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Nicknames and Lesbians and Dating Conversations

Screen shot 2014-06-10 at 8.11.31 PMMy wonderful friend Angie has an equally wonderful mom – who also happens to be opinionated about the strangest of things: like how names are spelled.

Names should be written out how they sound. No mysterious silent letters, no “J” when a “G” would do fine, just fine. So I told Angie about my second date with a friend of friend, she told me about her mom, and then through a series of giggling fits, the nickname “A-Ron” was born.*

Whilst at a local quasi-pub (they serve nuts and pastries along with their booze, that makes them pubby, right?), A-Ron and I got distracted from whispering pub-quiz when answers to each other (I really hope my knowledge of “Californium” and “Lilly Allen” was endearing). We got distracted because I decided to bring up the fact that in high school and my first year of college, many people thought I was a lesbian and it gave me a fear that everyone would (until I was about 25 and realized I didn’t actually care if that’s what people thought). 

A-Ron, being a polite individually, incredulously asked how this came to be. Here’s how:

As a free-love, hippie-influenced teenager, I spent a fair amount of non-class time hanging out with long-haired girls and boys on the high school soccer field, lying in the grass like pillows flopped on top of one another. Rather than be joined at the hip, my best friend and I instead were joined at the hand, tugging each other through the hall ways, strolling through the quad, saying thoughts we’d assumed no person had ever had before and generally being silly.

So yes, pretty much everyone at my high school assumed I was a lesbian (except the boys I was busy making out with off school property).

Fast-forward to freshman year of college, when my So-Cal conservative roommate stopped speaking to me about three weeks into the first quarter of school. Not sure if I’d done something offensive, like snored or listened to celtic rock too loudly, I waited for her to cool off. She never did, instead barely speaking to me, rarely giving me phone messages, and generally treating me like I was not a person or didn’t exist (the latter was preferable).

She also started changing behind her closet door.

Nine months later, I transferred to another room for the last three weeks of classes. Another girl who lived in my hall finally told me something that would have been helpful to know 40 weeks prior: a teacher from my high school had a daughter attending the same college as me. That daughter met my roommate the third week of college. That daughter proceeded to “warn” my roommate that I was a lesbian.**

And suddenly, all the dots were connected.

The second I told A-Ron this story, I felt raw. See, I hate this story. I hate that it happened, I hate that I let my roommate treat me so badly for so long, I hate that I didn’t confront her about it, and I hate thinking there’s a chance some teacher out there deeply needed to warn my roommate about me (because frankly, that is just sad). Even though this story is old and irrelevant, the way something that happened a decade ago just is, it’s still my story.

Almost ashamed, I looked down at my drink and took an elongated sip. A-Ron patted my leg and said, “So, that means you’re not a lesbian, right?”

“Right,” I replied.

“Cool.” And then we laughed one hell of a lot, and I remembered why I love strangers. You can tell them your story, but in their eyes, your story is not who you are. Who you are is who is sitting in front of them, laughing, discussing where you’ve traveled and being bad at trivia (should have mentioned all the topics I couldn’t answer questions on, like South American geography, 80’s rock and identifying celebrities based on their mouths).

Your past is just something that happened once.

*Ed note: It does not take much to get a nickname from girls. It doesn’t even take a date.

**”Warn” is the term my friend used when telling me this story – whether this was a warning or an observation, I’ll probably never know.

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