Queer Down Under: A Seattleite in Oz, Episode Two

Queer Down Under: A Seattleite in Oz, Episode Two

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Photo: Xavier ROSSI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Photo: Xavier ROSSI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

My phone buzzes.

Jen32: Hey

Me: Hi

Jen32: How’s you’re week going?

Me: Not bad. How’s yours?

Jen 32: Pretty Crap. I just broke up with my girlfriend.

Me: Oh….that sucks.

Jen32: I’m sort of in that place where I just want to have a rebound to stop thinking about her, you know?

Me: Sorry about that. It will get easier.

I flee. Too much drama. Next…

Me: I like your photos, especially the one with the ropes.

Mica: Thanks.

Me: Are you kinky? What are you into?

Hours later…

Mica: Lots of different things. I’m mostly looking for someone to play with, but not a full-on relationship. I don’t really have time for that right now. (obviously)

Me: Ok. What do you look for in a playmate?

Waiting patiently for a response…

Mica: (silence)

The next day I send a message to someone who I had a full conversation with the previous week.

Me: Hey, haven’t seen you on in a while.

Karin: Yeah, I’ve been busy.

Me: Do you want to go out for coffee sometime? I’d still like to hear about your art project.

Karin: Yeah sure, but my schedule will be busy for the next two weeks.

Me: Ok. How about Sunday the 14th?

Karin: That might work. I’ll let you know.

3 days later, recycling connections…

Me: Where do you like to get drinks?

Mica: (silence)

Me: Hi. How’s your week going? Any progress on the project?

Karin: (silence)

Later that night…

NSA fun: Hi.

Me: Hi.

NSA fun: That’s a sexy top you got on there.

Me: Thanks.

NSA fun: You seem different. It looks like you have a lot of interests.

Me: Yeah. I do.

NSA fun: I love classical literature, but I’m mostly on here to have some fun.

Me: That’s cool.

NSA fun: No pressure or anything, but would you like to meet up, see if there’s any spark or anything? Either way, we could get to know each other a bit.

Me: Sure. It would be good for me to meet new people. How about this weekend?

NSA fun: Yeah. I get my work schedule tonight so I’ll check in tomorrow.

Me: Ok.

2 days pass…

NSA fun: Hey…. sorry about this, but I don’t think I can meet up this weekend.

Me: Oh. That’s ok. Next week?

NSA fun: Actually I think I’ve met someone.

Me: Oh. Congratulations.

NSA fun: I know I was looking for just some fun, but this has real potential and I have to pursue it.

Me: That’s all right. Good for you. I hope it works out.

NSA fun changes her profile name to Leila mid-conversation.

Leila: Thanks. Take care.

20 minutes later.

Mica: I like the Imperial Hotel in Newtown.

I take a long silence from everyone.

Knowing basically no one here in the community, I decided I would break into the lesbian scene in Sydney the old fashioned way: the internet. A friend had just introduced me to Brenda, an app like Grindr for girls. You put up a profile with a few pics and like Grindr, if you’re online, other users they can see how many meters away you are, and message you.

My reasons for going this route are as follows: Even if the LGBT community is well established, most of the ladies are often coupled and nesting away with their current S.O.’s or close knit group of friends.  Finding them in a situation where they can easily be talked to as individuals can be like spotting the illusive Cassowary…or maybe it’s because I’m not living close enough to the inner-west (a grouping of alternative neighborhoods a bit like Georgetown, Fremont, and Capitol Hill if they were all next to each other.)

Photo: Stuart Chattilon
Photo: Stuart Chattilon

I think most of the girls on here don’t actually expect to use this app for casual hookups like Grindr. In fact there’s a really quick turnover rate on profiles, so either they are finding people and quickly throwing themselves into monogamy, or they’re on just long enough to get some needed attention from the ladies.  There are infinite reasons to use this app, but whatever the intentions, sexual desire is still probably the most powerful social motivator.

Whatever our fears, desire gets us to meet new people. It opens us up to a kind of cultural resource exchange.  The result of mingling, date or no date, is often meeting friends of friends, exes of exes, getting to know friendly organizations, local hang outs, event nights, parties, etc. I don’t know how similar to Seattle it is, but small crowds are often insular, and getting vetted by one gives you access to their web. We really are on an L Word kind of chart and mine connects to a strand a whole continent away. To get in, I’m going to have to talk to women, and a lot of them.

The downside of this method though is that it works against female socialization. We’re not always great at pursuing each other. Keeping multiple people engaged is like trying to keep several Tamagotchi pets with various personalities all fed and taken care of so that my phone keeps buzzing with interest. Maybe I’ve been casting my net a little too wide lately because they’ve all blended into a queer online version of the United States of Tara, or as I call her, my girlfriend Brenda.

BrenBrendada texts me 7-10 times a day, and once around midnight as someone I’ve never spoken to before, asking what I’m up to. I reply most of the time.  People around me have gotten used to my being occupied with my phone at the level of someone in a long distance relationship. Every time it buzzes I have to take care of Brenda. Brenda is high maintenance, and has to be sent a few messages a day otherwise she’ll get bored and stop talking to me. If various personalities don’t get enough attention, they will disappear within a day or so until there’s nothing left of her. Even when some take a break for a few days, when they come back online I have to remind them that we have an exchange going on. Sure, none of them have any actual commitments to me, but if you combine the passing interests of all of them surely you could round her up to one “new girlfriend” status. In some ways she’s ideal. As long as she stays virtual I can continually reject the parts I don’t like and pay attention to the ones I do. But she’s not even a virtual person. She’s a conglomerate of virtual passing interests.

I might complain about how none of the actual people on Brenda are very active when it comes to meeting in person, but why would they be? As long as a girlfriend is always a “new girlfriend” she idealizes you right back. It’s a whole lot scarier to meet real living breathing people. Without the dire need for physical affection, or in my case, the need to find some belonging here, there’s not a whole lot of motivation to take things a step further. Brenda might be high maintenance, but she’s not scary. You can turn off your phone and she will re-appear to greet you with fresh excitement and a new face when you’re ready.

Somehow, if I’m going to be a part of this community, I have to push through this barrier and convince someone else to get to know a real Michelle, and not just a virtual Brenda.

Michelle Lunicke is a writer and performance artist from Seattle currently living abroad in Sydney, Australia. You can follow her twitter feed @michellelunicke. She blogs and makes collaborative art at michellelunicke.com.

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