She’s a strong and tall woman who embraces her femininity in tights, heels, and tightly curved tops. She is a born again Christian with light brown hair and those terribly blue eyes that cause her all the troubles with those boys. Boys. Boys. Boys. They are always a daunting task for those on the prowl for some fresh meat. But perhaps the similarities between Steph and I in our Darwinian demeanors are to be thoroughly embraced as opposed to ignored.
I’ve been fascinated by how often people use labels as a catalyst for separating the “us” from the “them”. From mental labels, to personality labels, to job titles, to that’s right - orientations and queer identities. I don’t count myself out. For the last two years during coming out and now into the debris of its aftermath, I have used my gay male identity to distinguish myself as significantly different from the rest. I’m gay, you don’t get me. I’m gay you can’t possibly understand. I’m gay, I need only gay friends, can only understand gay things, and can only be gay gay gay! Ok, perhaps not that bad, but you know the person I am talking about. The poor me syndrome of poppy seed flowers. Red and lonely drooping with weight.
I pass by the door that enters the third floor dorms. It’s nearing midnight and I have been up late philosophizing about the world’s problems. A stomach warm with orange flavored black tea and my brain finally simmering down a bit. Steph bombards the door open and embraces me open arms in a hug shortly before flopping her delicate body down on the floor. She must be in love. She is an actor and I am empathically her audience. She is acting. Her predetermined position with her arm flopped limply above her head with her face turned sullenly to the side tells me she has been struck by her crush’s lightning. I’ve been there; in bed the tears strolling down my cheeks. She couldn’t be far off.
“Would you like to talk about it?” I ask her. “You look like you could be having boy troubles.”
“Yah.” she says.
I can tell she must be in a lot of blissful pain over this. She attempts to smile but isn’t her normal chipper and energetic and mindfully disorganized self. Most the time she is easily distracted. She invites me into her dorm room and she begins unwinding.
“So, what happened?” I waited patiently for her response. She gracefully fills me in on the back story between her and Mr. Special - Someone. She speaks with the same intonations as a theatre major should when speaking in a state of being twitterpated. She stopped to talk in depth about how he held her hand.
“He did it wrong. You know how when you’re taller than someone you grab their hand from their backside. Well, he grabbed my hand from the wrong way. And he said – oh my fruit puffs gluten free isn’t that nice?” she got distracted and looked at her cereal for a moment.
“But any ways, back to my story. He said that it felt right and I said, no this doesn’t feel right at all and I am not sure if this means he likes me or if he is just being his flirtatious self.” Steph finished up. She looked at me curiously and her face was a question mark. This is when I was supposed to say something to relate. I paused for a moment. Was I really about to relate to someone who was heterosexual? Was it possible?
“It sounds like he likes you. I mean, holding hands is a pretty strong social indication that someone is into you. It’s a strong sign of courting.” I said, sounding vaguely like a psychologist professing sociological concepts in a classroom. It was matter of fact. This action means this.
“Well yah, but he is just really flirtatious. That could mean he just is really good friends with me, you know. I am not really sure what that means.” she said.
“I totally get it.”
That’s when I realized there was so much in common between us. Between two people who were just trying to decide between isolation or intimacy. Deciding to fall in love or save our hearts and stay forever single. It didn’t matter that I was into him or her and Steph knew I was gay. She was often times just curious about community specific issues. But, shoving all that aside, in this moment, we have so much in common. More in common than I could have ever imagined prior to saying. . .
“It’s just like when someone breaks a piece of his cookie off for you.” I said nonchalantly as if everyone should know how confused I was when my straight crush broke off a piece of his pumpkin cookie and shared it with me. Well they should know, because he was just being nice.
“What? I don’t get your reference. Explain.” Steph demanded.
“Oh, sorry. Yah, it was Halloween when you know who, my straight crush. . .”
“Hunny, you really have to stop falling for straight guys. But, I suppose you can’t really help it. I get it. It happens. I mean look at me.” she said teasingly understanding.
“Yah, I know. I know. But anyhow, I was sitting next to him at the cafeteria over Halloween and he had just picked up a cookie from the dessert table.” It had this brightly colored orange frosting on it. It vaguely looked like a pumpkin. “I said hey, that looks really good. I should go get one. And he broke off a chunk of his cookie and gave it to me. I thought this meant he loved me and that we should get married.”
And that’s the only difference really. Both Steph and I obsess over boys. Many people obsess over their crushes. The ones they love. The ones they want to love them back so demandingly. The ones they care about. The only difference in understanding courting cues in our naturalistic Darwinian demeanors is that when it does finally work out for us, Steph can get married in most states, where me, I can’t.
It’s easy. It’s easy to use that fact to manipulate people to feel sorry for you. To use that fact as a way to divide ourselves and isolate ourselves from others. To use that to say that no one understands. Even if they do.
“OMG, we have so much in common.” I wasn’t sure if Steph had said it, or if I had said it. Maybe we were both just subconsciously thinking about it. Our predetermined tracks telling us what to say and do.