Sex & Relationships

“I’m Dating a Woman. What Do I Tell People?”

Our wicked-smart sex and relationships columnist, Kate Carraway, to the rescue!

Adele falls for Emma of the blue hair in 2013's Blue Is the Warmest Colour

Adele (l) falls for Emma (r) of the blue hair in 2013’s Blue Is the Warmest Colour

After sleeping with men exclusively for about 15 years, I’m now in an incredible if unexpected relationship with a woman. I’m proud of our relationship but worried about this being revealed, and ‘coming out’ to others, because I don’t want to be branded a lesbian when I ultimately don’t feel that I am. —Toni

There is a sociocultural imperative—that I object to with the same fervency of Cher Horowitz objecting to being given tardies when she was surfing the crimson wave—to share your relationship status in real time and on every platform, online and in real life, as if anyone outside of your super-top-bitch inner circle is owed an explanation of who you are or are not involved with. This has obviously gotten way worse with social media, and is double or triple-worse when you’re a woman who is, at 30 or whatever, in a Breaking Lez situation.

So: you do you, pal. Do whatever you want, because people are going to want to know. Not only will they want to know, they’ll want to know-know, and then they’ll text each other about it, and dumber straight men will exoticize and eroticize you anew, and everyone will wonder about your ex-boyfriends, and decide on your behalf that you’re gay now, and that just seems like a lot to deal with on anyone’s terms but your very own.

It’s only half their fault? (I say “their” but as much as I love and value privacy, I also love and value constructive-and-positive-but-salty sexual gossip, so…) In our often-stupid culture, many aspects of sex and relationships are explosively, dramatically public, from “In a relationship” on Facebook to wedding-altar kisses to producing actual human children from your genitals and inside-bodies. (Somehow the Facebook thing that grosses me out the most of those three.) There have been, and maybe are, many apparently important social and evolutionary purposes for sex-made-public; howeves, turned another way it can feel awful, oppressive and dishonest to be pressured and expected to define and share something when you’re not totally ready, and totally, completely excited.

You don’t have to, but you’ll be asked to. Some people, maybe most people, demonstrate this kind of craven desire to have other people figured out, solved somehow. This is why people who are struggling with depression or just diffuse unhappiness see their friends try to help them and then kind of give up when nothing “works,” and also (different, but same principle) why the coupled-up want their single friends to get hooked up and married right-quick, and why we tend to demand a forward-moving narrative of each other’s lives, even when it doesn’t fit. Our other-people instincts and imaginations tend to be limited by our own fears and insecurities and ignorance, which is why even people who are intellectually cool say and do stupid shit.

Being in a new thing—new love of any stripe, not just a new and surprising-to-you hot-seat on the sexuality-continuum—is tiring and emotionally demanding, all glittering butterfly wings and anxious almost-barfs… and most of all, rare. It’s supposed to be protected, and you’re the protector. If you don’t definitely feel like “revealing” your relationship, or “coming out” to anyone, you don’t have to. If you’re not interested in being declarative about a sexuality, or aspect of your sexuality, you don’t have to. If you don’t want to include your romantic, sexual, relationship-y life (at this wonderful, tricky, strange-ish moment) in your established and public life, at work or with fam or with friends, aside from the super-top-bitches to whom you’re going to tell everything, you don’t have to. You really don’t have to.

There are a lot of very smart, persuasive and much-discussed arguments for coming out, actively or “whatever”-ishly, for considering and expressing your sexuality—static or evolving—as you would any other aspect of your life. If you want to, great. But, you don’t have to. You just… don’t have to. Really, all you do have to do is you.

More great advice from Kate Carraway:
Should I Be Worried About My Guy’s ‘Good Friend’?
Is My Sensitive Boyfriend Just Not All That Deep?
How Can I Make My Boyfriend Initiate Sex More?
We Had the Perfect Date and Then I Never Saw Him Again…
Help! My Boyfriend and I Are From Different Worlds
Help! My Friend Has Become a Selfie-Obsessed Monster
Help! My Girlfriend Is Always on a Diet
Help! My Boyfriend Is Better Looking Than Me
I’m So Tired of Hearing About My Friends’ Boring Babies.
I Have Proof My Friend’s BF Is Cheating. Do I Tell Her?
My Best Friend’s Life Is Perfect. Can I Tell Her to Stop Complaining Already? 
How Young Is Too Young?
Is Long Distance a Dealbreaker?
When Do I Need to Disclose My Dismal $$$ Sitch?
How Can I Curb My Tinder-Rejection Sads?
When Should My Guy & I Talk “Numbers”?
Can We Be FWB When He Wants More?
Is It Ever OK to Date a Friend’s Ex?
How Do I Get Over a Guy?
Why Aren’t I More Obsessed With My BF?
Should I Propose to My Guy?