The first crush I never had
My parents tell a story, of my first crush.
Nicole. She lived around the corner from us.
In elementary school, my favorite subjects were math and science and I was good at them. Yet somehow, in the spring of fourth grade, every day while working on my homework, I would completely loose my ability to complete even the simplest equations. I would take forever to finish a single problem. Two time six is fifteen?
And then one day, the story goes, my parents figured it out: every afternoon Nicole and her family take a walk and they walk past our house. Mom, dad, brother, sister, dog, and her… Nicole.
And that was it. Goodbye critical thought for the next 45 minutes.
She was a friend: we rode the bus together, played together, invited each other for parties or swimming in her family pool or running around in my big backyard. But perhaps she was something more: my first crush?
One day, she wrote me a note “Do you like me? Circle yes or no.”
I didn’t know what to do. Of course I liked her. But did she mean something else? Something deeper? How did I feel about that? I didn’t know. I don’t know.
My parents, always helpful, suggested I not be bounded by either “yes” or “no” and write in my own answer (an early lesson in smashing binaries!). That’s what I did. We stayed friends until she moved away, always teetering on the edge between friends and something more.
Here’s a story that’s never been told.
In fourth grade, I met another friend: Paul. We met at Patrick’s birthday party. He was fun. I remember coming home and telling my mom I’d met someone new and wanted to be his friend. She coached me through setting up a playdate. We became friends that year and stayed friends throughout the remainder of elementary school and into middle school (until he moved away too).
I remember one night we got into a “fight” during a sleepover spraying air freshener at each other. Dodging behind beds, and couches, and doorways. My room reeked for days. We sprayed so much that there was a spot on my wall next to the door where a shot had misfired. For what in my memory seems like months, I remember looking at that spot as I’d walk out of my room and smile—remembering Paul. Touching the spot as I walked past and smiling.
Did I make a new friend that day at Patrick’s birthday party or did I develop a crush? The thought never crossed my mind–I didn’t even know I had the option of liking Paul. Liking him in the same way that Nicole liked me. In the same way I was supposed to like Nicole back. I don’t know if he was just a friend or if I had a schoolboy crush on him.
Here’s the first crush I wish I had: I was able to get dumbstruck when Nicole rode her bike past my house and I was able to get excited about meeting Paul for the first time. Where the family story we tell could just as easily be about Paul as it is about Nicole.
I want a world where we don’t have to come out at all because we aren’t hidden away to begin with, I want a world where we just are.
Until then, I’m sharing stories and practicing activism.