An Open Letter to the Girl I Pretended To Have a Crush On in Eighth Grade

Dear Tracy Dolan,

Every gay teenager has a different strategy for surviving adolescence. Some join the choir, some write or paint, some play sports, some try to make themselves invisible. And some, like me, make themselves as visible as possible.

You were the first girl I pretended to have a crush on so no one would know I was gay. I didn’t intend for it to happen, for it to be you, for it to be so easy. But it did, and it was.

I want to tell you how it happened. In another world we could have been friends. In this one, you’re the girl who told me, on the last day of school, to go fuck myself. And I’m the guy that deserved it.

She had red cheeks, a cheerleader’s skirt and a big triangle smile. Her arms and legs were spread out like she was making a letter in the air, though she wasn’t moving. She had three spindly fingers on each hand, no toes, no shoes and a weak, crooked neck.

‘What are you drawing?’ Trevor Schmidt said from behind me. I had my notebook open to the inside cover. I had given her a sun-blonde ponytail, and was drawing wavy yellow lines around it.

We were sitting in staggered rows, in those cagelike middle school desks. Trevor often made comments like this, what are you writing, what page are you on, etc., because this arrangement gave him a perfect diagonal view of my desk and because he was an asshole.

We were three years into middle school, two months into our eighth grade year, and 30 seconds until Mr. Farina started his lecture.

‘Huh? Nothing,’ I said. My forearm wasn’t big enough to cover up the entire sketch, so I moved it over her skirt.

Trevor leaned forward over his desk to get a better look. His hair, long and parted down the middle like the boys on ‘Home Improvement’, hung in his face. This was Seattle in 1995, so he was probably wearing a flannel shirt, maybe a No Fear T-shirt underneath, and saggy Kris Kross jeans.

But I had never really noticed what Trevor wore. Mostly what I noticed about him was that sometimes, when standing, he would lift his shirt a little and rub the tuft of hair just above his belt buckle. I found this utterly captivating, and for nearly two years told myself I was jealous of his flat, soccer-toned stomach. Between seventh and eighth grade, I realized that I was jealous of the hand rubbing it.

‘Is that Tracy Dolan?’ he said, craning. I remember a silver cross dangling from his neck, but I may have edited that into this memory, to give him some external totem of the bully he was inside. Two years earlier, he tripped me—actually fucking tripped me!—as I was running to class. I got a bloody nose and became a school-wide comedy event for the rest of the week. I never forgot that, and I’m certain he did instantly.

‘It’s just a doodle,’ I lied. I had spent hours on it, cross-legged, colored pencils in a pile next to me. Not that I was good at drawing, or even enjoyed it, but hunching over your notebook is a trick introverts have passed down through the generations for disappearing when you’re supposed to be socializing.

Mr. Farina held up his spread left hand and started counting the fingers down, his way of telling us he was about to start talking.

‘Why are you drawing Tracy Dolan on your notebook?’ Trevor said.

Who the hell, I thought as Mr. Farina started talking, is Tracy Dolan?

You were from Montana, that much I knew, and you had the blondest hair I had ever seen. You wore it the same every day, long bangs and a ponytail, and from the back it practically threw off sparks.

I don’t actually remember meeting you, sorry about that. As boys had slowly, then suddenly, rearranged themselves under the stage lights of my attention, girls had receded into the backdrop. You were just there one day, and it only occurred to me later that you hadn’t been before.

At the time I only knew your hair and your smile. Well, not the smile really, more its limits. You never smiled to be polite, or to be liked, or because you didn’t know what to say. You smiled when you meant it, and stopped immediately when you didn’t.

But the most amazing thing about you wasn’t your hair or your smile. It was your twin brother Mark, who was the most beautiful boy I had ever seen in my life.

I noticed him for the first time in history, on the first day of class. The teacher had arranged the desks in a U, facing inward. ‘It’s a Socratic seminar’, she told us as she Sharpied her name on the overhead. I had taken a seat at the front.

At the back, in the bend of the U, was your brother, who I had never seen before. He was as blonde as you, but skinnier, more restless. He reminded me of the poplars we had in our backyard, which lost their leaves in November and rattled in the wind until March. Every time I looked at him he was moving: bouncing his leg, spinning his pencil, flicking his eyes between ceiling tiles. Later I would learn that this this was a symptom of being a born athlete, one of those people who instantly, effortlessly masters every sport they’ve ever tried.

He was sitting as far from the front of the class as possible. This meant that staring at him—which I wanted to do for the entire class period, followed by the rest of my life—meant I had to face away from the teacher.

‘The 20th century,’ Ms. Dalton was telling 29 faces and the back of my head, ‘has seen a growing recognition of freedom and liberty all over the … Yes?’

He had his hand up.

‘What’s your name?’ Ms. Dalton asked.

‘Mark,’ he said. It’s perfect! I thought meaninglessly. ‘What do you mean “liberty”?’

‘That’s an interesting question, Mark,’ Ms. Dalton said. She had written ‘Miss D’ on the overhead. We called her ‘Misty’ all semester, and were seldom corrected. ‘What does it mean to you?’

Mark looked confused. ‘No,’ he said, bouncing his pencil eraser on his desk like a drumroll. ‘Like, what does the actual word mean?’

‘Oh,’ Ms. Dalton said, visibly deflating as a philosophical question was rendered a logistical one. ‘It means freedom, basically.’

‘Thanks!’ Mark said.

‘Yeah, it’s a technical term meaning “fucking retard”,’ my friend Tom murmured next to me.

‘Shhh, he seems nice!’ I said, lost somewhere in that trembling sparkle of blond hair.

I could have taken the sketch off my notebook, but I didn’t. A week later in Mr. Farina’s class, I deliberately left it open to the cover page, and was slightly disappointed that Trevor, tired or possibly hung over under a baseball cap, failed to notice it.

I had known I was gay for at least a year. There were signs before middle school—I’m standing contraposto in every family photo from 1988 onwards—but I didn’t admit it to myself until I read Jean M. Auel’s ‘Plain of Passage’ in the summer between sixth and seventh grade.

I started reading Auel’s ‘Clan of the Cave Bear’ series when I was 11, and still not ready to admit the blatant fact of my homosexuality. Yes, I had been transfixed by the German men’s swim team in the 1992 Olympics. Yes, I had asked for a Barbie Dream House for Christmas for the last three years—and had locked myself in the bathroom a la Diana Ross upon not receiving it.

But these were just quirks, I told myself. Hadn’t I also purchased the (mostly female) Marvel Comics swimsuit edition? Hadn’t I traced the swimsuited bodies of Jean Grey and Psylocke with a pencil and put them on my wall? No gay kid would do that.

Jondalar first appears in the second book of the ‘Clan of the Cave Bear’ series. He is Early Man, loincloth and everything, and he takes the heroine, Ayla, as his mate.

‘Plains of Passage’ is book three. I had started it when I was 12. I remember lying on my stomach, reading a scene in which Jondalar cuts wood for the evening fire. His ropy arms lifting the axe, his hips putting power into his swing, the sweat dripping from his brow.

Why do I have a boner? I thought.

And then, in that actual instant, I knew I was gay. I don’t know why that did it, but it did. Whenever I recall it, I hear an actual ding! In the room, like the microwave telling me my Hot Pocket is ready. Ding! You’re gay!

… Now what?

In the week since Trevor noticed the sketch, I had discovered that you and I had two classes together.

‘Tracy Dolan?’ Tom said. ‘She’s the girl who always has her hand up in the back of Mr. Fisher’s class.’

‘Oh her?’ I said.

‘She’s from Montana. Her brother is that halfwit Mark kid in Misty’s class.’

Jondalar! I tried not to noticeably react.

‘Who? … Oh right, the twitchy dude.’ With hair like the sun, was how I wanted to finish the sentence, but I stopped.

‘They’re twins,’ Tom said.

Being openly gay at Nathan Eckstein Middle School in 1995 was not an option. The closest thing we ever had to a homosexual was Gaylord Crestbotham, and he wasn’t even gay, just unfortunately named. He tried to go by William, his middle name, when he came to Eckstein in sixth grade, but barely a month went by before someone saw his real name on a permission slip and started telling everyone.

They bullied him so severe he snapped one day in the lunch line. Someone cut in front of him with a shove and a ‘move, faggot’, and he took his tennis racquet out of his gym bag, wailed on the guy for a few minutes and got expelled.

I had seen this from my lunch table, eating by myself. A month later I asked Ms. Stone, the only teacher I had seen in the lunchroom that day, if she knew what had happened to him. ‘What, to Gaylord?’ she said.

‘William,’ I said. ‘Did he go to a private school or something?’

‘There’s no private school where it’s OK to assault someone for no reason,’ she said.

I was going to need a survival strategy.

‘So what’s the deal with you and Mark Dolan?’ Tom asked me as we played Super Mario World at my house.

It was two Fridays since the sketch incident and, like every Friday, Tom was staying over.

Also like every Friday, we had bought $20 worth of weed from my brother (representing a street value of about $3.50), smoked it out of an apple in my garage and settled 18 inches in front of the TV in my basement until sunrise.

‘What do you mean?’ I asked. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

In the two months since the first day of school, Mark had gone from ‘new kid’ to ‘cool kid’ in record time, and my increasingly elaborate attempts to bump into him were thwarted by a growing throng of admirers.

‘You’re always talking to him after class,’ Tom said. ‘And you keep inviting him to stuff, and he never comes. Why are you so obsessed with him?’

Tom was my only friend. I had spent 6th grade bullied (long hair, sweatpants, headgear), 7th grade invisible (introvert, straight A’s, Steven King novels at lunch) and 8th grade, so far, with Tom.

I met him through our neighborhood soccer team over the summer, and when school started in the fall, I suddenly had a companion for period breaks, lunches and bus rides home. Tom was the difference between staring at my shoes when I walked to class and seeing where I was going.

‘Mark just moved here, I just thought he might want to make some friends,’ I said.

‘New friends? Dude, he’s at Sarah Tanaka’s party in Laurelhurst right now,’ Tom said.

We were taking turns on Super Mario World, and I looked at Tom as he played. He had bony hands and a kind of clench in his face, concentrating on the screen. After we saw ‘Desperado’, he had decided to grow his hair long like Antonio Banderas, but he was only about halfway there.

Nine years later, when I told Tom I was gay and had kept this from him for nearly a decade, he didn’t say anything, he just gave me a hug. He’s still the only straight guy who ever did that.

But then was not now. Then was 1995, and we were 14, and our school was a great big battleship ferrying 1,400 souls to maturity, a journey our principal would later tell us, in our miniature graduation gowns, was ‘the hardest three years of your life.’ Hugs, understanding, save that shit for after the storm. Right now, you need to keep from capsizing.

‘So what’s the deal, dude?’ Tom asked, looking at me now.

‘I’m really into his sister,’ I said.

It was the Monday after Thanksgiving. Ms. Hughes, our math teacher, stood at the front of the class and read out our seating assignments. The class huddled by the door.

‘Table 3,’ she was saying. ‘Frank Robbins and Diane Gregg.’

A week after my conversation with Tom, a girl in biology class saw me looking out the window. ‘Are you looking for Tracy Dolan out there?’ she giggled. The rest of her table leaned in for backstory. Tom had told people, and people had told people.

It was working. I tried to look mortified.

A week after that, Trevor Schmidt slapped my shoulder from behind. ‘I fucking knew it!’

I pretended not to know what he was talking about, knowing that each ‘nuh uh!’ just kindled more accusations.

‘I’m with you, dude,’ Trevor said. ‘You don’t see her because she’s all quiet and shit. But get her out from under all that polarfleece, and she’s got a body like Sharon Stone.’

I had never been more proud of myself. I decided to notice you so no one would notice me, and now I was not only assumed straight, but assumed worthy of conversation. I just had to keep broadcasting straightness loud enough to drown out the gay humming underneath.

Despite having two classes together, I had still barely met you. Ms. Hughes’s class was divided into fifteen tables, each with two students. She had already changed the seating arrangement twice. We couldn’t tell if this was a deliberate strategy on her part—obedience through churn—or if she just couldn’t decide how she’d like us arranged. Each time, you and I had ended up at different ends of the class.

‘Table six,’ she was saying as we waited near the door, ‘Michael Hobbes and Tracy Dolan.’

The class, as one, made a kind of awwwww sound, like the studio audience on ‘Full House’.

Fuck. I looked down at the floor.

‘Quiet!’ Ms. Hughes said as we walked to our desk. Even she probably knew about my fake crush on you by then.

We sat down. Ms. Hughes was assigning the rest of the desks. My cheeks were as red as yours were in the sketches I had made of you. I kept my notebook closed and my hand on top of it.

‘You’re Mike, right?’ you said.
‘Yeah,’ I said. I’m a monster.
‘You’re a TA for jazz band, right?’
‘…’
‘Were you at the concert at Roosevelt last week? It was amazing,’ you said.

I looked at you and you were holding out a pack of M&Ms. Was it possible no one had told you?

‘Want some?’
‘Sure, thanks’. I took one.
‘Are you from here?’
‘Yeah, born and raised.’
‘I’m from Montana, we don’t have M&Ms there.’
‘Really?’
‘No, idiot.’ You smiled, and I smiled back.

‘So,’ Mark Dolan said. ‘What are we doing tomorrow?’

It was spring outside, not that we could tell from Mark’s basement. He was holding a ping-pong paddle, swaying back and forth, looking at me, the room, the table, his shoes, the table again. Sometimes between points he balanced the paddle on this finger like a sword. Other times he rubbed his stomach and I could see a little of it. After long rallies, he lifted it to wipe his brow. We played ping-pong a lot.

Pretending to like girls—specific girls—specific girls I had classes with—had been more successful than I had expected. From who’s that guy? I had risen in rank to the guy who has a crush on Tracy Dolan and onward to the guy who has a crush on everyone. 

Talking about girls, it turns out, is a great way to make friends with guys. It’s an opening line, a time-killer, a narrative, a joke factory. Like all great conversation topics, it’s a way of talking about yourself while pretending not to. I started watching mafia movies on weekends for research.

‘Damn, Sara Kreshki looks good cleaned up’ I would tell Tom Monday morning.

‘Her and Teresa Singer are at the top of my list,’ Trevor Schmidt would say as Farina counted down. ‘The filling-out list.’

As the drawings on my notebook went from stick figure to realistic, from Dr. Seuss to Maxim, I found myself with less time alone between classes to draw them.

‘One more game,’ I told Mark.

The social epicenter of Nathan Eckstein Middle School was the foyer just inside the main entrance. During classes, silent, it was a blank crescent of tiles with curved stairways on each side, lit by Seattle’s meager daylight.

Before and after school, though, it was a ballroom, heaving with the din of students forming and unforming in clusters, backpacks in piles, snippets of music playing from unseen speakers.

Before the sketch, before you, I moved through the foyer mornings and afternoons like a virus without a host, following the wall, reaching for the exit. I arrived in an empty classroom, opened my textbook, wrote my name and the date at the top of a sheet of paper, put down my pencil and waited for class to begin. Why did we need 30 minutes between the buses arriving and classes starting?

Time goes by faster as a participant than a spectator, and since the sketch, since you, 30 minutes wasn’t enough. Now my walk to class zigzagged, clustered and unclustered, paused to test and tweak observations I had rehearsed.

Suddenly, one day Mark was there. I was telling Trevor and two other guys about ‘The Last Seduction’, which I had seen over the weekend and had decided would provide me with conversation material through at least Wednesday.

‘That sounds awesome,’ Mark said.

‘I was gonna see it again this weekend,’ I said. ‘We should go.’

I meant me and Mark, but Trevor thought I meant us. ‘Yeah we should,’ he said.

Over the next three months, my school persona began to colonize my evenings and weekends. The clusters that formed in the foyer now formed over coffee, strip-mall teriyaki, Saturday matinees, Sunday capture-the-flag.

‘I live pretty close,’ Mark said after school one day in March. ‘We should go to my house.’

All winter I had watched Mark, looking for any sign that he carried a secret like mine. I watched him listen, I watched him talk, I watched him watch me and watch others. So far my four-month investigation had turned up no evidence whatsoever.

But now he was inviting me over. Just me! You had joined jazz band, so you weren’t home, and your parents worked til at least six.

I made my face appear to deliberate. ‘What, today?’ I said.

‘Yeah, let’s go,’ Mark said.

Like Ayla gathering her stone tools into her oxskin tunic, I shoved my textbooks into my backpack, slammed my locker and set out with Mark down the hill from Eckstein, across 35th St. and up the hill to his house.

That was March, now it was May, and Mark and I did this two or three times a week, sometimes with Trevor, sometimes with other clustermates. Once I brought Tom, who went through the afternoon like a tourist participating in a bizarre indigenous ceremony.

Every afternoon, the routine was the same as the first time. We walked up the hill to Mark’s house and let ourselves in the back door. I turned on MTV and threw the remote on the couch, then stood across the kitchen island as Mark got food out of the cupboards.

My parents had allergies and read health magazines, so Mark’s house was the only place I was allowed to eat frozen pizza. Mark took them out of the box and put them onto little silver trays for the microwave. While they rotated, he took out the blender, a quart of ice cream, a gallon of milk and whichever bottle in his parents’ liquor cabinet was fullest.

Like Ayla and Jondalar, we took whatever we could forage. Some days it was strawberry ice cream and Kahlua, others cookie dough and scotch. They were all equally terrible, but to us, they tasted like adulthood, rebellion. We drank them out of martini glasses.

Then, feeling full and disinfected, we drifted downstairs to play ping-pong until Mark’s parents came home, when I left, breathing downwards.

On that day in May, we had found a zip-lock bag of Oreos and three-quarters of a bottle of champagne in the fridge. Mark aimed the cork at me and popped it, but the bottle must have been at least a week old, and the cork fell flaccidly to the floor.

‘Don’t worry, Mark, it happens to everyone,’ I said, a premature-ejaculation joke I had heard on a sitcom that neither Mark nor I understood. He smiled anyway, poured half the bottle of champagne and the Oreos into the blender. He scraped a huge chunk of mocha chip, your favorite, on top.

I had daydreamed that on one of these tipsy afternoons Mark would make the milkshake a little too strong, look at me over the ping-pong table, lean forward a little.

‘Mike?’ he would say.

‘Mark,’ I would reply, putting down my paddle, knowing where this was going.

‘Do you ever feel… different?’ His eyes would be moist now, pleading.

I wouldn’t say anything, just walk to the other side of the table and embrace him. He would tell me everything, the desires inside him he couldn’t control, how he had tied them up, chained them down, vaulted them in, how they were too strong, he couldn’t control them anymore. In my arms he would finally be still.

Today was the nineteenth or twentieth time this hadn’t happened, and I was beginning to lose hope. As far as I could tell, the only desires animating Mark were winning at ping-pong, shouting Chris Farley quotes at me from across the table and speculating about which girls liked him.

‘What are we doing tomorrow?’ I asked.

‘Lara Farquhar is going to some high school kegger,’ Mark said. Lara rode my bus, and Mark had been bugging me to talk to her about him. I was, not surprisingly, reluctant to do so.

‘She has tits like the balloons over the Datsun dealership on Aurora,’ I said, timing the joke right as I hit the ball to his backhand. He laughed and hit the ball too hard, and it ricocheted off the ceiling.

‘That’s game, bitch,’ I said, glad for the opportunity to end this conversation before it began. I put the paddle down. ‘Your folks are gonna be home in like five minutes ago’—a joke I had stolen from MadTV—‘I’d better bounce.’

‘You gotta admit, she’s hot, man,’ he said as we walked up the concrete steps. He ducked to avoid the low ceiling. I didn’t have to.

‘You haven’t seen her on the bus, dude,’ I said. ‘When she sits at the back it takes two of the Vietnamese kids just to hold her tits down.’ Jesus Christ, this was me in action.

As we rounded the corner at the top of the stairs, I could see that the TV had been switched to CNN. You were sitting on the couch, eating the rest of the Oreos, the bag on your lap.

It had been eight months since I came out as a crush-on-you haver. Mark must have known, but he never asked me about it and I never said anything. Sometimes I dreamed that his lack of interest was premeditated, deliberate. He wasn’t like me, sure, but maybe he knew my secret, could hear the hum of what I was underneath the megaphone of what I wanted to be. ‘He understands me,’ I told myself, ‘we’re connected.’

Either that or he just didn’t want to hear one of his buddies talk about nailing his sister.

From the living room, you looked over toward the noise. Your eyes didn’t meet mine, didn’t even see me. I was used to this.

‘Oh, hey Tracy!’ Your brother said from behind me.

‘Did you and this asshole eat all the mocha chip?’ you said.

We sat together from Thanksgiving until winter break. We shared homework and M&Ms, the two highest grades in the class right next to each other. We were both the kind of good at math that didn’t have to work very hard. Hughes told us the concept, we got it, we filled in the worksheets. Neither of us understood why the other students had so many questions, or why it took a whole period to explain imaginary numbers or negative square roots. We were done with our worksheets by the time everyone else started.

Sometimes you read your novel under the table as everyone else worked, Tom Clancy or Dean Koontz, a different one each week. You wanted to be a doctor, and you were already ranking medical schools on their proximity to mountains so you could keep skiing on weekends. For undergrad you would go to an all-girls school, you had decided, probably Vassar.

‘How come?’ I asked.
‘I want to work,’ you said. ‘Not deal with boy-nonsense all day.’
‘Good thing there’s no such thing as girl-nonsense,’ I said.
You smiled. ‘Whatever, just because you think everyone should go to public school.’

One period later, in Mr. Farina’s class, I told Trevor, ‘You know what Tracy told me today dude?’
‘What?’ he said, not looking up.
‘She’s trying to go to an all-girls school.’
‘For high school?’ His head was up now, I could see his eyes under his baseball hat.
‘Yeah, high school,’ I lied. Clarification on the particulars would only be a distraction. ‘She said she liked the way the uniforms fit.’
‘She did not say that,’ Trevor said.
‘Yes she did, she just told me in Hughes’s class,’ I said.
‘She is a slut, guy,’ Trevor said.

And that was how it was. You and I killed time in Ms. Hughes’s class with books and music, hobbies and plans for the future. Then, between second and third period, I retroactively trolled our conversations for material I could refine and distort, bulletins for my new friends. I even told them we went to see ‘While You Were Sleeping’ together.

‘She asked me to go, I was powerless to resist.’ Telling lies was as easy as math worksheets, just learn the rule, find the blanks and fill them in.

And then it was over. The first day back from winter break, huddled by the door in Ms. Hughes’s class again, I wished you a happy new year.

‘OK,’ you said, cold as Yellowstone, and moved to the other side of the huddle.

She knows.

I was assigned to sit with Ben Neill, one of my morning and afternoon clustermates.

‘Not next to Tracy anymore, huh?’ he asked. ‘I bet that would hurt if you weren’t such a homo.’

‘You’re just saying that because your mom likes it from the back,’ I said reflexively. Someone told her, I thought, But who, and how much?

That was January. Before your brother invited me over, before I made up crushes on Nicole Grant and Gina Lasky, before a late-spring faux fixation on Laura Gilchrist was, mortifyingly, reciprocated and I had to fake mono to get out of it.

The day after we saw you in your living room, I asked your brother why you hated me so much.

‘She thinks you’re a pervert,’ Mark said, balancing the ping-pong paddle on his finger. ‘Everyone kind of thinks that.’

At the time, appallingly, I considered this a triumph. Perverts are not gaylords. I was safe.

‘What did I ever do to her though?’ I asked.

‘Apparently you said you wanted her to wrap her thighs around you like a python. Because she has big thighs from skiing, I guess? I don’t really get it.’

Had I said that? Shit, it sounded like me.

‘Who told her?’

‘Trevor,’ he said. ‘He thinks it’s hilarious how she won’t talk to you anymore.’

This should not have surprised me. Trevor had revealed himself to be as much of a bully as a friend than as an enemy. Two years ago he had tormented me to impress eighth graders, and now he tormented sixth graders to impress me.

Once, in the cafeteria, Trevor pulled down Alec Pentieff’s pants while he was carrying his lunch tray, and he had to shuffle 20 feet with his pants at his ankles before he could pull them up again. I made a show of laughing—Christ, did we high-five?—but I felt sick to my stomach the rest of the day.

Everywhere I looked, the consequences of my survival strategy were piling up. After I canceled our smoke-and-Super Mario Fridays three times in a row, Tom stopped assuming them, and now we walked past each other like strangers. Girls I had liked—actually liked, like, as people—stopped talking to me because I had publicly appreciated their breasts, their asses or, in one case, their ‘haunches’. Alec Pentioff, who rode my bus and whose parents knew mine from church, never looked at me again.

Every time, it came as a surprise. Don’t you know this isn’t really me? I wanted to shout. Just because I’m doing this doesn’t mean I’m the kind of person who does.

I wish I could tell you, ‘I learned my lesson, the very next day I came out of the closet, I never lied again.’ But I didn’t. I kept it up this façade all through high school.

When I finally came out, on the night of high school graduation, in the Denny’s on Lake City Way, my friends told me ‘I never would have guessed’ and I received it as a compliment. Only later did I realize that there’s no such thing as hiding who you are, there’s only becoming someone else.

I remember you because you were the fork in the road. I could have sat next to you, just sat, just listened and spoken, just kept our conversations in that little rectangle where they began. I could have thrown away that sketch.

But I didn’t. The last time I saw you was the final day of eighth grade, an afternoon so bright it steamed the rain on the pavement. We ran into each other between the cluster of portables and the school building. I was heading in, you were coming out.

‘Hey Tracy,’ I said. You nodded and kept walking.

‘Hey,’ I said again. ‘Tracy? Hey, Tracy!’

‘What, Mike?’ You stopped. ‘What is it?’

It was the first time I had seen you without an audience since December. Even then, I wanted to tell you that I was sorry, that it wasn’t me who said that about you but someone else, someone mean.

I wanted to tell you that you had beaten me on Ms. Hughes’s final by one point and I was proud of you. That your brother turned out to be a nice guy, maybe even a friend. That the University of Colorado has a great medical school. That every time I saw you hunched over your notebook during breaks, I wanted to come over to see what you were writing. That I had read two Tom Clancy books this year and they both sucked.

I could have said something decent, kind, something to make you remember who I was and forget what I’d become, could have asked you what you were doing this summer, if you were reading anything good lately.

But I didn’t. Instead, what I said was, ‘You look great in those shorts’.

Your brother and I were friends until junior year of high school, when we simultaneously decided to stop calling each other. I had discovered other boys, girls had discovered him, our nows replaced our thens.

Last month, he added me on Facebook. He sells high-end SUVs at a dealership in Kansas City. In nearly all of his pictures he’s somewhere sunny, and smiling. His girlfriend appears in at least three-quarters of them, one arm around him, smiling just as wide. And in some of them there’s you.

That’s how I found out that you went to Swarthmore, that you live in New York City, that you’re a veterinarian with a daughter and a husband and a Subaru Outback and a Netflix subscription. You’re grown up, lived in, but it’s definitely you. Your daughter has a ponytail, blonde as the sun.

On that afternoon on the last day of school, you turned away from me and walked across the concrete. You didn’t even look back, you just said, almost to yourself, ‘go fuck yourself’ as I stood there at the door.

I didn’t realize it then, and I wouldn’t for a long time, but I already had.

Hope you’re still smiling, and hope you still mean it,

Mike

260 Comments

Filed under America, Essays, Gay, Personal

260 responses to “An Open Letter to the Girl I Pretended To Have a Crush On in Eighth Grade

  1. Darren

    You’re an excellent writer, FYI.

  2. Great story telling. Thanks, Mike.

  3. What a vivid, honest story. I liked your details, but what stood out the most is your reflection, how you didn’t understand, know what the hell was going on. You captured that voice, experience like it was NOW. Perfect.

  4. Melanie

    Can you just write more? Please.

  5. This is great! Just like being there. I wish I could even remember coming of age in this detail, much less be able to write about it.

  6. Mighty fine writing. Here’s a virtual hug from a straight guy.

  7. This is fabulously written: sharp and heartfelt. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Clarity, honesty, perspective. If all memoir was as good as this, it would be all I ever wish to read.

  9. Buddy Glass

    This is so good. Hope you continue writing.

  10. Lovely writing – pain and joy clearly expressed.

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  12. Drew

    Woah. That was so intense. Amazing work.

  13. R. St. James

    Phenomenal. I cannot tell you how much truth and recognition I saw in this story, nor how closely it mirrored my own. Please keep writing!

  14. kristinaphotography21

    Reblogged this on My Blog and commented:
    Awesome story. Incredible writing.

  15. Notes.From.Shey

    You’re a brilliant story teller!
    I was only going to read a couple of lines, ended up reading until the last full stop.
    As I read, I visited 90’s in America (How that’s possible when I’m a 90’s kid from London…?)
    I’m glad you added what happened as you all got older throughout the story, it made it seem as though I was having flashbacks to your personal memories.

  16. I see a novel in this. Something brilliant.

  17. lythya

    That was just wonderful. So true. And it’s always very interesting to read the different “dark stories” that people have.

  18. You had me from the observation of introverts hunched over their desks, and from then on, I was trailing behind your words, tugging on their hoodies asking for more. I don’t know if this makes any sense, but I thought this was just beautiful and heartbreaking. Thanks for sharing something so personal, it’s definitely a piece I will remember for a long, long time.

  19. E.

    Lovely.
    I’m still unsure whether to feel more for you, trapped by your contingency plans, or for her, who never really got to know you.

  20. You are genius! I love this story too much… Thank you

  21. Reblogged this on Reality tells us what we need to do and commented:
    Terribly glad you are still here to tell the story. Your fragility, your vulnerability, is almost overwhelming (or perhaps I just recognise it as my own, and what I annihilated to survive!) Brilliant writing. Thanks.

  22. Wow, what a stunning read. Beautifully written, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

  23. sammykristenlau

    I don’t think this should be in a blog. I think it should be in a novel with much more of your life in it. I love your writing! I felt and saw everything. Great job.

  24. ‘There’s no private school where it’s OK to assault someone for no reason,’ she said.
    IMO this is a big part of the problem. Those who are bullied are ignored, and if they try to defend themselves they get slammed down even worse.
    Anyway, really great post. Both funny and poignant, just where it should be.
    Cheers,
    Johnny

  25. normalgirlcrazyworld76

    This is amazing. It circles back nicely, only I got a little lost with the names at one point. Really really great stuff, you should be proud! :)

  26. Extremely well-written, and it truly touches the heart. Great job in expressing the anguish and angst of adolescence and particularly, pretending to be something that one is not. This is an appreciation from a straight guy who can surely empathize. Thanks for a very good post.

  27. many compliments. Loved the “Hot Pockets” coming-out visual.

  28. Great job. Held my attention to the end. Love your writing. Agree that Tom Clancy sucks.

  29. I like this excerpt:

    “Mostly what I noticed about him was that sometimes, when standing, he would lift his shirt a little and rub the tuft of hair just above his belt buckle. I found this utterly captivating, and for nearly two years told myself I was jealous of his flat, soccer-toned stomach. Between seventh and eighth grade, I realized that I was jealous of the hand rubbing it.”

    Story of my life. lol. Just because I can’t stop thinking about her smile and how cute it was when she sneezed, doesn’t mean I have a crush on her….
    ;-)

  30. You’re an excellent writer! Loved your story!

  31. This is BEAUTIFUL! So well written. Congrats on the FP!
    I’m sorry that our screwed up society made you live a lie for so long. I have a loved one in that boat who hasn’t decided to step out of it yet. Sad. Your story is fantastic – I hope you’re writing a longer work?

  32. Excellent story… beautifully written!

  33. What a beautiful piece. I hope that you’re submitting your work to literary magazines – you should be getting paid for this stuff! ;)

  34. Good to read about the very first “beard” you had. I never realized how difficult it was until I spoke to a gay friend of mine, about the temptation to date a “beard”. I hope you have subsequently found love and truth in the years following these. Strength, honesty and the ability to write more honest pieces such as these :) Love it!

  35. A beautiful, heartfelt story. You are an amazing writer–the details bring the story to life, and your wisdom shines through with every word, capturing your reader from the first lines. You broke my heart with your pain and made me regret that any person should ever have to hide himself. But just through your expression, your touching honesty, your powerful and moving reflection, you mended it. Kudos to you for writing this, and for having the courage and strength to push through such a difficult time in your adolescence. It’s a shame that none of them, Tracy especially, never truly knew the real you, this you. I can only hope that when I am your age, I will have the same ability to look back on my life with such clarity and genuine understanding. Until then, I can’t wait to read more of your beautiful writing–what talent!

  36. Lauren

    Wow. If you ever write a book, I will buy it for sure! That was amazingly written.

  37. I know I am just reiterating what so many have already commented…but this is beautifully written. Absolutely captivating and honest. It could so easily become a chapter in a book. Thank you for sharing.

  38. I’m blown away by this, just stunningly well-written. Love it, and thank you for sharing. I love it even more that you wrote to this girl. I really hope she sees it someday.

  39. Don’t ever stop writing. You’re too good at it to waste. This was a great read.

  40. Wow! You have a wonderful voice and I found your story incredibly compelling. Your talent as a memoir-ist is apparent. Thank you so much for writing this. I couldn’t stop reading. I look forward to reading more from you.

  41. Eva

    Reblogged this on ~Chronicles of an Authentic Eva and commented:
    Admire people who can write like this. Thanks Mike

  42. what a beautifully written piece :-)
    i think it’s heartbreaking that a kid has to keep living a lie just to get accepted… and make himself out to be “one of the guys” just so that he can belong…….
    like everyone here, i believe you write so, so well and i hope your work will be found again in books and films, someday soon!
    hugs

  43. You’re an amazing writer!

    You know, I feel you when you talk about the kid that got expelled for beating a kid with “no reason.” It’s just…unfair, when you see it from your perspective. Because you knew what really happened.

    I’m glad that your life is going well now!

    Hey, since you’re such a good writer, maybe you’ll be interested in submitting something to The Writebox? It is a creative writing site; just click my name.

  44. This is a story like from a movie. Your style of writing really got me from the very first sentence. Thanks for sharing !

  45. avani

    well written. The best read I have had in recent days.:)

  46. Aww! Don’t stop there! I want to know moooore! Did you come out to Mark, ever?

  47. Wonderfully written and poignant story telling…look forward to reading more from you

  48. Full of emotion thank you for letting us see this.
    It just makes me think what if being gay didn’t matter to anyone, how different this story would be.

  49. This is awesome!!!! :-)

  50. vandammetienne

    I’m touched :'(

  51. Parinita Shetty

    Brilliant! I agree with the commenters who think this should be in a book. Your words had me hooked until the end. Thank you for a lovely piece.

  52. yaypearl

    Reblogged this on Zippymonkey. and commented:
    Reblogged from ‘Rottin’ in Denmark’ (: Do read!

  53. This is so well written it makes me want to give up writing.

  54. Really great writing. Thanks for sharing.

  55. I just flew down the page because I know I’m probably just repeating what everyone’s already said up there ^, but I’m going to say it anyway. This is was such a beautiful, honest and heart warming read! I could just go superlative, superlative, superlative! and be done, but this is the sort of stuff that makes me want to tell you why every line was fabulous. You wrote this with such a fluid, effortless ease, the hesistations, the flaws, the what ifs, the regret, and the what really happened, just so frankly that it doesn’t feel like a blog or a post or whatever. It’s as if we’re talking and you’re telling me about it all. That’s a character we generally associate with exceptionally well written books, and onlly sometimes, but the way you’ve written this, I can practically see it all happen. School isn’t easy as it is, added being gay and confused and having to cover it up, I don’t think you should blame yourself as much you still seem to. All said and done, this story too was part of making you who you are now,.Thank you for posting this! :D

  56. I rarely read such a long post till the end… But this one had me captivated till the very last world!

  57. Oh my gosh, this was beautiful and bittersweet and so well-written! As a fellow gay guy who went as far as dating a girl to cover up my homosexuality, I definitely empathize with you. Just, wow – reading this was an amazing experience. You’re fantastic.

  58. I enjoyed your story. I think we all live double lives in high school, but yours ran deeper than most, because there was danger in the truth.

  59. Cyn

    Great writing… Keep ‘em coming!

  60. Wow. You are a great storyteller!

  61. Couldn’t stop reading!

  62. you write like you have been writing for decades! you are a pro!

  63. wow this was a lovely post to read! good job! you should definitely consider writing a short novel :)
    if you wouldn’t mind.. I am starting a blog of my own. I’m very new to this and I’m not even sure if this is the right way to get out there but I’m hopeless! please take a read and give me any pointers you have !! thanks :)

    hannahrachelfied.wordpress.com

  64. I love this story. So honest and refreshing. You should write an entire novel about this.

  65. An enjoyable writing style and a good story.

  66. Excellent. It’s always a good sign of how well-written something is when you don’t take any notice of the length of the piece until you get to the end, think ‘oh it’s finished…’ and realise just how far down you’ve scrolled to get there!

  67. Yes, great post right there! I am following you now, if you would like to hear some about Ocean Paddling then follow us back. Cheers!

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  69. I love how the story unravels. Excellent story telling. Beautifully written. Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed!

  70. Aww … Mike, I hope she reads this! What an honest, open explanation!

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  72. What a great way to start the week with a wonderful story that captures a special moment from your life – a story that has shaped who you are today. That is something that is really fascinating me at the moment and I’m spending time reflecting and writing on my life to see how I got to the ‘me’ of today.
    You have obviously been working a very long time on this blog (I’ve just started) – be proud! Your work is being appreciated! Lets hope a book deal is on the way for you – you deserve it!

  73. moop

    One day Ira Glass is going to read this on “This American Life”

  74. Well, I’ll just join all the accolades. I was intrigued by your title and, assuming it was a typically short blog post, started reading it even though I had a ton of stuff to do–then absolutely couldn’t stop. Just sat here and read the whole thing. This could be a piece from your novel or memoir–you realize this, I hope?

  75. Reblogged this on Hello Diary <3 and commented: <3 i like it..

  76. Absolutely worthy of Freshly Pressed.

  77. This was an amazing way to tell the tale of how most gay kids feel. Faking their way to try to avoid persecution. I don’t always read long blog posts, but this captivated me in such a way I couldn’t stop reading. Thank you for this lovely post!

  78. You’ve got great sense of story telling. Although this was too long for a blog, it kept me hooked till the end….. Congrats for FP.

  79. Mir

    This was the most captivating thing I have read in a long time; the world disappeared around me and I was lost in your teenage life for a while.

  80. Your tone swung from the cockiness – and angst – of youth, to the humility of adulthood, and back again. I was completely drawn in to your story. It is very powerful. You are an excellent writer.

  81. littlemichigan

    This is so beautiful! I hope she reads this and understands. I loved the title and I loved the story. Great job!

  82. This is a fantastic piece of writing and I commend you. I wish this was a portion of a novel with which I could spend all day on the couch. Your reflection is very honest. Middle school consequences can seem so adultish, yes? Clearly you realized the error of your ways before they caused you or anyone else more pain. Thanks for this.

  83. Fantastic reading! Thanks for sharing.

  84. My first kiss came out a few years ago!

  85. I’ve never enjoyed reading something on wordpress as much as I enjoyed reading this post, your post. Just.. wow. It really is true isn’t it. I do this all the time. Sometimes it’s juts easier, you dont have to answer all the questions that follow after you tell people that you actually like boys, AND girls. keep up the good writing dude. You really have talent.

  86. A. Maz. Ing. Thank you for A)so vividly recreating our adolescence so on point…even the walks to and from the busses… wowza. and B) taking us into your head. I love momentary visits into others consciousness and you nailed it. Thanks again. ;)

  87. Another virtual hug from a straight guy. Hope it makes you smile.

  88. Beautifully written. I’m sure this post deserves an award. You’ll get published one day. Your talent assures it.

  89. As a straight kid who lied about having a girlfriend to keep my parents from worrying whether or not I was gay, I appreciated this. Thanks for sharing. Your style is fantastic.

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  91. the writing was so direct and crisp and so fresh.It was very innocent.You are really a great writer.

  92. So are you going to send her the link?
    Your writing certainly grabbed my attention right away and I read the whole thing, though I wasn’t planning on it when I started. Thank you.

  93. It’s very long. I never read long posts. Haven’t the patience. But this one hooked me. From the heart, man. Well done.

  94. I came across your blog via Freshly Pressed and I’m so glad I did! This was very moving. You’re an excellent writer.

  95. That was really captivating, really moving, and really beautiful.

  96. Crazy B

    “…there’s no such thing as hiding who you are, there’s only becoming someone else” Damn.

  97. Shit, you’re good. Hope part of you knows it.

  98. Reblogged this on Views of a Crazy Cat Lady and commented:
    I had to reblog this as it is beautifully written and comes from the heart. Thanks to Mike for sharing xx

  99. Thanks for sharing with us, I was captivated.

  100. What a wonderful post!! Thanks so much for sharing it!

  101. What a wonderful story. And told so eloquently with so much levity and heart. Thoroughly enjoyed this post, my friend. Can’t wait to read more.

  102. Vivid, honest and well written – brilliant :D

  103. Wow. I started reading and couldn’t stop. This is the best blog post I’ve read in a long time. Heartrending, funny, poignant… superb writing. Thank you.

  104. This is the best story I’ve read on here! Absolutely brilliant story telling.

  105. BehindMyBooks

    That was phenomenal.

  106. I feel for you. Even if you’re mostly a straight guy, people will look at you oddly if you don’t constantly show your interest in the opposite sex. And yeah, the part about perverts not being gaylords. That’s a nasty manifestation of peer pressure isn’t it?
    Personally, aside from an ill-considered Quixote-esque crush, attraction was something I didn’t really think about and I used to think I was asexual because of the way people responded. I finally did experience love later in university to a girl that was nice to me. We ended up being platonic friends, and it felt wonderful to talk to each other. I think we’re all better off being sincere about romance rather than being pressured into it, since an honest and open relationship is so much more satisfying than having to hide things.

  107. If you’re not already, you should write a novel. Love, loved this.

  108. Wonderfully written piece. Great work.

  109. An amazing and inspirational read. You’re a fine writer. I greatly enjoyed this .

  110. This is absolutely brilliant. Poignant and gripping and just…just…wonderful. I could go on for ages about your diction and pacing, but I think I’ll stop at this: Your writing style is eloquently simple and I admire your honesty.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  111. Reblogged this on Address isn't Available! and commented:
    Endorse this to anyone who has time for a longish story but a rather AWESOME one. Now this is writing that needs reading… and since you’re here, try this. :)

  112. I am a gay too. But unlike you, everybody knows that since then. But i understand why you pretended. it’s really hard living in this very judgmental world.

  113. This was a wonderful story and it brought tears to my eyes! My best friend is gay, we’re both from Tennessee, and he’s had so many ups and downs in his life because of this one small factor that barely begins to define him. I love your blog and will look forward to other posts!
    Xo,
    Whitney
    http://charmsofagypsy.wordpress.com/

  114. Reblogged this on screaming parachute and commented:
    you’re an excellent writer. am reblogging this :-)

  115. I actually grew up in Seattle and went to Eckstein Middle School as well, though in the 2000s. When I graduated in 2006, it hadn’t changed much from what you describe. I hope one day it becomes a safer space for LGBTQ students than what I witnessed from 2003-2006.

    • Mike, thank you. Honest and artful. To eyespytravel, know that it is happening. My son came out as a 16-year-old in 2011 and he went on to become Head Boy of his high school, beloved and well-respected by both teachers and students. I realize what happened for him doesn’t happen everywhere, but I think we’ll be seeing it more and more.

  116. Beautiful…. you are a wonderful writer… very touching, and sad story….

  117. Reblogged this on Starstone and commented:
    This has me almost speachless… very sad and beautiful story. Everyone should take the time to read this, just once in their lives.

  118. Reblogged this on Elisabeth Berg and commented:
    It is so touching, everyone should read it…..

  119. I read this early today and I have been revisiting it in my mind ever since. A very powerful piece. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

  120. LHK

    Wow, that was really nice..! Absolutely love it…!

  121. Kept me utterly captivated and showed quite well the confusion felt.

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  126. Clan of the Cave Bear, what a perfect choice. Nicely done combo of pathos and humor.

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  130. thank you for your courage, haven’t we all walked that path, although most of us hide away like it was our exclusive experience, the details change the pain is universal – growing up is a brutal boot camp

  131. Your story (writing) is truly captivating. I couldn’t stop reading as I had to find out why she was so mad at you. It takes a lot of courage to write a letter such as that. Good for you! It’s really too bad that you had to become someone completely different to get through life as a young man, and for that I am sorry. I hope you are now living a happy life and wish you the best. Thank you for sharing your life’s experience with all of us.

    Shell

  132. Gorgeous. Congrats on the FP!

  133. John Johnson

    If you ever write a book, I’ll buy it

  134. Great writing!. I really loved it and enjoyed it a lot. Thank you and keep on writing!.

  135. Beautifully written. And one of the best things about the reactions is how NONE of the comments were negative regarding your sexuality.

    I do hope Tracy reads this.

  136. Outstanding writing! Loved it! Congrats and well deserved on being Freshly Pressed.

  137. Fascinating – your take on specific things during the period, movies, actors, incidents. Will start to follow and read the rest of the essays. But like most procrastinators, probably take another several weeks to come back.

  138. Really great writing – enjoyed this a lot, thanks.

  139. arcadian48

    So very well done. Like others here, this was me at that age, although in the 60’s. I hated who I was but I played the game anyway. I had a “Tracy” too. Great job of making it so real.

  140. Quite a novelette . . enjoyed! I shared on Twitter if that’s okay!

  141. Lynelle

    Fabulous! This was so well written! My heart feels bigger than it was before I read it. I clicked on it almost by accident and just couldn’t stop reading. There was not one wasted sentence in the whole post. I will definitely buy your book(s) no matter the topic as long as you are as authentic and passionate about it/them as you seemed to be in this post. This writing absolutely sucked me into a story and a topic I had no previous interest in and filled me with compassion. Thank you. I’m looking forward to more of your writing.

  142. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  144. Wow wow wow! Such a good read, I was going to finish it later but just couldn’t stop reading. Well done!

  145. Reblogged this on A little bit more of the world and commented:
    A good story worth reading!

  146. natatie

    It’s awesome. Thank you for sharing this great and honest story!

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  148. you are hilarious, brave, and poignant story-teller. thanks for the great read!

  149. Tim Flood

    I am 62 years old (so old’ so gay) … my story was much the same as yours, but set in 1964. I’ve forwarded this lovely piece to my two sisters, gratefule for its expression of friendship, it’s desire for things to have been different, better somehow. Thank you.

  150. So glad I came across this. If you write novels, I will buy them all. And please do!

  151. Thank you for sharing such a personal story – your writing is brilliant and I look forward to reading loads more from you!

  152. Pingback: Freshly Pressed: Friday Faves | Blogging Opportunity

  153. moodchaser

    Just so you know, I read all the comments to see if Tracy or Mark responded. I would have read 96 chapters of the rest of this story if there were that many to read. I am now following you, and I hope to see more great works on your blog. Brilliant.

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  156. Beautifully written, glad I found your blog.

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  158. Fantastic writing, it positively fizzes! It sparked so many memories and was also very moving.

    I used to date beautiful girls in my teens in Bristol, UK in the 60s, so I could have sex with all the beautiful guys. Worked a treat! Please check out my multimedia autoBLOGography here people (I’m currently writing Chapter 10 and mixing the fifteenth song):
    http://www.thomtopham.wordpress.com/about

  159. Great writing! Not sure if it’s true, if any of it is, but I don’t care. I love what you wrote. Thanks for inspiring me to write more :)

  160. Reblogged this on Varun Bhanot and commented:
    An extraordinary perspective on a tragic and touching issue. Strongly recommend you read this at least once.

  161. the longest blog post I have ever ever read: business, personal art.. whatever, good writing and story. Glad it was told.

    also liked these sentences (bit on the tangent but good)
    But then was not now. Then was 1995, and we were 14, and our school was a great big battleship ferrying 1,400 souls to maturity, a journey our principal would later tell us, in our miniature graduation gowns, was ‘the hardest three years of your life.’ Hugs, understanding, save that shit for after the storm. Right now, you need to keep from capsizing.

  162. Fabulous story! :) Loved reading it. Keep writing :)

  163. sk

    Wow. Excellent. Thank you.

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  165. It’s a talent to make prose sound like poetry. Awesome.

  166. Read this a few days ago but didn’t leave a comment. Incredible talent, great story, very well written. Couldn’t stop reading even though I was at work and was supposed to be doing other things. Thanks for sharing.

  167. Brilliantly written and captivating :) Loved it!!!

  168. I hope Tracy reads this.

    Very captivating story. I had a boyfriend in the 9th grade who turned out to be gay. I wasn’t surprised really when I moved back to my hometown later in highschool to find that out. Classmates even started to make fun of me for “turning him gay” but it didn’t last very long because I ignored it. I knew it wasn’t true and felt it the whole time in our relationship. I only felt sorry for him but also happy that he was being honest with himself. Even so, one of his cousins appeared to love hating me, she was the biggest accuser of “turning him gay” and directed all her anger at me.

    She convinced herself that his heartbreak over me breaking it off before moving away made him gay, going on about how he loved me so much my name and letters were drawn and plastered all over his bedroom walls as decoration. He was a really nice guy though. I hope he’s very happy and probably would have enjoyed his friendship more after he came out than the fake, over-stated thing we were doing before. Might have even helped him fake it until he was ready to come out. Shoulda coulda woulda, right?

    Of course, he was never mean or crass either, but even if he were, if I were a Tracy, I’d forgive you.

  169. Hey, Mike. So sorry about the Barbie Dream House :) but just so you know enlightenment for a new generation of parents was just around the corner. When at 4 (1998) my son wanted a Barbie, he got one (though I was still reticent to his taking it for show-and-tell), and at 5, when he wanted to dress up as Mary Poppins for Halloween, he did (though not in the white lace outfit that she wore in his favorite scene of the movie). I was closeted at the time, but aware enough that I wanted more freedom for my children. We’re getting there, and writing like yours serves to illumine the path. Thank you.

  170. Beautifully written. Absolutely brilliant and honest.

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  172. This is breathtakingly honest. I truly loved it. I’m going to share it with my fiends :) thank you for sharing something so personal.

  173. You are an excellent writer. Very honest. The writing just “flows”… it’s a pleasure to read. Thank you.

  174. The thing that makes good writing so rare is the fact that good writing requires deep observation and personal honesty; it’s immensely personal. This is damn good writing. Thank you for having the guts to share it.

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  176. Reblogged this on dianeresian and commented:
    who would have thought

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  178. Brilliant post. Made me reflect on my own teenage demons and therefore features centrally in my own latest blog post. Thanks for the inspiration and well done on some great writing.

  179. Jenna

    Wow, this should be published and made into a book. Good job :)

  180. Dina

    i have to say, this struck a chord with me. i always felt bitter at how straight guys took notice of me only because i was a prospective lay, while gay guys – despite calling to hang out and acting like friends – never really seem to see me or take interest in the person i am, just because they have no interest in me as a lay. it hurts doubly with gay men because I’ve always genuinely liked those of them i befriended, my hormones were never part of the equation.
    sorry for the gross generalisation though, it is just my experience.

  181. What a beautiful writer you are !!

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  192. MW

    so well-written. thank you for your honesty and articulation of middle school thoughts and the struggle you faced. i was brought up fairly strict baptist with a general intolerance of homosexuality. it was only when i met my husband (i was 23) and realized that my intolerance was actually born out of fear. it was more comfortable for me, in my environment then, to turn away from and judge homosexuality. no one understood – nor wanted to – understand it. i have found a way to love each and every person, no matter their sexuality, just as our Lord instructs us to. its not anyone’s job to judge, only love.

  193. Thank you for sharing your experience so beautifully and honestly. I loved this piece. I thought this realization was especially poignant: “there’s no such thing as hiding who you are, there’s only becoming someone else.” Thank you for showing us readers a little bit of who you really are through your amazing writing.

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  196. Shekh rabbani

    Well done! Very nice article.

  197. Carson

    Wow great writin skills.
    I suck at language arts.
    I’m the robotics kid that could build a rocket in a garage in half an hour an then go to football
    In fact I have a solar powered bug made of extra lighting fixtures wire and about a ton of hot glue lol
    I’m tall skinny straight and in 8th grade.
    I love this story

    keep righting your gifted or something

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  199. Charlie Birnie

    Oh my gosh…this is so sad, you should send this to Tracy’s brother on Facebook.

  200. Well I’m sure they learned from your mistakes, just as you did. I’m sure those you hurt, hurt others, and those you used, used others too. We all end up who we are through trial and error. I came out in ninth grade and my best friend’s older sister, a sophomore became pregnant and had a baby. I doted on the baby, I loved her so much. One day the baby lay sleeping in my arms and the mom said something like: I don’t know if want you touching my baby, who knows what you might do to her. For the next decade I carried on thinking people would think I was child molester because I was lesbian. I was out to friends, but with employers, people with children, I was in closet and wouldn’t even look at other people’s children. People were shocked to hear that I wanted children because I always appeared so distant and disinterested. The older sister and I reconnected several years ago and are good friends today; her daughter just turned 21. Shortly after we reconnected, I learned her best friend was a lesbian. We drunk and reminiscing one night when I recalled the story and the effect it has on my earlier years (I’ve been long over it now) and she ran out of the bar crying and horrified she had said such a thing. I didn’t mean for it to have that effect, as I can laugh about it now.

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  205. I have to say that your story came from an interesting perspective. This is the type of thing that we only hear about, but never really see. It’s somewhat of a ‘hush, hush’ type of thing. Great story though, nonetheless. Well done! It takes a lot of courage to talk about something buried so deeply inside that you’ve become someone else.

  206. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    Mike, This is magnifique. Really, really liked it. Just fantastic.

    Cheers!

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  210. This is like, perks of being a wallflower novel :)

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  212. Restless Wanderer

    Very intricate and detailed…loved reading your story..

  213. ‘I wanted to tell you that you had beaten me on Ms. Hughes’s final by one point and I was proud of you. That your brother turned out to be a nice guy, maybe even a friend. That the University of Colorado has a great medical school. That every time I saw you hunched over your notebook during breaks, I wanted to come over to see what you were writing. That I had read two Tom Clancy books this year and they both sucked.’

    Fantastic writing, makes me want to stop writing if this is what people produce elsewhere.

  214. Have to admit I’m a little jealous that you knew you were gay so early on. Certainty has its value; everyone wants it. I straddle the fence and never know which way the wind will blow.

    The story is chock full of great details and constructions that make every word significant, yet all the characters—including yourself—never become shadowed by the language. Everyone is present.

    I won’t compile a list here, but suffice it to say that the school/battleship metaphor subtly smacked me in the face, as did many other details. But overall, your simple honesty, sincerity, and well-grounded writing inspire me. I’m going to read it again and again.

    All the best, Russ Wollman

  215. posted this in my fb page Bangszaldivar because I just love how you wrote it…hugs to you.

  216. I couldn’t say more.. this is the first long blog story that I’ve read, I hope you do well in your life :)
    bless you all from Indonesia

  217. ringomori

    I really enjoyed reading this! Wow!!! You are a great storyteller!

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  219. i’m also gay and knew it ever since i was in 2nd grade! And i love that “there’s no such thing as hiding who you are, there’s only becoming someone else.”
    Kudos!

  220. You are an excellent writer ! Your story are so captivating. Keep up the good work :)

  221. Thank you for sharing this extraordinary account, and for having the present-day courage to face your not-so-courageous past. It brings my own petty high school (read: middle school) tribulations into stark perspective. Thanks again – you have a new follower.

  222. This was amazing.

    I remember when I reading the clan of the cavebears starting maybe around 5th grade. Reading about Ayla… at first I thought I wanted to be like her, then I realized I wanted to be with her. Your story reminds me so much of how it was for me realized I was a lesbian.

    So funny how one book could be so many kids introduction to sex, and then into their own sexualities. Thank you for this post. It reminded me of the bitter sweetness of middle school.

  223. Reblogged this on Becoming The Capitalist and commented:
    I have had a secret here on Becoming The Capitalist since it’s creation nearly 2 months ago.

    My secret is simple: I am not like 80-90% of the rest of the population. I am a girl who likes girls. I am a girl who goes to an all women’s college filled with other girls who also in turn like girls.
    All of my life I’ve liked boy things. I wanted to invest in the stock market, program computers, build legos, and topple block tower. I never wanted to dress up, I never wanted to play house, I never was the little girl my mother always wanted. I didn’t sing or dance, or love make up. I wasn’t the child my parents had wanted to adopt. I wasn’t the little girl that would bring my mother the satisfaction of a mini-me.

    I remember when I was little maybe 3-5 I wanted to play baseball so bad. I used to lock myself in my room and cry because my mother wouldn’t let me, she wouldn’t let me play any sports because if I wasn’t going to sing and dance I sure as H*ll wasn’t going to do anything else. My father had been a competitive pitcher in his youth and when my mother wasn’t looking would sneak me out to play catch but I could never have enough. It wasn’t that I wanted to be a boy, it was simply that I wanted to build and climb I wanted to seek and explore. Of course all of those things have far less if anything to do with gender and are entirely related to societal norms. I don’t know that boy things or girl things are related at all to being lgbtq, but they were for me and for many of my lesbian and gay friends.

    Sometimes when reading personal finance, economics, or investing blogs I begin to feel isolated. There are men talking about managing a household and women talking about saving money on cooking dinner for their families. Is there no where on this planet where I can escape gender norms?

    Anways I am coming out of the closet today. I am a lesbian, and I am blogging about finance, and I don’t have kids (I’m 21) nor do I want to play mommy. I don’t want to be a housewife. I want to work in the tech industry, wear jeans, and play tennis (you’ll never catch me in a tennis skirt). I recognize finances are different for lgbtq couples and I hope to go into that more in the future.

    So here it is. I’m gay, I’m proud, and I’m not going anywhere. If you want to keep reading about personal finance, economics, and money written by a woman who loves women, and doesn’t want to talk about raising children and packing lunches read on, subscribe, and know that I love you.

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