I had sent Lydia the first message, asking to read the gay Harry Potter fanfic she had mentioned in her profile. I was excited to meet her, but it was all happening so fast (if you don’t include the 28 confused years preceding it).Until then, I had assumed I was straight; I was just really, really bad at it.When I met Jonica Hunter, Sarah Taub, and Michael Rios on a typical weekday afternoon in their tidy duplex in Northern Virginia, a very small part of me worried they might try to convert me. And so are Sarah and whomever she happens to bring home some weekends. Jonica is 27, with close-cropped hair, a pointed chin, and a quiet air.All three live there together, but they aren’t roommates—they’re lovers. Sarah is 46 and has an Earth Motherly demeanor that put me at relative ease.I assumed there was a right way to do things and I had yet to master it. Why didn’t I ever think wanting it to be true was answer enough?It was my good, second therapist who helped me realize that my nonexistent love life was not a quantitative issue but a qualitative one.“What do you feel when you imagine going on a first date with a man? Why did I imbue an amateurish, made-up, misspelled four-question quiz with more authority than I granted myself?But no result ever felt true enough for me to stop taking quizzes. And I figured that if I were anything but straight — anything but “normal” — I would have known when I was much younger.I moved to New York, where I dated one man for a few weeks before he dumped me, and then repeated that scenario with another man.
My quizzes might ask, “Which One Direction member is your soul mate? ” But I already knew what I wanted those answers to be, and my quizzes simply bore them out. In the comments of my quizzes people would affirm their results as if they were scientifically proven: “Omg this is so me! “It’s all made up.”For years I had convinced myself that my failure to obtain a boyfriend was mathematical — too few parties attended, too few men befriended, too little time dedicated to Tinder. I took all those quizzes hoping to be told I was gay and feeling let down whenever the answer came back that I wasn’t.
My habit started in middle school, in the backs of magazines like Cosmo Girl and Seventeen and Teen Vogue, where short quizzes promised girls guidance on issues ranging from “Does he like you? ” Each Valentine’s Day in high school, our first-period teachers would pass out Scantron forms for a service called Compu Date, which promised to match each hormonal teenager with her most compatible classmate of the opposite sex, without regard for the social consequences. (extremely popular) and he was nice about it, but it was humiliating for us both.
College graduation is the natural end of most people’s association with the multiple-choice quiz, but I couldn’t stop taking them.
Lost in the many hundreds of quizzes I had taken was the power of making my own choice.
Finally, at 28, I realized I could, if I wanted, be different from the person I had been told I was. I joined Ok Cupid and answered the personality questions to the best of my ability.
The older I got, the less confident I felt in how well I knew myself, and the more I looked outward for anything that might provide clues.