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Before I begin, I’ll start with an apology: I’m not exactly sure if it’s PC to call someone “butch” anymore, so pardon me if my vernacular has fallen out of what’s acceptable. As an “old-timer,” though — I’m in my early 40s and have only recently come out to a few — the sorts of women I’ve admired (secretly) have been referred to as “butch.” Feel free to substitute whatever word you like.

“Why would anyone want to date a woman who looks and acts like a man?” is a question I had whispered to me over lunch when what appeared to be a lesbian couple walked by. I didn’t give away that I felt a slight pang of jealousy at their casual demeanor. “What I wouldn’t give to just come out myself and have a butch lover escort me around town,” I thought. That was more than two years ago, and since that time, I actually did put off dating men and struck up three amazing dalliances with women who, apart from being butch, shared many lovely traits. So I’ll answer the question and hope that some people will get it. For the sake of ease, I’ll refer to the woman I’m more or less head over heels with.

She doesn’t give a sh*t what you think of her.

And not even in that “omg, I really don’t care what people say about me” way I’ve seen women leap to right after they’ve been criticized, which tells you they care way too much about what others think. No, my butch woman (ok, she needs a name — I refuse to call her “my butch woman,” so let’s go with Erin) … Erin literally doesn’t give a damn when someone says, “Are you trying to look like Elvis?” or “You’re really short for someone with such attitude.” Instead of squaring up like you’d imagine some media-trope, Napoleon-esque “wannabe man” might, she smirks at their feeble attempt to rile her and moves along. The dirty looks from people on the street, of which there are plenty, roll right off my Teflon Don. I imagine at some point that it used to bother her, but not anymore. She’s her own woman, and she fashions her life accordingly.

She’s handy.

Yes. I realize how cliche that sounds, but not only is it true, it’s a survival skill that gets scoffed at when it really ought to be lauded. I once asked her (jokingly) if “all you tough-girl lesbians” are born knowing how to change your own oil and fix broken garage doors. She said, much to my epiphany, that ever since she was small, she always knew she’d never have a man in her life whose father taught him how to do these sorts of things, so she learned how to do them herself. (I’m not even sorry — that’s hot as hell.)

She understands my need to vent more than my ex-boyfriends ever did.

I’m not one of those to cry over Hallmark commercials (do they still make those?) or Lifetime movies (of which I never watched, I’ll be honest), but I lose it from time to time over work and my sh*tty workout that I bailed on early because I wasn’t feeling it. When I stop off at her place, walk out of my shoes, drop my purse on the floor and just lean into her wall like “f*********ck,” she always cracks a good joke, offers me a drink, and actually listens to the bullsh*t I put up with. She doesn’t just “man, that sucks” or “yeah, I hear ya” every other minute. Instead of making me feel like I’m blowing things way out of proportion, she interjects weird but wise advice that I think she gets from tackling the world head-on instead of trying to circumvent it like I’ve been known to do. She somehow always knows what to say, and I think it’s because she’s really just … listening to me.

She talks to me.

How many times have you heard comedians say, “Why does my wife/girlfriend always ask me what I’m thinking? I’m either thinking about eating, sports, or sex! Get off my case!” (It’s a hackneyed bit that I think even guys know is tired, but it’s somehow still there.) When there’s an issue, Erin puts it on the table, we examine it together, then we move on. “I said something that unintentionally sucked? I’m sorry. Here’s what I meant” or “You hated that my ex called and I left the room to talk? Honestly, it’s because I don’t want you to hear me being as mean as I had to be at that moment. I’m sorry.” Stuff like that, whereas before, things would simmer and later blow up. She’s not afraid to be seen as weak by showing her emotional hand. That’s refreshing to me.

She’s good in bed.

Though I really (really) want to get into detail, this isn’t that kind of magazine. Let me put it like this, though: When I was in college (of course), I “got it on” with a woman who was more like me — dresses, heels, makeup, tradition. We’d knocked back a few already knowing in that unspoken manner that the sexual tension between us needed resolving, so there we were: two women letting their kissing lead them to the bed only to discover that we were more or less asking permission for each little move we were hoping to make. It got … awkward. Unsexy. With every single butch woman I’ve slept with, there’s always been the element of just being TAKEN. No questions, no hesitations, just full-on skill and intuition. And the sex that happens outside of the traditional sex I’ve had with men … there’s just no comparison. None.