Some Ask: “What’s the Difference Between Dating a Man and a Woman?”

Kathryn M. Living Out Loud

By Kathryn Martini, PQ Monthly

In a recent column, I addressed the complicated issue of online dating for a single, bisexual lady. Since that publication, I met a lovely, also bisexual woman, and we’ve been dating exclusively since. No, we didn’t meet on Tinder; we met the old-fashioned way, through a mutual ex-boyfriend. No, I’m not going to announce that we’re moving in and adopting a cat together. As good fortune has it, I already have a cat and she owns a Subaru, and after two years of dating men, I’m happy to report that the Lesbian Recruiting Board reinstated my card to good standing.

Akin to when I was married to a man and then dated women, and then after I was married to a woman and began dating men, the ubiquitous questions resurfaced: “So, what are you now?” and “Does this mean you don’t like guys anymore?” and my favorite, “What’s the difference between dating a man and a woman?”

I used to say there aren’t differences because people are just people and relationships are what they are with all the baggage and issues that come with them. But since taking nearly a year off of not dating anyone at all, I spent quite a bit of time pondering relationships and not only what kind of partner I would someday want, but also the kind of partner I wanted to be.

As common with most people following the end of a relationship, I was quite broken. Not just heartbroken, but socially and financially as well. It takes a bit of time to reassemble when it falls apart, and while it’s in pieces is not the best time to seek out new partners (I learned this the hard way.) By taking the time to re-build my foundation and my core self, I was able to put myself out there as a whole being, which allowed me to see things, I believe, a bit clearer. And during that time of reflection, I never disallowed either gender as a potential-future-partner.

I am wholly bisexual—with an equal propensity and attraction for both men and women: emotionally, physically, psychologically and sexually. I understand this is a scary and unappreciated concept for a lot of people, especially within the queer community for a myriad of social reasons. I didn’t come to this insight without a bit of trial and error, consideration, self-doubt and wondering—also, the knowledge that identifying as a feminine bisexual woman has benefits: I can seamlessly move between the two worlds, and that awareness is something I consider and respect. I use my privilege for good.

There are so many elements of love that it’s impossible to try and parse out each little nuanced difference: why we don’t have a lexicon of words for love, I do not know. We flirt with romantic love when the curtain opens and an invitation is extended: we choose to walk through or our fear keeps us at bay. If we are enticed enough to acquiesce, we are swept into a relationship, and whether that partnership is with a man or a woman carries its own unique, yet equitable attributes. My vision is through my experience, identity and attractions and are not the same as someone else’s. I fully admit that my preferences are somewhat gender biased and my personal brand is ever shifting.

I have personal pros and cons to dating men or dating women, and despite the most obvious ones, most of the differences are unremarkable, because either gender can do almost anything.

When I date a man, he will generally carry heavy objects: like luggage and firewood. He will install air conditioners, clean out drains, fix doors, take down the tent, change the bulb in my headlight, and come home with only half of the things on the grocery list. He will snore, and is sometimes hairy in weird places. He holds the door, drives, and pays for drinks when we go out. He looks after me.

When I date a woman, my wardrobe doubles, and if I’m lucky, my shoe collection doubles as well. She brings me coffee and water and pours me a glass of wine while telling me how pretty I am. Her body fits exactly next to mine when we sleep and we understand all of the emotional parts of being a woman that women know. We understand one another’s bodies, we have our periods at the same time, and our house is clean. We argue about who is going to drive, and we always have toilet paper.

There is no paucity for gender norms, but they all are in constant flux and shape shifting as each day passes: manufactured, yet still important, however archaic. It’s up to me to decide when and with whom I share my life and how I choose to execute those decisions. And what I’ve decided is to just love, in whatever form it is at the time.

            Kathryn Martini is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She can be reached through her website at kathrynmartini.com.