The Real Problem
CW: homophobia, fat-shaming, ableism
I sat quietly in the cafeteria eating my fries as I pretended to listen to Sarah tell me and Mara how her and her boyfriend had met, his name, and how amazing and important he has been in her life. She always told the story like it was the first time she would be telling it. Unbeknownst to them, I had zoned out, for the moment she mentioned her boyfriend I knew that the only way she was going to stop was if someone stopped her or if she found a more interesting topic or person to talk about. Part of me, though, was worried about when she would stop talking, and that part of me silently prayed that her mouth would complain of fatigue and she would give it some rest. I definitely didn’t want her to end with her favorite epic finish line or her literal punch line to me, which she always served on a silver platter making it seem completely harmless, but even Mara could see that it was a loaded gun.
Before I could step in or drop a word about the weather or tell her how beautiful she looked in her white dress, she tapped me and asked, "Oh and Clara, when are you going to get a boyfriend?" She said it like boyfriends were fruits which could be plucked from trees or ornaments necessary to authorize membership in the “normal teenage girls” club. With a bored expression on my face and reigning in the giant urge to roll my eyes, I gently explained to her like I had more than a hundred times before that, "I haven't found anyone I truly like”.
As if that wasn't hard enough, Mara tapped me and looked at me sheepishly and said, almost in a cracked voice, “It’s okay if you are a lesbian. We are your friends and we are here for you.” It would have been okay if this was the first time we were having this kind of conversation and not the six hundred sixty-sixth time. Even after I had told them over and over again that I was straight and definitely not into girls, I couldn't help but wonder if they truly thought I was a lesbian and I was just afraid to come out because of the discrimination I might get from people in school.
I guess I can’t blame them. I was voted most beautiful for our class awards four times in a row, so you can guess how many boys have asked me out only for me to turn them down for the singular reason of not being into them. Among all the boys who have asked me out, the two whom are still close friends of mine are Mike and Jerry. I liked Mike because he was cute and smart. Jerry because of his angelic voice — but I wasn’t sexually attracted to any of them, and that is, to me, important in having a boyfriend.
Lately though I have been walking home with my next door neighbour Matthew whose family just moved in. He is smart and funny. He has a few freckles on his face and is, what may be considered, on the “chubby side.” I also can't help but find him absolutely adorable with or without his nerd glasses. Most importantly is the fact that I get butterflies in my tummy when I look at him and I think he gets them too.
I had been planning to tell Sarah and Mara about him, and after giving it some thought, I then decided to tell them. “Ummm, I have something I have to tell you guys,” I suddenly said, after moments of silence. “Matthew asked me out and I said yes." I had a proud look of glee on my face, definitely expecting my friends to jump for joy and act like wild lions, for it was only on occasions like this that such was allowed. To my great surprise, the look on their faces was definitely not of happy lions, but more like surprised and disappointed baboons.
"What?!" they both shouted at the same time.
At first, I thought that the shock overwhelmed them and that they were truly happy for me and couldn't wait to hear details about me and him, only to find out how far away my thoughts were from the truth. Before I could ask them what the matter was, and why they looked like someone fed them chocolates with bits of poop inside, Sarah looked at me and asked with a look of disdain on her face, "That fat boy with the dork glasses?" I nodded, then Mara nodded. I smiled thinking she was going to side with me but to my utter disappointment she said "Yes, he is very smart, but he isn't even cute." Then they both started to say how they didn't think he was good for me and how I could do better.
All I could do was wonder if having or not having a boyfriend was the problem or if it was not having understanding and supportive friends