On Halloween, I met a girl at a party in New York City. I had gone with more than fifteen friends and acquaintances. The party, Hot Rabbit, had been the recurring weekend plans for my friend group, and we had been so excited for the Halloween party that we paid $20 per person and trekked from Brooklyn to Midtown. The girl I met had been in New York interviewing for jobs and randomly happened upon it.
At the end of the night, after discussing all relevant topics—Shrek, my Midsommar bear costume, her lack of costume, and my sapphic-themed meme page—we exchanged numbers. But by the time I asked her to get dinner the next weekend, she was in the Midwest visiting family.
Then, it was the winter holidays. She froze at football games in Wisconsin and I went to the beach by my parent’s house in California. By the time I returned to NYC for school, she was in Utah, indefinitely training for a job.
A few days before Valentine’s, Google Alerts emailed to inform me that the flight I had looked up every day for a month, was no longer available. If I had purchased it, I would’ve flown into Salt Lake City on the morning of February 14th and flown back to New York City the next week, so I could make my Monday morning class. Because I didn’t have the $400+ needed for the tickets, the decision to be alone on Valentine’s Day was made for me.
My friends laughed at my track record. In all of my major relationships, there were at least three-months of long-distance. I chalked it up to going to school on the East Coast while returning to Los Angeles for summers. But as I opened up tab after tab of plane tickets, I felt like the opposite of an expert on long-distance relationships. Even though I’ve dated long-distance before, it still hurts. Last month, I cried in the Valentine’s aisle at CVS when I saw my roommate kiss her girlfriend. I cried on the subway this morning watching two women hold hands. I cry at TikToks that show girls who are so close to each other, you can’t tell where they individually start and stop.
There is an entire physical world that I feel so removed from. To cope, I make memes for my Instagram. The comments are all young queer women tagging each other. In this space, they feel safe enough to poke fun at themselves and those they love, finding common links in what they considered idiosyncrasies in a world with so little representation.
So many queer women create new webs of intimacy and connection across states and countries and continents. One of my close friends started dating someone she met on Brockhampton ‘Stan Twitter.’ After two months, my friend flew from Maryland to Nevada to spend over a week with her. My Twitter and TikTok and Tumblr feeds are filled with sapphic women who met their girlfriends and partners online, or briefly in-person, and decided to keep talking. Lesbianism is filled with this yearning.
“I think some queer women have an almost masochistic need for sexual tension; we thrive off of it, and we love to pine and yearn and lust.” @jillboard speaks for all lesbians who breathlessly watch #KillingEve. https://t.co/9npQrKAIQt
— Andrea L. Pino-Silva (@andreactually) May 14, 2019
Pining is rooted in lesbian representation. The most famous historical texts are often letters between women who could not be together. Famously, Vita Sackville-West wrote to Virginia Woolf, “I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia.” When I learned the history of women loving other women, it was impossible to detangle that love from want.
The other side of lesbians bringing a U-Haul to a second date, is buying a plane ticket for the first. There are a ton of reasons for why these long-distance loves keep popping up over and over. If you live in a small town or conservative area, it might be easier and safer to find someone online. If there are plenty of fish in the sea, a lot of them might be overseas. And with the prevalence of dating apps and social media, it’s easier than ever to meet someone with your interests.
It’s also easier than ever to maintain communication with someone who isn’t near you. There’s texting, phone calls, video chats, and an endless catalog of bracelets and lamps and boxes that can share notes and alerts.
Even though we don’t have access to a lot of the simple intimacies that typically accompany dating, we make do. For Valentine’s Day, she sent me a cow stuffed animal and I edited myself onto some Valentine’s cards. While The L Word reboot was airing, we would text for the entirety of each episode. For Christmas, I mailed her a box of cookies and a carabiner and she put in the wrong address, so my gift is at her mom’s house and still a secret. Every day, we share domestic fantasies about going to Disney World, learning to craft intricate pie crusts, or simply holding hands on the subway.
Most of the time, those moments feel too personal to share with my friends, who have never fallen for someone a bus or plane ticket away. When they ask “why keep going” the only answer I have is because it feels like it’s worth it.
Alex Juarez is a GLAAD Digital Editorial Intern and a senior at Pratt Institute studying Writing. She is an avid enthusiast of cows, 2000’s pop culture, and baking. For more lesbian content follow @sapphichardcider.