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• 1900 words • 7-8 min •
Birdy’s name is not, in fact, Birdy. I use code names for everyone I talk about on this blog, but this one actually asked me to call her by a code name. I had messaged her online, and we didn’t have a ton in common, but enough (especially fantasy novels and nerdy pursuits) that I felt like it was worth a shot… until she told me her name.
Which was the same as my birth name.
A sidebar, for those who don’t know – I am nonbinary, and my chosen name is Gaven. (Jaylee James is a pen name.) My extended family and coworkers call me a nickname variation of my birth name, and it’s… tolerable, but really being called by my birth name gives me all manner of uncomfortable feelings. It was used as a weapon against me by abusive parents, and it gives me a lot of odd gender feelings. Even hearing the name on TV or from a secondhand source shoots a spike of anxiety through me.
There was absolutely no way I could date someone with that name.
I told Birdy a shortened version of this, and she was like “No no, that’s fine! My husband actually has a nickname for me – Birdy! You can call me that instead!”
People have told me I’m way too picky about names. I don’t date people who share my birth name, or my family member’s names. But honestly, can you imagine yourself in a really sexy situation, all hot and heavy, moaning in your ear, and groaning out… your mom’s name? Eughghghghhahsdflajsdlfkj no!
But 100% dating someone with my birth name is a no go. And it seemed unfair to her? Shouldn’t she date someone who was able to call her by her real name. She insisted it was fine, and all of my friends insisted it was fine.
“Don’t make ‘Birdy’ a dealbreaker!! It’s cute!! She’s understanding and wants to make it work!”
“Birdy is very efficient – she comes equipped with her own nickname!”
Our first date was black friday shopping. It was kind of spur-of-the-moment. She was texting me about how she hated going alone and how she used to do this with her mom and now that she’s gone, it’s really depressing going alone. So I up and volunteered to go with her. (In hindsight, this sudden dumping of personal history out of nowhere should’ve clued me in to what was in store, but over text it came across as “sorry, this is really overwhelming and I just needed to vent.”)
I really wish I had a picture of the outfit I was wearing that night. I have no idea WHY, but it was like I was trying to look The Gayest Possible. It included plaid flannel and a fake leather jacket, plus a single dangly earcuff. Blue undercut (naturally). I was even wearing my “I’m a bisexual dragon” shirt. Messenger bag covered in pins like “Read the rainbow!” and “Trans lives matter!”
Like I was trying to somehow absorb gayness into my body and become the actual essence of queer.
She asked me to meet her by the makeup counter. So I’m standing there, surrounded by middle-aged women bargain shopping for their kids, and I have my hands in my pockets, kind of intentionally slouching like I think that makes me cool or something, and she showed up.
She was SHORTER THAN ME. I am five feet tall. I kind of have a complex about people who are shorter than me. (How *dare* anyone else be cute and tiny?? I clearly own a monopoly on adorable shortness!! RUDE!!) But… first of all, I didn’t find her all that attractive? Which I feel like a bad person for saying, but I just wasn’t into her on first glance. So “adorable and tiny” was not my first thought. So she was not a threat.
Secondly, I was dressed like the gay second coming, and full of masculine FEELINGS, and standing a few inches over her just made those feelings explode. I felt all 100% of my trans-masc nonbinary self with my hands in my leather jacket, looking down at a girl as she flirted with me. Hecks yeah.
She was very sweet and kept apologizing to me for how much stuff she was buying, and how I was carrying half of it for her. My MANLY FEELINGS were overriding the fact that my arms are made of actual spaghetti noodles and I was
s t r u g g l i n g but she didn’t notice. Or she did, and that’s why she kept apologizing.
At one point she told me how much she loves purple, and we were on the lookout for purple outfits. This was such a good sign. It’s a tad superstitious (ok, a lot superstitious) but every person in my life I have ever had a deep and lasting connection with (friends, partners, whoever) – their favorite color was purple. Hearing someone’s favorite color is purple is like a small flag for my heart to pay more attention to this person. So I was starting to get excited.
We wandered around shopping and chatting for a bit, then made our way over to a couch display. We flopped, with all her selections sprawled all over the couch, and she turned to me, and abruptly, out of nowhere, looks me very intently in the eye, and tells me her therapist isn’t sure if she has one of two very different mental illnesses.
She sort of announced it, then kept looking at me intently, waiting for a response. “Uhh those are two very different things? Aren’t they?” was what I came up with.
She told me about her symptoms and her therapy sessions, while I tried to de-escalate the conversation and change the topic. Don’t get me wrong, that is all stuff I am open to talk about… with people I care deeply about and whose lives I am invested in. There was no build-up to this conversation, no context. And I wasn’t really sure what to do with the information she was giving me. I tried to joke about something and steer the conversation away, but she kept directing it back, like she very sincerely needed me to know the entire history of her mental health.
Important context for this moment, though. Around this time of the year, my relationship with my best friend started to suffocate. It was turning toxic, stressful, hard to face every day. And that friend also shared one of these two mental illnesses Birdy named. At this time in my life, hearing about it sort of set off a chain reaction of panic, a lot of bad memories associated with this friend who was in the process of slowly drowning me. I still think a first date should not include a long monologue about all of your mental health symptoms? Unless that’s something you’ve talked about before and connected with? (I hadn’t shared mine with her, for instance – this truly came out of nowhere and was not part of a larger, mutual conversation.) But at this moment in my life, I was absolutely not ready to have a discussion about this particular diagnosis without a lot of baggage coming along with it.
Suffice it to say, when an employee came over to ask us if we needed anything (Translation: get off the display couch, please), I took the opportunity to spring up and insist we continue shopping, so we could please stop talking about this.
We got her checked out and the night ended only after like two hours, since there was just one store she wanted to go to, and she had to go home. She drove me to her car and was like “If there was anyplace open at midnight on black friday, I would take you to get food, but there’s not… and I don’t think you’d be comfortable coming to my house?” Correct. We scheduled a coffee date for a few days afterward, instead.
I was a little bit apprehensive, but… girl!! and I felt like a hot queer boy around her!! and her favorite color is purple!! Maybe she was nervous and word-vomity. Maybe things would be better next time.
Next time, though, was at my favorite coffee shop (which is apparently also her favorite. I am forever terrified I will run into her there now). She was wearing a satin-and-lace white top with a black blazer and possibly heels, what do I know. I was wearing my leather jacket again even though it was hot. I wanted the magic of being a hot queer boy to not go away.
This time, topics of conversation included: her dead parents, her strained relationship with her bio-mom, her experiences with drugs, and the sexual issues she and her husband were having (I’m not kidding).
I didn’t know what to do with any of it. Instead of getting a sense of who she was as a person, what she’s into, or what a relationship would be like with her, I just got a lot of deeply personal information with no context to put it in.
(Sidebar: I will never understand why so many people’s response to “I’m not comfortable with drugs or alcohol” is to spend the next 15 minutes describing, in detail, their experiences with various substances.)
At one point, she told me she and her husband got married quite a while ago, and now they’ve discovered she is a lesbian and he’s gay. “I try but I just don’t have that masculine energy to satisfy him. Now you, I can see you have strong masculine energy, as well as feminine energy.”
And my super bigender ass was like ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ fuck yeah I do.
She mentioned yellow was her favorite color. I told her I thought her favorite was purple, and her response was, “To wear, yeah, but my all-time favorite color is yellow.”
At one point she actually laughed really hard at something I said, and it was a horrible, terrible evil villain laugh. I had never heard someone actually muhahaha outside of comedic effect. But there we were, in a coffee shop, as she let out this deep Disney villain cackle, and I stared with wide, wide eyes.
The nail in the coffin, though, was when I was feeling wildly uncomfortable, trying to get the conversation to go somewhere even 10% less awkward than it had been, and she smiles at me with that meaningful eye contact and says
Nope nope nope nope. Time to abort. Before she gets hurt, before this gets any more awkward.
The day after the date ended, I texted her to let her know that I just didn’t feel like it was working out. She had mentioned a lot of girls just stop responding, so I wanted to tell her upfront that I just wasn’t feeling like we had a romantic connection. And she thanked me for my honesty, and that was that.