takes work, but these girlfriends that tried diligently, they have seen things I keep hidden from others. They have seen me bursting with joy and at the depths of despair. They took care of me when I was so sick that I had no pride left. These women and I have been through some shit together. Isn't that the very definition of a friend, someone who is on your side through thick and thin?

On the other side of the coin, so as to not overly glorify ex collecting, the baggage rarely goes away entirely. Whatever resentments existed, the things you disagreed about repeatedly, the hurt feelings; these things might fade to nothing, but chances are their ghosts still linger in dark corners. While it's amazing to have someone who knows you that well, it also can be aggravating to have someone who knows you that well.  My ex friendships have generally mellowed over time and our hurts forgiven, but there are several girls out there who know exactly how to push my buttons. ;)

1 comment:

Straight guy said...

I'm a straight guy and I don't find it odd to be friends with an ex. After my divorce is final, i am hoping my ex and I can get to the point where we can continue to create new memories with our children, most of them now adults. Just because a relationship is bad doesn't mean we have to have hatred or enmity for each other.

I sent a FB msg to a gf from college who dumped me 25 years ago. I apologized for the way I treated her and she was very accepting of my apology. I have zero interest in getting back with her, for many reasons, but it was good to make amends.

Why does our culture perpetuate the idea that we must wallow in the pain of a breakup forever? Healing feels so much better than suffering.

I appreciate your perspectives in this article and others you've written. God bless!