The first time I had a conscious crush on a girl, I was 21. We can go back in time and trace fascinations and very close temporary friendships and debate whether or not they were actually crushes, but right now that’s not what we are focusing on. This was the first time I saw a girl that I was like, “I want to kiss her in real life.”
It was the best friend of my roommate’s boyfriend. I had only seen her in pictures, so I knew who she was, and I needed to know everything about her. To put it in the dorkiest way possible, I thought she was so cool. She was finishing her senior year of college and getting ready to play basketball professionally, and she just had, like, swag? Please don’t laugh at me; there’s no other way to explain it.
I started “joking” with my roommate that when I met her, we were going to hook up. Like I had any game or experience or that she even knew who I was. This went on for the whole school year. Two weeks after graduation, my roommate and her boyfriend were visiting his family’s beach house which was near where I grew up. My roommate texted me something to the effect of “she’s coming and she wants to meet you.”
The mother of all pits formed in my stomach. SHIT. I sure was talking a big game for someone who has never romantically kissed a girl on purpose!! My roommate told me to meet them at a bar, and I got ready on autopilot. I had never been to this bar before and neither had anyone I had known, so that’s its own brand of New Place Anxiety. Then, on top of that, someone I really wanted to impress would be there. And on top of THAT, I had not yet processed my sexuality or anything in that regard. A hundred thousand things were running through my mind at once. Suddenly, I’m standing in the doorway of the bar.
This wasn’t just like any bar; the whole “shtick” of this bar was that it had a bunch of different rooms with different music in each one. Which meant it was loud and it was PACKED. Oh, and there was no service. I could not contact anyone I knew. I started shoving my way through each room, looking for a familiar face. Then I saw one. One I had only seen in pictures but I had definitely seen in my imagination. My feet walked me right up to her and I hugged her like an old friend and complimented her funky short-sleeved button-up because I liked it and also because I was trying to fill the space between us with words.
She lit up and hugged me back and thanked me for the compliment and I’m not sure what else she said because, at the same time, my roommate and her boyfriend found us. My roommate screamed “THERE YOU ARE!! I’M SO SORRY. I LOST HIM IN THE LINE FOR THE BATHROOM AND THEN I DIDN’T KNOW WHERE I WAS.” Drinks were suggested and I obviously obliged.
We were shoving our way to the bar, and she kept checking to see if I was keeping up. I thought about reaching out and grabbing her hand but I didn’t. I felt like people were looking at our foursome and making a very obvious observation about our double date/set up. I didn’t know how I felt about it. I wanted people to know, but I didn’t want them to make assumptions about me that I didn’t even know about myself. Desperately searching for some space for us all to talk, I scanned the room. I made eye contact with another familiar face. A high school acquaintance. His head stuck out over the crowd and he raised his hand to wave at me. I didn’t want to go over to talk to him, but I felt obligated. I left my little group, said hi, he invited me to his place after the bar, I said “I’ll see,” and I went back to meet up with everyone again.
Seeing him, seeing someone I knew, threw me through a loop. I felt like being somewhere that I didn’t know anyone would give me some freedom to explore, if you will, but he took that away. He was right over my shoulder, looming. My past with him. If he saw me kiss her, he would be just as confused about me as I am, and I just didn’t have the answer for him or anyone else. I kept my back turned so what I was doing was concealed, and he was fully out of sight and, hopefully, out of mind. My phone buzzed.
“You should really come over tn.”
There was no shot in hell that I was going to hang out with him. But for some reason, I answered, “Maybe! I gotta see what my friends are doing.” I had been doing that for years; doing everything I could to make sure guys still liked me. But for what? I was outside of my body watching myself fall into the same miserable pattern that I had been in for years. Behind me was a past of placating men to maintain a patriarchal status of “attractive,” and quite literally standing in front of me was a part of my life where none of that mattered and I lived as myself.
I checked back into reality upon the brink of an emotional and mental breakthrough and shoved my phone in my pocket with the full intention of ignoring it for the rest of the night. I saw her whisper to my roommate’s boyfriend, and he replied “just do this” and kissed my roommate. Wait, was she nervous too? I hoped it was a normal kind of nervous and not like a “this girl doesn’t know who she is, what if she freaks out?” kind of nervous. I mustered up what little courage I had to show my interest, but I was learning how to talk to girls in real-time. So I acted exactly the same but threw a couple of Bambi Eye Looks in there.
After we got tired of screaming over the 7 different sound systems blasting at full volume, we went back to my roommate’s boyfriend’s house to unwind. We got some snacks from Wawa on the way home, and we giggled and whispered while his parents slept until it was time for me to go home.
“Can I walk you to your car?” she asked. I either replied “of course” or “sure but I mean it’s right outside so I think I could make it,” and I really hope it was the first one. I nervously looked around and kicked the dirt, and she inched closer and closer. I looked up to say goodbye and then we were kissing. I felt butterflies, but they weren’t like the ones I felt before. It was less of a am-i-excited-or-uncomfortable churning and more of a lifting-off-the-ground-and-the-world-melting-away bubbliness. This feeling was new and fun and exciting and one I wanted to feel a million more times.
A hole busted through the Wall Of Internalized Homophobia in my brain. This rendezvous ended up being a revolution. This moment, a movement. This weekend fling, an awakening. I was alive for the first time while I was killing off a part of me that was no longer serving me. It still needed a lot of work, but I was ready to keep chipping away as I saw the light peering through the cracks.
I guess we could make the light a rainbow, but I think we’ve all had enough of the metaphors.
Allison Hinman is an East Coast writer, karaoke queen, and woman of extremes.