Illustration by Popularium. Source images Showtime
I’m 13, pop-culture obsessed, and like what I like. I also have a laptop and am not afraid to use it. My favorite band is Tegan and Sara, and listening to So Jealous on the bus home from school is a ritual that I desperately look forward to every day.
Inside school walls I stay pretty quiet. Instead of socializing, I spend my time thinking about music, softball practice, and my crush from Spanish class. She is tall, like me, with long, brown hair. We share a genuine passion for music that the rest of our classmates lack.
I come to the conclusion that I don’t have much desire to mingle with my peers anymore. Once practice is over, I run home, throw down my mitt, and catch up on all the records and shows that I left behind the night before.
In my room, I pass hours delving into the deep, dark caves of the internet. I spend a lot of time on Tegan and Sara forums, AfterEllen (a review site focused on lesbian, bisexual, and queer women in the media), and my favorite illegal music hub, indie_exchange. I use AIM to my benefit, in hopes that it will bring me closer to my crush from Spanish class. We spend hours messaging one another. Getting on her radar without having to physically speak to her feels safe and attainable. I’m extremely shy, but I’ve got technology on my side.
Somewhere in the middle of shifting tabs between Tegan and Sara boards and AfterEllen, I discover The L Word, a show about a group of lesbians “living, laughing, and loving” in Los Angeles’ trendy West Hollywood neighborhood. I can’t believe my eyes. “This is the dream,” I think, as I desperately try to download every episode I can possibly find.
After watching the show’s first season and subsequently crashing my computer due to rampant Limewire use, I realize I have to get crafty. I begin sneaking the DVDs from my local video store (shout out Power Video) and watching them in my basement. As I speed through Seasons 2 and 3, I come to idolize one character in particular: Dana Fairbanks.
Dana is also shy, has a passion for sports, and often wears her long, brown hair in a high ponytail much like myself. We have similar mannerisms, and our shyness seems to taunt us on a daily basis. Also, she isn’t out to her parents. Even though the whole world isn’t aware of her sexuality, she is unapologetically queer, and never puts forth an ounce of self-doubt when she is with her friends. Dana starts teaching me about who I am and why I should be proud of it.
My Myspace page becomes a giant collage depicting my undeniable love for Dana and Tegan and Sara. I’m not hiding anything. In fact, I’m making it pretty impossible for anyone who knows me to say, “that girl MUST be straight.”
I never have a formal sit down with anyone to announce: “I’m gay.” I’m comfortable letting people figure it out — or not figure it out — themselves.
I gradually come out through my love of The L Word and Tegan and Sara. They are at the forefront of my identity and allow me to come into my own with a sense of love and support. I know that it’s not a uniform process for everyone, so I feel lucky that I have these women to help me feel comfortable in my own skin.
Unfortunately, even with such inspiration, I am unable to overcome one thing. I never tell my Spanish class crush how I feel. I don’t. I can’t. Opportunity lost. Forever. It becomes one of the biggest regrets of my youth. This is my life, remember, not a television show.
Fast forward almost a decade and I’m sitting in the same spot I did when I was a teenager. In the midst of surfing the web, I notice a message pop up on my computer. It’s a friend. Once I left for boarding school, we lost touch like all young friends do, and haven’t really spoken since. Her name is Brooke and for some reason she wants to hang out with me.
Once confirmed, I begin to freak out. I have only been on a few unsuccessful dates and anxiety begins to set in. I get to her place and spend 20 minutes pacing up and down multiple blocks. I send her a text saying I can’t find her apartment, which buys me some extra time.
As I pace, my insecurities bounce around my head like a game of pong. I think back on all the lessons I learned from watching The L Word. I can go into this with a completely contrived sense of what I think will work, or I can be myself. I remember Dana’s first date. She spends weeks second-guessing herself and running in circles before her dinner with Lara. To say I feel like this on a daily basis would be an understatement, but after watching how it played out for Dana, I know that I can’t let my anxiety consume me.
We spend most of our time in the pool room of the divey-est bar in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Conversation is slow, mainly due to my nerves, but things are going well. We have a lot to catch up on. Men approach us and asked the typical intrusive questions.
“Are you two sisters?”
“How long have you guys been friends?”
While attempting to play it cool, I realize that I need to channel my inner Dana. The confident Dana. The All-Star Athlete Dana. I won’t let these remarks from strangers shove me back into my shell. I need to let Brooke know that beyond my quiet, Capricorn-rising exterior, I am equal parts charming and funny.
I suggest we leave the bar and get away from the relentless crowd. The rest of the evening takes us to various spots, but eventually leads us back to her place. Riding a wave of momentum, my confidence is at an all time high. I’m finally able to let go of my pent-up nerves and be myself long enough to get some successful jokes out.
The night ends with us watching the One Direction documentary, This Is Us, which we’re equally excited to see. I spend the night, and leave my nerves far in the past as we fall asleep in each other’s arms. After almost a decade apart, we have managed to reconnect in a way that feels like nothing I have ever experienced before.
Three years later, Brooke and I find ourselves in LA, living the L Word reality that I so desperately wanted as a teen. A few months into our relationship, I confess a secret to her that I have been hiding for a while.
“I used to call you my Spanish class crush.”
She never knew.