By Megan Smith
Girl meets girl, girls fall in love, and girls live happily ever after. If only it was that easy. From dating apps to blindsiding breakups, navigating the modern world of relationships as a queer woman can be challenging, to say the least. How are we supposed to know if that edgy brunette at the bar is “the one,” or simply our next big heartbreak? Author and femme lesbian Aryka Randall explores these questions and more in her new book, She’s Just Not That Into You: The Fab Femme’s Guide to Queer Love & Dating. At 24, the Houston transplant started The Fab Femme Mag, an online media outlet for feminine queer women from all walks of life. Now, more than five years later, Randall has become a go-to source for girl-on-girl culture. In mid-May, I had the pleasure of speaking to Randall about her new book, Millennial dating culture, femme invisibility, and the hardest thing of all—loving ourselves.
Megan Smith: The past eight years have been quite the journey for you. Coming out, moving across the country, and taking a risk by starting TheFabFemme.com. Now, you’re the published author of She’s Just Not That Into You. What motivated you to make the jump from the blogosphere to writing a book?
Aryka Randall: I’ve always wanted to write a book—in fact, I did an interview with GO! Magazine a couple years ago where I said I wanted to write a book. Then, the marketer from Mango Media reached out randomly—completely randomly—and emailed me one day and said that they’d been looking at my blog and wanted me to write a book. I was like, “Is this some kind of joke?” I even Googled their email addresses to make sure it wasn’t some kind of scam. [Laughs] But turns out it was real! It was really dumb luck—I had no idea about publishing, and I didn’t even have any ideas of what I wanted to write about. When they emailed me, they asked me to put together three concepts. One of them was this She’s Just Not That Into You, and they took it and ran with it. I’m not somebody that likes to write on deadline, so it was challenging in that way, but I was like, “Oh my God, Aryka, if you screw this up and don’t do this just because you want to be lazy, you’ll regret this forever.” [Laughs]
The book itself is set up like a journey—eliminating toxicity from our lives, getting to know ourselves, then opening up to organic love. How has your personal quest for love been affected by these stages?
Oh boy! [Laughs] My views on love have changed dramatically. I’ll be 30 this year, and looking back on what I wrote, it was almost as if I was writing to myself—to remind myself that in order to have a good relationship, you have to have a good relationship with yourself first. But my views on love have changed in a way—I don’t think it should be so romanticized. It’s a lot of hard work. I’m not a hopeless romantic anymore. I used to have that, bad. Relationships are very, very important to me. I love the opportunities I’ve been given with everything else, but somewhere in there, I am never completely satisfied when my love life is in shambles—which is most of the time. [Laughs] I think I’m just more realistic now—I don’t think I’m going to walk into Pearl Bar or Whole Foods or somewhere and meet someone and then live happily ever after and never argue. That’s just not realistic. So I think when people stop romanticizing the idea of finding someone, it will be easier for them—and me.
You also address in your book that false idea that if only we could find “the one,” things would be perfect and effortless. There was a recent New York Times article that discussed how Millennials want the perfect relationship, but without the commitment. We want that second coffee mug in our morning Instagram photo, but we don’t want the realities that come along with a relationship. How are we supposed to navigate the modern dating world and get the real relationship we desire in the end?
I think people need to get off the Internet! That’s what I think. Put your phone down and engage in daily activities where you could meet somebody. I can’t even wrap my head around it! I have a very old soul. I have to be online for [my blog’s] social media, but if I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t have anything. I don’t have a SnapChat, I update my personal Instagram account maybe once a week, and sometimes I just don’t update because I don’t feel like having to be immersed in this BS media culture. People are complaining on Facebook, someone who was just dating someone is now engaged to somebody else a week later. People do things for instant gratification and to illicit a response out of their followers. I think because of social media, people have literally forgotten how to interact with each other in person. For me, I will not talk to you if I met you online. The two or three people I’ve met online damn near catfished me. Again, this would have been avoided if I had met them in person and it had been an organic connection. If you really get out there, I think that people will get so much more real about their expectations of relationships and expectations of longevity if they can understand that it’s not going to navigate itself through the World Wide Web.
The topic of toxic relationships, including emotionally abusive relationships, isn’t talked about nearly enough in the queer community. I loved that you spend a lot of time talking about identifying signs of toxic relationships in She’s Just Not That Into You.
Well, thank you. I think in general, it’s not something we want to talk about. We don’t want to air our dirty laundry and have these types of conversations that need to be had about relationships. For a long time, I felt like the reason gay relationships failed was that we never had anything to work towards. We were never able to get married, we weren’t even recognized under common law for a long time. So there was never really an end goal—not that marriage is a goal for everybody, but what’s the point of being with someone for 20 years if you can never commit to them legally?
In my opinion, one of the hardest things for queer women to learn is to love themselves—to know that we are enough—especially if we faced rejection or hardship during the coming-out process. Why do you think that process is so difficult, and what are some simple steps to make things easier?
I truly believe that some of the traumas that we go through as children affect us later in life. For me, my dad hasn’t been in my life for a long time, so that affects the way I navigate my way with anybody who is masculine of center. I think that a lot of people haven’t figured out how to love themselves because they haven’t gotten to the core issue of the problem. They’ve kept themselves distracted. I’m still a bit of a workaholic, but when I went through my first really bad breakup, I would sit on my laptop for, sometimes, 10 hours a day. I wasn’t dealing with what was going on. Every relationship will end the same way if you’re not learning your lesson. It’s all about people dealing with their personal demons before they ever try to get into a relationship—that’s just the bottom line.
Once we are ready to open up to love, many queer femme women worry they won’t find someone because they don’t present as traditionally “queer”—however one defines that. What are your thoughts on the current state of femme invisibility?
Femme invisibility is a problem—it’s a huge problem. I don’t feel like there’s necessarily a space for us, because we do look “straight.” I’ve had gay women question my sexuality before, and I’m like, “Are you serious right now?” I’m very feminine—I get my nails done every two weeks, I wear lipstick. I’m sorry, but it is what it is. I think femme invisibility is getting better within the community, but as far as it goes in the media, I think it’s getting worse. Any time you see a gay, feminine woman playing a role outside of The L Word, she always ends up with a guy, or ends up being sexualized to accommodate male viewers. Or it’s like in Empire where the two femme lesbians get killed off. Come on, really!?
One of the most interesting topics you touch on in She’s Just Not That Into You is the concept of the “twin flame,” or your soul’s other half. Tell me more about how you became familiar with this theory and why you incorporated it into the book.
My best friend, Chanel, who was on The Real L Word, is a very spiritual person and is the one who introduced me to the twin-flame concept. The only thing I’d ever heard about was the idea of a soul mate. But anybody can be a soul mate—a dog can be a soul mate, friends can be soul mates, it’s not limited to romantic relationships. But a twin flame is different because this person was literally cut from the same cloth as you when the universe was creating you. That’s much bigger than just meeting someone who you get along with very well. The twin-flame concept really ties into everything, because according to that theory, if you are going to find your twin flame, you have to be the best version of yourself—there’s no way around it. That sheds light on why so many people aren’t with who they’re supposed to be with or why they are in a relationship that’s complacent. The only real loyalty you owe is loyalty to yourself. And once you’ve found yourself, it’s a whole new playing field.
What’s next on your personal journey? Will we see She’s Just Not That Into You turned into the next Lemonade?
[Laughs] Actually, I’ve already started writing my second book! The editors asked me to do a short anecdote at the end of each chapter of She’s Just Not That Into You. I came out somewhere between age 19 and 20. So, since I’ll be 30 this year, I thought it would be really cool to take all of those anecdotes—which are all real—and turn them into “confessions of a femme,” which will be all of these experiences that I’ve had and what I’ve learned over a decade. From getting catfished, to my first girlfriend of five years dumping me on Facebook, it’s been interesting. [Laughs]
I’m also working on a pilot that I want to pitch to Netflix. I did a web series a couple years ago called Girl Play that did very well, but I was underdeveloped as a screenwriter, so my character development kind of sucked. Plus, it was very expensive. So I cut it midway through and shelved it. But now, instead of pitching it as a web series like I did last time, I’m just doing the pilot. It’s basically about four lesbians, a straight girl, and a gay guy who have been friends for a long time. It’s a young, fresh take on what it’s like being a late-20s, early-30-something dealing with relationships. You have the couple who has been together forever and has kind of lost the flame, you have the token straight girl who finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her with the dog sitter—there’s just a lot going on. I think what sets it apart from a lot of these gay web series that are out is the fact that I let the jokes write themselves. A lot of the things that have happened in my life, and in my friends’ lives—you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. So, the drama writes itself. [Laughs].
She’s Just Not That Into You is available for purchase on Amazon.