An Absolutely Shocking Twist
Growing up, I knew that when I turned sixteen, I would be madly in love. I would have had a boy- friend sooner, but there was one logistical issue:
my parents told me I couldn’t date before I was sixteen. But I knew that once I crossed that threshold, everyone around me would realize that I was girlfriend material. I spent the first two years of high school feeling guilty about the fact that I would have to break the heart of any gentleman to come my way, citing strict parents. “But!” I would say, “If you wait for me, I’m sure they will shower you with riches and splendor and more because you endured the absolute agony of having to go without me for a single second.”
Often, I pondered this: the agony that those boys were facing; the thought of telling someone that I could not date him and make him the happiest man in the world. It was much
too much for me to bear. So I avoided men as best I could.
I mean, I couldn’t help but flirt, just a little, because I wanted them to know that, emotionally, I was interested. For example, there was one boy in my math class, Eddy, with whom I would have friendly competitions about quiz and test scores. I’d flash him my perfect results and give him a sexy eye roll when he did the same. I would playfully scoff at homework solutions and offer my services as a tutor, which would be a convenient way to show off my intelligence. Of course, after class I would dash away before any solidified plans could be made. I wouldn’t want the temptation to be too overwhelming. So that’s how I had to play it. Hot and cold. And I was an excellent flirt. One second it was, “Hey, do you want me to teach you how to actually throw a football?” and the next it was, “Sorry, this team is full of people who know how to hit their mark on the snap.” It was the perfect balance to keep
them interested from afar.
Now, on the eve of my sixteenth year, there was only one
thing on my mind: my perfect future boyfriend. He would be tall and sporty; probably blond, to offset my darker tones; slender, to offset my softer belly. He would be funny and boisterous but also intelligent and sensitive. He would tell me about his insecurities and brush my hair delicately out of my eyes. He would tell me how beautiful I was when I cried and wipe my snot away with his hands, which would be soft and tender, but also calloused from lifting my body weight at the gym. He would be secure in his faults, humble. He would challenge me to be better and smarter but somehow convince me that I was already perfect.
I didn’t think it was too much to ask of the universe to just
provide me with the one person who fit into all these categories. Sure, the odds were stacked against me: my class only had thirty boys in it. I didn’t need to be a mathlete (which I was, as I often reminded Eddy) to know that my odds were not good. But despite the slim pickings—the boys that were wee enough to be lifted up onto the shoulders of other boys—and those of some girls, too—I considered every contender with an open mind. The possibility of depth was lurking around every corner, and no matter how many viewings of Donnie Darko I had to sit through, I was going to find it.
I’ll admit, I was a little surprised when people didn’t come running when I finally turned sixteen. But I’m sure people were dealing with a lot of feelings. They had held back for so long and now they were finally free to love me. Sometimes unrestrained freedom can lead to confusion. Like when you live on your own for the first time and want to have ice cream for three meals a day. I was like the cappuccino choco-chip of those endless ice cream bowls—I’d keep you awake at night, and I was slightly exotic (assuming one quarter Italian qualifies for your definition of exotic). Soon, someone would be bound to lose his sense of control and sweep me off my feet. They would recover from the years of being brushed off by me. They would try again. So I waited.
I quickly realized that I would not make any progress with the popular boys in my class. Why? Well, if agreeing to watch Donnie Darko again and getting my mom to drive fifteen min-
utes out of her way to make sure they got home from parties weren’t successful strategies, then what could be done? They were unintelligent Cro-Magnons, and my assessment of a human was clearly on a different scale from those that deter- mined high school popularity. I had a discerning eye. I had high standards. Why would I date someone everyone wanted?
When I found myself losing patience, I looked to role models for reassurance. Hermione Granger, for example. An exemplary student, it took seven years for her to get her nose out of her books long enough to finally kiss Ron. The best kinds of love are the ones that hit you when you least expect it, like when Hermione almost died stabbing a Horcrux before kissing Ron. Maybe I wouldn’t find him at the first party I went to. In fact, the more parties I attended without finding my soulmate, the more it would mean to turn around in slow motion and stare directly into the eyes of my one true love with my hair blowing behind me.
Little did I know, the fateful moment wouldn’t be at a party, but somewhere I least expected to find love: A Model UN conference.
I was representing Chile. With a stack of national briefs and a plan to form a southwestern-South American trans- national alliance, an unprofessional affair between delegates was the last thing on my mind. In walked my fellow Chilean representative. Aiden. I’d known him for two years, but suddenly the way he charmed his way through international deals with light political banter made me look twice. We would walk around the conference telling people that due to our recent earthquake, Chile was on “shaky ground” and then run away, snickering at our audacity! We had so much fun with our gag that we didn’t enter a single caucus, distracted by our attempt to meet every nation’s delegate. Never have I let myself be so overcome with personal matters as to completely neglect the needs of my country. For this weekend only, I was grateful that my actions at Model UN had no real impact on national infrastructure.
After the conference, we texted every day for a week, recalling our days as Chilean ambassadors. We’d pass each other at school and say “CHILE,” a sure sign that he treasured this weekend as much as I did. We didn’t need to have longer conversations because the one word really said it all.
At the end of the week, we both ended up at a party. I knew I had to make my move. Well, I had to force myself to make my move. I pounded a couple of root beers and approached him. We stood in a corner of the room talking. Then he said, “Do you want to go outside?” So we did. We were sitting on a staircase and getting really close, but still, nothing happened. So he said, “Do you want to go over to that trampoline?” So we did. But still nothing happened. Then my friend called and said we had to go. So then he said, “Do you want to do this?” And we did. By which I mean I clenched my eyes shut and he kissed me. By which I mean he slobbered on the side of my face. I said I had to go, “but text me!” I ran back to my friend, and we talked excitedly about my clandestine love story. He did text me, immediately after. He wrote, “Chile!”
Oh, I smiled and squealed. But on the inside, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. Was it just me, or did he try way too hard to be funny? I mean how many times was he going to make that Chile joke? I knew it wouldn’t last, but of course, because of a slight communication error on my part, we were “together” for two arduous months and only had one vertical make-out session. We went on one date. He made me drive myself; was chivalry dead? Then he had the audacity to pay for my pizza; what, was he trying to be chivalrous? There was clearly something off about this kid. I would have broken it off sooner, but I somehow never saw him face to face again. We agreed to meet up to talk about what was going on, why I was no longer showing up to Model UN meetings, but the idea of looking him in the face and disappointing him was just too disheartening. For his own sake, I called him to break things off.
What was happening to me? Had my parents’ prepubescent ban on men affected my libido? Would I forever find them to be mere opponents in my quest to get the highest test scores in my AP Calculus class? Or was I just destined to wait for the more mature and sophisticated men that college had to offer. I wasn’t desperate, I was just faced with suboptimal choices.
By the time I was a senior, I was bound for Duke University, an institution known for churning out only decent men. I assured myself, “Your time will come. Be patient.”
When I arrived at Duke, I was no longer patient and I was certainly desperate. I had graduated high school at the top of my game—captain of two sports teams, class president, generally liked by underclassmen, and I had eventually triumphed over Eddy when I ended up in a more advanced senior math class than he did. I had outgrown those thirty boys, and now no one was more deserving of a man than I was. ME.
I was on the hunt.
The first party I went to was hosted by a frat and freshmen girls were absolute royalty. I’m sure I would have stood out even if I hadn’t worn my most stylish striped cardigan. How many of these freshman girls had curricula vitae that rivaled mine?1
I walked into a room full of tall, smart, fun, perfect, sophisticated, and mature men. Sweaty and dry humping each other and anyone that came in the room. They were mine for the taking, especially if I were to undo the top button on my sweat- er. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of them walking toward me: medium height, well-styled hair, two solo cups in hand, eyes glowing green, blue, and now red from the nearby disco light. He held one cup out to me. As my fingers brushed against his and
I waited for the spark of a long-awaited destiny, I realized that there was just one logistical issue: at that
1 Oh, all of them? Okay, cool.
exact moment, I knew for the first time that I was unquestionably, 100% gay.
Me. A gay. How?
Dropping my cup into the abyss of the frat house floor, I fled the scene with tears welling in my eyes. I took the next campus bus back to my freshman dorm. While others were just beginning their nights, their lives, I was seeing mine—at least in the way that I had known it—end. I stared out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the dark depth of my own despair, but instead all I saw was my own fluorescent reflection.
There had never been any logistical issues. Only one fundamental issue. And while I used to like that my life resembled one long episode of 30 Rock, the best show for a girl aspiring to find loneliness amusing, I realized that I was no Liz Lemon after all. I wouldn’t be getting my happy ending with a hot dog chef. What was there to look forward to if not wieners?