Despite doing all I could, I never quite fit in. But I would try. Lord, would I try. I wanted to be the perfect girl, skinny and beautiful and deserving of my future husband.
Since I can remember, that’s all I would obsess over. Being worthy of a good man. After all, that was supposed to be my main goal. As a young woman in that sect of Christianity, the only way to lead a fulfilled life was to get married ASAP, then pregnant within the following year.
That’s what I thought I wanted, at least. That’s what I was constantly told I needed to want, so naturally, I obeyed. While the boys learned how to survive in the mountains, I was being taught how to put on my makeup to impress them.
It never happened, though. For whatever reason, the boys never wanted anything to do with me. Whether I was too chubby, my hair too brown and messy, my personality too loud and excitable– I don’t know. When the other girls my age were being asked on dates, I was spending my nights at home watching TV and listening to sad music.
I didn’t let anyone know how upset I was, even as the years passed and I felt more and more unwanted. People I knew started meeting their future spouses, getting engaged. I kept going to singles’ activities. They started having kids. I went out with someone every now and again, but there was rarely a second date.
When I left my hometown to continue my education, I thought to myself, this is a fresh start. I can make new friends in this bigger city, I can find a man and hopefully get my life back on track. I wanted to be an active churchgoer again, return to the good graces of god.
Three weeks after moving and attending my new church, I went home and cried.
I was in a new city, not knowing a single person, not having a single friend– and everyone at my new church alienated the hell out of me. They wouldn’t speak to me. I sat by myself each week, despite attempts to make nice. Everything was rushing back again– was I too ugly? Too fat? Did I not look friendly? Were my legs not crossed tightly enough?
I stopped going altogether.
When friends and concerned family back home asked if I had a boyfriend, my answer was always the same: “Haha, nope, not yet! I’m not really worried about it right now!”
In truth, though, I wanted to say this: “I don’t want to be a housewife. I don’t like kids. Every boy I meet is boring and ambitionless.”
No one knew how miserably lonely I was. No one knew how depressed I was, because I didn’t have a niche anymore. I was no longer a good Christian girl, but I had to pretend to be. I didn’t belong there, moreso than ever before. And If I told them I was depressed, they would respond with, “have you been reading your bible? Have you been praying?”
Throughout all of this, I was going to school. I took a graphic design class one semester, because at the time that’s what I wanted to major in. In that class, I met Mary.
She was all the things I secretly wanted to be, but couldn’t, growing up conservative. Cool, grunge, punk badass. She wore ripped jeans, crop tops, beanies, she had 100 piercings in each ear and more in her nose. Her lipstick was dark, her nail polish darker.
The voice in my head, the one trained since I was a kid in sunday school, began to whisper things to me.
“Why does she have to make such a spectacle of herself?”
“Is that crop top really necessary? Who is she trying to impress?”
I told the voice to shut up. What did it matter to me?
Nonetheless, I felt that voice’s effects. I wasn’t supposed to interact with the wolves, the people who weren’t of my flock. That was what I was always taught. And this girl was a wolf if I’d ever seen one.
I would never speak to her first, but I didn’t realize I was doing it. She would talk to me, though. A lot, and I wouldn’t carry on the conversation if I didn’t have to. Looking back, I must’ve seemed like a real bitch. She was nothing but nice– but that voice never stopped whispering, and it was constantly seeking out things to use against her.
A year later, returning to school in the fall was a mixed bag of emotions.
Walking into my first class that fall morning, I remember I was wearing the cutest dress I owned. The skirt was a little too short to be modest, so I wore tights underneath. It was sleeveless, so I had a jacket on over the top, at least until I left the house and watchful gaze of my new religious roommates.
I reached my first class early, and sat outside in the hallway with a few others, when someone approached me. I slapped on my best customer-service voice, prepared to smile and end the interaction within just a few seconds– before recognizing her face from somewhere. It took a second to recall it, but when I did, I felt like I’d been hit by a train. It was that wolf from my digital art class.
We sat next to each other when the room opened up, and it was nice to have someone I knew to be with. At the time, I was friendless, sad, and floating through a life I was pretending to live for the sake of my family and those watching me. Good Christian girl, with opaque tights under her questionably-knee length skirt.
Wolf-girl reintroduced herself. Mary. I remembered, when she reminded me. When we first met in the digital art class, I thought about the nursery rhyme when she first told me, and it was ironic. Mary had a little lamb, whose fleece was black as death.
Mary and I hit it off better than I expected. She intimidated me, but I liked it. I invited her to my D&D group. My contact lens broken apart in my eye the first session I drove her to, and she thought we were going to die. I had to drive back to my house with only one working eye. We couldn’t stop laughing.
I started opening up to her more, and I stopped feeling so sad all of the time. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel like a fake. I didn’t feel like I had to be just another carbon copy in order to fit in, in order to be wanted. I could talk to her about the real world without needing to sugarcoat it. Without having to tailor it to god or the church. I felt like I was able to breathe again.
Eventually, though, I was back to feeling breathless. Honestly, I didn’t know what was happening to me, my brain was scrambled eggs. Talking, hanging out, it didn’t matter, I just wanted to fill all of my waking (and sleeping) hours with her. My heart would was race when I saw her. We’d hold hands and cuddle on her couch, and I’d never felt more content.
It took a cry-session in her car for us to finally admit we wanted to be together– and (as far as I’m concerned) god said, let it be done.
Sometimes I still have to combat against the learned-voices that hide in my head, those that tell me I’m wrong. I’m a bad person. I’m reserving my place in hell.
The same voices that, for the longest time, beat me up because I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, virtuous enough to deserve a marriage to a good husband.
Never in my life did I expect my “sinful” gay relationship to be the thing that finally taught me I was worthy of a fulfilled life away from a wedding and a kid. My childhood church promised I would never be happier than I was with them– but lying in bed with my girlfriend on late Friday nights, keeping each other warm at football games, making milkshake runs in the middle of snowstorms, bingeing Assassin’s Creed on Sunday mornings in t-shirts and leggings– I beg to differ.