Even I've joked about the tension between the U-haul trope and the Useless Lesbian trope. But I do so from inside the community and only with those women with whom I felt comfortable that the joke would land as intended.
I didn't come out until I was 49 yet my whole life I felt that anxiety over whether my admiration for a dress or whatever might be mistaken for attraction or indeed vice versa. And I felt that even when the world looked at me and saw a 'man', nevermind since I came out, first as a woman, then as a lesbian.
Us WLW are emphatically NOT useless or hopeless. We're pretty good at expressing ourselves and our attractions. But as you so rightly point out, when a much greater degree of physical and emotional intimacy is already permitted even between just friends, as women, then signalling a deeper connection becomes that bit harder.
We have to work harder than most to signal romantic and sexual interest. This makes us stronger at such IMHO, not worse.
Thanks for the piece, Sarah. It really struck a chord.