What I wanted, as a young twentysomething girl, was to fall in love.
I wanted romance, I wanted fun – I wanted adventure. I wanted to share these things with someone who was as ‘into’ me as I was into them. Like anyone my age, I wanted to experience the intense feelings so characteristic of the romantic comedies I adored watching.
I also wanted these feelings reciprocated for me.
The problem was, I was a girl who liked other girls.
And this changed everything.
It was not a simple case of asking out someone from work, or inviting a potential love interest from within a sporting team to head to a movie or grab a bite to eat. Careful ‘research’ was required for signs or comments that might indicate such a person’s particular sexual preference before any move could be considered.
It was a business fraught with great risk. If these ‘signs’ were wrong or misinterpreted, you could potentially destroy a perfectly good relationship, and completely ‘out’ yourself to all and sundry in the process.
Clubs were by far the easiest way to surround yourself with other same sex attracted people, but the problems inherent in the fishbowl ‘meat market’ were plentiful. Being feminine looking, I possessed neither the stereotypical short hair, nor the androgynous ‘look’ that would have made meeting people much easier. And the bottom line was, I didn’t want to have to cut my hair and dress like a boy just to fit in.
Why did it have to be so hard?
In the very early 2000s, I stumbled across a brand new Australian website called the ‘Pink Sofa’. It was a gay online ‘noticeboard’ where you could post a relatively short ‘blurb’ about yourself and have people post you messages if they wanted to talk further.
From memory, the early version was like the polar opposite of Instagram in its design – no pics, just a username and description.
You were notified via email when someone sent you a message.
The idea of it instantly appealed to me. It was a way of chatting to other women in Brisbane, more specifically people with common interests, without having to rely on the pubs and clubs. It literally revolutionised the experience of meeting people.
One by one, I began to accumulate new friends. I realised how many others like me there were out there, who were genuine, normal people, who just happened to be gay. Before too long, I had my own little motley crew of friends, each with a friend or two of their own to add to the mix.
On the Pink Sofa I met T.
I’ll never forget why I messaged her. Her username was livid_au and I was fascinated by not only her username, but by her description. I cannot remember exactly what it was, but I know it was something to the effect of being easy going, a tech geek and lover of cartoons, especially Marvin the Martian. Her version, however, was worded in a far more funny, witty way.
The pretentious snob in me also considered it a good sign that she knew what the word ‘livid’ meant.
Message after message became email after email. Long emails. You can tell an awful lot about a person from writing to them day in, day out for months on end. I knew T was sensitive, honest, funny and empathetic. I knew all about her family, friends and her housemate/ex-girlfriend. Six months later, we had become virtual ‘best friends’, but had put off meeting each other in the flesh three times.
Without admitting it, I realised that both of us were terrified that reality would ‘burst the bubble’ of the intense and blossoming friendship we felt growing at the other end of the keyboard.
We met finally after I worked a shift at the Qld Cricketer’s Club during the Sydney 2000 Olympics. I was eager to break the ice and actually meet this mystery person after getting to know her online for so long. One of us had to be brave, and I decided it would be me.
She lived about a 40 minute drive from where I worked, and had nervously agreed to me visiting her. So in a move that now terrifies me as a parent, I drove the 40 minutes out, relying only on her directions, to a random house in rural Greenbank. With no mobile phone or Google Maps to guide me, I miraculously found it, and cast my eyes on T for the first time. She was exactly like the picture she had emailed me months earlier – cute, bright eyed and just plain lovely. I felt at ease with her immediately.
It went beautifully, although I hardly spoke a word to T. Most of the night was spent chatting madly to Jane, T’s housemate/ex-girlfriend, who I found to be really easy company. That was the Tuesday night. We agreed to meet again on Thursday after my next work shift.
Apparently Jane was told to make herself scarce on this occasion.
It was during this meeting that we decided to formally begin a relationship, and I introduced her to my family in a ‘baptism of fire’ on the Saturday.
I’ll never forget overhearing my shell-shocked mother whisper to my sisters (in a horrified tone) as we walked past her, ‘She’s got a tattoo!’
Poor Mum. And poor T, who laughed politely at Mum’s overzealous whisper.
I didn’t mind at all about her tattoo, and in the end, neither did Mum…