Hello and welcome to another edition of Autostraddle’s College Lesbianage: a glimpse of college life through the wide eyes of six freshly fallen snowflake first-year queers. This month’s update finds our Lesbianagelings finishing up their finals and heading back to their homelands. What have they learned about the world and themselves during this first semester of college?
New Year, same me. This is the one where I should talk about my New Year’s Resolutions and how college has made me a different person, but I haven’t made any New Year’s Resolutions and I don’t intend to. Last year’s were things like “go to college,” “maybe make friends or something?,” “don’t cry,” and they were resolutions in name, not intent.
The only thing I can think to Resolve is to do more things. I don’t mean that in the sense of time value or number or words on my resume, I’m plenty busy (bordering on too busy). I mean the little things. When you do improv (or if you’ve read Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which you should) the first thing they teach you is to Always Say Yes. “Yes, and…” is the key phrase. My goal is to say “Yes, and…” more often. The few things I’ve regretted this year were missed opportunities that I could have taken. “Do you want to come out tonight?” I’m learning to say yes and trust that I have good people around who will look out for me. “Do you want to trade papers?” I earned my place in this school and I don’t need to be ashamed of my work. “Do you want to take on [leadership role]?” I have the skills to do this job, and if I mess up, I have people who will help me. Yes, yes, and yes.
This is becoming more of a credo than a New Year’s Resolution, but suffice to say I am lucky to be happy and confident enough to start letting myself do things I want to do, not just quietly learning the ropes. Four years is pretty short when you think about how much there is to do, and there is no time for me to waste when I could be having fun.
Quick life update – four days after writing my last article, I was in the home stretch of finals and three of my favorite people left in the same day. I was behind on my work and low on sleep and somehow managed to develop a weird case of separation anxiety that morning, so at 9am after the first person left I found myself curled on her empty bed sobbing uncontrollably into her roommate’s shoulder. She made me peach tea and we ate cold pizza for breakfast and talked until I stopped sniffling. This kindness made me sad because she was leaving at 6pm, but I had work to do so I went down the hall back to my room.
I went back to my room and packed and wrote with intermittent visits from friends who had come in response to a pitiful Facebook status. Two first years came to chat for 30 minutes. A senior who I deeply admire came by and silently read a book just to keep me company for over an hour as I finished my Philosophy final. I typed the last few words and screamed DONE, and she closed her book and hugged me and went back to her room. Less than a minute later, my roommate came home from her night out and we finished cleaning and had a fantastic last night.
The next morning, I slept through my alarms and woke up two hours later than I had hoped, about the time that I needed to be in a cab on my way to the airport. I turned in my final without rereading it and made it to the plane and back to Minnesota. When I walked through the door of my mom’s new house, I saw my cat, screamed, dropped my bag, and burst into tears. I didn’t let go of him until he bit me in the arm.
I love being home, and despite the terrible last 24 hours I had at Wellesley, I can’t wait to go back. Ten days from the day I write this article, I’ll be back in my room with my people and the lamp posts I love so much.
This winter vacation has gone on far too long. I’ve been back for a little over a month and the novelty and charm of home has completely run out. To combat the period of my life I’d like to call l’interminable l’ennui (stealing from you, Paul Verlaine), I’ve been given the responsibility of taking care of myself and my sister for the next few days while my parents are out of town. I’ve found that throughout this break my responsibilities at home have increased twofold. I arrived at home thinking that I was a visitor and did nothing but sit on the couch, sleep until noon and watch reruns of Chopped because that’s how I roll. Now because of a number of incidents over which I had no control, I find myself in loco parentis. And let me just say, it’s hard out here for an eighteen-year-old posing as a parent even if it is just for a few days.
I think we need to talk about how much I don’t want to grow up. To me, adult life is like if Magnolia and American Beauty had a baby—it seems mundane and disappointing. And I know, it doesn’t have to be that way but I’ve seen one too many flustered and sad-looking moms or too many dysfunctional families at the airport to make me excited about growing up and having a family. Perhaps I’ll live alone with a dog and eat ice cream for dinner.
Being outside of the Vassar bubble – or just the bubble of college life in general – is scary and feels altogether foreign. When I come home I feel like an adult, having only a hint of understanding of what that actually means. When I see my past mentors or teachers, I must appear like an adult to them. I present myself with an air of maturity and politely answer whatever questions they have asked. All of this, however, is an act—I’m just an imposter in the adult world. Eventually I will retreat back to Poughkeepsie where my Holden Caulfield syndrome will continue to develop and infest the rest of my body. I’ll go back inside the bubble where I will be safe, cuddling with a certain special someone.
I pulled the wrapping paper from the corner, tearing around the writing (“To Kelsey, Merry Christmas, Love Grandma and Grandpa”) until it slid off, revealing the book’s cover: In One Person, by John Irving. “This is the book that you told me Grandpa read,” I said to my mother. “The one about the man who’s bisexual.”
Although I’m not completely in the closet to my extended family, I’ve never come out to most of them. Other than one cousin, to whom I announced my sexuality abruptly at the dinner table last year, I’ve chosen to say nothing but not purposely keep my sexuality a secret. If my family finds out through Facebook, or through my mother talking to them, I’m fine with that; I’m just too scared to start the conversation. I know that all of my family would accept me, but there’s something inherently scary about revealing something as personal as your sexuality, even if you think you know what the reaction will be. So I try to not think too much about what I’m not saying and tell myself that, when (hopefully) I get a girlfriend, I’ll use that opportunity to come out.
My grandparents both know I’m queer, and I’m fine with that. They haven’t treated me differently and I never thought that they would, but we haven’t talked about it. Mostly I’m glad that I’m not the one who came out to them. Choosing not to talk about it means that I have to infer their acceptance from their actions instead of hearing it firsthand. Before Christmas, those actions were all negative: the lack of prejudice, the lack of ostracization. But looking at the cover of In One Person, it felt as if my grandparents were sending me a message, saying, “We know you’re queer and it’s okay. We accept you for who you are.”
I still haven’t talked to my grandparents about my sexuality, and I can only hope that I’ll be brave enough to do so one day. But I’m not worried about being brave enough right now because I know they’ll love me regardless.
What I’ve noticed during winter break is that I think about my sexuality a lot more at home than I do at Bryn Mawr. Of course, my sexuality is an important part of my identity no matter where I am, and I spend a lot of time at Bryn Mawr talking about queer-related things, but there my sexuality makes me feel the same as so many people and at home, it makes me feel different. So even though I am not looking forward to doing homework after a month off, I cannot wait to go back in three days.
One other thing I want you to know about my winter break:
1) I got a ukulele for Christmas. It’s awesome.
The University of North Carolina Greensboro
I’m back at school, straddlers! And ready for another semester and another round of ass-kicking.
Christmas break was absolutely wonderful—I got to spend inordinate amounts of time with my girlfriend and my family, including my mother’s side of the family, whose annual Christmas party has been affectionately nicknamed the “drunk Christmas party.” We give cases of beer and lottery tickets as gifts, and every year instead of a nice dinner we have a pig pickin’. I’m not kidding. A whole pig goes on the barbecue, and my relatives stand around and fight over who gets to eat the ribs. This year, I’m proud to say, I finally got ribs—and so did Rachel, who can suck a rib bone surprisingly dry for a British girl. We had a great time, no one cared that she’s my girlfriend (tolerance in North Carolina! Amazing), and all of my relatives have turned into the cast of Duck Dynasty.
For Christmas, I got some really, really wonderful gifts, including a little teapot with a built-in infuser, owl-shaped bookends, a bike for getting around campus, and best of all, permission to have a private room on campus next year. I’m completely stoked and already ready for next fall to get here.
The rest of my winter break was great, if uneventful. I spent New Year’s with Rachel and got kissed at midnight for the first time, saw Les Miserables twice and cried my heart out both times, went on a spontaneous date to see Seven Psychopaths (which was absolutely amazing), and am now in bed catching up on the absolutely addictive Downton Abbey. This semester’s going to be busy but great, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.
I walked into the tattoo studio, confident that I was just there for my friend who was getting her third tattoo. But forty-five minutes after our arrival I was lying on a chair getting my first tattoo. I had thought about getting a tattoo after the new year, but the idea was never solid until the very moment in the studio when my friend asked “do you want to get yours now?” Initially, I wanted to ask the artist if he could come up with a little sketch of a simple idea I had in mind so that I could come back some other time after some thought, but his sketch was spot-on and I knew it was only a matter of time before I would get it so I took the opportunity to have it done. It’s a simple un-filled outline of a dog, Karenin, from Milan Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Though getting the tattoo was the most significant part of my winter break, something equally notable happened before the break started. A few days before I left for Thailand, a good friend of mine introduced me to her boss, who I had been eager to meet for a while because she seemed like an interesting person (and frankly, I thought she was incredibly attractive). I knew there was a chance we wouldn’t click because we’re involved in vastly different things; she co-owns and keeps herself busy with a waffle shop downtown and I’m a first-year student studying film. Much to my surprise and content, we hit it off the first time we hung out, talking and watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi (which I highly recommend). In short, we got to know each other quite well within a short amount of time and, knowing that I was leaving for a month, decided that it’s best if we kept in touch all the while and see where things go. And because she owns a waffle shop, I finally had the experience of being in a café after closing hours, which I’ve always wanted to do.
As much as I’d like to get back to Ithaca quickly, I know I will miss being in Bangkok more than I did before I left for Ithaca months ago. Being here, I got to meet and catch up with close friends from high school who had plenty to tell me about their own experiences. It’s heartwarming to know that despite the months we spend apart, we are still rooted to Bangkok and will continue to revisit the place. I also spent some time with my family, which didn’t sound like a very good idea to me initially, but worked out fine. We took a road trip to the northern part of Thailand, a place my mom was excited to visit. Above is a photo I took from a boat ride I had with my mom. The sun was setting right then and it was beautiful.
Currently, I’m recovering from a severe cold that I hope goes away in time for my flight back to Ithaca! Cheers.
I procrastinated terribly and did not start studying until three days before exam week began. Then, I spent the last three days before I left writing papers that I had saved for the last minute and having adventures with my friends. Continuing with the theme of procrastination, I failed to pack until forty-five minutes before I left campus. But it all worked out! I remembered to pack socks and all of the relevant chargers. For Christmas, I visited my Dad in Texas and got to spend time with my half-sisters.
Currently, I am back in Phoenix. Home is a weird in-between; I’ve gotten used to living on my own and having a lot of freedom. It’s a false freedom though—I’m still wholly dependent on my parents. Being back in Phoenix makes me feel like a high school student again. I’m tiptoeing around, trying to decide whether I should revert and ask permission to go hang out with friends, or assert my independence and just leave the house when I want to. That felt rude, so I asked before going to go see Les Miserables (which, by the way, made me bawl like a child).
We also have a new puppy! Her name is Daisy.
She was deceptively laid back in the shelter and even fell asleep in my lap as we tried to figure out what to name her. Currently she’s sprinting back and forth in the living room, biting everything she can get her teeth on. We’ve started training her; at eight weeks old, she knows how to ring a bell to go outside and how to sit. We’re working hard to keep her from biting people, but fingers make really great chew toys for a teething puppy. And let me tell you, it’s not cute. She’s an amazingly strong pit bull who will only get stronger. Learning not to bite everything in sight is imperative.
Something else that bucks the norm: I am sleeping on the sofa. My girlfriend, who is here for the week, currently occupies my bed. (We’re pretending that we never share a bed back at Wellesley.) We’ve spent each day outside doing something active, and each evening crafting. I’m working on a cross-stitch for my dorm wall that reads “Homo Sweet Homo”. My next project is another cross-stitch for my door, which will read “Itty Bitty Kitty Committee”. My girlfriend just finished crocheting me a tiny hippo and is now knitting a neck warmer. We’ve baked cookies, walked around my neighborhood, played tennis and watched a few movies. She makes me feel very, very domestic. Today Phoenix was upwards of sixty degrees, so we hiked the Gateway Loop, holding hands the whole way. It’s 4.4 miles, and at the highest point, you can see across the valley.
I’m looking forward to getting back to campus. As much as I love this summery weather, it’s January. I want to be frolicking in the snow and cuddling with my friends, who I sorely miss.