Seventeen

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I’ve been staring at this photo for a while now. The way I would stare in a mirror while screaming Bloody Mary.

Who is that? And more importantly, whose pearls are those?

A twist of fate and a scheduling conflict will take me back to Miami next week – coinciding with my high school reunion. So, in an effort to mentally prepare for the terrible community play rendition of Hot Tub Time Machine that I’m about to headline, I rummaged through a box of mementos, read cringe-worthy letters and found this, my senior year portrait.

At first glance, I was reminded that while I was taking this picture, my boyfriend was sitting in the waiting room with the promise of reaching third base on the ride home. He was adorable, gentlemanly and sweet, but terribly flat chested and had a penis, which eventually caused our demise.

When I looked closer though, the me from 1996 had a prophetic message embedded in my eyebrows – one that only took twenty years of hindsight to actually see it. Unlike what I thought about myself at the time, I was pretty damn unhideous. I would even go as far to say that I was pretty cute. Yes it’s a cliche, teens and their self-esteem issues. But I’d truly look in the mirror and see an out-of-place monster. How terribly sad.

On the bright side, if I had that face today it would be riddled with HPV, so I guess it worked out.

The other non-hideous things about seventeen were the rest of the know-nothings that I befriended. The valedictorian. The nice guy. The Goody Two-Shoes. The bad ass. The comedian. The rebel. The weirdo. The rich girl. The super rich girl. (I went to private school.) The artist. The Goth. The drama queen. My secret girlfriend. They were glorious. Each one. Raging with hormones, broken out with acne and hiding torn hymens from Jesus. Together we made up a super diverse version of The Breakfast Club that could have been made for Telemundo after dark.

But that was then. Next week we will be reunited for an episode of Oprah’s Where Are They Now, where the impulse to undo our high school stereotypes will most likely lead to boring each other with talk of investment banking, bibs and breakfast nooks. But as much as my body recoils with the thought of being trapped in a boring conversation, my FOMO is too powerful not to be there. And I’m willing to bet that in the midst of polite conversation, I’ll see a glimmer of the shitheads we once were. And I’m also willing to put money on having to hold someone’s hair back at the end of the night.

It was Catholic school for Christ’s sake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m coming out

Happy National Coming Out Day! I had this little blog appear on BOUNDmag.com. It was too important not to share here too. Enjoy!

Haunted by rumors about my sexual orientation, I left my high school. I couldn’t understand what my friends were talking about. Why were they convinced I was a lesbian? So what if I was a little too clingy, isn’t that what friends do? Aren’t all besties jealous of their jerk boyfriends and stare a little too long in the locker room?

I laugh about it now, but, back then, I was clueless. I had no idea what a lesbian was and I certainly didn’t think I liked girls.

It wasn’t until I fell in love with my best friend at my new school that I realized, quite concretely, that I was a lesbian. I tried everything to suppress it. I vacillated between the extremes of having sex with men and becoming a nun. But nothing worked. Nothing made me straight.

It was a very difficult time. I had two contradicting thoughts going through my mind at all times. The first was “How could this happen to me?” Meaning, I’m a good person, I believe in God, I got good grades, so how could I be a – gasp – lesbian? The second thought was, “This is the most amazing feeling I’ve ever felt in my life.” Everything about that relationship felt so right, so genuine, and so deliciously good.

I knew exactly zero gay people, so I found solace in the (not so) hidden meanings in the music of the Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, and Ani DiFranco. I tested my gay-dar on television stars, like Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres. And, I resolved to keep this quiet, by sharing my secret with only a hand full of straight friends who I knew would be supportive. For nearly two years I lived in the shadows, suppressing who I really was in a strange lesbian version of Jekyll and Hyde.

Luckily, an incident involving the most unfortunate timing in the world ripped me out of the closet when my parents walked in on my “best friend” and I. This moment, very literally, left me exposed and there was absolutely no turning back.

By no means am I suggesting that this is the best way to come out to your parents, but in many ways, it was the rude awakening I needed, to realize that this was my truth and it was time to start living it.

I would also like to share that it took nearly ten years for my parents to come around, and that my father died without totally making peace with my sexuality. But, the point in coming out is not about the reaction or judgment of the people you come out to. Sure, it’s great when friends and family are supportive, but that’s just a bonus. The most important part in coming out is you. It’s giving yourself permission to be who you are. And to acknowledge the fact that you’re pretty awesome, regardless of who you love.

It is no coincidence that we timed our eighth issue on National Coming Out Day. It is also no coincidence that this issue features Melissa Etheridge – who came out around the time I was beginning to struggle with my own identity. It’s the whole reason we started this little ezine. It’s so that no woman out there will ever have to feel isolated. It’s so that we will always have one small place to turn to. So that together, we will always be BOUND.

For resources on how to come out to loved ones and co-workers, visit HRC

(Reblogged from: http://boundmag.com/index.php/news/bound-blog/item/170-im-coming-out)

Confessions of a bully

It’s true. I was a bully. I was a silent bully. I sat quietly, while boys pounded sissies and fat girls got called names. And I never had the courage to tell a teacher, a bus driver or to jump in and stop the bully myself. I just sat there. And for that, I’m forever sorry.

In an effort to right the wrongs, I’d like to publicly apologize to three people:

Mrs. Sawyer

Mrs. Sawyer was my math teacher. She was blonde and southern and excessively polite. She didn’t speak a lick of Spanish, which is why kids would yell, “Puta loca!” and she’d just reply with a smile. One day, a student taped down the light switch and we all yelled and threw our books in the dark.

Dear Mrs. Sawyer,

You may not remember me, but I’m sure you remember your short time at Kinloch Park Middle School. I sat in your seventh grade math class and laughed when kids acted out. I never did my homework. And I never paid attention in class. Although I never screamed obscenities, I encouraged others to do so. When you left the school in the middle of the year, I perpetuated the rumor that you had a nervous breakdown. Mrs. Sawyer, I’m sorry that our class was so horrible and I’m really sorry for not being the voice of opposition during our class revolts. I can only imagine you went home and cried after each one of those episodes. I’m sure we were part of the reason you left the school. If we made you feel like a failure rest assured that it was us who failed you. You probably don’t even think about that class anymore, but, Mrs. Sawyer, know this, I think of you every time I look at a budget. I become filled with regret, wishing I had paid attention in your class.

Jose Suarez

Jose Suarez was smallest boy in school. I met him in elementary school. The last time I saw him was my sophomore year of high school before I transferred. I’m not sure when it started or why, but we all called him ‘Droopy.’ The name caught on like wild fire and followed him throughout his life. He kept to himself. Never bothered anyone. But everyone bothered him.

Dear Jose,

You may not remember me, because I never spoke to you. I was so worried about being cool and getting elected to student council that I never dared to speak to you. The irony is that you were the most popular boy in school. Everyone knew you by that horrible name you hated to be called and by your real name. It’s been 18 years since last seeing you and I still remember both names. So, you see, there is something incredibly special about you. I’m sorry your adolescence was marred by people picking on you. It’s just not fair. I still remember the day you pulled a stapler on the entire class and screamed at everyone to stop calling you that name. But, we didn’t listen. I saw you cry on multiple occasions, but I never stopped to put my arm around your shoulder. Now the tables are turned, as my eyes fill with tears when I think about the horrible things that may have crossed your mind during those dark times. I’m sorry for not being a good person. And, I’m really sorry for not trying to win your friendship. You would’ve taught me so much.

Richard

Richard and I took the same bus every morning and afternoon from middle school through high school. He was a year older with gorgeous blonde hair and big puffy lips that became bright red easily. Although handsome, he wasn’t one that the girls would fall for, as his limp wrist and high-pitched voice singled him out as a sissy. I don’t remember his last name, but I do remember witnessing the beating he took.

Dear Richard,

You may not remember me, but you were the first homosexual I met. You were fierce, fabulous and out in high school. You didn’t care what people thought about you. You surrounded yourself with girls and even made friends with some of the boys. Your humor bridged the sexual orientation gap and everyone felt comfortable around you. Except for me. I was going through my own struggle. I was desperately trying to prove that I wasn’t gay and any association with you would further sink me into a hole. Stupid move, I realize now, as you could’ve helped me stand up to those kids. I had witnessed you defend a heavy girl from a name-calling attack, among other kids you protected from bullies. I knew why you were so quick to stand up for people. I was there the day you got beat up by that kid that called you the f-word. That delinquent punched you so hard in the jaw the physics made your face turn to my direction, where our eyes met. You were bigger, taller and older than that bully, but somehow you were laying in fetal position on a green bus seat, bleeding and defeated. I never yelled, “Stop!” I didn’t even ask you if you were okay. I just walked right by you when I got off the bus. I didn’t tell the bus driver. I didn’t tell a teacher. I didn’t tell my mom. You didn’t either. You took matters into your own hands. You kept showing up, every morning and afternoon. You didn’t back down. You didn’t change your seat. And, most importantly, you didn’t change a single thing about you. This is what helped you make it in high school. A lesson I should’ve learned, instead of running away. To this very day, I think about you and I think about all the kids that need a Richard to walk them through a crowded hallway or a to sit next to in a hot and stinky bus. I wish I can clone and distribute you to every high school, so you can help kids stand up to bullies, even silent ones like me.