I just received a note from a reader who's having trouble communicating with her butch DGF ("dear girlfriend"). She asked if I could "translate" some common butch idioms.
One mistake many butch-lovers make is assuming that butches are just like the stereotypes they have of heterosexual men. If you Google "what men really mean," you'll find hundreds of sites purporting to explain exactly this. Let's leave aside for a moment the offensive nature of most of those articles, and assume for the sake of argument that there's some truth to them. Even so, [non-male-identified] butches are not men, and "rules" of "understanding men" apply to us only sometimes.
It's impossible to write something like this without giant, whopping dollops of stereotype. I figure I'll get flak for this, but I went ahead and made a list anyway. I'll will be interested to learn whether any of it resonates with you.
(Writing this, I realized that while I would like to think that I'm incredibly straightforward and literal practically to a fault, that's not always true...)
How about you? Did any of these examples sound familiar? What's some other "butchspeak" that needs to be translated?
You've probably heard of the "half your age plus seven" rule of age differences in dating. The idea is that you divide your age by two, then add seven; that's the youngest person you're "allowed" to date. It's silly, but functions as a supposed "guide" to "acceptable" age differences.
Tons of people reach Butch Wonders by searching for things like "lesbian age differences," "age difference formula gay," and "what's the rule for gay age differences?" I can yammer on for days about how it's silly to have a "formula," how all relationships are unique, and yada yada yada. But at the end of the day, people want an easy answer.
So here's your easy answer. In the gay community, we get a bit more leeway. The acceptable age difference for us is wider than it is for straight people, and the difference grows as we age.
The age difference formula for same-sex relationships is graphed below. We are in blue; opposite-sex relationships are in red. (I know this doesn't take into account bi-gendered people and many other shades of queer, but that involved parabolas and was just too complicated.) The formula is one-third your age plus ten years.
This took extremely difficult, comprehensive, and painstaking research on my part--not to mention, many sleepless nights. Now let's practice.
If you're straight and 30, you can date a 22-year-old. If you're gay and 30, a 20-year-old. 48 and straight? A 31-year-old. But 48 and gay? a 26-year-old. Ka-bam! You've got it!
So, now you know. There's your formula. One-third your age plus 10. If you deviate from it simply to make yourself "happy," or because you've "fallen in love" or whatever, know that you're contravening science itself.
A number of you have asked what you can do for your butches to let them know how special they are. Here are some sweet everyday gestures that say "I love you." Though the list was written with butches in mind, most of these apply to pretty much any object of your affections. (And thanks to the excellent BW Facebook fans who contributed some of the ideas on this list!)
#1: Love Notes
I don't usually pack my DGF's lunch, but when I do, I like writing a little note or silly poem for her. My mom used to do that in my school lunches when I was a kid, and the idea stuck with me. It just makes a girl feel special.
You can also leave a note around the house for her (e.g., fridge; bathroom mirror), or send her an email in the middle of the day mentioning something you love about her. If you go to sleep after her, leave a note for her to find in the morning. If you get up earlier, leave one she'll find later that day.
Many butches say they love when their DGF cooks them a meal. Whether it's beef bourguignon or peanut butter and jelly, there's something special about being cooked for. (I swear, even coffee tastes better when my DGF makes it for me.) One butch wrote, "I get a special little tingle when I come home to the smell of fresh baking." +1.
Not a kitchen wonder? Check out some food blogs, starting with A Butch in the Kitchen (pictured above, right is her latest creation, low-calorie blueberry scones--yum!). You can also have a picnic in the middle of the living room, complete with blanket, bread, cheese, and music.
For many of us, being pampered is awesome. This might take the form of a foot rub (with eucalyptus lotion, mmm), a back massage, a bubble bath (for one or for two...), or a scalp massage.
Of course, while I love all of these things (as did most butches I asked), not every butch is cool with feeling passive, so know your boi or grrl before plunging in.
Pampering can also take other forms: making a batch of hot buttered rum and sipping it together by the fireplace, insisting she play one more round of Angry Birds while you bathe the dog, or doing a chore she usually does but dislikes (hm, I bet my DGF would love if I dealt with the recycling for once).
This post is about gestures you can perform, not stuff you can buy. Still, a small, thoughtful gift can be a gesture in itself--especially if it's something you make for her.
Some cool stuff to give your sweetie:
#5: Adventures, etc.
More than anything, we want to do (1) stuff we love doing with (2) the woman we love. Sometimes those two things don't mix--so mixing them is a surefire hit.
Offer to go somewhere with her that you'd usually turn down (and don't complain while you're there). Does she love action movies, but you hate 'em? Take her to "Skyfall." Does she like arcades, but you think they're dull? Take her to an afternoon of video games and air hockey. Dates like this are a big deal; they tell her you're willing to do things you don't normally like just because she enjoys them.
Other ideas for adventures include high-adrenaline stuff (like skydiving or off-road quad biking), activities that will make her feel like a kid (think laser tag, paintball, sledding, or batting cages), or something sexy (e.g., go on a blind date: tell her where to be, both show up separately, then hit on her!). (Some smash-hit sexy ideas if you guys have the butch/femme thing going: new lingerie for her to see you in; a lace bra/garter belt set; a sexy lap dance; picking her up from the airport in a trench coat and stiletto boots. Are you a butch-butch couple? Awesome: two pairs of silk boxers!)
The bottom line? No one knows your DGF better than you do. Especially if you're not naturally observant, pay attention! Make mental notes about what she likes, stockpile your ideas, and brainstorm ways to make her feel special. Even if your idea isn't a home run, she'll love the effort. One reader put it perfectly: "Simply having the woman you are with think that you are amazing just as you are and precisely as you are is the best gift of all."
What have you done to make your butch feel special? What has she done that's made you feel special?
Sometimes I get questions from readers in which the reader is essentially asking me if he or she is some kind of weird outlier. For example:
Due to the sheer, huge, incredible range of human interests and preference, whenever you're asking if some people X, or whether some people of type Y find people of type Z attractive, the answer is always the same: yes.
In fact, we could make a mad lib of it:
Do some [type of person, plural] find [adjective] [gender or sexual orientation] attractive?
Yes, yes, yes. Some butches are only into other butches (BW raises hand). Some non-binary trans people only want to date femmes who wear leather. Some guys who identify as gay are attracted to masculine cis women.
Whatever your preference, identity, interest, or sexual proclivity, I feel safe saying: you are not alone. Just because you haven't met anyone in your town who's like you doesn't mean that there aren't tons of them in the wider world. Heck, it doesn't even mean there isn't anyone in your town like you. Many people are scared to be out and proud about their preferences because they're afraid other people will laugh at them, or tell them they're weird.
Well, I'm here to tell you that there's nothing "weird" about knowing what you like. There's nothing odd about having preferences that seem different from other people's (assuming those preferences are legal and don't hurt anyone, of course). And there's nothing wrong or strange about having your attractions change over time.
After all, you didn't come out as queer to be like everyone else, did you? Why the heck would you want to start now?
I've been troubled lately by some writings by butch authors. Things like:
I'm paraphrasing, but not by much. These kind of sentiments strike me as sexist/misogynistic. I mean... we all have the right to preferences--I don't dispute that. But imagine that a heterosexual cis man wrote the things above. ("Women are so emotional. I'm not. It's a guy thing." Or insisting that only he gets to BBQ or fix things.) Sure, he has the right to prefer those things, and they would probably lead me to suspect that he was a sexist, and someone I wouldn't like very much.
Why should these kinds of sentiments be different when a butch expresses them about a relationship she wants with a femme? Is it inherently different simply because they're both female? I'd argue that it's not.
When mentioned this to my DGF (dear girlfriend), she laughed. "Don't you know that's how most people think of butches?" she asked. "When people think butch, they think of people who want to play a traditionally 'male' role in a relationship." She went on to explain that this is part of the reason she doesn't identify as butch herself, even though (trust me) she totally is.
This all gave me pause. Sure, my DGF is more than a decade older than me, so maybe her sense of people's perceptions of "butch" are different for that reason. Or maybe there's just something I'm failing to comprehend about butch-femme relationships, since I don't prefer to be in them myself.
What do you all think? Do the kinds of comments I bulleted above strike you as sexist or misogynistic? Are they the kinds of things you assume a person thinks when she tells you she identifies as butch?