The lesbian dating game 

It seems like there were many signals that I was gay. OK, not signals, more like flashing red lights. Even though I slept with men, I was always quick to boot them out of bed. They got the job done. Period. There was no feeling of wanting to develop something deeper.

But when I kissed a woman, the earth really did shake. My heart was laid bare. My emotions were on fire. It was fun. It was thrilling. It was scary.

Yet I had no frame of reference in dating. What if both of us want to lead on the dance floor, or worse yet, what if neither of us want to lead and then we end up looking like a couple of dorky old dykes?

The parameters that used to exist in the heterosexual world had disappeared.

I met women who could use power tools but who could sweep me off my feet on the dance floor and in the bedroom. I discovered women who were feminine and sweet, but in the bedroom were totally dominatrices. I learned that toys are not just something you get for Christmas.

In this sexually androgynous world, I learned the truth about gay women.

Not all lesbians are sweet and nurturing, and some women come with so much baggage they dump it all out on the first date. I find women charming who wear their hearts on their sleeves, but do I really need to know on the first date your brother raped you, you have multiple personalities and you are on an anti-depressant that diminishes your sexual appetite?

Maybe I have that radar that attracts seriously troubled women, but I have gone on some mighty strange dates. One woman told me she wanted to bring her mother along on the first date. I generally do really well with moms. But when I’m gazing in some woman’s eyes — in that first flush of attraction — I really don’t want to be making small talk with Mom, unless Mom is cute, and then maybe I want to date her instead.

Then there was the woman with 10 cats. I thought I could handle her eccentricities. Rule No. 1 in sexual attraction — Just because you’re madly attracted to a woman does not mean the presence of 10 cats leering at you while you are making love to their mommy will not feel creepy. When I told her she had nine cats too many, she looked wounded. “But you live in an efficiency apartment,” I countered. She looked at me as though everyone who lives in an apartment the size of a cigar box has more pets than they can afford and comfortably handle. The cats obviously were going nowhere, but guess where I was going? Like most animal fanatics, this woman preferred creatures with four legs and a tail over the human variety. Ouch!

I met another woman through the personals who told me she had gone on more than 100 dates. I bluntly asked if she had gone on a second date or developed a relationship with any of these women. She looked at me as if to say, “Why would I want to do that when I can have awkward moments with complete strangers all the time?” OK then.

Through all the dating travails, however, I have developed some standards from which I am not about to budge.

If she is culturally illiterate, forget it. Call me a snob, but I am not going to have much to talk about with a woman who only reads Popular Mechanics and thinks a bookstore is only a place to drink coffee. I’m 46. I’m not in the mood to teach any woman who can’t teach me back. One of my first lovers made me appreciate Dave Brubeck, classical music and Joseph Campbell. Oh, yeah, and she had a great tush.

If her voice is lower than Bea Arthur’s, she is plastered with tattoos and she walks like a hulking linebacker, that is way too butch for me. Don’t get me wrong — there is a grace and strength in butch women that can be incredibly sexy, but if she looks like my brother with breasts, I’m not going there.

If she is still living with her ex, and her ex looks like she just got out of prison, it seems like it might be difficult to carry on some kind of courtship that does not require police protection. Lesbian boundaries are always a little strange.

I just can’t see myself sitting down and watching TV with my girlfriend, while her ex and the new honey tell me how their day went.

As I get older, I have learned to appreciate low-maintenance women — you know, the ones who have no pets, no kids and dead parents. That way you will not have to deal with bratty kids, moms who will blame you for turning their daughter gay, and you will never have to dump kitty litter. Even if dogs do drool, at least they have the sense to do their business someplace far away from your clothes closet.

Sarah Jessica Parker, the patron saint of straight, single girls, thought she had it rough. The star of “Sex and the City” has not dated a woman who has so many keys in her back pocket she jingles, who still lives with her ex and who watches Jerry Springer because she relates so well to the guests.

One night I shared some of my dating woes with a new friend, and she laughed so hard, it made me wonder — “Who am I? The Lucille Ball of the lesbian community?”

Then I realized, like every other single lesbian out there, I am learning as I go along how to settle into the comfort zone of gay life. I know my dream girl is out there — waiting to be loved but just as willing to love me back. But can I pick up the tab and hold the door for her without being called a gentleman butch? I’ll get back to you on that one.

What about gay guys? See the related story.

Terry Loncaric, an entertainment reporter and feature writer from the Chicago area, is the author of The Healing Powers of Laughter for Abbey Press. E-mail

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