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You Are Gay

You were hopelessly, furiously, maddeningly gay, and there was nothing you could do about it.

No matter how many times you told yourself you weren’t, or how many times you counted your friends to make sure you had enough boys and girls, or how many times you tried asking out girls you “liked.” You were trying to be something that you weren’t. You still do that.

You knew that the idea of trying on a dress wasn’t something that scared you, and that you would wear your towel like your mom wore hers and you liked how that looked on you; you knew that you liked playing with your sister’s Barbie in the bathtub, running her hair under water and admiring her blonde, soaked locks; you knew you’d be content to watch Peter Pan Live with Mary Martin on a loop; you knew all the words to “Colors of the Wind” and danced around your house in nothing but a Pocahontas T-shirt and diaper.

You wanted to slip through the space in between the wall and your bed, where you cried when you didn’t want to disappoint your dad. He wanted you to play a sportyou can’t remember which one now, but does it really matter?and you had no interest. It didn’t really matter to him, which you know now, but you didn’t know it then.

You have trouble being authoritative now because your voice didn’t matter to you then.

You swipe and you swipe and you swipe. You swipe until your hand cramps, you’d like to say, because wouldn’t that be the perfect metaphor, but your hand doesn’t cramp. Your hand and your brain can’t give up on the fact that there is someone out there for you, somewhere, hopefully, oh please oh god let there be someone.

Sometimes you swipe left and sometimes right, sometimes right too many times until you’ve run out of them. Then you stop for the day. You can’t justify paying to swipe.

But if you can’t swipe, you are still alone.

You didn’t go through everything you went through to end up alone.

Now you sound entitled. You don’t mean to. It’s just that your standard heteronormative upbringing has predisposed you to seek meaningful monogamy.

Now you sound melodramatic. That’s because you are melodramatic sometimes.

You know you shouldn’t complain about how you grew up. You had two parents who loved each other, and still do. Two of your siblings didn’t have that (and before that your mom didn’t have that). You know none of that is your fault, but you feel like it is sometimes.

You wonder if you really are going to end up alone, because you are somewhere in between what society accepts and what society rejects. You are not overwhelmingly feminine or masculine; you are not muscular nor fat; you are not Ryan Gosling-handsome but you are not a troll.

You have trouble defining yourself by things that you are. It’s easier to define yourself by things that you’re not.

You are somehow both everything and nothing you want to be.

You’re sitting on your bed, lonely on a Saturday night, because you left a party early on the prospect of this guy texting you back. You’re waiting for him to text you his address, and when he doesn’t, that imperfection feeling seeps into your psyche like a spoonful of slick syrup. Stuck forever. You can’t get pry him out of your brain.

You desperately want to be perfect at everything. Your job, your friendships, your relationships – hell, your hookups – your writing. But there’s no such thing as perfect. You cannot be everything to everyone at all times. You are young, you are on a different path – ugh, see, bad writing, cliche – than everyone else, just like everyone else is on a different path from you. You try to remember that, but some days you can’t.

Some days you just want to slip back into your Pocahontas T-shirt and diaper and dance around and sing “Colors of the Wind,” back when everything made sense and you could eat your Cheerios and stick peanut butter under your kitchen table in peace.

You can’t. You can’t. You can’t. You want to can.

You want to be happy. But what is happy? Who is happy?

Your grandmother tried her best to be happy, or you hope she tried. Her fair skin and fast metabolism and flawless dancing skills made her look happy to everyone else. She had three kids and loved her husband but she didn’t take good care of her kids and fell out of love with her husband. You’d like to think she tried, because you can’t imagine not trying yourself. Well, you can imagine it, but it’s not something you want.

She was depressed. You aren’t depressed.

OK, wait. But you have an anxiety disorder. So you’re kind of depressed.

Is that the right way to put it? Clinically? Probably not. But you don’t care, because you were your grandmother’s favorite and you want to be just like her.

Do you really want to be just like her?

You want to get married like she did (but maybe only do it once); you want to have children like she did (but not give up on parenting them); you want to enjoy life and its vices (but not destroy your lungs with cigarette smoke); you want to control your mental illness with medication (but not fill your body with so much Xanax that you’re a walking pharmacy).

You want to tell her you’re gay.

She’s dead now, so you can’t tell her. Your grandpa says it would take her some time to understand, but that he would help her, and that you were her favorite, and that she would accept it because you are you. And that’s all if the Pocahontas shirt didn’t give it away.

But wouldn’t it be great if she just accepted it because it’sright? Shouldn’t it be about something bigger thanyou?

You still want to be like her anyway.

You want to be like her but you also want to be like you.

Who are you?

You are gay.

Say it again.

You are gay.


David Oliver

David Oliver is an associate editor of social media at U.S. News & World Report, where he writes about health and wellness topics and works on social strategy. He's also a freelance writer and nonfiction writing graduate student at Johns Hopkins University. He lives in Washington, D.C.