You’re Not Ugly It’s a Pandemic

“Maybe they can just smell your desperation” my straight friend Katie sharply exhales as I take a bite out of my pasta.  She continues “they are women, after all, and we have an intuition for these things”. We’re sitting in a fancy restaurant in Hollywood. Fairy lights consume us as she skewers me. She drinks her wine bristly. I sit there empty and dumbfounded. I feel my face become hot and my mouth becomes dry. I had just confided in her that I am having no luck in dating women for the first time after coming out. Men felt easy. I bat my eyes, look in their direction, and bam! I’m in a new relationship. 

I couldn’t explain to her the nuances of not wanting to seem predatory while having no skills in the queer arena. I simply didn’t have the language. Dating queer, felt like having good credit; to get it you have to have it and if you don’t have you cant get it. I was running fast on the queer ellipticals. I had just told her that a girl I was head over heels for told me she didn’t want to commit. I was gutted. I take a deep breath, taking it all in, not having a smart enough comeback. “Maybe she’s right,” I think as I guzzle down my wine, “maybe she was right”.

Little did I know, but a few weeks later I would enter another entanglement where a girl who I had been seeing for a couple of weeks would ghost me. It was this cycle that I had. Match-connect-ghost, match-connect-ghost, and my heart was starting to run weary, I couldn’t catch a break. 

I saw TikTok couples hold hands and caress each other at some beautiful parks as the sun was setting with a twinkle in their eyes. I wanted so badly to be in a queer relationship that I had never stopped to ask myself why. 

Fast forward three months later and the pandemic hit. It was like tragedy meets chaos for me when it came to dating and for the first time in my baby queer-dom (a word I made up) I had to sit with this feeling on why I was single. Maybe I wasn’t ready? Maybe I didn’t look Bi enough and give off the queer intangible gay-girl energy as a femme. Maybe it was the intersection of my femme-ness (another word I made up) meeting my race as a black woman. 

For the first time in my dating career, I felt…well, invisible. 

“You’re not ugly it’s a pandemic,” I mutter earnestly under my breath, swiping to no avail as Bridgerton plays in the background. I planned to dance on tabletops in West Hollywood. Hooking up with everyone on the dance floor and drowning it all out with shots of tequila under the smoggy LA sun.  Spoiler alert: that didn’t happen. Or at least in the way, I thought it would. 

I kept replaying Katie’s fiery words in my head “Maybe they can smell your desperation”, it cut deeper every time I thought about it. I started thinking about it right before the dates. I’d have to give myself pep talks in the mirror Issa Rae style. “Look betch! This time don’t be desperate, they can smell that shit!”  

I didn’t want them to smell the oh so musty scent of desperation, I could feel myself starting to pull back on dates. My very first date in quarantine was over facetime and to be honest, I felt nothing. Then another date, and another, and to no avail, I just couldn’t connect in this new cyber dating arena. It was way too awkward and uncomfortable. I started getting scared that they could see right past my extroverted persona that deep within me lied a scared, unverified bisexual.

Then I started questioning my sexuality altogether. Maybe I’m not bi until I consummate my sexuality? Who do I think I am running around Beyonce’s internet as a bisexual with no bisexual experiences to back it up? These thoughts spun around in my head as the world was slowly shutting down. I wondered if the pandemic happening was God’s way of telling me something. 

You see, I grew up Christian and I always conflated virginity with value.  It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that I had internalized so much of that pressure surrounding losing my virginity to my queerness. 

Quarantine allowed me to sit in these thoughts for the first time. Some of this sitting caused anxiety, but much of it was taking the time to examine why I date. Why did I feel the need to be in a serious relationship for the better half of my twenties? Why did I monkey bar from situationship to relationship? 

I came to this realization as I was hitting the same wall over and over again. And with this loud silence, I realized that I was dating for validation and not for love and I had merged the two as a form of self-preservation. 

My straight friend Katie’s words, many months ago, hurt so deep because I had been searching for validation in love. She wasn’t right, it wasn’t that somehow my dates were smelling my inexperience, but that I had been jumping in for the wrong reasons. I wanted another queer person to praise me for being queer enough. I wanted someone who was queer to see my bi identity as valid and worthy of love. I wanted someone to swoop me up on their horse and take me away from my problems but unfortunately, that’s not only an unrealistic expectation but also a harmful foundation to any relationship. 

The loneliness of queer dating during a pandemic was a gift.

I needed long walks to sift my way through my own identity before I entered a relationship. I had the opportunity to recalculate my desire. I had to look at myself in the mirror and become ok with who I am.  Not because there is someone in my life, but because I was proud of who I was becoming. I set out on Facetime dates, masked picnics, six-feet-away hikes, and shared negative test results only to find that I was just looking for validation. 

I wanted someone to give me permission to be bi, to be a femme, to be black. That validation was toxic, it was rooted in another person’s approval. Failed cyber date after failed cyber date led to the realization that the longest relationship that I will have is with myself, and until I can sign my own bisexual permission slip, I will never be happy.

Online dating was eating away at parts of my ego one failed commitment at a time. I realized with all of this time in quarantine that I didn’t need anyone to complete me to be happy. This time of being single is a gift to see my queerness through my own eyes and to validate that myself. 

The hard truth is that the only person that can show up for me in the way that I deeply need… is me. So while I didn’t get to dance on tabletops, I was empowered by my singleness in my sweatpants, at home by myself. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t undesirable, but the dynamics of dating are forever changed by the pandemic. 

The sooner I embrace that I could look within myself and find pride in being a single bisexual femme and loving myself more deeply and wholly.

Charmee Taylor

She / Her | Instagram

Written by Charmee Taylor

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