The first time I realized the sight of a girl could alter my breath was the sixth grade.
Just the sight of them, the thought of them, the word itself—girls—and I was frightened so wholly in a way I never had known before.
It was season 2, episode 4 of "Glee." You look down to readjust your atrocious middle school pony tail for one second and lift your head to find Brittany and Santana in a whole new light. You look up to find that your lungs just stuttered and you're not calming down. You look up to find your hands clicking the TV off as fast as humanly possible and running to your room to pretend you didn't just hear the sound of the piece that just clicked into place inside you.
Puberty hadn't yet arrived, but the far-off sight of change was no longer a coming, it came. You're different now.
Day after day, this new sheen about you, brought on by the Glee-inspired revelation, doesn't seem to fade, doesn't seem to budge, doesn't seem to quit you. Other little girls didn't feel that panic I felt. Middle school was supposed to be about swapping my pony tail for a scene fringe, filling countless margins with countless doodles, cutting too many tees into muscle tanks, and breaking the hearts of exactly four middle school boys (sorry, not sorry), not learning to re-calibrate my air flow every time two worlds of mascaraed eyes locked with mine.
The first time locking mascaraed eyes with a living, breathing Aphrodite caused me to act upon my gut's want was in the seventh grade.
She worked at the IGA. Even today, walking through those automatic sliding doors, I can still feel that residual excitement of her having been there many years before. Exactly six and three quarters of a year earlier, every missing ingredient or unquenchable craving became my key excuse to see her.
Long hair. Pale skin. Dark eyes. Her.
You put on your best muscle tank and force your mom to drive the two of you over. Upon checking out, you dart over to this very important looking magazine that just no other cashier station seems to have that just so happens to be working at, in an attempt to make eye contact with those dark eyes for at least one second.
They're so dark.
"Here's your receipt."
Did they get darker?
"Have a nice day."
They're practically black.
One day, with an arm full of the cucumbers I absolutely begged mom we needed to get that night, I saw she had changed. A short chop of hair, tucked behind one pierced ear, shining under the fluorescents. Absolutely transfixed. I vowed when I was her age I'd cut my hair too, just like hers. Still do.
Cutting my hair was just one of the many girl-driven desire I would begin to catch myself acting upon. The prevalence my stifled secret had on my metamorphosis became more and more glaringly obvious. Terrifyingly obvious. I went from a cup being held with the utmost care as to not spill its contents to a cup being sat on the roof of a car at a red light. i went from contained to a mess waiting to happen.
I caught myself throwing my hand up constantly to volunteer to play every masculine role allowed to me. Improv, miming, scenes, dancing, choir, the list goes on. You'd catch me blaming it on the humor of it all ("Lauren playing the father, again! Now that's comedy!"), but really it wasn't hard to see that there'd always be too many girls who only wanted to be "the girl" when waltzing, and I was more than happy to lead them around the room while my hand got to graze their hip. More than happy.
And now, an apology to every boy I ever dated. You all remember those many times I begged all of you to let me give you a makeover, or to "just try on my dress just once." Yeah, there was a reason for that. Again, sorry. But honestly, I don't think I actually am, because with a little highlighter, you all looked beautiful.
Along with my newly minted discovery of the lengths boys will go to make their girlfriend happy, was that of one Dodie Clark on YouTube.
Watching the moon beams sparkle on her glittered cheeks, falling asleep night after night to the sweet whispers of her voice, and every morning, drinking in the melted snowflakes of her songs. It was in her I experienced a new type of wholeness from knowing that people like her exist in my life time. It was in her that I realized I was greatly missing out on the tangibility of this wholeness from stifling the expanse of my love.
My cup doth not runneth over. No, my cup laid spilled out, and I had truly felt that emptiness my denial had created for the first time in my life. I had never felt like I was missing out on something until I found her, listened to the memories she described in her songs, and then listened to my lungs stutter all over again. Her song "She" is what finally got me.
"…She smells like lemon grass and sleep…"
Stop it Lauren. You know how boys smell. That's enough.
"…She tastes like apple juice and peach…"
Stop it Lauren. You know how boys taste. That's enough.
I realized the stifling of this revelation wasn't just the burden of concealing a secret. It was the burden of denying a hole of its wish to be filled. This denial couldn't go on any longer. I was incomplete. I needed more. So...
The first time I somewhat admitted it was the tenth grade.
The night prior to a camping trip, I showed my best friend a music video. Nothing would've happened if this certain song didn't seek me out. When Hayley Kiyoko's "Girls Like Girls" came unto my path, I felt an incredible validation. Never has anything so quickly felt like it was wholly mine, connecting to even the most deep and dark of me. Minute by minute, my revelation seemed understood for the first time in my then 16 years, seemed accepted, seemed okay to reveal. I was practically glowing with the possibilities of potential admittance.
That tug to admit wasn't letting me go. My truth was scratching at the back of my teeth for release, but verbal confirmation to not only myself but let alone my longest running best friend was in no way happening. I wasn't ready yet, but at the time I was never going to be readier. So, I shared my glow. I shared with her my truth through those five minutes of synth pop.
You watch as the phone screen fades to black and swallow hard panicking "Who's gonna speak first?" You just go for it and look up at the girl you promised would be your future Maid of Honor, and something surprises you. You look up to find your glow spread across her flushed cheeks.
We clearly had something in common neither of us were saying- at least, not yet.
The next night, back lit by North Carolina blues, she came out to me. The cold I felt was indescribable. She was brave enough to take her step. Yet there I was, icy and bug bitten, still learning to control my ever-shallowing breath. I'd never be that brave.
Heading into my third year of high school, my step was still not taken. However, those two lungs of mine somehow mustered out just enough air to catch the freckled-eye of one of my close friends and alternatively, in one year's time, completely shatter my heart.
I never had my heart broken by a girl before. I do not recommend it.
The first time a girl who truly had me and then changed her mind was the eleventh grade.
I degraded so in her company, so she could restore me. You felt blessed when she let you see her at 3 a.m. You felt holy when she let you cup her fingertips in your own as to not allow her to further sully her already picked skin. We'd sit in her kitchen sipping ramen noodle water while I recorded her sing. When she cut her hair, I thought no one could be more breath taking, but there I was gasping. When she back-peddled on saying she liked girls, I felt something snap off inside me.
I had never given my raw and bleeding heart to a girl before after years of internalized recitations that I was not worthy of the entireties of love. I had never had it given back. I do not recommend it.
So, I swallowed it down again. All of it. The balloons of my truth, a truth that waited years to lift out of me, weren't just being yanked back into their abyss, no…
"Nuh uh, we haven't really hung out in a while."
"I dunno, we just kinda grew apart."
"Of course not. Why would I have a problem that she's dating him?"
Graduation. Summer. College. Time went on. You look up from adjusting your atrocious 8 a.m. pony tail and realize you haven't spoken to her in eighth months. Time goes on.
And time did. I was not a freshman in college, and I was happy with my then relationship. As happy as one can be when long-distance love blinks through the phone in your hand- a hand that was surrounded by a sea of hands belonging to Aphrodites and boys waiting to put on your dresses. As happy as finally mastering the quickest way to relevel your heaving chest after swimming through such a sea.
You know, happy enough.
But it was in the healing of my latest love's second time of breaking my heart, that the "enough" would stop being good enough. He left for a girl. But here I was, swallowing down seventeen months of want for papery skinned, butterfly kissed, chipped neon nail polished girls.
What gave him the right to follow his heart when I couldn't?
Pop. You're different now.
The first time everything finally felt whole was only this year.
I wish it was more glamorous, but plain and simple, it was another video. It was this video.
The title alluded me. Even with my many years self-educating my brain on all things activism, "bisexuality" legitimately never seemed like an option to me. My girl thoughts always seemed like something to smother, not walk in tandem with my socially okay-ed boy thoughts.
Something about the simplicity of it all, the nonchalance of this girl, who I have admired and emulated for years, the ease she had set me a fire. This girl simply spills a bag of Skittles and I taste tears. Wait, when had I started crying?
This was it. My revelation poured out of me in sticky salt tears. There go my balloons, my cup, my hole, my secret. Au revoir all. Hello Skittles cravings.
A few minutes of Dodie's song and dance and I'm not me anymore. Finalized. No editing needed. I am better than any me I have ever known, because this me is whole-heartedly free from herself.
19 years. It took 19 years to come clean with myself about a truth I had known for almost half my life.
I dried my eyes, and I said it. Me. As That. I liked the taste of it. The weight of it. The fit of it wrapping around my tongue.
I slid off my dorm bed, checked my eyes for running mascara, and counted my quarters for the $1.50 needed to by a bag of the Skittles that started all this, and I was happy.
I still am. I am happy. I am proud. I am bisexual.
And I finally—finally—can just breath again.