03/08/2012 04:32 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Flirting with Boundaries

So I started a new job last year, and it's always interesting finding my niche, learning who my friends will be, and establishing a reputation and balance. I wasn't out in my first few weeks, though I wasn't necessarily not out. I guess I just wasn't itching to make any grand announcements, and I also figured my private life was just that: private. But as I began to spend more time with my co-workers, and as I began to actually befriend my co-workers, it seemed like an obvious step. Besides, it's more fun when you're dating someone new and you can be all giddy and moon-faced in the back room while your new friends roll their eyes and tease relentlessly. Let's get serious: I enjoy showing off photos of my hot lady friend, and they enjoy seeing the photos. It's a fantastic arrangement all around.

My boss, on the other hand, is a different story. He is a charming older man, almost exactly my father's age, and he runs the large salon smoothly and efficiently. The female clients tend to faun over him, though whether that has more to do with his looks or his personality is anybody's guess. I know he respects me for my work, but I also know he views me as a young(ish), somewhat attractive, single female racing around the salon while trying to fit in and build her business. I assume that he assumed I was straight when he first hired me, and initially I never contradicted his assumption. Again, I fall back on the whole private life staying private. Every once in a while his compliments would come across as flirting, but I never read much into it and attributed it to his personality. He is that guy who lays on flattery like it's second nature, no forethought or effort needed.

Soon, however, the dynamic shifted. He apparently caught on that I was seeing someone (not sure what gave it away -- the constant texting, the blushing while texting, or that extra bounce in my hair and step), so he asked me if I had a new boyfriend. When I told him "no," and then went on to explain that I was actually seeing a girl, I could see the wheels turning behind his slightly shocked face. The flirting became less intermittent and more obvious. It's as if once he found out I was seeing a woman, his boundaries shifted. Don't get me wrong: we never delved into the sexual harassment category, but there have been times when I have called him out for making inappropriate jokes or remarks. For example, he often makes it a point to single out the attractive female clients frequenting our work. I don't know if he expects me to reply with an "Oh, yeah, I would totally hit that," but more often than not, I avoid a comment, or I simply say, "She's not my type." Jokes about me and my female co-workers (all of them straight, mind you, and all of them involved in long-term relationships) abound. Apparently it is very amusing, this idea of me "converting" my attractive co-workers.

This is not a new phenomenon. When a woman is dating a man, or giving off a "straight" vibe while in a relationship, I feel that men are a little more respectful when it comes to flirting and joking. But when a woman is dating a woman and giving off a "bi" vibe, I feel like men treat it as a no-holds-barred territory. My male friends or co-workers put their arm around me, squeeze my leg, make little, winking innuendos, and all around push the boundaries of what is appropriate when someone is in a relationship. I'm sure I can be a little guilty in flirting back, and I do tend to be very affectionate with my friends, but I find it somewhat frustrating that men do not always show proper respect when I'm in a female/female relationship.

As far as my work environment goes, I merely had to up my communication. Sure, the jokes fly, and the teasing is never-ending, but fewer lines are crossed now that I've stated my position. Some people just need a reminder every now and then that even though I'm bi and seeing a woman, that doesn't give the men a free pass to lay on the flirting.