The first time I went on a date with a girl was during the summer of 2014. I prefaced our date with something like, “Soo, I’ve only been into guys for literally my entire life, but recently I’ve been feeling like I need to ‘explore my sexuality’ or whatever — please help a girl out.”

She agreed to meet me later that week. We found each other in the Arb, awkward bottles of bright red “Smartwater” in hand, and sat down to get to know each other. For me, it immediately didn’t feel right. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t imagine her as anything more than a friend. After she nervously smoked half a pack of cigarettes in front of me and asked where she could buy $500 worth of weed, I decided it just wasn’t going to work. I went home feeling slightly uncomfortable, and we never talked again. I thought, “Yep, I guess I’m straight,” and moved on with my life, content that I had at least tried.

I spent the next year never thinking twice about that day. But over time, it swam back into my consciousness, and that tiny doubt — that tiny desire — was all that I could think about. I spoke to some of my friends about it, letting them in on my little secret. That I was even considering this other side of me had to mean something, right? But I was also confused, because don’t people just know these things?

Every story I’d heard from non-straight friends was that they had “always known,” or at least had known way before the summer they turned 20. I felt like a fraud, because I hadn’t spent my entire life struggling with self-acceptance, or hiding my true self for years, afraid to tell anyone. I couldn’t understand how something like this could just suddenly happen to me. But I didn’t know who to talk to. The only bisexual women I knew were the brave ones at the Ann Arbor Poetry Slam who wrote poems about feeling invisible.

I figured that this was probably the answer: I was bisexual, and for some god-knows-why reason, I was just now figuring it out.

The second time I went on a date with a girl was last month. I gave her the same run-down, and she graciously decided to take the “straight girl” out. We met at a coffee shop, and then made our way to aut Bar — a gay bar in Kerrytown. It was fun. We bonded over being from California. I showed off my incredible dance moves. It was the first time I kissed a girl who wasn’t my drunk best friend. It felt natural. But it didn’t feel like this awesome, life-changing experience. It didn’t feel as if all my questions had been answered. There was no “Aha! This is what I’ve been missing!” moment. Mostly I just felt more confused.

Being a writer, the only way for me to sort through my feelings was, naturally, to put them into a poem. I performed in the poetry slam this past weekend, and exclaimed to a room full of strangers that I had finally figured it out: I was bisexual! But as the word lurched from my mouth, it got tangled in my teeth. It felt forced — like a lie. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like me.

The next day, almost as if it were coming to me in a dream, a single word bubbled to the surface of my mind: fluid. I knew I had heard of people identifying as “sexually fluid” (and by “people” I mean Miley Cyrus), but I had never actually known what it meant. After some help from Google and an author named Lisa M. Diamond, it was as if all of my questions were finally, finally answered.

Diamond, who wrote a book called “Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire, writes in the first chapter: “Sexual fluidity, quite simply, means situation-dependent flexibility in women’s sexual responsiveness. This flexibility makes it possible for some women to experience desires for either men or women under certain circumstances, regardless of their overall sexual orientation … women of all orientations may experience variation in their erotic and affectional feelings as they encounter different situations, relationships, and life stages.”

I read these sentences again. And again. A smile stretched across my face. These were the words I had been looking for for more than a year. These were the only words that finally made sense. The book goes on to talk about women who had been married to men for 15 years, then suddenly dated women, and then went back to dating men.

It wasn’t a new story, after all. I wasn’t alone.

Diamond states that “in general, the degree of fluidity in women appears substantially greater than in men,” but also, “any individual should be capable of experiencing desires that run counter to his or her overall sexual orientation.”

So guys out there, feel free to join the club, too.

I only read Diamond’s words for the first time earlier this week. I’ve had barely any time to process it, but to me it doesn’t matter, because as soon as I read these words I knew, without looking back, I had found my “Aha! This is what I’ve been missing!” moment. Now, instead of beating myself up about not knowing how to label my sexuality, I’m reveling in the label of non-labels: fluid.

I am fluid as fuck. And god, that feels right to say.

Rachael Lacey can be reached at rachaelk@umich.edu.

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