“Do you like girls?” the officer asked my classmate. Everyone laughed. The officer watched the lines whir over the paper of the lie detector. Yes, the machine concluded that the boy did indeed like girls.
We were in the 11th grade and the lie detector lesson was the social studies teacher’s idea. Sitting in my desk under the window I felt sick. I thought the officer had asked a stupid and horrible question. I prayed I would not get picked to represent girls. What if he asked me if I liked boys?
At the time I had a crush on M—. He had sat in front of me in driver’s ed the previous term. He hung out with lots of pretty girls and tough boys. Whenever he turned around to talk to me I wanted to die and live forever. But for nothing would I tell anyone I liked him. I was not going to be one of those silly girls who liked a boy they could not have. I just refused to admit to liking anyone. My best friend, S., found me out though when we were watching another boy we knew walk down the sidewalk and I said, “Hey, look. There’s M—. I mean, L.”
S. focused her eyes on me. “You like M—.”
“No, I don’t,” I said.
“Yes, you do. You just called L. M—.”
She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back. “You can’t lie to me.”
“Think what you want,” I said. Later that year, M— and I became friends. He would come over to my house and watch movies, but he dated girls who wore makeup and trendy clothes.
When the officer looked around the room to choose a girl, I wondered what would happen if he chose me and asked if I liked boys. What if the machine said I was a liar? What if it knew something about me I didn’t know?
I had fallen in love with the boy with sheep back in Catholic school. In the third grade, I ruined a friendship with Susie H. because I kissed a boy she liked. In the 4th grade I sent D. W. secret Valentines for a week. By the 11th grade, I didn’t know any boys who liked me and certainly no one had asked me out. So even though I changed the way I walked to class just to run into M—in the hall, I thought maybe the boys know something about me I don’t. Maybe I was supposed to like girls.
Sure, I didn’t have any crushes on girls or think about girls, but boys didn’t like me so… Maybe I shouldn’t like them. I tried to use my imagination, but nothing I could think of sped up my pulse like sitting next to M— on the sofa. You have got to love the logic of teenagers.
Still, the logic of grownups is not much better. It is easy to wait for someone else to decide you are a writer or an artist. That I create art or write every day does not register in my brain. If no one wants to read my work, then I must not be a writer. Right? Such foolishness is hard to shake.
Is it enough for you to say you are a writer? Or do you need someone else to prove it to you? Perhaps you no longer need to ask this question. You know it to be true. So, what did it take to get there?
6 thoughts on “Lie Detectors and Teenage Girls”
Sheesh. And I thought I’d escaped teenage girls when I got out of high school, but no, they’re suddenly everywhere in the memory and now in the blogs, too…
I’m not so sure that’s “foolishness” you describe there — it may be a little harsh. The insecurity that goes with not knowing how or even WHETHER we’re being read and perceived — that’s what enables us (well, me anyhow) to keep on trying.
That said, yeah, in my opinion “writing IS as writing DOES.” There’s nothing stopping a dreamy kid (okay, a kid in high school even) from pronouncing himself a writer even though he’s written exactly two poems, and those because a teacher assigned them. But readership or no, I think he’s just kidding himself (harmlessly?); he won’t BE a writer unless he’s writing on his own, and writing some more, and thinking about writing, and writing…
JES, teenage girl can be hard to escape. Well, maybe foolish is a little harsh. Insecurity is a mean little devil once it digs in.
Marta- if they’re anyone who can claim they are a writer, it’s you. After all, I read your writing several times a week!
I think there are two realities at work for creative people. The way we define or claim our authenticity for ourselves, and the way the world defines us. You can’t please all the people: some grant ‘writer” status ionly if f you’re published, or only published in a major way. or only published alot. Or only make a living at it. Or only if they’ver heard of you, or if you write literary fiction.
I became a writer when I let myself believe I had the right to dedicate myself to the writing life; however I choose to define it, and however that may change and evolve (including dry spells). In the world’s eyes, I became a writer when I published and was paid for it. But not to everyone, for various reasons (see above). So never mind what the world thinks- what do they know? Are they there when you write? No. That’s between you and the page. The world is so into labels and limits and judgements. Personally, I don’t place requirements on what makes a writer, except for one. If you write, you’re a writer. And thank goodness for writers
I like Sarah’s answer. I have two minds on this subject. In one mind I am a writer because I write and I strive to be a better writer and get published. In the other mind (which looks out into the world at the people who are looking back at me), I am not a writer because I haven’t published. I try to ignore the second mind and just write. And love it for what it is.
I consider myself a writer because it is all I think about and all I want to do. The funny thing is other people don’t always consider me a writer because I am only self-published on my blog, well, besides the one piece I did on environmentalism for Toxic Generation, but I didn’t get paid for that. It was an honor all its own.
I believe I am a writer when I am committed to writing and write every (or almost) day. Same for being an artist. I always knew that I was creative, but didn’t consider myself “an artist” until I committed enough to it to explore the medium and see where it led me.
But I do have an issue with money and getting paid for either painting or writing. Free blogging, okay. Giving paintings away as presents? Okay.
Asking for money for what I do? WOAH there nelly. Don’t get all uppity and ahead of yourself.