I picked a hell of a time to start dating again. Ending a nearly seven-year relationship with my former partner, Alex, was hard enough, as was the discussion of whether or not we would be able to continue living together until our lease ended. Boundaries were established. Pet names like “Honeybee” and “Lovebird” that had become second nature had to be dropped. They can’t be said to your roommate. Luckily, we both adjusted fast.
For both of us, the breakup was the right decision. We’re still best friends. We still tell each other good news. We laugh together every day. We confide in each other. But, then, we both started feeling like it was time to start dating again.
Both of us kind of missed “the rise of the app” in dating, and, suddenly, here we both are, reading articles about LGBT-friendly dating apps. We helped each other pick pictures for our profiles, since we didn’t have too many “Hey, I go outside and do fun stuff! Yay!” pictures that weren’t of the both of us, and, well, we’re quarantined. We can’t go out to eat together or with friends and have someone take a tastefully posed picture holding an alcoholic beverage or in front of a plate of great food to show that we like to have fun and eat. We can’t even really go outside somewhere to show that we “like the beach” or “hiking” as so many others do. So, we took pictures of each other on social distancing walks, and ran our character-limited bios past each other, trying to be just funny enough, interesting enough, but not sound conceited. By the time I was ready to start swiping, I already felt a little exhausted, and a lot self-conscious.
We’re lesbians, and we aren’t living in a particularly gay-filled area. I feel like it’s a little easier for Alex. She’s thin, beautiful, and a medical student. I think her biggest problem is that she’s intimidating. A day into trying “the apps,” she came into my new bedroom, (the former “spare room,”) as I was hanging string lights over my bed in hopes that someday, a lady will be impressed by this and feel like she is under a starry sky as we snuggle. “I got nine likes on ‘Hinge’ today! You should try it, it’s great!” she said, beaming. “You’ll find a great girl!” I had deleted Hinge because I wasn’t getting any attention there.
Aside from my weight, I also I have to mention, “Oh, hey, my roommate and I were together for seven years! But don’t worry, we’re not getting back together and you totes aren’t a rebound, babe, I promise!” Then, at some point, I have to compose a “full disclosure” message of an entirely different beast: I have to tell them I’m sick.
I’m immunocompromised. This time is particularly dangerous for me. I won’t be able to go out much for longer than most people. I have trouble scrolling on social media right now so I don’t see people talking about how this outbreak might be a good thing, since people like me may be “culled” by the virus.
When Alex and I got together, I didn’t know I was sick. She was there for me through my diagnosis, and when I found out I would have to infuse plasma to survive. Sometimes, she still helps with my infusions, but I’ve gotten good enough to do it myself too. I was worried when we ended things. Who wants to invest in someone KNOWING they’re sick? When they know they might have to go to doctor’s appointments with me, that I’ll likely get sicker as I get older? That I probably don’t have a normal life expectancy? Who has fifteen doctors? These are all things I’ve learned to accept, with time, therapy, and some of the greatest friends and family a person could ask for. When I match with people, I feel a knot in my stomach.
At some point with every lady I talk to, after we’ve both complimented each other’s interests enough and established that we can carry a conversation mutually, I have to say it: “Hey, Just so you know, I have a disease called Common Variable Immune Deficiency. I’m not contagious. I do have to infuse plasma by sticking needles into my own thigh, but other than that and extra doctors’ appointments and wearing masks outside, my life is relatively normal! Want to get coffee some time?” (Do I ask this before or after I ask if they can handle my obsessions with B horror movies and terrible folk music?)
“Not very sexy, is it?” I usually like to say it before we video chat or talk on the phone. I’ve always been a no-bullshit kind of person. I don’t like lying. I don’t like playing games, and, as a child, my bluntness prompted many a letter home to my parents. I wouldn’t be interested in anyone who couldn’t handle my illness, even though it makes me worry that I won’t have prospects I could have otherwise had.
I’ve been stunned by how few women care. One even rolled her eyes when I revealed this during a video date. “We could all die at any time, bitch, and the world is burning” she said, “I don’t care.”
There have been people who did care, those who lost interest, those who need someone they believe will be available long-term. They can’t imagine the extra worry, the potential of becoming a caregiver early in life, of having a partner who might not be able to take care of them when they’re sick. I understand why, but I’m grateful that there are still many women who are interested when they know what they’re signing up for.
Deciding I’m really ready to date again also came with a lot of incredible realizations about my own strengths. I was diagnosed about a year and a half ago, and since then, I had a lot of other awful shit happen to me. I was forced to quit my old job. I spent months fighting with my insurance company for life-saving medicine because one dope entered something wrong into their computer. I went through countless medical tests. I drained most of my savings on medical bills. But, since then, I also wrote a book. I found an editor and a potential publisher. I discovered a talent for art. I got my dream job. I repaired my credit score, and now I’m doing better than most people my age. I started going to therapy and learned to put myself first. I even still managed to maintain a relationship for most of it. I did a lot of soul-searching. I reached out to people I hadn’t talked to in years, and during this quarantine, I’ve become more social than I ever was before. I figured out who I am. I figured out what I want in someone else. I learned I’m a great daughter, friend, cousin, niece, roommate, and librarian.
I’m going to make a great girlfriend, too.