Based on a true story.
At the end of my 8th-grade year, a new girl came to our school. By lunchtime, on her first day, we all agreed she was the new “prettiest girl” in school. Over the next few months, she became something of a legend. She was at a level of cool that most of us could never dream of attaining.
I never spoke to her. I knew I wasn’t cool enough to be her friend, but we did travel in the same groups. I liked that, knowing that through friends of friends, we were connected. I did want to talk to her, though, and over those months, I slowly worked up the courage to try. I decided that after school when I saw her walking home, I would strike up a conversation.
I looked for her to cut through the field behind the school. She was there, but she was with a boy, the cutest in the school, and they were kissing. I didn’t understand it then, but I was really hurt by that. No, I was jealous.
But I wasn’t jealous of her, I was jealous of him.
I spent the rest of 8th grade feeling very confused.
A lot of us were there, maybe 10 or so. The ratio of girls to boys not quite even but close. There were more of us girls than them, and we sat awkwardly grouped, all on one couch. We were like herd animals, not wanting to be separated, or caught singled out. The wolves were looking to pick one or two of us off.
One boy, the one whose home this was, goes to the back of the house and returns with a few Playboy magazines. This wasn’t the first time I had seen one, but I remember we spent a lot of time on a spread of two girls kissing. They were both nude, but the photos didn’t show them doing anything more than kissing. On the last few pages, a man enters, and things get more interesting.
The boys forgot us and talked only of those two women and their own fantasies of the same scenario.
A girl who lives in the same apartment complex as me invites a few of us over while her parents work late. The girl to boy ratio is exact this time, three girls, three boys. We act cool and calm, but mentally we are all weighing the pros and cons of each of the opposite sex. You want to make up your mind who you like better in case any kissing games break out.
A game of spin the bottle is suggested, but I knew this would never work out in my favor. I hated the boys that were there and instead wanted the girl with the red hair and a beautiful name, Alice. I knew that even if the bottle landed on her, they would just make me spin again. The point is for the girls to kiss the boys.
I was frustrated and angry. I didn’t want to kiss the boys, so I made up an excuse and went home. I was once again feeling very confused.
I never did get over that red hair.
My friend and I are the last ones in the school’s locker room after gym. She wears a lot of make-up, so she always takes forever to get ready. I am her best friend, so it is my duty to wait however long it takes so she doesn’t have to walk to class alone.
I look at her and pretend I’m not looking at her. She is very pretty. I wish I could be closer to her but getting to wait for her while she does her make-up is the closest I’ll ever get. I remember feeling hopeless.
She sees me watching her put on lip gloss, and she stops, looks away from the mirror…and asks me to kiss her.
I freeze, paranoid that this is all some trick. I imagine that if I agree she will flip out and call me a dyke, or something. She’ll say she knew I was gay all along. She’ll laugh as she tells everyone else in school that I am a gross lesbian.
So, instead of saying yes, like I wanted to, I laugh and say no. She shrugs it off, and we walk to our next class.
I regretted that decision for a long time.
I end up dropping out of school, but I have met the girl of my dreams, so nothing else matters. We talk every day, and we go to the movies every weekend. She is beautiful, smart, funny, and I am madly in love.
My work schedule changes to overnight, so I start visiting her at her high school for lunch. We meet outside the cafeteria doors, and we walk to Burger King or Subway. We eat, we talk, and I walk her back.
Once there I offer to walk her to her next class before I leave. I am trying to squeeze as many minutes out of this visit as I can. We walk to the locker room of her school, and she tells me she has gym class.
I say my goodbyes, and I lean in to kiss her. She stops me and reminds me that she has gym class. She cannot kiss me before going into the locker room! She says this as if it were obvious.
She says other girls will definitely have something to say about a lesbian in the locker room. I am hurt, but I do understand.
I never walk her to the locker room again.
We have been together for many years now. We are young, and we want to go out but whenever we do the men around us lose their shit.
They stare and make vulgar noises when we kiss. It makes us feel uncomfortable. On the bad nights, the ask if they can kiss us too. I wish I had a dollar for every request for a “three-way kiss.” We could move to a remote island where these creeps couldn’t reach us.
On the really, really bad nights, the guys follow us, or they get too touchy-feely. They say we just haven’t met the right man yet. They don’t think women can have relationships, or even sex, without a male involved.
I remember that Playboy magazine and I think they must have gotten the idea from there. They must all have looked at that same spread. They must all think women only kiss until a man comes along to make it more interesting.
We stop going out so much. We choose to stay home where we can kiss in peace.
Things are different now. We aren’t scared, or ashamed, or confused anymore. We no longer feel the pain of loving women who will never love us back. We have each other now.
We have learned that we are entitled to be in love in public without it being about anyone else. We have learned that other people are learning it too. If they don’t, we educate them.
We kiss whenever and wherever we want now, and we don’t entertain anyone else’s thoughts on it.
My little sister, 15 years younger than me, texts me to say she had something to tell me. She says she likes a girl at school, and the girl at school likes her back. She tells me that because I am a lesbian she felt it wasn’t important to tell me. I tell her it’s okay and I’m happy for her.
She tells me not to make a big deal out of it.
It had been years since I thought about all those little incidents and my feeling for other girls. When I was her age, when I liked the new girl in school and ended up jealous and confused, things were so different. I barely understood my own feelings at that age, and I couldn’t fathom telling an adult about it, let alone telling the girl I liked that I did!
I don’t make a big deal out of it, but I am proud of my sister’s courage. I am happy that she can kiss the girls, or the boys, she wants right out in the open, without judgment, without fear, and with a lot less confusion.
Featured image via Unsplash