A few years ago someone introduced me as “the queer mayor of Ditmas Park.” On the outside, I probably laughed it off and tossed my ponytail jauntily over my shoulder, while inside I fell to the ground in delight. And then I walked home whispering “QUEER MAYOR!” deliriously to myself, because that’s pretty much the top one of one compliments anyone has ever paid me, in the history of compliments. This honor is probably solely based on my ability to deliver a long-winded analysis of the two competing neighborhood CSAs, but still, someone somewhere thought what I said was interesting, and so I’m going to use my position (which is solely my own position, based on the praxis of my own experiences, and not representative of the entire queer community or all queers past and future, but I am a queer mayor) to mull over a popular and peculiar trend among lesbian couples: Constant Togetherness.
Like 90% of humans, I want my friends and partner to like each other. And preferably, to spend a lot of time together, participating in all of the same activities I enjoy. In the lesbian community, togetherness is more valuable than an organic kombucha starter. A straight friend of mine and I talked once about how she and her friends have girls’ nights, where it’s just them without any husbands or boyfriends. She described the palpable sense of relief that comes from “getting away” and having that time together with her female friends. I remember being surprised, and then a little jealous, because I continue to experience just the opposite in queer communities, where there seems to be this unspoken expectation that dating partners will be happily subsumed into friendships and friend groups.
At all of the “queers’ nights out,” which range from Hunan take-out while streaming last week’s episode of The Batchelorette to checking out the latest lesbian bar in Soho (verdict: dark and sexytimes, but still not Cattyshack, may it forever rest in peace), everyone’s dragging along their dating partners, girlfriends, and wives, even when those dating partners get hives from Hunan take-out and small talk. I’m not sure where this phenomenon comes from. Maybe there’s no assumed need for girl time, because we’re mostly girl-identified already, so every night could be girls’ night out? Has someone already written a dissertation on this? Regardless of the origins, I find that sure puts a strain on friendships and relationships, especially when a pair is as different as the two of us.
K and I want different things from our friendships, and different things from our social lives. Way back in the beginning of our relationship we determined that we’d never go to a Brooklyn dance party together. It would be too crowded and overwhelming for her, but if I don’t go out at least once a quarter, I get itchy. This arrangement works really well for us, even when I come home slightly tipsy and noisily read catalogues in bed. (The Hammacher-Schlemmer catalogue at 3am? Positively enthralling.) I get to go out, cut loose, and catch up with a million people, and K gets to have quiet time at home watching her obscure British programs and finessing her paleo cooking and rolling around on the gymnastic rings she rigged up in our kitchen.
Sure, sometimes I’m wistful that my girlfriend isn’t there too waving her hands in the air and singing along to “Age of Aquarius” at Brooklyn’s newest hilarious dance party. But we’re still good for each other in a million ways, even though we have different social lives.
Since we’ve been together, thanks to her sensible practicality, I’ve finally figured out a financial system that works for me which includes keeping myself on a strict allowance instead of buying all the artisanal bourbon in south Brooklyn. (You know what’s better than bourbon? Savings. You know what’s a million times more boring than bourbon? Savings.) I’ve regulated my bedtime. My diet includes about 50% more vegetables. I am unquestionably more even-keeled and less anxious, thanks to her steady ways and her support, and most of all, I feel well-loved. Seeing her face light up when I walk into a room is one of the best parts of my day.
But some of these changes mean saying no to friends and stepping back from social events and expensive nights out, so that I can maintain my even-keeledness, and so K and I can carve out quality time together that’s not on the dance floor. These changes also mean fielding questions about where K is and how sad she must be to miss this, and I’m still trying to figure out a delicate way to say that what we’re doing right now is something she’d hate, but that’s not a reflection on your or my choices, and also, we still really like each other. In all seriousness, they’ve also created some conflict between me and my friends, who rightfully question whether the ways I’ve changed and my choices are really ones I want to be making, or a product of this still new-ish relationship. I’m not very good at saying no, so I used to never say no, and that made me an excellent wingman, a great friend date, a really good floater at parties, and, well, kind of a basket case, but oh, such a fun basket case.
I don’t really want to go to bed at nine. What I really want to do is cook up some wild adventures in Williamsburg. Or at the very least, lounge around the living room in a Support Vaginal Pride t-shirt and underwear while watching 103,092 back episodes of Grey’s Anatomy into the wee hours. But thanks to K’s resolute bedtime, I’ve learned I’m happier and less anxious when I get 8.5 hours of sleep every night, but her social plans don’t work for me and I’d go stir crazy if my life was as quiet as hers. Breaking the constant togetherness mold helps me carve out time that is focused on my friends separate from my relationship, because I miss the single version of myself. I think I’ll be figuring out this balance for years to come. On the flip side, though, I get to read so many more catalogues.