Girl Crushes: Part 1
Updated: Apr 11, 2019
These are stories about my girl-crushes.
The stories I didn't really get to tell growing up. I think most people who grew up in the closet have similar stories. Talking about who you "liked" or, "liked liked" growing up, seemed to be the number one topic of discussion. Gossip is in our nature. Assuming heteronormativity among young people is also in our nature. So those of us who grew up in the closet probably didn't get to share who it was they were really crushing on. In fact, they probably had a lot going on in their heads that they haven't opened up about. So, I invite you all to share with me, who were your first crushes? What was it like? Let's celebrate it. Originally, this story was called "Life In The Closet." But I didn't really grow up telling myself that I was in the closet. It was more, society pushing me into a certain role as a female. It was more, the stories that I told myself about society and how things worked. It was about being ashamed of my body and my sexuality. And it was knowing that sometimes I had girl crushes and that I should ignore them. But sure, we call it The Closet.
So here's part of my story of growing up here in Salt Lake City.
A place of extreme sexual oppression.
A place where the number one killer of kids is suicide by guns.
This place that I call home. A religiously homogenous city where people who are ‘different’ are not accepted as equal and can expect to be told they are going to hell.
This city also happens to be one of the gayest cities in America. Imagine that.
We all have stories to share of what it was like to grow up here. Gay, straight, Mormon or not.
Maybe you came out while you were on your mission. Maybe you came out in high school and got kicked out of your home. Maybe it took getting married and starting a family to realize you were living some one else’s life. Maybe you just chose beer over the celestial kingdom and the consequences were painful. Maybe the theocratic government never touched you.
In that case, congratulations.
We all have a story of what it was like to grow up here.
I’ve been “out” for almost three years now and this is still a tough subject for me.
My heart still aches over every word I pound out on my keyboard as these stories spill out of me from a retreat cell in Kathmandu. I realize that I have a responsibility as a writer.
The first thing I need to address here is the message of sexuality in general:
ALL OF US were made to feel dirty if you had sexual desires towards another person. I was made to be ashamed of my body from a very young age by constant dress coding at my public school. I remember my 9th grade history teacher (a female) telling me I looked slutty in front of our Vice Principal (a male), because of the plaid shorts I was wearing. They told me that boys would not take me seriously when I dressed that way. I was wearing a green long sleeved Abercrombie shirt and brand new Sperry Topsiders that had whales on them, and I looked fuckin' cute. They told me that boys would think I was slutty and not respect me. They told me I had to go home and change. I cried my eyes out and called my mom and walked home. She was never mad. She knew I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. But this was a recurring experience. This was how public school was for me. I didn’t want attention from boys. I wasn’t trying to be slutty. I just liked my clothes. And I was constantly objectified and made to feel incredibly uncomfortable with my growing adolescent body specifically by the adults that surrounded me.
Health class was as scene out of Mean Girls. We were told that if you have sex before marriage, you are going to get this long list of STD’s and probably die or if you’re lucky, you’ll live like a leper for the rest of your life. I was raised to believe that my body was for men and that I needed to cover it up in order for men to behave themselves. Teachers frequently gave me safety pins to keep the stretching shirt over my chest pinned shut as to “not distract the boys.” Although I was extremely uncomfortable with the idea that boys were “looking at me,” I understood that my body existed only for the man’s eye and that someday I would find a man to marry. Only then could I experience this terrifying thing called sex. It was easy for me to abstain through high school because not only did sex sound terrifying due to the propaganda that was spread around my public schools, but also because I had absolutely no interest in it.
I grew up in Olympus Cove, a very isolated, wealthy, white Mormon neighborhood. My public schools were mostly Mormon folks. It didn’t take long for me to realize that being Catholic, I certainly did not fit in. Having a single mother, I certainly did not fit in. Having a wine fridge at my house, I may aswell have been an alien. I remember being so angry at my parents for raising me as a Catholic in a Mormon society. I didn’t think it was fair. I remember telling my mom that I was going to convert and marry a nice Mormon boy so that my children didn’t have to go through the same pain that I did (because I totally assumed that I would be stuck living in the Cove for the rest of my life).
And I remember the crushed and angry look on her face when I told her that.
I’d like to make it clear once again, that I think my mom did just about everything she could to keep me from believing in all the bullshit that was fed to me as a child in a Mormon society. But could one single liberal (catholic) mother really go up to bat with an entire neighborhood of huge Mormon families AND the public-school system? The odds were totally stacked.
I remember having crushes on girls from the very beginning.
But everyone asked me what boys I liked in school, in fact, they told me which boys I liked. My dad’s friends’ kid. That was pinned on me in Kindergarten. While secretly, I was checking out his older sister. When I started learning what gays and lesbians were, I started to become an even more anxious child. I feared that someday I would realize that I am a lesbian. I distinctly remember thinking: growing up to find out that I am gay would be just as bad as growing up to find that I have a severe disorder. It would be a tragedy. People’s hearts would break. People would feel so sorry for me. People would indefinitely avoid me.
I figured that if I kept my focus on boys, as society told me to do, I would be fine.
It totally pains me to reflect on these memories of what I thought being gay would mean for me. I hate to reflect on this time and see the intense anxiety start to kick into my body.
Especially because, my mom although very Catholic, she truly never wanted me to never feel this way. While it had never occurred to her that I might be gay, she indeed wanted me to be loving and understanding of this group. And she was motivated in those actions.
She took me to the Pride Parade for my first time in third grade. She said to me, we celebrate these people as if they are family because they deserve to be loved. She told me that not everyone is loving towards them so it’s important that we show them love and compassion. My memory of the pride parade is seeing drag queens and old short haired lesbians with children… and I felt bad for those children… Once again, my mother’s efforts could not overpower what society told me.
A year later, she hired two fabulous carpenters to re-model our home. They designed and built me my dream bedroom. Navy blue walls, with stars and lanterns… A white canopy… it was perfection. They introduced me to caramel frappachinos and Vanessa Carlton. I adored them. But when a neighbor friend asked if our contractors were gay, I said, “no they are just metrosexual!”
I explained to her that some men are just feminine, and it doesn’t mean they are gay. Although I knew they were a couple, I wanted to cover for them. I already felt judged enough for having a single mom who drank wine. To think the neighborhood would find out that two gay men designed and renovated my beautiful home? I shut that down real fast. ___________________________________________________________
Jumping back to my first year of junior high. The beginning of my adolescence. What a fun time of life to reflect on…. I remember meeting all kinds of new people that year because the other junior high had burned down so there were actually two junior high schools in my one building. It was totally nuts! The halls were packed.
I was in English class, and I met a girl who sat behind me a few spots back. Her name was Kate. I can still see exactly what she looked like on that first day. An orange Abercrombie and Fitch top, tightly fitted with a camisole underneath and blue jeans. Gorgeous dark eyes and sandy brown hair that seemed to be naturally curly, but was straightened. She had perfect white teeth. I figured she must have already gotten her braces off. She was on the soccer team. I felt all fluttery and warm inside when I met her. She was my first real girl crush.
Turned out she was friends with one of my best friends through soccer.
“Oh you met Kate?” My friend said to me in the hallway.
“Yeah I did, I really like her she’s cool,” I responded.
“Yeah she is so cute isn’t she? Don’t you think she is so cute?” My friend said to me.
I felt my cheeks rush blood red. “Sure, she’s cute whatever.” That warm feeling in my chest quickly turned into complete despair and anxiety as I feared my friend was onto me. I felt like she could see right through me, that I had a crush. I felt like I had violated Kate by even having the slightest interest in her. What does a crush feel like anyways? I felt disgusted in myself and I pushed away the feelings for her as best as I could and went back to looking for boys to find attractive.
The next semester she and I had class together again. Math class, not my strong suit. Thus, our friendship increased as I always needed help. I really liked that we were getting to know each other. Then, one day she told me she had a boyfriend from another school.
That’s cool. I wasn’t really concerned about it. I had pushed my feelings for her very far down.
Then one day she came to class all smiley and told me she had something to tell me. I got kind of excited. During our break to do homework, she started telling me a story about how she made out with her boyfriend over the weekend.
And something switched in me.
I was disgusted.
I hated her.
I felt sick.
I decided I didn’t want to be her friend any more.
I avoided her.
She stopped existing in my life.
And the anxiety of being in that math class only grew.
Especially because there was a bully in that class who loved to use the words “gay” and “fag” to put people down.
But I survived it. And this kind of thing would become a pattern in my young life. Couldn't tell you the last time I saw or spoke to this person who's named I changed for the story... I pushed her far away and out of my consciousness. Part of me is sorry for doing that. Read Part Two Here.