Q: I'm a 26-year-old lesbian with a social dilemma. I spent a few years in the military, and before I left for duty, I had no problem being the "top" or the aggressive one when it came to dating. Flash forward a few years, and now I feel like a dating rookie. It takes quite a bit of courage to even decide to try to strike up a conversation, and even more to find a way to break the ice. My second problem is being able to tell when someone is interested; it usually has to be pointed out to me. I'm tired of being set up by my friends and I want to participate in the "chase" and enjoy it on my own terms. Any advice for a single woman who needs a refresher in the dating scene?

A: I was so excited when I read the first sentence of your question that I immediately called up my friend Sarah to say, "Hey, I finally got a lesbian question!" Sarah is my lesbian BFF, and she's often wondered aloud how, given the amount of obligatory girl drama involved in her relationships, I've never written a column for the ladies who love ladies. The answer is that I can't write a column for a question I've never received.

So I gleefully read the rest of your question to Sarah, until I reached the part about not knowing if someone is interested, and my tone became less excited. Then I hit the last sentence about needing a dating refresher, and I'm sure I was sounding quite dreadful. Why? Not only because I knew what Sarah's annoyed reaction was going to be -- "Omigod, tell her to grow a pair!" -- but because your question has little to do with being a lesbian and a lot to do with, well, growing a pair.

Acclimating yourself back into dating culture is going to require some practice. Kind of like a puppy that's been living at the pound, or a woman just out of a long-term relationship, you need to resocialize yourself and get reacquainted with the way single women interact. Stop letting your friends set you up, and instead use them to meet new people. Rediscover the things you love to do (but maybe weren't able to enjoy in the military) and find like-minded girls who want to do them with you.

You need to shift the focus from coupling up with the ideal person to making connections with a lot of people. Don't start asking for numbers until you're comfortable with the idea of hearing no. In the meantime, socialize like hell and find your courage again. When you're finally over your fear of getting shot down, then approach a girl, buy her drinks, ask her out, get a date or get rejected. You'll get your butch back in no time.

Q: My sister is 25, beautiful, successful, great personality -- the whole package. She has been living in the Twin Cities for two years and recently broke up with her long-distance boyfriend of seven years. She's been trying to meet men up here but has only found very wrong guys for her! When she goes out she isn't outgoing enough to approach the men she likes. She has tried online dating and has only had bad dates. She wants a good-looking, successful man -- and she deserves one! What suggestions do you have for meeting good guys? And, where are the hot spots?

A: See above re: growing a pair. Your sister, who can't write her own e-mail asking for dating advice, will be sorely disappointed by the lack of men flocking to her side if she's not putting herself out there. If she really is the whole package and expects her mate to be equally flawless, then she'd better start exerting a little effort to find him. It sucks that she's been in a relationship since age 18, because she's getting a pretty late start to the real dating game. Her first hard lesson will be that it isn't a vending machine; she can't drop her most charming characteristics into a coin slot and collect a great man from the bottom tray. Finding her future husband will take time and toil, not a 30-second decision and some pocket change.

  • Next week: Dos and don'ts of Twin Cities dating.
Alexis McKinnis cannot find you a date, but can answer your questions about sex, dating or relationships. Send them to advice@vita.mn, and don't leave out the juicy details!