Were We Ever So Young: A Retro High School Deep Dive with Tegan and Sara

If you experienced your baby gay years, regardless of your actual calendar age, in the 2000s your adolescence may well have been set to the soundtrack of Tegan and Sara. Whether it was the yearning of I just want back in your head, the codependent confusion of Are you alright, can you get me off your mind? or the uncut dopamine rush of Well, I know what I want and what I want’s right here with you. It was the perfect score to so many of our teenage angst, obsession, identity questions and debilitating crushes.

There’s a reason Tegan and Sara seemed to know more about what was going on in your head than you did — it came from their own teenage angst, obsession, and everything that comes with it. It’s all detailed in HIGH SCHOOL, where Tegan and Sara take turns in alternating chapters opening up about their struggles with identity and sexuality, their parents’ divorce, and their relationship as sisters and musicians. It’s the origin story of Tegan and Sara – and also a personal reveal about how the trajectory toward global gay superstardom also has plenty of room for being teenaged, confused, and questioning.

Inspired by their vulnerability and the powerful throwback energy of high-school-age Sara and Tegan, we’ve cracked open our own high school diaries to show you our deepest, darkest, gayest secrets and send a little love and perspective back through time on who we’ve been.


Malic

2003/2004

A New Chapter: Anyone who reads (hehe) beyond this point will be forever cursed by my hatred for them. I beg of you, do not read.

2004

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I’m beginning to think that I don’t just like [redacted]. I love her. It seems as though I never stop thinking about her. She turns up in all my dreams. Every morning I wake up thinking about how I can’t wait to see her. [redacted] is so beautiful. She has the most gorgeous, sot hair and killer eyes. I mean *amazing* eyes. They’re blue-green like the color of lake water. Her skin is so *soft* too. The rest of her body is incredible to say the least. I’ll just say that she’s well-endowed, and the things that have been endowed upon her are… great.

2005

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The concert was beyond-belief AMAZING! I loved watching the fans. They all dressed like punk hippies. Apparently that’s how you’re supposed to look for the occasion of an Ani concert. There were all the groups of college girls there, all wearing tie-dye, all going on about Ani. I envied them. I love my friends, I really do, but some days I wish I could be with a group of people like me.


Drew

2010

See full poem.

Getting

And so I decided to forget you
To place you in that little compartment
Deep, deep
In the back of my mind

To reject myself
And save you the trouble
To erase non-existent memories
And remember the real ones

This worked for awhile
For a day or a year
Forgetting, always forgetting
Actively erasing

I guess I hadn’t counted on you talking again
Or smiling again
Or laughing again
But it seems you did
And I did too

You know I’m thinking about forgetting you
Really this time
Really forget
I wish you wouldn’t forget me though
I really wish you’d remember me

Unfortunately for me, and maybe now for you, my high school journal writing took the form of poetry. I had a lot of feelings and cataloguing my day-to-day in prose simply couldn’t capture them. I wish I could say the poems were good, and maybe one or two were, but most of them were very, very bad. Most of them were angsty love poems. Instead of choosing one of the maybe good ones, I’m going to be brave and share one of the very bad ones. You’re welcome.

Drew, 2019

Valerie

2005

See full entry.

Godspell was absolutely amazing. By far the best show I’ve ever been in, ever. I thought nothing could top Crazy for You — boy was I wrong. I’m going to miss every single person in that cast, even the ones I only met this year like Jacqui. I feel like I’ve known her forever and it’s only been 3 months. And Stacy. We’ve been buds since we were the gate together in The Wiz. Love that chick. I feel like we got closer this year than any other year, but I don’t really know why or how to explain it. She called me today! It was exciting. In free today, we went to confession and Mike was there and we must have made a bajillion Godspell references while we waited, then discussed whether heaven had levels like basements and penthouses. After Mike got out of confession he called me and Stacy lesbians (again) and said he wanted to get in on it (still/again) so we tried to send him back into confession. “Bless me father, for I have sinned, it’s been… TWO MINUTES.” Far too much fun for a chapel, let me tell ya. “When you get to heaven you’ll be blessed — yes, it’s all for the best.”

If I had to make a quick guess, I’d say at least 50% of my high school journal(s) involve talking about the things I loved about the girls I knew. This entry happened toward the end of my senior year, when all of the gay feelings I had been trying to tamp down since eighth grade were finding new and exciting ways to bubble up all the time. For example, in my obsession with the varsity girls’ volleyball team. It’s funny, because though I wouldn’t have been caught dead admitting it at the time, it’s clear to me now reading this entry back that despite my attempts to hide it, even from myself, the queerness was seeping out of my pores. “I don’t really know why or how to explain it.” I’m so sure. Also boys very rarely make an appearance in these high school musings, and when they do they’re either an awkward attempt to sound how I thought teenage girls “should” sound when they talk about boys (it’s embarrassing), or to relay stories like this. I do remember this vividly though, the two times Mike made a joke that Stacy and I were lesbians. Both times, his sleazy follow-up question was an easy out of the conversation and a great way to distract myself from the way my heart sped up at the mere suggestion.

PS. Can you tell I went to a Catholic School?

Valerie, 2019

Christina

2006

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So this time period right now is a very strange one, in which I should be applying to college and writing essays, but I’m honestly just sitting down and like… thinking about what I want to do. It’s very strange. And refreshing. I mean, everyone seems to be on this notion that I’m only applying to art school, but let’s be real — I’m not just good at photography. I love reading, writing, and analyzing things to the point where I just don’t care anymore. That feeling when you just sit down and write things, thoughts, feelings. I can’t pretend that I’m all about photography just because I went to Millstreet and did AP Studio.

I guess I’m just in a “what does it all mean” phase that everyone goes through around this time of life… it’s just harder than I thought it would be. And now that swimming is over, I can’t pretend that I’m busy… because duh, I do nothing.

Swimming is over. I guess it’s one of those “hindsight is 20/20” things, because it’s NEVER meant this much to me. And now I see the girls I saw every day and I realize that we don’t travel in the same circles and I mostly won’t get to see them. I can’t even think about not hanging out with Mel and Jen. Mel has become one of those people I will trust no matter what, I know I can tell her pretty much anything and she will listen to me/give me advice that is REAL. And not getting to see her every day, not joking around with her, not making fun of her is… hard. Yeah, hard is the word. Wow, I just reread that and I sound like I am in LOVE with Mel. Well, I do love her, just DEF not in the way I made it sound.

Going through my old journal was a truly eye-opening experience. Well, more of a “wishing my eyes were tightly closed so I could avoid this full body embarrassment,” kind of experience, I suppose. There were entries aplenty to choose from, including one that said in all caps “JACK JOHNSON IS LIFE,” but this one from the fall of my senior year was filled with the right mix of doubt and pseudo deep thoughts. I don’t think it needs to be said, but just in case — yes, I was 100% in love with my swim coach.

Christina, 2019

Sarah

April 15, 2003 (7:30)

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I tried not to talk about Catherine [Zeta-Jones] today but it was pretty hard! On Friday night after school me, Beth, Keva, and Kaitlin are going to have our Zetathon! =) I thought up the cool idea of making souvenir tees! I think that would be soo cool! Like get pics of the movies we watched and write “Zetathon 2003” on them and on the back it’s going to have the movies we watched. Haha, I’m excited! We might buy fabric paint too, and rhinestones. LMAO! That would be so great! I wake up every day thinking about Catherine. It’s really scary! I don’t know if I’m a pyschopath. Oh well. I hope no one ever finds this, they’re going to think I’m a complete loser! – Sarah (7:35)

This was about a month into my obsession with Catherine Zeta-Jones. I had somehow convinced all my friends to skip school and watch a bunch of her movies [the Zetathon]. About three months later I found myself writing a very, erm, detailed erotic fan fiction about CZJ that finally helped me come out to myself. Listen, being gay is a journey and we all get there eventually.

Sarah, 2019

Heather

October 15, 1995

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Today was the first day of conditioning. I said I would take Craig’s advice and not come in cocky even though I’ve been training on this course all summer and cross country season. I stayed behind Kristi the entire time because she prides herself on being the most in shape. At the road drop-off I came out right behind her. She stopped — very winded. I stopped too (not winded). I said “shit whooo” like I was tired. She snapped at me not to cuss so I just laughed and ran my own pace back. By the time she got back to the track, I’d done a full extra mile. It was cocky, I know that. She was furious. I hate Whatever. I don’t know why I should pretend to be worse than her to make her feel better. I trained all summer while you were out doing God knows what with your boyfriend – sorry?

Shot around about an hour after with the boys team. 4 on Andy, 6 on Blake, 2 on Michael.

If I hear one more thing about homecoming, I’m going to puke.

When I look back at my middle school, high school, and college journals, the things they have in common are: 1) I was completely tortured by my inability/unwillingness to understand/accept I’m gay, and 2) the only way I knew how to define myself was by how I compared to other people at sports. My journals are just hundreds and hundreds of pages of me listing how many points I scored at this thing, how fast I ran that thing, how many quarters I played, how many RBIs I hit, and how it was so much better than so-and-so. That and a kind of perpetual agony months before and months after every school dance or formal event. Like why couldn’t all my friends just agree not to go to the dance and we’d have a slumber party and brush each other’s hair and watch G.I. Jane again.

Heather, 2019

Riese

March 5, 1996

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The whole Aaron thing is completely unlike any other thing. It’s just that we are soulmates. I wonder if he realizes it — if he thinks about it. He must realize that there is something amazingly special about us — how we have so much in common (everything), how he loves the things I do — can do and how there are so many simple twists of fate that enabled us to become friends. It’s so meant to be. Lizzy asked me to sled today but I couldn’t because I saw Happy Gilmore w/ Kristyna and Erika.

March 12, 1996

I don’t like Aaron anymore. Hmmm… I just don’t. I lost interest. I am trying to get a summer job.

November 28, 1998

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I am not sure what I want to do with my life. At this moment, I am at John’s Dad’s house in Reno, Nevada, listening to symphony No. 3, first movement, by Grechi. John is reading “Paper Lantern” by Stuart Dybek, cuz I read it and loved it so much. Then I read two other short stories in the best contemporary short stories of 1996 book. I want to write like them. I’m good I mean — I do have talent. I want to write. I’ve nearly become dependent on the Interlochen program to continue to inspire me to write — on Delp’s pearls of wisdom to make my next poem or on the workshop to encourage my forthcoming stay. But I’m going to be a film major in college — is that what I want? I know it’s too early to worry; but I’m scared of doing something I might regret or choosing the wrong path – like if I don’t get in the game now, I’ll never be able to. I guess I have the rest of my life ahead of me – but I never figured I’d be so scared. You know what is great about John? He’s smart and he has knowledge on all sorts of things — there’s information below the surface, rather than just mental torment like it was with [redacted]. I feel like John is more on my level as far as — well — no — John brings me to a higher level — [redacted] is on my exact wavelength only he moves a little slower on it. He is a different side of me — perhaps the shallower side. I want John to like this story

February 15, 1999

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What a fucking weekend. It was overall going pretty low-key and cool until last night, me and I got drunk and her and J were flirting, and I went to the bathroom cuz I couldn’t handle it and me and I kissed a lot then we came out and she turned out the light and the three of us were making out. Eventually I withdrew cuz I didn’t feel like that towards J and it was awkward for me. It went back and forth — sometimes I’d just lay there, sometimes I’d join in, or sometimes I’d just kiss I. This is the second time that her and I have hooked up, and it sort of bothers me that when we talk about situations in which we hooked up, she’ll talk about everything except the me and her part. I’d just like to know what she thinks of our semi-abnormal relationship. I know that I like making out with I, but I am not sure why – I think I feel that we’re so close that it’s just a natural extension of our relationship. But I wonder what she thinks. I know that I’m straight, well — I think everyone is bisexual in some way — but she’s the only girl I’d ever get with, just cuz of our friendship, I’m aching to kiss/hold/fuck John right now.


Bailey

September 18

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SAM. That’s all. I just saw her and our chat was brief. She gets me all jiggly inside. All the boys were watching her.

September 22

I think I’m over Sam. Maybe she should stop texting me. It feels slightly awkward.

PLUS: A Little Bit Closer

Does Bailey want to be her or date her?
See Bailey’s full “Heroes Meets The L Word (part one)” Comic
See the full page of Bailey’s experience seeing Tegan and Sara in Manchester in 2007.

“Each show we played was amazing fun for all of us – thank you to the wonderful exuberant fans of Manchester who had us grinning through the first four songs. My left ear drum suffered greatly though! It rang bells in my head for three days after that show!” — Sara


Clearly we’re ready to go back to high school with Tegan and Sara – if you are too, you can order the book right now! Once you’re done, we wanna hear all your sweetest, most embarrassing and most adorable baby gay high school memories in the comments.

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21 Comments

  1. THESE ARE AMAZING

    Also when I finally found my diary from 9th grade I discovered the following passage:

    “Had a dream last night where I kissed Chelsea. Weird! In real life, I’ll stick to guys, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.”

    Then I blacked that dream out completely and, in my twenties, thought “how can I be gay if i’ve never even had a dream where I kissed a girl?”

    Bless my lil heart

  2. I’m always so impressed that you all can pull quotes from your childhood diaries! I was very paranoid about anyone ever reading mine and didn’t enjoy just recounting what had happened that day. (Also, I was very adamant that they were journals and not diaries and included notes on the covers explaining as much to anyone who should happen upon them.) And then in high school I burned/shredded a lot of the pages.

    I do, however, have all the letters from my pen pals. And when we switched to email I used to print every email I received and keep them in my letter box and I don’t think I ever purged those. So that should be interesting to sort through someday.

    Valerie, I really love “Bless me father, for I have sinned, it’s been two minutes since my last confession” and super love you made that kid go back in!

      • Yes this! Also burned some and buried the remains in multiple places throughout the garden.

        But also, the first time I had a crush on someone who wasn’t a boy, I thought it was just a friend crush, which was something I recognized and felt very familiar to me – friend crushes were a normal part of my life. I had an “oh shit” moment when I realized that nope, it was a crush crush. I wish I could go back and reanalyze all my so-called friend crushes in light of that realization. I have no memories of having crushes on girls/non-binary people prior to that point and I also don’t remember who I had friend crushes on either, just a memory of the feeling.

    • I hardly ever kept one and never wrote about any crushes, also for paranoia reasons: I knew I was bi and also that Good Girls Didn’t Think That Way (about anyone and double never super especially about girls). The girl who was occupied policing her gaze at every instant to make sure it never rested on another girl long enough to draw anyone’s faintest suspicion never even considered writing something incriminating anyone else might ever see.

      I did write something on our very old computer once about Deanna Troi’s uniform’s V-neck that I knew was showing too much interest to be safe, so I promptly deleted it.

      I just wanna give my younger self a hug and set her loose on all the LGBTQ historical info on this site.

  3. 1) all of you have such legible handwriting WHAT A WORLD

    2) every diary i tried to start as a child started with “i just read [insert title of my america book] and how cool will it be to read this in a hundred years!” and then that would be the only entry

    3) if i *did* write down my repressed baby queer thoughts it would be something like “i know everyone thinks the drumline guys are hot because they don’t wear shirts during drill, but molly is an AMAZING musician and she can load the entire front ensemble truck by herself as long as someone runs the lift! that’s way more impressive honestly”

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