Written by Mia Jiménez (they/them/theirs)
Mia is a Sarah Lawrence College undergraduate student and will graduate in May, 2020 with a focus in Writing and Literature.
I was a gawky-bodied sixth grader when my friend told me I should have a crush on a boy named Quinton. I saw him in the hallway with his big freckled smile and a mop of brown curls on his head. He seemed normal to me. I continued my crushes on mean boys named Will or Justin. In eighth grade, I had a handful of classes with Quinton, and this is when I actually began talking to him. He was super sweet, he was funny, and was one of those popular kids who was kind to everyone without needing a reason to be. I remember sitting next to him in a bunch of classes and the comfort in so easily finding a friend in him. I was so used to boys needing some reason to even give you attention at all. By that time, they were already asking me for nudes, or wanted to keep me up at night on Aim trying to guess who they had a crush on. (Instant messenger, anyone?) All of a sudden, there was this nice, really cute boy, who would joke with me about how ridiculous a group of girls were acting or help me on the math homework during study hall or pretend to look over my shoulder when I was doodling. When I think about these things now it’s so clear to me that my liking/longing was in having a male friend who was just sincerely a nice person.
Quinton made fun of how obsessed I was with Justin Bieber and drew mustaches on the pictures I’d tape all over my folder. I was really into writing long notes to my friends and once – after I probably annoyed him very much into doing so – he wrote me a full page-long note! (Literally, a sweetheart!!!) Now when I think about it, I had friends at the time who really did the exact same, but they were girls. I held girls to the standard of being nice while I didn’t expect the same from male counterparts. A girl could have kissed me on the cheek and I would’ve thought it was them being nice. But if a boy so much as said hi to me in the hallway, I would daydream about them. Would they be okay with the fact that my family wasn’t a family reunion-having/lake house-owning kind of family? Did their last name make my first name sound better? (A racial/socioeconomic lens for a whole other essay.) So of course young me, raised on Taylor Swift and suburbia, thought this meant I was head over heels for this guy.
The crush on him was the crush I had on the pretty girls who played traveling soccer and had perfectly curled hair – I so badly wanted to be friends with them. I wanted them to want me around! I saw it as approval. If they wanted to be around me or laugh at my jokes, it meant that I was good or interesting or worth someone’s time.
Fast forward a bit, and teenage me made my feelings known on many embarrassing and obvious occasions through the years (YEARS, oh my god) which he always handled so kindly, and knowing how sensitive I was, I retroactively thank him for letting me down easy. There’s a reason why I’m digging through my middle school closet: I’m in my third year of college and in the past year especially, I’ve learned so much about the complexities of my queer identity, and how my crush on Quinton, specifically, informed my understanding of my own identity.
I identify as queer; I’m a genderqueer person who has crushes on everyone, but I can pretty much visualize myself in a serious relationship with anyone but a cis-man.
In the past year, I met a girl who changed everything I thought I knew about love. As soon as I saw her, I knew this crush was different. I still can’t really explain how I felt it from the beginning. I just knew that I didn’t want to mess this up, whatever “this” was. The more our relationship grew from texting, flirting, and eventually hooking up, to actually telling each other things that were under the surface, I got really scared and retreated into myself more than a few times. I have a few people in my life who I refer to as ex-es, but none in retrospect were given what they needed to be secure relationships. They were on-again, off-again flings that made me feel awful about asking for love. Whether it was time or distance or being open, I realized that being with Sarina was the first time I was experiencing a relationship that I could share and was allowed to feel safe in. I was (am) an equal.
It would dawn on me when I was flying to her city instead of my own with not even the slightest fear that she’d flake on me. When we were going out and her friends had already heard about me, I wasn’t surprised. I was more concerned with wanting to be liked by them. This wasn’t even nearly something I’d dealt with before, and here I was, anxiety meds in my overnight bag, putting more faith in someone than I ever had before and not only coming out unscathed, but really happy. Besides the obvious difference of feeling a whole new feeling in my tummy when we kissed, there were so many other reasons I realized that this safe feeling of love was something I was searching for all before. She makes fun of the way I peel a grapefruit, and I make fun of her for wearing one pair of pants. She also buys my favorite snacks when I’m staying at her place for the weekend, and I pack her favorite baseball hat when she forgot to throw it in her suitcase. Love is many things, and the one I fall for every time is simply paying attention.
I didn’t know it was possible to be with someone and not have an anxiety attack before every time you were going to see them. To be able to voice my fears, to talk and not worry about being boring, to ask her to wake me up with a FaceTime call and never feel like I was asking for too much, to tell her about the time I cried while walking alone at night and not making it a big deal. Through queer love, I am no longer hunting for the permission to be myself.
I guess this is all to say that I probably went through more heartache than necessary in trying to call things “love” for people who made it seem so difficult to reciprocate. The security and warmth I feel from Sarina echoes back to a crush I had when I was thirteen, and a sweet boy who was probably the only crush I had on a boy that made me feel this specific way. A lover isn’t just cute. They take you with your rambles and confusions and weird obsessions, they tease but listen, and like my imaginary friend Carly Rae Jepsen says, they “make time for you.”