You know how hard it is to make the first move? Remember when you were a teenager and you desperately wanted to tell someone you liked them? Rejection has a powerful sting…verbalizing something, reaching out to touch a hand…that is some bold stuff and the consequences could be really awful. But we did it…most of the time in the 70s it was a boy asking a girl out….asking her to go to the movies…leaning in for a kiss. I applaud them, it took guts and it was really, really different from it is today.
I am sure everyone that is reading this remembers those awkward moments. I am sure the gay people reading this can break into a cold sweat just remembering those first moments when they acted on their true being…..when they realized their true self. You want to talk nerve? Two gay kids rarely look at each other and come right out and say it.
There are long periods of time when absolutely nothing happens, unrequited feelings abound. Sometimes the silence never ends…but eventually you have your first encounter where someone makes an incredibly brave move.
I was eighteen years old and about hyper-ventilated every time I was around her. Her name was Annie and my teenage dream was that she shared the same feelings that I had.
By looking at her you would have never guessed she was queer…but there was something about the way she looked at me…I was beginning to think just maybe. She was dating a football player and she used to hang out at the gym waiting on him after practice…it was my senior year. I was a gym rat, always around because I had friends in every sport…the gym was our social club.
Gay kids back then were pretty late bloomers, for obvious reasons. I had already applied for and been accepted at Texas Woman’s University. I knew that school would be a haven for queer girls and I would probably fit in…I would most likely meet my first girlfriend there…I was so hoping that would come to pass. But for now I was watching Annie run and jump into her boyfriend’s arms…longing to trade places with him. She liked me, I could tell…she even laughed at all of my corn-ball jokes. And what about the flirtatious looks she gave me, what was that about? I lived off of those looks for about 2 months until one day she asked me if I wanted to go to a movie one night? Why yes, that would be nice! (thinking inside that I was having a coronary)
I picked Annie up and off we went to a theater at the local mall. The movie was “Private Benjamin” with Goldie Hawn. It is a very funny movie, but to tell you the truth, I had to go see it again later with other friends. The night with Annie I was all in a nervous flumox…years of waiting….years of queer thoughts were racing through my mind. What if I make a move and she actually doesn’t recoil in disgust? What if she does?? What if I am NOT the big queer I think I am? Eighteen years of being an outsider will go by the way-side and I will have to start thinking about guys? Oh gawd, her right forearm just brushed against mine…okay, slash that last thought!
The movie ended and we set off for the parking lot towards my Mercury Bobcat. We were seated in the car, listening to the radio…not quite ready to go home, not knowing what to do next. Tom Petty was our background music…Annie began to talk about dating the football player. Her complimentary description of him ended with the word I was waiting for ….BUT, she said, “something is wrong, I have been thinking of someone else.” Annie looked at me and…….and…..I couldn’t find the breath to make words. This was it….this was THE moment….say it damn-it!! Say it Julya!!!!! SAY IT!!!!!!!
Have you been thinking about me? Did that just come out of my mouth? I am sure I had sheer panic on my face. I thought I had just ruined the last remaining months of my time in high school. She would surely run screaming from the car…show up at class on Monday and tell everyone she could that I was a big old queer and had hit on her! My life was about to be over!! Wait! She just said something..what? Can you say that again? “Yes, she said…I have been thinking about kissing you.”
It was just like in the movies, the radio changed to a love song as if on cue, I leaned in and our lips met. I AM gay!! I am sooooooooooo gay!!! I am gleefully queer!!! You can think it and feel it your entire life, but until a moment like this happens, you really aren’t IT, are you? Don’t you have to ACT on something to truly be it? I was dizzy and really relived…..and so freaking happy!!
So, I don’t think Annie will read this, but if she does….thanks. There always has to be a first and I am thankful for you dear, beautiful Annie. She went out-of-state for college and last I heard she was very happy with a long-term partner. We had lasted until graduation and knew life was taking us in different directions. It hurt, but I knew I had met her for a reason…I knew we were parting for a reason.
We all have an “Annie” in our background…we all have those memories. I know some of you, gay and straight, were perhaps re-buffed in your encounters. I imagine some of my queer readers might have some ugly stories to tell…some of your tales very well might have ended with the girl running away and “outing” you. I am sorry if that happened to you…but the moments have defined us as the people we are today, right?
Every once in a while I am driving down the road and Tom Petty comes on singing Refugee…and my heart starts to beat like an eighteen year old after wind-sprints. I will always remember that night and the first time I figured out being queer was, for me…not really strange at all.