It's an early spring evening in Manhattan. The weather is in that strange, transitory time between freezing winter and sweet, mild spring. It's the kind of weather that's hard to dress for, even for fashion-obsessed, self-proclaimed mascara lesbians like me. Keeping the jacket on leaves you stewing in hot, sticky sweat. But dare to take off the jacket, and the tiny hairs of your arms stand up in wild protest.
It's what I like to call leather weather. Leather weather can be tempestuous and uncomfortable, but it's always a powerful time of year for me. My vibe shifts, and well-needed life epiphanies follow suit.
So tonight I find myself in a leather jacket. I'm having a Friday night drink with an ex I haven't seen in a while. We're unusually quiet, silently mesmerized in the magic of being in a rooftop bar in New York City. The sky is an ethereal, almost fake-looking pink. It looks like burnt bubble gum.
"You seem different," my ex says, her dark intense eyes softening as she swigs back her martini and takes in the sight of me.
I keep my gaze forward. I'm fixated on the urban wonderland sprawling out in front me. God, I'm never leaving New York, I think to myself, tapping on my wine glass with my non-existent nails (lesbians always have short nails, for obvious reasons).
A thick silence hangs heavy in the air. I let it sit there for a moment. I'm comfortable in the awkwardness of the moment, even though I don't know why.
"I am different," I finally say.
I avert my eyes back to her. "I'm not the same girl I was when we broke up. I don't blindly trust anyone anymore."
Her dark chocolate, brooding eyes suddenly look warm, like my stare cracked her darkness and allowed in some light. I loved this woman with every fiber of my being, but she has a tough exterior. I never felt like I could freely speak my mind around her. She made me feel weak, and I watered myself down because I wanted her to like me so bad. Her power-babe prowess is like a drug to me.
I look at her and her all her beauty. I feel myself weakening. I'm intoxicated. I feel my limbs go liquid. I feel myself float into the air. I feel my heart start to melt.
AND BAM. That fleeting moment of vulnerability is suddenly met with a pistol of strength. I could feel myself grounded by this powerful forcefield that's so strong and palpable it's almost spiritual. But I quickly realized it wasn't a f*cking spirit or sign from the gods up above; it was me. I was the forcefield of strength.
"I'm stronger now," I say, meaning it. My voice sounds different. Several octaves lower, and I can feel the words vibrate deeply into my chest. It hit me like a ton of scalding hot bricks: I'm a strong f*cking woman.
Five years ago was a different story. Five years ago, I was a shell of the girl I am today.
Between ages 25 and 29, I had my heart smashed twice. I battled through a depression so black I didn't think I would ever see my way out of darkness. I almost killed myself by numbing my way with handfuls of pills and shots of booze to erase the scary monsters from the past. I almost killed myself by dieting my way into a warped perception of perfection and beauty. I almost killed myself by recklessly tossing my body into dark situations with people who weren't my friends. I almost killed myself by trusting people who weren't my friends. I almost killed myself loving people who weren't my friends.
But hell, I survived it all. None of it killed me, even if I felt like it would.
When you go through the hard sh*t -- the painful breakups, the inexplicable heart-wrenching deaths of friends who were too soulful and too talented and too f*cking young to die -- when you survive madness, when you live through lonely moves to lonely cities and feel the sting of rejection again and again and again, you come out the other side scarred but strong as f*ck. Going through hell and back does something to you. You suddenly have this deep-rooted understanding that no matter what happens, you will be OK. You will survive.
I'm one strong chick now. But between 25 and 29, I was the weak one, the lost one, the f*cked-up one, the "damaged" one. Power babes, like my ex, wanted to protect and save and dominate me. They were the ones who were magnetically drawn to frail, little me.
Now that I'm strong, something f*cking weird has happened: I'm attracting different women.
Power babes aren't quite so into me anymore. Maybe they don't want a girl who isn't afraid to challenge their opinions at a dinner party. Maybe they don't want a girl who is as career-driven as they are. Maybe they don't a girl who can pick out a better bottle of wine than they can.
Maybe they don't know what to do with a mess that doesn't need to be cleaned up.
But here is the trouble: I don't want to be the dominant force in my relationship. I don't want to be constantly making all the plans or taking the reins (at least not all the time). I'm a girl, and sometimes I like to be treated like it. And it seems like the power babes are struggling to know what the hell to do with me.
Where are the strong women who want other STRONG WOMEN? I'm feminine at my core, and I love to be treated like a lady. Why can't I be tough, bold and opinionated but still find someone who can sometimes dominate me sexually, mentally and emotionally? Can't a woman be accepted as a versatile creature? Can't I be soft and girly and vulnerable but wildly outspoken and fierce and ambitious at the same time?
Lately, I've been feeling like I don't know where I fit in lesbian culture. But when I think about it, maybe I need someone who doesn't fit into any restrictive boxes, either. What the f*ck is "butch" and what the f*ck is "femme," except for window-dressing?
I crave a person who is tough, powerful and strong but also open, raw and proud of my success at the same time. My newfound strength my scare off the women I thought were strong, but maybe they weren't strong in the first place. If you can't handle a girl as tough as you, you don't deserve a girl like me.
All I know is I'm not going to bend myself to fit in anymore. This is ME, baby. And I'm not going to settle for anyone who only wants to hold on to the soft sides of me. If you want to sign up for this sh*t, you can't just pick the parts you're comfortable with and toss out the parts that make your pulse tick with nerves.
Because I'm not a side dish. I'm a f*cking main course. Eat all of me. We don't do leftovers here.