Written by Lyz Mancini.
I was lying on my bed, my laptop humming on my stomach and a Diet Dr. Pepper sweating on the nightstand. “You watching hot girls whispering again?” my husband asks, peeking his head around the door.
“They soothe me,” I say, eyes not leaving the screen. Luna Bloom scritch-scratches on a foam-covered microphone, her eyes shimmering with glitter and her lips kindly turned up and meticulously glossed. I slurp my soda and turn up the volume in my headphones, my heartbeat a thump against the warming hum of the computer fan.
The soft sounds were soothing sure – but it wasn’t lost on me that none of the content creators I followed were men. The up-close intimacy evoked the shivery pleasure of getting your hair brushed at a sleepover or having another girl compliment you.
Those videos became a 3 p.m. ritual when a two-week lockdown stretched out to infinity, and ways to relax became zero. Penned in a small apartment, sirens plagued my eardrums every fifteen minutes. Everything seemed loud and deathly silent at the same time – we felt crowded and overwhelmed, while simultaneously giving too much space.
It gave me time to think about who I truly was – bisexual.
At age ten I asked my mom if I was gay. We frequented Provincetown every summer and my parents made sure we understood that all love mattered, but I knew from school that society saw it as more complex. My mom laughed and said, “I don’t know, you’ll figure it out.”
A few years later a friend and I kissed under her Little Mermaid sheets and her mom caught us. I was no longer allowed at her house. I was completely boy crazy, scrawling “Jason” and “Justin” and “Corey” onto every page of my Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper. But I always swooned when I smelled Herbal Essences shampoo on a girl in the locker room. I stared at the Rolling Stone issue featuring Rose McGowan and Rosario Dawson. I dated boys who wore my jeans.
At thirteen, I couldn’t stop staring at the skater girl with pink hair who hung out in front of Burger King. My gay friend Jamie took his own life with pills – the bullying had become too much for him. College dorm rooms were plastered with posters of women in tank tops and underwear sensually kissing. Mold-ridden frat basements were a raucous echo of “kiss each other” as girls drunkenly danced together, their patent leather peep-toe pumps sticking to the floor. Some of us kissed because we were pressured to do so but also…some of us meant it. I once mentioned to a friend how we all thought about kissing our friends in high school and college. “Yeah, that literally never occurred to me,” she laughed.
I met my husband at twenty-five, and there was just that feeling of dropping into my body – that fuzzy comfort, that enveloping love, that feeling of finding home. Our first date, we swapped facts about each other. “I used to figure skate,” I said. “My mom is gay,” he said. Having been raised by a woman grounded and confident in her identity shaped who he was as a human, and it made me love him even more.
It wasn’t overtly sexual, there was no perversity, but it was something. The softness and the femininity, the reminders of girlhood connection and perhaps sparks of attraction from my past I never leaned into.
I’d identified as “not totally straight” privately for years to those close to me, rarely claiming an actual word – instead embarking on tirades about how I could see myself loving anyone, sexuality is a spectrum and fervently hoping no one asked me for personal details. It always felt like an invitation – if I stated my stance, they could ask me for my body count. Although I’d had a small handful of experiences with women, I never allowed myself to explore that in any kind of intentional, all-in way. Once firmly planted in a long-term relationship, what was the purpose of coming out? My husband loved all of me, and I didn’t want people to think it meant I was unhappy, or question the validity of our connection.
Once firmly planted in a long-term relationship, what was the purpose of coming out?
I couldn’t quite put my finger on why these strange whispery videos of beautiful women on YouTube and TikTok affected me in such a way. It wasn’t overtly sexual, there was no perversity, but it was something. The softness and the femininity, the reminders of girlhood connection and perhaps sparks of attraction from my past I never leaned into. Closing my eyes and imagining them brushing my hair back, stippling my cheeks with blush or applying my mascara. The discovery of ASMR let me cosplay that confidence until I could openly share that I was bisexual. Sharing my interest in ASMR (usually met with blank stares of enthusiastic agreement) has helped me also share my full identity – and in a joyous way. Not one of whispers.
ASMR was the entry point in me finding joy in my bisexuality. I began casually mentioning my sexuality in conversations, which led me to begin allowing myself to believe I belonged in queer spaces – all while in a loving marriage. I’d previously told myself that others’ stories mattered more than mine, I didn’t want to take up space where someone else deserved it more than me. I was an ally first – which, true. But I’m also a letter, and I’m finding my own little nook of space to call my own.
I’ll also continue watching women in purple wigs tell me I’m pretty while softly caressing a microphone with a makeup brush. Because we contain multitudes.
About the Author
Lyz Mancini is a writer living in Catskill, NY. She is a beauty copywriter for brands like MAC Cosmetics and Clinique, and her writing has appeared in Slate, Catapult, Vautrin, Shortwave Magazine, Witches Magazine, and more. She is a Tin House and Pitch Wars alum and was nominated for a 2022 Pushcart Prize.