Dyke Nodding Etiquette
As a highly community-seeking dyke-identified person, I get excited whenever I see another dyke in public. I want to let them know I see them there, and isn’t it awesome that we’re two dykes out in the world? I like to make the queer universe feel small in that nice, familiar way, rather than that claustrophobic oh-my-god-I’ve-already-dated-everyone-in-this-room way. Nodding at dykes is a way of recognizing and saying hello to them without having to come up with anything to say. Greetings can mean a lot of different things, though, so, in my experience, there’s some etiquette around it.
Warning, like most etiquette, some of these rules toe the sexism line, and when executed incorrectly can offend the sensibilities of those around you. In the case of rules that require the nodder to make arbitrary assumptions about the identity of the person they are nodding at, I will try to explain why these distinctions are necessary. None of these are absolute, they are simply my observations.
So you’re are a dyke and you’re walking around a heterocentric area and you spot *gasp* another dyke! You’re excited, but you don’t want to lose your mind because you don’t want to look like a creep, and you do not want this other dyke to think you’re hitting on hir. So you collect yourself, and calmly, as you walk past one another, give this other dyke a nod.
First thing’s first: make sure as you are nodding that you are giving this dyke enough room to return the nod without breaking hir neck. You must also gauge your distance so that you are not so far away that the other dyke cannot see that you are nodding at hir, or worse, so that you both get your nod over with but you still have yards left to traverse before you have passed one another. These rules follow standard greeting-an-acquaintance-in-a-high-school-hallway timing. If you are in a stationary encounter with a dyke, you have to be the judge. Some options for stationary nodding include waiting until one of you is about to leave, nodding and then avoiding further eye contact, and nodding and then employing a friendly smile at all subsequent eye contacts.
Now to the potentially offensive stuff:
When to nod upward:
- If the other dyke is andro/butch similarly to you.
Why: this is “bro” nod. Not only are you demonstrating your dyke solidarity, you are demonstrating you andro/butch understanding of one another. I don’t always understand butch experience, but I like bro nods because they are usually curt, involve just the tiniest bit of grandstanding, and show that butches are willing to build community with me.
- If the other dyke is in your age bracket.
Why: this is a peer nod. It says, hey, we’re on even ground. If you weren’t a stranger, we would probably chill.
- If you feel like you’ve noticed a dyke who doesn’t get read as a dyke a lot.
Why: this is a recognition nod. It says, hey you, I see you there. Even though you’re not always recognized, you’re not invisible, and I can tell that you’re part of my community. I have friends who don’t get nodded at enough; this type of nod can really make their day.
- If you are femme or femme-appearing.
Why: this is a preemptive strike nod. Many femmes and femme-appearing dykes don’t get noticed as quickly because not all dykes know how to see them. This occasional invisibility means that femmes get to do whatever they want to make sure the other dyke knows what’s going on. Femmes nodding at femmes use femme solidarity nods too.
When to nod downward:
- If you are butch/andro in appearance and the other dyke is butcher than you in a way that you feel is significant and noticeable.
Why: this is a deferential nod. You’re not trying to challenge the dominance of this bull-dagger. You’re welcome to nod upward if you are trying to indicate that you two are matched or if you are in defiance.
- If you are butch/andro in appearance and the other dyke is femme.
Why: this is an I-see-you-and-I-am-not-objectifying-you nod. This is perhaps the most important rule there is. Femmes deal with skeezy recognition from all kinds of people all the time, and slimy, leery butches are no exception. Nodding downward is a great way to show this femme that you see her and are glad you’re not the only dyke in the space and that you don’t think that means she owes you any of her time or attention beyond a reciprocal nod.
- If the other dyke is in an age bracket more senior than yours.
Why: this is a hats-off-to-you nod. Older dykes paved the way for you to be the dyke you are today, and they deserve your respect for that. The more badass the older dyke, the deeper and more sincere your nod should be. It’s almost like bowing.
When to smile:
- A friendly smile: whenever you like. These are always appropriate.
- A winning smile: if the dyke you’re nodding at is cute. A winning smile is how you can turn your greeting into an invitation to come talk to you. Mouthing “hi” is another good way to let the person know that you’re interested without invading their space.
- A cocky smile: pretty much never, particularly not if you’re nodding upward and particularly not if the person is femme-appearing. It’s a really good way to disgust or creep out the dyke you’re nodding at.
Actions to avoid:
- Being sketchy or objectifying towards femmes (or really anyone): I feel like I can’t say this enough times. Femmes put up with a lot of crap being out in public. Don’t add to that. They’re not available to every butch who has enough gaydar to realize they’re queer.
- Trying too hard: if the dyke you’re trying to nod at isn’t trying to nod back, don’t force it. I personally think it’s rude, but people are in public, and not everyone is as community-seeking as I am.
- Bobbing your head while nodding: this is just another way to be a sketch ball with your nodding. Any kind of come-hither movement takes your nod out of the greeting category and into the hitting-on and possibly-encroaching-upon-the-safety-of category. If you’re hitting on people in large public settings, that is your business; it is not part of the etiquette that I am laying out, and when you get slapped, you will not get to complain to me. The dyke nod is a simple up-down-stop movement, or a down-up-stop; it is not and up-further back-down-further down-greasy smile movement.
If anyone has any additions or questions, my ask box is always open to you. Otherwise, happy nodding!
Love and recognition,
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