Three drinks in I was ready to kiss her.
A warmness buzzed through me, making its way up to my brain whispering softly like a queer Nike ad, “just do it.”
It was my second date with Emma after we matched on Tinder. For our first we planned to go to a Mexican restaurant, but after meeting opted on splitting one of those cheap, oversized, bottles of wine and making out in her apartment instead.
Tonight we promised each other we would go out.
We chose an overrated Los Angeles speakeasy. It was packed in a way that normally would have given me anxiety–the room temperature was too hot and strangers’ elbows dug into my sides–but Emma was there, and I was excited. So for the night, that was enough.
The booze, of course, helped, too.
The booze made us both feel confident and sexy. It uninhibited us enough that we barely noticed how eyes lingered on us––trying to decided who we were to each other–when in fact neither of us quite knew that answer yet.
I told myself we were drinking so much to combat normal dating nerves. As I struggled to keep pace with her, I promised myself the next time we’d do something clear-headed; maybe a hike, or coffee. When I met her at her apartment, I pretended not to the notice the empty shot glass sitting next to the sink, and how she threw back her wine at the bar like she was at a road race pit stop.
I had been on dates like this with women before, where there’s an unspoken agreement that you can’t be intimate until you’re both a bit drunk. Immediately after college, those were the only “dates” I went on with women. I was the one administering heavy pours then taking liquid shots of “courage” before; the one who needed alcohol for permission to be bi.
Years later, I didn’t feel that way as much; I was more sure of myself and less ashamed. But as I stood on wobbly legs, holding eye contact with EmmaI wasn’t sure she was yet.
Many queer folks’ introduction to sexual exploration comes at the expense of our livers. We drink, or do drugs, or do whatever it takes to feel allowed to feel the way we do. And what a high it is to finally do the thing you’ve been wanting to for so long: To kiss the person you like, and let your stomach do cartwheels in celebration afterward.
But like most highs, they’re usually followed by a low.
They’re followed by a rushed goodbye in the morning, or an awkward walk of shame in the middle of the night. Or worse than either of those things: Silence.
I wish I could say that I had a grand moment of realization that night that I was beyond liquid-induced romance, and that I decided to call it a night early and go home alone. But instead, I chased the high. I told myself that maybe it would be different in the morning.
I think that’s something we do with the people we want to mean something to us, regardless of gender or sexuality. We justify. We tell ourselves they’re not texting us because they’re driving, or they’re in the middle of work. We tell ourselves that they are drinking so much because they just enjoy a good glass of wine (or five), and we avoid telling our friends about them to save face, just in case.
We wait for them to disappoint us, and we give them too much time to do so.
Because in those moments, it’s so easy to justify waiting. When you have liquid-induced optimism for a person, it’s so easy to imagine all the things they could be, rather than what they are, which in Emma’s case was not ready for a relationship with a woman.
There was nothing particularly special about Emma. We didn’t have a magnetic chemistry, and we weren’t even particularly compatible. But we were chasing a high together. For her, maybe I was just a part of her sexual exploration, and for me, maybe she was someone I could project the “could be’s” onto.
But those highs don’t allow for a whole lot of intimacy. Kisses in corners of crowded bars and dramatic goodbyes might feel like passion, but it’s not.
The good stuff is eating breakfast with someone and watching them make your friends laugh. It’s seeing each other in the harsh morning light of day and still wanting to stick around.
The good stuff is usually the most sobering.