“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?