Growing Up Juju (part 11 in a series)


Her name was Elaine. That’s the answer to your question. You are not going to get her last name. She was Elaine and she was perfect….to a thirteen year-old girl raging out the other side of puberty. It is tough being a thirteen year old girl in 1975 Texas, or any geographic location for that matter. Try being a little gay girl in love with an older woman in 1975 Texas.

My father was a chef at the local country club. It was the kind of place where people belonged just to distinguish themselves. No shopping at Sears for this crowd, and God forbid you pulled into the parking lot in a Oldsmobile. The men played golf poorly while their wives swigged gin and tonics poolside, their eyes tilted at the lifeguards, not their kids. We were the hired help and I got that, immediately upon setting foot on the place.

I was “hired”…won’t even get into child labor laws, to work the concession stand to the pool. The side kitchen window where those same gin and tonics flew out of, along with burgers, fries, and cherry cokes.

Technically, I wasn’t supposed to touch the alcohol, so I would take the order and go retrieve a waitress to deliver the goods. I got to share the commission of alcohol sales and tips with the wait staff. That side pot, combined with an hourly wage of $1.10, was the beginning of my love affair with money, but that is another blog, another day.

In no time, my father let me be his short-order cook and I soon became accustomed to handling the morning rush. So picture a kid in softball cleats, plating eggs, as ordered, by the hungry “elite” of Fort Worth, Texas….if they only knew!

Elaine was a local girl, home from college, picking up extra money for the next semester by waitressing tables. The details, they don’t matter here. Let’s just say I was in love. Of course, she didn’t know it and neither did anyone else. When you are queer, you get really good, really early in life at hiding yourself. I had known since I was five that I was different, as I hit prepubescent age, it all made sense.

I used to watch all the Elvis movies, my mother thought I was in love with the hipster…little did she know I was head over heels for Ann Margaret. By the time Charlie’s Angels came along I had figured out that I would never join those women poolside.

For three months my heart beat like a rabbit every time she walked into a room. The brush of her arm or the smell of her perfume sent me into a tizzy. It was the perfect love, secreted in my heart, never to be tarnished by the spoken word.

Elaine’s temporary servitude came to an end, one late August afternoon. I walked with her to her car, she hugged me and drove away, never to be seen again. All first loves end, hence the title, and this was no exception.

I put up my emotional protective shield and returned to the confines of the kitchen. I started to help prep for the next morning’s breakfast run.

I looked over at my father, we shared a smile. He cocked his head to one side and started to speak. Oh good grief, did he know? Did he pick up on something? I couldn’t believe I was busted!

“Could you not wear the softball cleats on my kitchen floor anymore, they scar it,” he said.

His floor and my heart.

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3 responses to “Growing Up Juju (part 11 in a series)

  1. Oh my word! I think you missed your calling all these years. You were born a writer. Isn’t it a sad world when a little 13 year old girl can’t be herself and feels being different is shameful? You were a great kid. We all knew it. You being different was not about being queer. You were different because you stood above most of us in intelligence and understanding the world as a whole. Maybe most are just intimidated by you and actually admired you even as that 13 year old little tomboy with her cap turned backwards and her cleats on. I did and do. Your sis.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Elizabeth El Aiady

    You might have been describing the country club where I worked, where my mother and all of my sisters worked, in the 1980’s. I ran the snack bar off the pool because unlike my sisters and mother, I couldn’t drive the bar cart without disturbing the golfers (I eventually drove the cart into the pool) and I was not terribly charming or pretty. Bar cart girls must be both, and willing to take whatever nonsense the drunk golfers had to dish out with their paltry tips. But I could cook short order so I did that. I quit at the end of my first summer there after some drunk club member “accidentally” ripped off my shirt through the snack bar window. My mother and my sisters worked the club for years. I don’t know how they managed it.

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