Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Straight girls. They take ages to seduce, they’re hit and miss in bed – and then they go back to their boyfriends.

kisss

There may be a thousand reasons why lesbians love the thrill of a straight girl. Maybe women who chase women possess the same rabid ego we despise in straight men, the same ego that makes a person go giddy at the thought of being “the first” for the straight girl in question. The heterosexual terrain of her flesh, untouched by other girl’s hands, smacks of the virgin narrative. Who wouldn’t want to be “the first”? Who doesn’t like what feels like a conquest? A win?

Maybe it is the thrill of conversion – and that is only if any such crossover can be deemed a conversion. Who is to say such conquests were not sleeper-lesbians, just waiting for the right moment to awaken? I suppose, though, through the right lens, the process could be described as evangelical, this business of meeting, and courting and having a woman decide to jump the heterosexual ship to be with you (even if it is temporary). More often than not, the crossover is accompanied by confessions of, “I’ve never done this with anyone before.” Or, “I’m not into women, there’s just something about you that makes me want to try this.” Either way, you are the chosen one, the messiah, the mandate that pulls her, magnetic, toward her most hidden desires.

Or maybe we are just like everyone else, desperately looking everywhere for love. Whatever it is, the phenomenon excites us; this lascivious dance between the narrow spaces occupied by the women the world wishes we were and the women who sometimes wish they were us keeps the tradition of lesbians chasing straight alive and flourishing. Yes, we crack mean jokes about it – who wants to invest in a relationship with a LUG? (Lesbian until graduation.) And, yes, we complain about the true cost of cavorting with the bi-curious – the eventual sexual frustration (often, our sexual favours are not returned during lovemaking). But we all do it, over and over and over again, until something happens that makes us say, no more. And this resolution can last for quite a while – months even (LOL) – until the next dangerously intriguing straight woman struts by, flirting at us, daring us to make her cross the line.

My story is no different. And while I am the first to ask for the gory details from other women, I am the last to fess up to the rapturous, but futile years I spent chasing women who identified as straight. Frustrated with the cloak and dagger reality of LGBT life even in London, in a moment of madness, or a rare stroke of genius, I walked into the middle of a courtyard and made a public announcement, “Yes. I would just like to say, out loud, the thing I know everybody has been talking about. Yes. I am a lesbian. Yes. I like girls. Now it’s out there. So now, nobody has to be all strange about it.”

After that grandstanding, no one about whom there was an ounce of homosexual suspicion wanted to be seen with me, much less date me. I like to tell people I had no choice, that to forge new ground I had to go into the thick and frightening forest of the straight girls. I spent about two months studying the lay of the land. I noticed the girls who glanced at me when they thought I wasn’t looking. I also took note of how many of them blushed when they caught me looking. I was particularly interested in the ones who seemed to thrive on making me look, but would turn away if it seemed as if I might approach them. Something about the push and pull created a sexual tension I enjoyed.

There was one girl I liked more than the others. I watched her all the time, looking for a way to approach her. I had no idea how this sort of thing was done. I had almost given up when I found her crying in the Philosophy section of the library. I sat on the floor next to her and just waited. It broke my heart to see her sobbing. I wanted to make her stop. I didn’t think about it, I just placed my hand between her shoulder blades and kept it there. She wept for another hour before she turned to face me. My hand was still on her back, so it felt natural to pull her closer. I only intended to hug her, but she leaned in and kissed me.

Then one morning while we were in bed spooning, her ex-boyfriend called and made a convincing argument for reconciliation. She told me she was still in love with him. Plus, she was beginning to tire of the clandestine nature of our relationship. She wasn’t meant for this kind of life.

I still flirt with these straight-but-not-so-straight women. Only now I know the limitations of such insanities. The trick to surviving the chase is not to take yourself, or the interaction, too seriously. I always choose an opening line that borders on the absurd. “I like the way you make that pink push-up bra look intellectual” – and if she is the kind of sexually ambiguous woman that likes this kind of attention, she will laugh. And if you listen well, you can tell if she is likely to play or nay. It is not because she laughs that indicates her willingness, but how she laughs. It has to be a sort of curious amusement that comes from her eyes and travels to her mouth. Never mention that her skin is beautiful or that her legs go on for ever. Remember, she navigates that sort of cheese from straight men all day long.

Never, ever overtly refer to the electricity crackling between the two of you. Courting the bi-curious requires the skill of restraint. There is a sort of informal manual for lesbian chasing not-so-straight. And the first rule is, you have to be platonic first. Girls who are not-so-straight but identify as straight – even when they admit to being attracted to women – don’t want that interest to seem conscious. It’s always better if it seems like an impulsive adventure, a thing that just happened. Which means you always begin as nothing more than a friend. No compliments, no kissing, no holding hands, no longing looks. No, I miss you phone calls. No yearning. Just casual chitchat girly-girl conversations. You should laugh when she confides in having a crush on some boy. Offer advice on what she should wear when she goes to see him. Be supportive of her relationship. Become her friend, first. Work very hard at being her very best friend. Always remember, you’re only her friend. You are not allowed to bend that rule for at least three months.

If you really want a shot at getting close to this woman, you have to wait until there is a crack in the lack of respect her boyfriend has for her. Watch for when he is late, or disrespectful, or inconsiderate. Casually mention that you would never treat a woman like that. Reinforce how she deserves so much better. Store the details. Then wait for him to mess up big. Then, you can tell her that you would never put up with that from a man. Quickly apologise for saying that you think she shouldn’t either. Resist the urge to stroke her brows as her doubts about him begin to fester.

Even as she responds, avoid talk of sex. There will be time enough to expound on how lesbian sex has a way of being outrageous – what with the use of bedposts, and cling film and handcuffs with fur in the middle. It’s a no-no to mention dildos. Do not raise the issue of multi-speed vibrators. Wait until she tells you her relationship with the boy is over. Hug her gently. Empty your head of thoughts of pressing her back to the ground. Straight girls are not interested in swallowing the whole lesbian syllabus in the first class. If she pulls away, let her. This dalliance is for those who possess inhuman amounts of patience. So, resist the urge to go after her. Silence the arguments developing in your head. Do not say another word to her. Between you and me, more often than not, if you give her the space, she will come back. I’m not sure how long she will stay. But if you are a lesbian chasing not-so-straight girls, I’m assuming you are willing to risk falling for a woman who may not be your life partner.

Otherwise, you should go in with only the intention to have fun, maybe learn a thing or two. Maybe you will teach her something new about gender-bending and multiple orgasms. Maybe the experience will teach you something about loss. But you must remember that most straight-not-so-straight girls are often unwilling to make the dive into lesbian sexuality permanent. Sure, some are moved enough to dip a hand all the way in, but most of them are only experimenting with the tide. And though most of us dykes enjoy the time of day they choose to give us, in our heart of hearts, we know that such girls require too much effort, and that the costs are often too high. And in the already complicated lives of most adult lesbians, the heady excitement of a short thrill isn’t worth the long-term emotional expense.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. For me, dressing is a question of comfort and a lack of fear of being judged for “looking like a lesbian”.

Gender

How many women – straight or not – would benefit from never having to consider what a man – real or imagined – thought of their clothes.

Though I realised I was into girls at around six, it took until 13 to come out, and then 17 to tell my mum.

After coming out, I’ve always stuck to feminine outfits and a feminine look.

So, I’ve never gone for gender-neutral. And what was once a queer-owned style has shifted to the mainstream, being appropriated by straight women to the point that it’s now impossible to infer a sexual orientation from the way a woman dresses.

Obviously, it’s fine. I’m not one to tell straight women to dress straight and vice versa, but it’s certainly having an impact on gay women. What was once lesbian code is now merely on-trend, thanks to the high-street ubiquity of unisex outfitters such as American Apparel and Uniqlo and the androgynous cuts of Scandinavian shops like Cos. Add to that the rise of gender-free accessories (Grenson shoes, beautiful and virtually indistinguishable between genders). Some women are shirking the “boyfriend” cut for actual men’s clothes, something gay women have been doing for years.

Celebrity influence has also helped, from the ever-quirky Tilda Swinton to the more tabloid-friendly, youth-appealing sorts such as Cara Delevingne. Even Emma Stone, who happens to be straight, prefers to put a little subtle butchness into her off-duty looks, dressing like a cross between Kristen Stewart and preppy Taylor Swift. As for singers Jessie Ware and Lorde, both are styled by Avigail Claire – who just knows how a monochrome masculine cut works on a feminine physique.

Stepping outside of sexuality, it’s an interesting shift for fashion. If lesbians and bisexual women dress butch, it’s not necessarily because they want to be boys, or deliberately to peacock for other women. They’re doing it because they don’t necessarily aspire to a supposed male ideal of what looks cute; they’re more interested in wearing what’s most comfortable to them, that or emulate ‘out’ model Freja Beha Erichsen in black tees, black jeans and biker jackets.

It’s not only going to be harder for lesbians to pull off, now that every woman is wearing these signposts of queer, but I’m a bit proud of not looking like a ‘dyke in those dungarees’. And that pride is in setting yourself apart, in wilfully doing something that will never ever be done for the pleasure of a bloke, is kind of liberating.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. From her empty bed. Here’s the latest about a single girl from London and her thoughts on her sex life.

th

Single girls have never had it so good. The worst thing about being free, is that it generally doesn’t last.

No sooner have you dusted yourself down, picked up the pieces and returned to that blissful state of emotional tranquillity and delicious self-indulgence, then along comes somebody to mess it all up again. Within weeks, your social life has been pruned down to the occasional dinner party with other couples, while weekends are spent fighting over the remote control and trying to lure the lumpish body next to you out for a walk. A life that you managed perfectly yourself becomes a minefield of tricky situations brought about by attempting to share responsibilities.

Yet the coveted state of singledom continues to be seen as a compromise. When was the last time you heard somebody say pityingly, ‘Poor thing, she’s still dating, you know?’ – yet that’s exactly the sort of presumptuous insult that’s hurled at the single dweller on a regular basis. This despite the fact that many relationships involve more misery and compromise than most people who choose to go it alone will experience in a lifetime. The accepted wisdom, that from the day we’re born we’re duty bound to seek out a like-minded person who’ll make two become one, defies logic. You only need the most basic grasp of mathematics to know that two is always two.

I had my macro Damascene revelation on the joys of being single about six months ago. It was early morning and the pale light of a wintry sun trickled through my bed-room blinds as I stretched myself diagonally over the expanse of my double bed. Wearing my pyjama bottoms and tee, I shuffled into the kitchen and prepared myself a coffee and a bowl of cereal. Then, picking up the newspaper from my doorstep, I slipped back between the still-warm sheets.

As I lolled around on my bed reading the news and trying to remember my plans for the day ahead, I experienced a quiver of smug contentment. No more breakfast television, no more checking my watch when I was enjoying the company of friends, no more declining of invitations from people who bored her or vice versa, as much theatre as I wanted. The list of my blessings was endless. I was free. I was single again. After years of whining self-pity during my regular phases of being single I’d suddenly realised that, far from a being punishment, it was an idyllic state to be savoured.

Of course, you can write me off as being a smug yuppie with a comfortable lifestyle and a selfish nature. But you’d be wrong. My modicum of financial security is hard earned, and as for being single, I’ve tried as hard as anyone to make terrible relationships work. Yet it never occurred to me to rise to the converse challenge of creating a worthwhile lifestyle alone. Some of my ex-girlfriends remain good friends, but as I watch them fall like skittles into new unions, I find surprisingly that I don’t envy them at all. I’ve no doubt that despite my best efforts I won’t remain in this heavenly state uninterrupted, but the chances are I will return to it again, and again, and again. Marriage has an undeserved reputation as the only way of life worth aspiring to, cohabitation comes a close second, and the popular misconception is that no one would choose to be single. A faintly hypocritical scenario when you look at the state of modern relationships. In the clear light of day, and with the right attitude, going it alone offers many advantages.

Nevertheless, being single, particularly as a woman, continues to get a bad press. Pitied (poor thing can’t get a man), vilified (single-mum syndrome) or condescended to (isn’t it time you grew up) but never celebrated as a chosen way of life. A woman finds no respect forthcoming, and can only pray that the day the label ‘single’ turns to ‘spinster’ is further away than her menopause. For centuries, men have been prolonging their ‘merry bachelor’ days. Is it mere coincidence that women only reach a similar jovial state when they become ‘merry widows’? I suppose it stands to reason. If a woman has never had the ‘official’ stamp of approval from a man, then what on earth has she got to be happy about?

Any declaration on the joys of being single is invariably met with a sympathetic smile and a pat on the head for being brave enough to pretend you’re not suicidal. If you don’t answer questions regarding your love life with a resigned shrug and an ‘I’ll try to do better’ attitude, people think there’s something wrong with you or your gay. No matter how good a time you’re having as a single woman, you are expected to be a bit ashamed. It wouldn’t do to turn up to a party and boast about the incredible sex you had all weekend with a woman you met at a fabulous party two weeks previous.

Sex for the single girl is unquestionably a tricky issue. Even in these supposedly emancipated times, it’s still regarded as an activity that men should take pride in doing a lot of and women should try hard to pretend they never indulge in – unless it’s in a monogamous, long-term relationship. Well, we all make mistakes and the longevity of the relationship is something none of us can guarantee when, overcome by passion, we find ourselves cavorting on the sofa.

Women may be less profligate with their sexual favours, but they get just as bored by regular bad sex, or indeed just the same old sex.

Most of my friends question me relentlessly about whom I’m dating. My independently minded friends aren’t less interested, they’re just way too busy living their own lives – something I’m afraid cohabitees stop doing the minute they start sharing a front door. How else do you explain the wistful look in their eyes when you tell them you’re off to France for a month?

Now, finally, women have the opportunity to enjoy the lifestyle they’ve worked hard to create. Only a lunatic would leap off that bandwagon having only just managed to manoeuvre your way on! The second your deposit account has upwards of a three-figure balance is surely not the time to throw in the towel. The fun is only just beginning. Hooking up with someone involves such a plethora of compromises that just thinking about it makes me nervous. I haven’t slogged my guts out for 20 years or so to spend my much-needed holidays with a woman who wants to play Scrabble on a sun lounger while I trail around the cultural hotspots desperately wishing I had a girlfriend there to keep me company in bed in the afternoons.

I want to see the world, meet Machiavellian people, read more books, sleep in, stay out, spend three weeks in a row without switching the television on, eat toast and Marmite four times a day for a month. I can let weeks go by without venturing anywhere near a supermarket. Contrary to popular perception, when I open the fridge door and discover only a bottle of wine. I’m not depressed for a moment. Instead I’m beside myself with relief that it’s not full of snack-sized Babybels and six-packs of hideous fruit yogurts.

The independence of a career introduces the possibility of choosing to live alone, and it’s an improvement to the status quo that my generation seem all too happy to embrace.

Perhaps my own experiences of ‘happy coupledom’ have something to do with my reticence to share door keys at present. They say that living alone is lonely, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt as alone as in the twilight moments of a relationship when a once-busy double bed has become as wide and desolate as Antarctica. The possibility of reaching out for comfort from the other side is as ridiculous as warming your hands on an ice cube.

I have a suspicion that spending more time on enjoying your life and less time on seeking a partner may ultimately be the secret to both. One thing’s for sure, though. Sitting around moping and waiting for your significant other is a waste of time. And that’s one thing you never have enough of.

 

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. The harsh realities of finding a relationship. This may change your view.

th86K8BY2W

Can men and women ever be “just friends”? The correct answer is: “Yes, obviously, so why in God’s name do paper editors, authors of dating books and headline-seeking psychologists keep asking?”

My evidence is as follows: one, I’m female; two, a good friend of mine is male; three, the prospect of romantic involvement with him strikes me, as absurd, but friends yes.

What’s striking about the “just friends” debate is how useless it is. If you believe such friendships are common, it’s meaningless to be told you’re deluded. Conversely, if you are a woman tortured by unrequited love for a man friend, it’s little use to learn that some other men and women don’t feel that way: you still have an issue that needs addressing.

The real reason some people continue to deny the possibility of such friendships, I believe, is that they subscribe to what you might call the Harsh Realities of Relationships. Not, let’s be clear, because they’re more in touch with reality, but because they derive such enormous satisfaction from believing they are.

Just as the Harsh Realities position on male-female friendships is that sex always gets in the way, the Harsh Realities take on dating is that it’s a battlefield, where playing mind-games is essential; relationships, meanwhile, are mutually manipulative power struggles.

The problem isn’t that this is always wrong – it isn’t – but that its claim to insight is unearned: if you always pick the most cynical explanation, you’ll sound “brutally honest” every time.

So, might approaching strangers and asking them to sleep with you, as per the old Russian joke. Just because a strategy works as a numbers game doesn’t mean it gets at anything true about human nature. Some cross-sex friendships are more platonic, others less so. Some people are more manipulative, others less so. And so, boringly, on. The real harsh reality is that reality isn’t always harsh.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Every girl needs a best friend to help her laugh every now and again, but should you date her?

date

The dilemma this morning is I am a woman in my early 20s hoping at some point in the future is to have a long-term relationship and then eventually to get married. I have been single for a little while, but recently I was surprised by a good friend’s admission that she was “in love with” me and has been for some time.

However, I’m inclined to follow my feelings and let her down, but should I give it a chance to see if deeper feelings follow the considered rationale?

I appreciate there are many who think it’s highly sophisticated to be able to pull out their smart phone and find a partner for passion in the vicinity within moments. Phone apps like Tinder, Grindr, Happn, Findhrr and other vowel-eschewing online destinations have taken the legwork out of our sexual liaisons but have they in any way improved the quality of the encounter?

Putting sex on a Google Map for those in the mood for love is one thing, but it’s curious, isn’t it, that when we’re looking for a partner for more than an instant fix we tend to employ the same criteria? Top of our list of essential components is whether or not we are overcome by desire: a state of being that has nothing to do with reason and thought and much to do with base instinct of sex. However, sex (though on the “to do” list) slips down the list of priorities for daily harmony pretty soon.

It’s definitely important to be able to countenance coupling with the person you select, but long-term passion will dwindle and if you haven’t got respect, friendship and a genuine interest in the person you’re with there’s not a chance of the relationship surviving. That’s why unions embarked on in the haste of desire and sustained on little else, more often in teen years, tend to be the first to crumble.

I’m not usually one to advocate alcohol, but imbibing something that might briefly liberate me from rational decision-making could be the key to figuring out my options. Or a night out with no holds barred could mark the beginning of a new life, and, dealt with decently, doesn’t need to end my friendship if not.

 

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. If you’re unhappy. Days are long, weeks are short. But can you measure happiness?

WETLANDS

How do we measure happiness?

Do we measure happiness based on how many true friends we have? On how much time we spend with family? On whether we have found true love, and what we did with that discovery? On whether we’re chasing dreams or just living one day after the other? Is happiness measured on how many times a day we feel scared and face that fear, or how many times contempt takes over? How can we say we are truly happy, or happier than another, if measuring happiness can be so… difficult?

When I was young — not just young, but at the specific age of 5 — I thought happiness could be measured by how much people loved you. That theory proved to be wrong as soon as I was old enough to understand love can’t be easily measured, either. Then, I remember thinking — at the age of 13 — that happiness was measured by success. If I had the job I wanted, I would be happy. If I was studying in the college I wanted, I would be happy. If I was at any level walking towards professional success, surely that would mean absolute happiness.

I don’t know how to measure happiness, exactly. I just know when it’s there. It’s when we breathe in and it isn’t only air that we bring to our lungs, but a sparkle of something very close to life itself, which is obviously ridiculous and absurd and a bit redundant. That’s what I feel happiness is — being ridiculous and absurd and a bit redundant.

In my honest opinion, happiness crawls under your skin the same unexpected way sadness does. It piles up but you don’t see it, and then all of sudden it’s there, and you can’t even plan an escape. You’re happy. You don’t know how much — if you ever learn how to measure happiness, do tell; I’ll be forever curious — but you know it’s there. You’re breathing in life, and yet breathing out love. I’ve never been especially good with biology, as I don’t understand the mechanisms of life, but I’m not clueless enough to ignore it when it happens.

I can only hope you’re not clueless, either.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Should you fall in love online? These are some things all romantics should know.

untitled

Not long ago, online dating was a bit embarrassing – an implied concession that you’d exhausted your options among friends, friends of friends, and the children of your parents’ friends “in the real world”.

Personally, I’m all for it: handwringing over the “death of romance” brought about by these apps often boils down to technophobia or moralising over casual sex, when in fact they help people date outside their immediate circle. If you’ve ever been in a group setting and realised, with no small horror, that everyone present is either your ex or a friend’s ex, you will attest that this is no bad thing.

Look at photos they’re tagged in, not just those they post – and pay attention to who consistently likes their selfies.

Plus, the algorithms employed by more formal online services such as OkCupid do a lot of the groundwork of establishing compatibility, pre-empting deal-breakers by asking “Should gay marriage be legal?” and “Does living on a sailboat sound like a good idea?”

But even outside online dating platforms, it’s easy to register – and solicit – romantic interest on the internet. There is a dance one performs on social media to turn a platonic friendship, acquaintance or even “internet friend” into something more.

Just as a bird of paradise might display his plumage to attract the attention of a potential mate, a potential partner interested in you might like your three-week-old Instagram post, or send you a direct message (as in, “slides into your DMs”).

“If you’re really putting yourself out there, you could comment on their picture with a heart emoji.”

“When I have a crush on someone and I want them to know I go on their page and like a lot of pictures in a row.”

“Like all of them. Like, like, like, like, like, like all the pictures.”

Several of my own romantic dalliances have been initiated or progressed over social media, particularly Facebook. Allow me to convince you that this is less sad than it sounds: at its best, the platform is like a lively bar – it’s easy to meet like-minded people; you can eavesdrop or join in on others’ conversations; everyone is a bit funnier and more attractive there than they are in daylight.

And from observing banter that’s then gone conspicuously silent as the conversation is moved to private messaging, like a couple who think they’ve very discreetly removed themselves from a house party, I am confident I am not the only one. (Tip: it’s never the people blowing up your timeline with their tedious flirtation who have taken their friendship to the next level. It’s the people who were.)

You’re more likely to use Instagram and Facebook to investigate crushes in your outer circle of friends, particularly to establish whether they’re single or not. (Another tip: look at photos they’re tagged in, not just those they post – and pay attention to who consistently like their selfies.)

Now, after all that, you’ve got to work out if you actually like them, particularly if you’re meeting for the first time. Some people’s online presences are not representative, which can be a good or a bad thing. Sometimes you meet someone who is as good value online as they are in person: you should hold them tight and never let them go.

Other times it’s painfully obvious that you’re better as internet friends. When you’ve communicated more – and more intimately – with someone over text than you have in person, it can create a gulf that’s awkward to bridge, and sometimes insurmountable.

How do you cast someone back into the internet from whence they came?

You might try “ghosting”: cutting off contact with zero announcement or explanation. According to the experts, it’s “common and not considered particularly impolite … usually a mutual, conscious uncoupling” (“If you start losing juice, they’ll start losing juice”).

I have mixed feelings about it as a tactic, having seen too many hearts broken more by the absence of explanation than the depth of investment, but it’s not an inappropriate course of action after one fireworks-free first meeting.

If you’re too old school or fundamentally decent to disappear entirely, you can get out of this mess the way you got into it: by pushing them back down the totem of chat. Answer missed calls with texts, respond to texts with messages on Twitter or Facebook and, eventually, public posts. They’ll get the idea.