Five Ways My Lesbian Years Helped Me Date

Young white woman, short dark blond hair in boyish cut, in jean overalls over a men's shirt with a women's lib Tshirt peeking out, looking straight at camera with challenging, content smile.

Five ways my lesbian years helped me date

During my 18 years identifying as a lesbian, I developed personal traits and attitudes that helped me date men years later.

Identifying as a lesbian for 18 years

I identified as a lesbian for 18 years, from my mid-twenties to mid-forties. After growing up heterosexual, I became attracted to women in my 20s and fully embraced lesbian-feminist life. It was the more interesting, feminist, and cutting-edge way to live.  In the 1970s, being bisexual was not a popular option, and men seemed boring and sexist, so I was happy to let them go.

I loved living as a lesbian, relating to a variety of women outside of gender roles, and celebrating lesbian-feminist writing, music, and politics. As a lesbian-feminist in the Bay Area, I thrived in our bubble of lesbian/gay pride and relative safety.  I savored many relationships with women—some good, some bad—and I had my share of disapproval and threats as an out lesbian in the world. 

I never found a woman partner, so I ‘went back’ to men

However, I never found the woman partner I dreamed of. After 18 years I gave up and, with chagrin, realized that my best relationship prospects were with men. So I ‘went back’ to men.  I could, because my body was, in fact, bisexual. My journey confirmed many lesbians’ worse fears—that as a bisexual I would abandon the lesbian community and retreat back to men at the first sign of discomfort with living as a lesbian. But it was more complex than that.

Hard to give up lesbian identity

I lamented not finding my ideal woman partner and I mourned the loss of my proud lesbian identity. I loved living as a lesbian and I returned to men in defeat, not retreat. The story of my journey can be found in my upcoming memoir, My Lesbian Years, or Who Wouldn’t Want to be a Lesbian?  For an excerpt, about the time I first slept with a woman, see The First Time.

Five traits I developed as a lesbian that helped me date men

When I searched for a long-term male partner in my late 50s, I discovered that during those years as a lesbian, I had developed the following traits and attitudes that helped when dating men:

  1. Self-esteem. I had a strong sense of myself, and a confidence that had been developed in relation to the many strong women I had been friends or lovers with.

Result: My self-esteem was not on the line as much while dating men.

  1. Financial self-sufficiency. I had learned that my financial well-being was up to me, so I pursued the education and jobs to support myself at the level I wanted to live.

Result:  I did not need a man to support me, which took pressure off them and me.

  1. No anger at boomer men. I had missed the painful process for boomer men between their twenties and forties when they struggled from being clueless or sexist to accepting feminism, if not embracing it.

Result:  Many men had been through feminist growing pains with ex-wives or lovers. When I met them, they had a wise, appreciative regard for women and feminism.

  1. Appreciating men. The men were less boring, and had interesting, complex lives.

Result: The men had grown up to meet me, and I felt met by them.

  1. No one is perfect. Since women were not perfect, I could allow men to be imperfect.

Result: I did not take it as a personal or feminist affront if men were less than perfect.  Instead, I saw men doing the best they could to relate to women.

You can see how I applied these traits and beliefs to dating men in my memoir, Fifty First Dates After Fifty, now available as a paperback, eBook, and audio book.

You don’t have to become a lesbian to date men!

While my lesbian years were good for my confidence, women do not need to become lesbians to learn the same lessons! There are many routes to personal strength and self-esteem.  I strongly recommend attending workshops about learning to love yourself and others, where you can also meet men who are sincerely trying to learn how to have better relationships. (See my blog post, Ten ways Relationship Workshops Helped Me Date.)

Life skills that help for dating men

Whatever route you take, developing these qualities are the best preparation for dating men:

  • *a strong self-esteem.
  • *a willingness to work on one’s own communication and relationship skills.
  • *an appreciation for men as interesting people with their own life experiences, who are doing the best they can to relate to women. 

Appreciating men does not mean accepting sexist behavior

Knowing that men are doing the best they can does not excuse rude or sexist behavior.  I spoke up and rejected men for that. But overall, it was the appreciation for men that led me to the right partner, and it is our ability to appreciate each other that keeps us together.

More sexual identity options today, but we all need to find our way

Today, with a queer continuum of many options, young women may feel less pressured to identify as either lesbian or straight. However, too much choice can be overwhelming. Whatever our era and identity, we all need to find a way to develop our self-esteem and discover the types of relationships that work best for each of us.  That’s a journey that everyone can take.

Published by Carolyn Lee Arnold

I'm the author of Fifty First Dates After Fifty: A Memoir, about my dating adventures to find my perfect partner in my late fifties. I found him, and we've been happily together for over 10 years. These blog posts explore what I learned while dating and from writing my book. For more about the book, including dating resources, other writings, and fun interviews with me, check out my website at the top of this page.

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