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Making the L-Word Real After the Big D

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"If only I were a lesbian!"

Ever since my teenage years, I remember the refrain. Maybe a female friend got dissed at the junior high dance by the boy she had a crush on. Maybe he liked another girl instead of her--the one with metallic blue eyeliner and foxy spiral perm.

Or maybe a bunch of us, in college, spent hours getting ourselves dolled up to go to an off-campus party, only to find all the guys there engaged in a "dumbass" competition, which involved taking turns dancing around with a plunger, lighting their farts on fire, and prank-calling the local Chinese restaurant.

The last straw could be something as absolutely cliché as driving around, lost, while your boyfriend or husband refuses to stop and ask for directions. Or noticing that you, not your husband, change the poopy diapers. Every single one of them.

"I wish I were a lesbian."

Imagine men of any age saying, "Dude, I wish I were into other guys. Becky just told me that she can't come to the football game, again, because she has to wash her hair."

Inconceivable. But women go there. Especially when a relationship ends.

Ah, yes...Calgon, take me away from this brute hetero world, and plop me into a hot tub with awesome...women. Women are so thoughtful and sensitive. Women will rub your feet and listen to you talk about your childhood without their eyes glazing over. Women will make you a cup of hot chai and sit next to you on the porch swing, wearing chunky cable-knit sweaters and warm, understanding, empathetic smiles. And they don't mind stopping to ask for directions. If only you could get down with the va-jay-jay, you'd be so golden!

Many women are just really, really straight. More than one woman has seen fit to share some variation of the following with me, since my own transition: "Women are beautiful and sexy, and I enjoy feminine energy, but nothing beats getting down and dirty with my man's junk." That's so awesome! Could you please pass the salt?

But many other formerly hetero-identified women do jump the fence and partner with women, as I share in my anthology, Dear John, I Love Jane.

They happen to be sexually fluid. That means that they can spend the first 25, 30, 40, 50 years of their lives identifying as straight. They aren't bi, or closeted. But bam...one day they meet a woman and have hot sexy feelings about her. Or maybe they have a wonderful, close friend, and something shifts; a sexual dimension enters the relationship and they fall in love and/or lust.

This often happens as a woman's hetero relationship is winding down, or when a woman is already divorced. When everything you took for granted has gone up in smoke, it's a lot easier to imagine new possibilities and see where they lead.

It happened to me. I did some same-sex experimenting in college, but nothing lasting came of it. I dated men in my twenties and happily settled down with the man who became my husband. But seven years later, when we both admitted that our marriage was over, I was ready to really explore being with a woman. I put my profile on match.com, clicked "woman seeking women" and began to go to women's dances and events. A year later, I met my partner, Laura, and I've never looked back.

And so let me take a stab at separating myth from reality.

I'm going to tell you the ways that being a lesbian totally rocks, and also address some fantasies you might have about why being with a woman would be so much better than being with a man.

5 ways being in a relationship with a woman is, in fact, preferable

Aesthetics: as many Old Masters have noticed, women's bodies are beautiful. Their skin is soft and opalescent. Their breasts and hips are curvy and alluring. For the most part, they are not hairy, sinewy, or wiry. And they have been socialized not to wantonly stink up the joint after eating one too many jalapeno poppers.

Cleaning/living together: Women tend to be cooperative. They aren't aping a "man against the world" paradigm. They take turns, and team up, to get various unpleasant jobs done, so that they can don their cable-knit sweaters and get back on the porch swing and drink steaming chai. Or get it on.

Cuddling: women love to cuddle, but men tend to think that cuddling should always lead to sex. There's something lovely about cuddling for cuddling's sake. That's why marriage counselors advocate non-sexual touching sessions for embattled hetero couples. "Just cuddle for a half hour a day with no expectations." Women actually really appreciate the warm and fuzzy without the rude and sweaty. News Flash: it actually paves the way to more rude and sweaty.

Versatility: Sometimes I do lots of laundry and pull lots of weeds. Sometimes my partner vacuums and mops and also cooks us enchiladas for dinner, after she re-jiggers the lighting system in the garage. We can flow into different roles, because we're not constantly negotiating our actions in relation to conventional gender roles. They are a really hard thing to shrug off.

Sex: Imagine sex without that inescapable timeline. You know, the one that has to do with the man's erection, how long he can sustain it, if you can climax before him, and then...lights out.

I know, this is a very reductive scenario. Lots of men are like Sting. They don't orgasm for hours...it's awesome...it's all about your pleasure. But for the rest of you who do resonate with this description, it's really wonderful to have long, open-ended, languorous sex. Instead of the orgasm being like a period at the end of a sentence, the sentence itself is a run-on, and the orgasms are commas. Not that we can't have quickies. We can do that, too.

5 Myths About Lesbian Relationships

Myth #1. Women are so much safer than men.

During my first year of dating women, I got completely blown off after spending the night with a woman I really liked. No phone call, no email. Crickets. It was classic cad behavior. Women can be cads, too. (Hello, Shane.) That's kind of a big revelation, and it takes a while to digest. By dating women, you are not escaping from the possibility of being jilted, or to put it bluntly, used. Especially in the beginning, you have to be as watchful as you would be at the beginning of any dating relationship. Guard your heart.

Myth #2. It would be so much easier to be with a woman.

I do think that the everyday, daily experience of being with a woman is easier. But it's not "easy" to actually meet and get into relationships with women. There aren't as many queer, available women as there are straight, available men. And when you meet them, you still have to click in the areas of chemistry, values, tastes, compatibility...it's a tall order. Plus, the rules are different.

Straight-identified women have spent their whole lives being groomed to be the re-active ones in a dating scenario. In general, men hit on women, call women, pursue women. We might do lots of subtle stuff to encourage the guys we like, but generally it's expected that men will make the first move.

When you're looking for a relationship with a woman, passivity is not an option. You have to be an equal participant in the getting-it-started. I actually loved this part. It was always so frustrating for me not to be the one who courted the boys I used to like. So, it was a lot of fun for me to be emboldened to approach other women. It's very empowering to woo someone. And sure, it's disheartening to be rejected, but that's part of putting yourself out there.

Myth #3 Men are such icky slobs, and women are so clean and tidy.

Um. I wish. Why do I wish? Because I am a little bit of a slob. My ex-husband was very tidy. My partner, Laura is also a little bit messy. The woman I dated before Laura was organized-tidy...but her whole house had a sort of filmy haze over everything. I don't think she knew how to deep-clean. And she was a slob in other kinds of ways you'd expect from a guy: she didn't close the door while going to the bathroom, she hocked and spat out of her car window. If she could have peed on the seat, she would have. Ew! I was horrified. So I'm sorry, it really depends.

Myth #4 You wouldn't get pestered for sex.

Men often have stronger sex drives than their wives or girlfriends. This leads to a dynamic that can be no fun. You don't want to feel like you're a witholding, frigid wretch, but there's also something beautiful about having sex when you uncomplicatedly want to. Not because he wants to, or because it's been x many days since the last time.

Well, all that is true, but let me tell you this: it's really weird to be in that guy's shoes--as the one who wants more sex than your partner does. Women's desires are more chimerical than men's. There will come a day when you want to, and your girlfriend does not. When I was in relationships with men, that never happened. They were always up for sex. Even when they were tired, or had a headache, or a bad day, or a good day, or felt energetic, or had a pulse.

It was kind of a gift to go through that experience as a woman, because it gave me compassion for men. I understood how my they felt--cut off from the most amazing ecstatic experience, while only being inches away. It forced me to confront what I needed. Did I need to feel desired, irresistible? Did I need to feel intimate, loved? Did I need to affirm the sexy part of our relationship, because it was starting to feel too platonic? What exactly did I need, and what did I need to ask for? I had to ask. I had to show up. I never had to go to those places when sex was always available at a moment's notice.

#5 Men are commitment-phobic. Women aren't--and that's preferable.

Sure, men are cagey about settling down, and women tend to bond much more speedily. Hence the jokes about lesbians bringing U-Hauls on their second dates. But as someone who rushed into a relationship with her former husband, and waited 2.5 years to move in with her female partner, I have some insights to share.

Be wary of the person who wants to move in after two dates. Why is this person in such a rush? Are they worried that if you get to know them more thoroughly, you'll be turned off, after you find out that they have a huge stash of furry porn videos, or an addiction, a rage problem, or talk to their mom three times a day?

You also need to know how this Mr. or Ms. Right responds to the miserable curve balls life throws their way before you're fully cohabiting. It's such a drag to have to kick someone out of your abode because they committed a relationship deal-breaker. It's even more of a drag to move out because you're not on the lease. Commitment-phobia is unpleasant, but not as unpleasant as having to take five giant steps backwards because you assumed too much about the goodness and compatibility of your sweetie.

There's a middle ground, and whether you decide men truly do it for you, or women do, you're going to have to define what feels healthiest.

So take a moment to check in and notice whether you're fantasizing about an escape from the annoying elements of any relationship, or if you truly have the hots for sweet Sapphic action. Relationships are work, and switching teams is not a short cut to relationship bliss. Maturity is.