It was really hard for me at first. Every holiday, it was the same stream of questions. My family started out by asking me about work, friends, and activities. But without fail, the conversation eventually turned to my relationship status, which as a chronically single girl, I dreaded.
“And what about your love life?” they’d ask. “Are you dating any new guys?”
I’d find myself coming up empty every time.
“A few guys here and there, but nothing too serious,” I’d shrug, hoping to move the conversation along to anything besides this. I could see a mix of confusion, panic, and disappointment cross their faces every time I let them know, that no, I still had not snagged a man.
“But you’re so pretty!” they’d tell me. “And smart! And you’re doing so well at work! Why hasn’t anyone locked you down yet?”
The fuck if I know, Aunt Barbara. This is the very same question I show up short on every week when my first dates don’t turn into second dates.
It had been going on like this for this for years. My cousins and I would all go out and live our lives, and come back home to show our parents what we’d caught. The most recent family reunion was no different. Melissa showed pictures of Brad, Joe, and Matt — three guys she was casually dating at the same time. The older women cooed that she was “so bad!” though they secretly loved it. My cousin Nick brought his long-term girlfriend home for the third year in a row, and confirmed to the family that yes, he was going to pop the question soon. My little sister was off somewhere with her boyfriend, so she couldn’t be here this time, while cousin Ashley finally introduced her new beau to the squad who’d been DYING to meet them.
And when the conversation turned to me, I knew I’d better have something good to say about what I’d been doing with my life. So I came prepared.
“I got a promotion at work!” I offered up excitedly. “And an awesome raise to go along with it!”
It didn’t get the needle moving. “I started doing standup, and it’s been so much fun!” I added. “I’m also learning to play piano. I’ve always wanted to play.”
Still nothing. And in a last-ditch effort to convince my family that I was, in fact, taking active steps toward adulthood, I tossed them the best line I had in my arsenal. “Oh, and I think I’m going to buy a house!”
This appeased them for mere moments, but I could see it across their faces, what they really wanted to ask:
“No boyfriend yet?”
No, still no boyfriend.
One day, though, the conversation changed — ever so slightly in words, but monumentally in attitude. I was having lunch with my mom and my aunt, when it became time, as it always did, to ask about my dating life. And while they seemed far less disappointed, what came next was probably worse than all the nagging about boyfriends in my life combined.
“So, is there a special person in your life right now?”
I froze. I’d heard of this happening, but I didn’t think it would happen to me. I tried my best to correct the conclusion, but I fear, I only made it worse. “No, still no man in my life,” I said, very specifically articulating, that it was penis-havers that interested me.
They laughed at what they thought was secrecy shielded by technical honesty. “Okay,” my mom said with a knowing smile, “still no man then.”
From there, things only got worse. My grandmother sent me a link to sign up for a softball team. This is highly stereotypical, and borderline offensive, but most grandparents are. I have never played a team sport in my entire life. I danced ballet growing up, and I wouldn’t be able to throw a ball if it were on fire. Yet it came through my inbox with a simple “Thought this might interest you!” I ignored it.
My dad alerted me to the daughter of his coworker — a young, gay woman — who’d just moved to town, and told me he thought we’d “hit it off.” I invited her to meet my friends, and show her around the new city, being very careful to drop hints off the bat, that I did not, in fact, have an interest in girls. I have absolutely no problem with lesbians. I just don’t have to be one. I think she ended up joining that softball team, and my mom commented a heart on a picture of the two of us.
For awhile, my family continued on dropping hints that they “knew” my secret. They assured me I could tell them anything, and were very careful to avoid using pronouns that suggested I was interested in men. Until one day, they just came out with it:
“Are you dating anyone? Any boys? Any girls?”
I blinked twenty-seven times in the next fourteen seconds. I didn’t know how to feel. I was angry. And shocked. And frustrated. And I snappe.
“Are you fucking serious right now?”
“Honey, don’t get upset, you know you can tell us anything.”
“I’m not gay! I’m just single! Is that so hard to believe?”
“Well, you’ve been single for such a long time, so I just thought…”
“Nobody knows better than I do how long I’ve been single.”
“You don’t even mention dates that you go on with men any more!”
“Because they are pointless! Why would I bring up to you some guy I went out with twice and then never talked to again? I barely remember that guy’s name!”
“But I just don’t see a reason someone as smart and pretty as you are wouldn’t have a boyfriend!”
“I don’t know either! Maybe I have a radar for guys with commitment issues. Maybe I sleep with guys too soon — because I do occasionally sleep with guys. Guys with dicks, I might add. I had a dick in my mouth just last week. A big dick. I even swallowed. And that is the absolute worst part about being straight, so I wouldn’t do it just to prove a point. And shocker, but he hasn’t called. Forgive me for not mentioning that sooner, I just didn’t think I needed to detail the size and shape of a guy’s member for you to get off my back about this!”
“I’m sorry, I just…”
“No, don’t be sorry! You thought you’d figured me out! You thought you finally had an explanation for why I literally repelled men. Well, I hate to break it to you, Mom, but you can tell all your little friends that I’m not out there, afraid to admit I’m muff diving. It’s just that nobody wants to date me. I really just am the disappointment you thought I was.”
We sat in silence for a minute and a half before my mom responded to my outburst.
“So, still no boyfriend then, huh?”.