Sandvigen: The U-Haul Theory - 1

Photo Illustration: Known as the “urge to merge”, the U-Haul theory is a favorite punchline of lesbian culture. This joke emerged from the tendency of lesbians to pack their belongings into a U-Haul and move in with their girlfriend after a short period of dating. 

I’m just going to start this one out with a bang here. Women’s emotions are valid!

Now that I have your attention wondering what’s got me so fired up, I’ll tell you. A lot of things, actually. But for the purpose of having your eyes here, I want to talk about a few specific things. 

There are plenty of boxes we place each other in to make us feel more separate than we are. 

Our cultures, sexuality, gender. We make fun of each other and make up offensive stereotypes. A few you might have heard before include that women are bad drivers, people of Asian descent have to be academic, men can’t cry and women act like U-Haul trucks. Did that last one seem random? It may appear that way, but that’s also what I want to talk about. 

Let me introduce you to the U-Haul Theory. Yes, it is a thing, and as harmless as it seems to compare someone to a convenient, reasonably priced moving vehicle–don’t let it trick you. The U-Haul Theory arose out of a joke that emerged from the gay community. According to the comment, lesbian women like to take it from the first day to a first apartment really quick. Hence, needing a U-Haul. 

Obviously this “joke” could be considered offensive because most couples, regardless of sexual orientation, take moving-in as a serious step that follows a prolonged time of dating. I came across this joke on Urban Dictionary that really hammers the point home.

Question: What does a lesbian bring on a second date?

Answer: A U-Haul.

Besides being offensive to lesbian women, I was curious to see what was behind the curtains here. As much as stereotypes can hurt us, oftentimes they stem from a sliver of truth. So I did some research. Turns out this iconic joke was coined by Lea DeLaria, an openly gay comedian, actress and singer.

During one of her sets, she pitched the joke, and from then on it became a staple in the gay community. DeLaria, as an open lesbian, leads me to think she has the authority and know-how to make such a joke. But still, what experiences prompted her to make that joke? Do women really rush commitment? 

A few articles later and I found some common veins that describe whether or not U-Hauling exists, and why. My consensus? Depends on the person. I know that’s a bad answer but it’s true. Some scientists say U-Hauling is a response to trauma growing up in an anti-gay world. 

In early years when teenagers start to form their first relationships, some still in the closet, and some not even realizing they’re gay, they may experience the inability to really connect and move the relationship forward. I mean, if you like oranges but you’re trying to choke down an apple, chances are you’re not going to be super into it. 

Sandvigen: The U-Haul Theory - 2

When young women get older and realize their sexuality, they’re faced with the next big obstacle: navigating a world where being gay isn’t always accepted. To be more specific, enduring lesbianphobia. All this discomfort trying to navigate an alternative dating scene in a very straight world can lead women to really grasp onto the relationship they’ve found, hoping they don’t have to go back out there and swim through the sea of fish all over again. 

The Atlantic wrote an informative article about this theory as well since it’s climbing popularity. Within their article, they introduced a similar pun related to lesbian’s over-zealous habits. Practically the same as the U-Haul theory is the urge to merge saying. This saying came about in the 60’s and 70’s when gay couples had to hide from the public eye. Back then marriage was safety, but for the gay community, monogamy was as close as they could get which was as good as it could get. 

More than just cultural reasons though, do women actually feel the need to merge quicker than men? Yes, they do. One of the articles on Bustle.com I read was by a lesbian woman who wrote about her opinions on the U-Haul theory. Apparently, women’s brains and bodies are different. According to science, women produce a lot of Oxytocin, a hormone associated with sex, falling in love, breastfeeding and attachment. Women produce more of this than men so if there are two women who are both high off Oxytocin, maybe moving in doesn't seem too soon? Maybe. 

Since this whole article here is based on stereotypes I don’t feel bad bringing in another one. Women are often portrayed as over-emotional, insecure, needy. Combine that with the trauma of being rejected because of your sexuality and it’s no wonder lesbian women find a person who seems to accept them and they never want to let go. As much as this U-Hauling is meant as a joke, it actually represents a much bigger issue regarding the traumatizing experiences the gay community endures right under all the straight noses out there. 

So to reiterate– women’s emotions are valid. I’m not here to point fingers at everyone who’s ever poked fun at someone, but I think there is always something to be learned from stereotypes and stigmas. The U-Haul theory is kind of funny in certain contexts, but it’s only one brush stroke of a much larger painting depicting female sexuality.

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