How I Learned I Am A Lesbian

I’m a newly single, 34-year-old lesbian, and I have a list of relationship deal breakers. I keep it on my phone, where an alarm reminds me to reread it each month. On this list are 49 (so far) personality or lifestyle traits I now know, from excruciating experience, that I’m so unwilling to negotiate—they can kill even the sweetest, most tender bud on the vine of romance.

After a particularly bad date this year, I went to a bar with a friend. We laughed as she read the list aloud and joked about adding pettier items to it (wears Keen sandals to a first date/can’t come up with a thomasina3single hobby besides “hanging out with my friends”).

We were tipsy by the time she got to No. 29: “Loves cats and has a cat that only lives inside/has more than one cat.”

Her voice faltered on this item. I took a sip of my cocktail. My friend looked up at me.

“You’re going to die alone,” she said.

It’s important to keep blunt people in your life. She’s right. I’ve long since accepted it. I’m a lesbian who hates cats, and I am going to die alone.

Do you know who mostly owns cats? Women. Queers. Not all women, and not all queers, obviously, but go on, I dare you—try being queer and hating cats and looking online for dates. So many queers on Tinder or Her or OkCupid are obsessed with their cats. Sometimes they will post pictures of their cats as their only profile picture. The picture they want to show to prospective lovers as representative of who they are? A tabby wrapped in a blanket.

Even if there’s no cat picture on their profile, even if you meet that rare someone who doesn’t show you cat pictures on their phone immediately on your first date, nine times out of 10, you will walk in their front door and see a haughty, fluffy tail moving away from you. “Oh, that’s Shadow,” your new date will say. “I got her with my ex. Watch out when you go around corners—she likes to play-attack.”

I am consistently amazed at the number of people who think it’s cute to be pounced on in the dark, in your own home, by something with razor-wire claws.

Cats go to the bathroom in a box inside your house, kick their own feces, which can be riddled with nasty viruses, and then hop on counters where food is being prepared or wander lazily on dining room tables, where food is served and eaten. People seem fine with this. People I cannot date.

Cats get litter between their toes and track it all over the house, so the pleasure of being barefoot is ruined at every gross, gravelly step. If you are dating someone who allows their cat in bed with them, then see above: Cats kick their own feces, so now there is both cat litter and cat feces in the bed. The bed is where sex and sleeping happen, by the way—important activities to share with someone you’re dating.

I’ve often wondered why women and queers love cats so much, and in the end, I think it might be this: It’s possible we’ve been conditioned to love and perform labor for creatures that don’t necessarily love us back, care about our needs and may even wish us ill. Like all of us in the dating world, intrigued by the person who doesn’t want us but is terribly, terribly cute and elusive and gives us just enough hope to continue the pursuit.

Krista Burton


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When I Worked

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