First off let me just say my reasoning for this post is not intended to act as a shock topic in order to draw more readers. It also serves a double meaning, because I feel that in America the topic of sexuality, be it straight, gay or bi is something that is repressed in public forums, be it Blogs, local watering holes, or even among our own relationships. I feel that writing is one of the greatest gifts that we are given. An invaluable tool which can enrich the various communities we involve ourselves in by providing insight and acting as a sounding board for future retrospect. I write primarily for myself as a form of expression, however at the same time I am mindful of the potential gift words can bestow if they resonate with another. Perhaps my musings prompt some constructive and healthy dialogue in your own life. If that is the case I encourage commentary. You’ve read this far so why not take a gander at the rest of this story and if you’re so inclined indulge yourself and drop some of your own words into the fray.
Naturally ones disposition when it comes to sexuality is derived through experiences growing up. Parenting style plays a big role in a child’s development, as well as what parental figures are present the most during that time. Institutions also throw themselves into this mix, some more forcefully than others which I believe is an ethical grey area for them to encroach upon developing minds.
My perspective is based in a fairly religious background which saw me attending a YMCA preschool, Kindergarten attached to a Lutheran church (although we had adopted Catholicism as a family attending mass regularly until I was about junior high age), 1st-8th grade private school, followed by private all boys high school, both of which were catholic. My mother had grown up in a small town in Idaho, some on a farm before moving to a suburb as she approached elementary school age. I can’t exactly recall but I believe my grandmother changed religious affiliations at least a time or two, something like Mormon, Protestant then Lutheran though I may have the order wrong. I never got the opportunity to discuss her meandering path in faiths but I always knew it was an integral part of who she was and felt it played a role in why she was constantly striving to improve herself and be a better person. My dad’s family was large and Catholic through and through having grown up on the South side of Seattle. To me growing up and learning about these different religions offered me some valuable insight into faith that I would take with me my entire life. I learned there were varying degrees of doctrines, principals, rules what have you for each of these devotions. I learned that followers of each religion, as a majority have certain hot button topics they strongly disagree with their organization on, yet most of them remain quiet about these, instead accepting antiquated values which failed to progress after thousands of years. I don’t want to digress too far into the role of religious organizations and how it pertains to developing one’s sexual identity, however it naturally ties into family therefore the two combined tend to wrestle in various ways during the cultivation of perspective.
So now we have an interesting mix of influences- my dad on one side raised in the city who had seven brothers and two sisters, and my mom raised in rural Idaho with half the siblings. Both my parents were hippies in their own regard, though stories of those hay (or shall I say hazy?) days have not been recanted in great number to me. So it was my grandmother at one end of the spectrum who seemed to be gradually shifting over the years to being more open minded about how people chose to live their lives, my mom somewhere in the middle yet leaning far more towards a liberal mindset and my dad who embraced self expression in all its various facets, let it flow as far as he was concerned. Then there was my schools. I was fortunate to have primarily young, progressive minded lay teachers (those not of the cloth) from 5th to 8th grade, so despite religion remaining a limited part of the curriculum, which also caused a somewhat watered down and religiously skewed sex-Ed courses I generally feel they gave adequate freedom for my classmates and I to transition into mature young adults who would respect themselves and others, which frankly is all it boils down to, no matter how you slice it.
My first girlfriend and I “dated” about two months following our graduation from 8th grade. She was newer to the school, and somewhat shy after joining our class in 7th grade and didn’t fit into the same clicks with the large group of us whom had known each other for over half our childhoods. She was friendly, smart, soft spoken yet quick witted and had a resemblance to Jennifer Aniston whose character on friends I was quite enamored with. It didn’t take long and she propelled to the top of my crush list, and would steadily remain through 7th and 8th grade.
When it came to girls on a more than friends level I was a bit lost in my approach. Part of me wanted a fairy tale, hopeless romantic type of relationship in which the girl of my dreams would eventually be won over after some trials and effort, and despite my awkwardness and husky physique would be as crazy about me as I was about them. Then from that point forward naturally things would progress from and just like in 112 and Brian McKnight songs happily ever after with some peaches and cream on top, right? The other part of me yearned to explore physical intimacy influenced by pop culture, dad’s magazine collection, my friend’s ‘go get it’ point of view, and late night viewings of Skinemax (Cinemax’s B or C movies usually involving artists, babysitters or a mixture of the two) at my best friend’s house where there was premium cable. I ended up siding with the hopeless romantic path, which appealed to my sense of treating someone like I want to be treated.
After crushing on Ms. mini-Aniston (lets just call her Jen for short) for a year and a half, giving subtle clues while at the same denying it to everyone, I finally worked up the courage to try and express my interest to “Jen” on Valentines day after I received a Valentine from her that gave me a shred of hope, and some pointed advice from friends of hers that I should “man up” and say something. All throughout class I contemplated what I would say, and I cant really recall the interaction out in the parking lot after school because my head felt like it was buzzing, some type of anxious trauma I suppose but after stumbling over the words my mildly expressive profession was warmly received. I was absolutely dumbfounded as Jen seemingly started to glow with happiness. I had thought her out of my league as her parents were upper middle class and I was from a rougher neighborhood, figuring she would not want anything to do with me on the basis that her parents wouldn’t approve. None of it mattered though, perhaps she saw something in me that I didn’t know was there, perhaps she had other motives, but who’s to say.
I had reeled in the prize catch, now what on earth to do. At first I was afraid she would expect to go out on dates, which would be difficult since I was pretty darn broke and wasn’t about to start asking my parents for money on account that I now had a girlfriend. Besides it was awkward enough just to tell them about her. Conveniently enough my best friend happened to be dating her best friend, whew! Awesome double dates right? So we’d join the girls at their house, the first few times playing board games or watching movies. Eventually the “couples” would separate and that is when I would start to become quite anxious. I would nervously talk to pass the time, not knowing what to do. My best friend seemed to be enjoying this time a lot more than me, as afterwards his confidence and happiness would be surging and mine seemed to be floundering in a way. Despite this Jen would call numerous times a day, always wanting to either talk or hang out. I would visit by myself, but that didn’t seem to make a difference either. The concept of being alone in the house of my dream girl was too much to handle. Before long, Jen started to wonder if there was something wrong with her that caused me to distance myself in such a way. Jen’s friend eventually shared with my best friend her frustration and confusion with my inaction in showing her any sort of affection aside from the standard hug of hi and bye. My friend tried giving me some advice but his methods didn’t really jive with who I was. In my head I had built this up to be the best first kiss ever, but I couldn’t bring myself to it, and it was apparent Jen wasn’t going to initiate.
To this day I am still not quite sure what held me back, aside from lacking confidence to go for it, but I never did kiss Jen. After a month and a half of seeing a lot of each other the constant phone calls started to become annoying, even though I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by telling her that. She had been amazingly patient with me but in the end I no longer wanted to lead her on, since I honestly had no idea where this was going since I felt so freaking painfully awkward about it all. I began to feel guilty that she continued to invest herself into this, and did not want to lead her on because the last thing I felt like was a leader and I had no idea where to go. So I thought up an exit plan that would be honest yet thoughtful of Jen’s feelings. I explained to her that it wasn’t her in any way, that she was amazing in every way and I could not ask for more, however I just was not ready. We talked a couple times after this, and it was clear this hurt Jen. It hurt me to let her go but I knew it was the right thing.
It wasn’t that I lacked the desire to kiss Jen, quite the contrary in fact. But we were 12, and I felt I was sitting at the edge of some kind of precipice, and taking the dive was too much for me to handle. I’ve rarely thought about it over the years, but writing this I am still lost as to what exactly held me back from expressing to her my affection. Regardless I am sorry to “Jen” for being such an incredibly lame first boyfriend.
That strange and brief summer fling was probably not the ideal kick off to entering an all boys high school for the following four years. Which would see me continue to be awkward with girls I was interested in, rarely dating, and not kissing someone until after high school.
Life has its stages and rebirths though, and I eventually overcame this issue through experiences and getting to know myself as well as developing a better understanding of my female counterparts, learning to apply the bravery and boldness that I had in other aspects of life to my romantic endeavors. Not to say things are perfect by any means, but at least I have someone I truly care for and can continue to progress who I am alongside with an amazing Yin partner so that we can bask in this wonderful adventure of life together.
Peace and Love,