In high school, I was what some would call one of the "cool kids." I was a top-ranked basketball player with a mean crossover and on full academic scholarship, but they couldn't quite call me a nerd because nerds weren't "cool." I was in the National Honor Society for my grades, voted "best dressed" by my graduating class and embraced by everyone. Everyone liked me.
My school was an all-girls Catholic school. We wore pleated skirts, collared blouses, knee-high socks and penny loafers. We attended religion class and were mandated to participate in Mass at least once a month, my diploma depended upon quoting lines from the Bible, and the same girls singing the hymn of the month in chapel were secretly looking up each other's skirts on the main staircase. In retrospect, the irony is laughable.
I was different though. I had hair down the length of my back but my accessory of choice was a fitted baseball cap. A decade ago, this wasn't as commonplace as it is today (for a Catholic schoolgirl, at least). I absolutely loved playing sports and spent a lot of time hanging out with the guys on the block. I was the epitome of a tomboy – but I had no romantic interest in women at all.
I had a boyfriend who was also an athlete – I had a thing for the tall, lean, fit types. Unfortunately, over time, he developed somewhat of a manic obsession over me. He was jealous, possessive and downright scary at times. If I made eye contact with anyone but him, he would accuse me of flirting. If I didn't answer his calls, he would accuse me of cheating. If I told him I'd be out of school by 3:00 p.m. and I happened to be out by 2:59, he accused me of lying. He was beyond difficult. We were together for over a year but eventually broke up when I went away to college – he absolutely hated that I opted to go to school five hours away. Naturally, for me, it was a much-needed breath of fresh air.
When I began my journey as an undergrad at Syracuse University, the last thing I anticipated was to hook up with women. At 17 years old, on the very brink of adulthood, I expected to meet a few new people and hopefully form some lasting friendships. These were, after all, supposed to be some of the best years of my young adult life. The one thing I didn't expect was to become a lesbian! Of course, that was until I met the girl who would inevitably become my first girlfriend. For the sake of preserving her anonymity, we'll call her Diana.
I met Diana on a sunny afternoon in July of 2002. She was about 5'4", with shoulder-length hair and this beautiful caramel complexion, all thanks to her black & Italian roots. She was two years older than me, her back was tattooed and her tongue pierced. Her fashion sense exuded versatility – she was edgy and it caught my attention.
She was also very outspoken, and oftentimes, some would even say she had "an attitude." She didn't hesitate to voice her opinion about anything. She is what in lesbian lexicon we would label a "femme-aggress," preserving an air of femininity in her soft features and occasional style of dress, all the while a tomboy in the way she carried herself. She was dynamic and attractive, and she knew it.
I wasn't romantically attracted to Diana at first; it was something that burgeoned over time. Back then I swore she had cast a spell over me because, before her, I never looked twice at another woman! But there was something about Diana that made me pay attention. Maybe in some subconscious way, I was looking to have that stereotypical college lesbian experience. Having had more experience in that department, Diana sensed the opportunity and seized it.
Whenever we were around one another, she always found a way to touch me. When we talked, she would casually touch my arm, or rub her hand across the small of my back as she passed. When we hung out with friends in the lounge area of our dorm, she would sit so close to me that our legs were right up against one another's, and it was impossible for me to move away. She was testing me. Her touch gave me goosebumps, and it wasn't long before I developed an attraction to her.
One night I had a bunch of friends over at my dorm room until about 3:00 a.m. They were all drinking, so after a while some excused themselves before getting more trashed, while others just fell asleep on my bed or on the ground. Eventually everyone took off and went back to their rooms, all with the exception of Diana. She said her goodbyes to everyone and then, to my surprise, hopped into my bed and under the covers. I was caught off guard, but I didn't exactly want her to go.
After a while, I reluctantly got into bed and lay down next to her. We began talking about how the night had gone with all of our friends, just as an excuse to ignore what was about to happen. I was really nervous, doing most of the talking while Diana lay beside me, staring at me with desire. When she had finally had enough of my rambling, she leaned over and kissed me mid-sentence. I didn't hold back. We made out softly and innocently and the entire time I felt my heart would jump out of my chest. My pulse was racing – I couldn't believe I let that happen! The scariest part was that I loved it. To say the least, that kiss turned my world upside down.
Eventually, Diana became my official girlfriend. My parents were clueless about my new life and it wasn't very difficult keeping it from them, since at the time, I was living over 200 miles away. Unfortunately, that was until my scorned ex-boyfriend found out about my new relationship.
One night, in a drunken haze, he called me over and over in an attempt to win back my affection. Diana became frustrated and took it upon herself to tell him that I was now in a relationship with her. He was furious – it was the ultimate blow to his ego. As a result, he became even more unstable and decided the best vengeance would be to call my mom and personally tell her that her daughter was a lesbian. Now I'm sure you can imagine how tragically wrong he was in doing so, especially since my parents are very old-fashioned (and Latinos). Predictably, my mother completely lost it.
As a result of this, my mom and I both suffered intense bouts of depression, our relationship took a turn for the worse, and also my grades tanked, all thanks to an asshole in a jealous rage. I was 17 and officially embarking upon the worst experience of my life.
Diana and I didn't last beyond seven months, but needless to say, I was stripped of the opportunity to come out appropriately. I was forced out of the closet. For a long time I denied the allegations, but the pressure to come clean to my family eventually became insurmountable.
Ten years ago, I feared that my mother would never love me the same way, but I'm overwhelmed with emotion when I reflect on how far our relationship has come. Today, I'm proud to say that my mother is my biggest supporter – in life and in love.