High school is tough. Four long years of trying desperately to both stand out and fit in. What do I like? What am I good at? Who am I?
I grew up in an area where homosexuality was just not an option. It wasn’t even considered. And when i finally learned about gay people, I thought ‘being gay’ was just something you did that was bad, I didn’t know relationships between gay people were an actual thing.
Starting in middle school, as is extremely normal, all of my friends started having crushes on people of the opposite sex. My guy friends started becoming interested in the pretty girls (who somehow managed to be ALWAYS the same 5 girls) and my female friends would spend lunch hours talking about their crush of the week or month or day.
In those days there was a check list of traits that you had to have in order to be considered crush-worthy. We were kids, emulating Tigerbeat magazines and Nickelodeon Stars, channeling every bit of pop culture that was surrounding us. If Tigerbeat said Zach Effron was the the it-boy, then it meant those boys in class with shaggy skater hair and a wide smile were also the it-boys.
The it-boys were fairly easy to identify and therefore easy targets for my fake crushes. I remember sitting in the cafeteria with my girl friends as they once again had the discussion on who was crushing on who. I had so far avoided being roped into these discussions, but today I couldn’t escape.
“Lily, who do you have a crush on?”
I thought and thought, but couldn’t muster an answer. What boy did I have a crush on? I was friends with Jake, but I didn’t want to kiss him. I liked spending time with James, but I didn’t like like him. As the time passed and I stayed silent, I began to blush, embarrassed that I was the odd one out.
“She’s blushing! She does like someone!”
“Awww who is it?”
I didn’t want to tell them, because it would be lying. I never gave guys much thought in that way. I was a tomboy. I was one of the guys. They didn’t make me nervous or shy. The only person in school that made me speechless was Joanna.
But I couldn’t say that because we weren’t talking about girls. We were talking about boys. To satisfy my friends, I looked around at the photos on the cafeteria walls. The boys soccer team. I picked a guy–Jackson–an it-boy. I had known him for years. It would probably be believable.
“Jackson?” It wasn’t. “You like him??”
I couldn’t spare myself the teasing, but it was better to fake a crush on Jackson than it was to admit to myself that the reason I was faking in the first place was that Joanna was my first crush. Blonde, kind, gentle and talented. Every time I spoke to her it lit up my heart. I could feel the butterflies, and my world would speed up and slow down at the same time.
But thank God for Tigerbeat. Thank God for Cosmo and for TMZ. Thank God that young women are so predictable. I faked it for years. The it-boys were always easy to spot and required no further explanation from me.
And I could save my butterflies for the blonde girls, the girls with tattoos and quiet smiles.