Coming Out by Teresa

Coming into college, we have all these expectations for how life and love is supposed to happen. We watch tons of movies about college life and watch all the girls get drunk and sleep with men they barely know. We hear our parents talk about how they met in college, how they fell in love. We hear professors talk about how college is so much more than just learning what the textbooks say. At Bowling Green, they have a whole group of people who found their life partners, got married and now come back to BG as the place their life began.

            When I graduated high school, I had barely dated. I dated one guy . . . for a week. I had never kissed a boy, I had never even really held hands with a guy. I had been asked out before (by girls and guys) and always said no: to the girls – I didn’t swing that way, to the guys – I was too ‘busy.’ But society seemed to ‘expect’ us to start dating in college. If you’re not going to college, you’re having babies and getting married, and often in that order. I’m not sure how our society has gotten to be that way, but the truth of the matter is – I was under the impression that a 19-year-old girl that hasn’t been kissed is sort of an anomaly today.
            So when I came to college, I thought it would be time for me to meet some guys and learn what dating was all about. Little did I know what would be coming my way. I think it’s really important to be open to the lessons life has to teach you . . . and to not run away from the obstacles standing in front of you. Sometimes the hardest moments in life turn out to be the most rewarding.
            I suppose what happened to me is rare, but what I had to face because of it was very common, under-discussed, but incredibly life-changing. When I moved out of my room, second semester of freshman year, I moved in with a girl I had become very close to during the first semester. She had all the same interests as me: she was an English major, but she loved musical theatre and music. She played trombone and loved poetry and watching House MD. She liked EZ Mac and neon green and weird movies that make you think harder than you should. We were perfect roommates. We went to bed around the same time, homework was a priority to both of us, we liked keeping as many fans on as possible and we had so many things to talk about. We never got sick of each other. She came from a very different background than I did, but that just made her all the more interesting. She wanted to understand me and crack through my walls. I wanted to figure her out. She was more emotional than I was. I was over-logical. We balanced perfectly, and we became nearly inseparable.
            And then the strangest thing happened . . . I fell in love with her.
            I guess it kind of sounds like a bad coming of age movie or a cheap-budget ‘adult film,’ but it didn’t FEEL anything like that. And the fact that I was really FEELING anything was scary to me in and of itself. One day I realized when I thought about what I wanted romantically in my life, it was someone who would love me unconditionally and someone who balanced me and understood me. Everything I wanted was in my roommate, my new best friend.
            But there were a couple of problems. One: she was a GIRL. Coming from a pretty conservative Catholic family, this was a horribly scary thing to me! I was completely beside myself. Two: she was STRAIGHT! And as far as I knew, so was I! As a matter of fact, about six months ago she had gotten out of a long-term relationship with a guy. We had made jokes about how we should ‘just date’ since we spent so much time together, but a joke is a lot different than reality. People would ask us if we were together and we laughed and told them we got that question a lot. But after so many people kept asking us, I began to wonder if there was any truth to what they were saying.
            College teaches you things about yourself you didn’t think were there to learn. I went to talk to a counselor. I talked to the director of the LGBT services. I talked to my best friend. Everyone told me the same thing: what’s happening to you is COMPLETELY normal. It is scary and you feel alone, but if you feel deep in your heart that this GIRL is what you need in your life, then you are doing nothing wrong. Your family loves you for who you are. And if who you are is in love with another woman, then they will love you just the same.
        One day, a couple friends and I were hanging out in the dorms. We had had a few drinks, and I wasn’t necessarily drunk, but my inhibitions were lower than normal. My roommate and I talked about what life would be like if we dated other girls. She told me she’s always wanted to date a girl, more to know what it was like than to actually date one. I guess that sort of proved to me that she was open to the idea. I had told her in the past about how I had questioned my sexuality, and she never said “me too” or anything like that, but she was always very understanding toward the idea. For the next couple weeks after that drunken conversation, there were strange moments. We would watch a movie together and I’d find myself wanting to put my arm around her. She’d hug me a little longer than normal. She would take my hand sometimes and it didn’t always feel just friendly. We’d be going to sleep (after all, we were roommates) and having those long talks about life, and I’d feel myself coming close to telling her I had feelings for her.
        Finally, toward the beginning of April, after a particularly awkward day, I decided I needed to let her know. She was unusually perceptive and I had a feeling she might have already figured it out. She had been ‘flirting’ with me . . . or at least I assumed it was flirting (this was all really new to me) . . . for a while. Was she like this with all of her friends or was there something different about me?
        I wasn’t scared to tell her . . . I was nervous, but I wasn’t scared. I guess that’s another strange thing about my situation. I trusted in our friendship enough that I knew when I told her, even if she didn’t feel the same way, she wouldn’t treat me differently. She wouldn’t let it come between a great friendship. So I told her. We talked for a couple hours about it. She had never dated a girl, but she reminded me she had wanted to. She told me she had been feeling the strange vibes between us, but she didn’t want to make a move and scare me off. She told me she had been hoping I would say something for the past couple of weeks. This was SUCH a relief. Though, I wasn’t scared, it had weighed heavily on me for a couple of weeks. We decided to give things a spin. Worst case scenario: it doesn’t work out, we figure it out quickly, break up and go back to being friends. Best case scenario: maybe there’s a chance for us. We didn’t tell our friends for another couple weeks. We didn’t tell our families for a couple of months.
        Today, two and a half years later, I suppose we could call it the best case scenario. We’re still together. I told my parents about our relationship November of sophomore year. It was the scariest day of my life. I wrote them a letter (about five pages) and gave it to them. I said I would go to my room and when they were ready to talk to me, they could call me into the living room. I waited for what felt like hours. About an hour or so later, they called me upstairs and hugged me. That’s all they needed to do for my fears to go away. They told me the thing that hurt them the most about my letter was the fact that I felt I needed to keep it inside for six months. They would always love me, and though they don’t ‘understand’ what has happened, they support me in everything I do and everything I feel, and they’ve never seen me happier, so whatever I’m doing must be right.
            I am lucky to have the supportive family that I do. Some people that ‘come out’ in college don’t have such understanding parents. I am lucky to be in a community (BGSU) that is so understanding, nurturing and diverse. Many college students aren’t so lucky. I guess if there’s anything to be learned from this whole thing it’s that life throws curve balls that might seem really scary. But sometimes, you just have to catch them and hold on tight. Follow your heart, no matter what. I can’t imagine what my life would be like right now if I had always wondered ‘what if.’ I can’t imagine how deeply hurt I would have been if I had never told my parents what happened to me. And I can’t imagine how alone I would feel, if I never told my roommate how I felt about her.
            So the majority of people coming into college probably won’t have something like this happen to them . . . but some will. And being honest with yourself is the BEST thing you could possibly do to make everything make so much more sense. Everything wonderful in life has its hardships; but this hard time in my life has made me the happiest and truest to myself that I have ever been.

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