My high school friend Tara posted this picture on Facebook and I was instantly flooded with emotion…..
My sophomore year of high school, I did something totally bold at the time. I decided to run for Homecoming Court. Having spent my freshman year trying my best to simply blend into the walls, I told myself I would make this year count and be more outgoing. To my surprise and as well as much of the school’s I won a spot on Court. Excited, I rented a tux, got a date and picked out my outfit for the parade where we would be driven around the field in a convertible. At 15 this was the pinnacle of cool.
The day finally arrived and I was a nervous wreck. When they finally made the announcement for the Homecoming Court to make their way to the driver’s ed range, I was excited beyond belief. Right before we pulled out onto the field, they slipped the sash over my shoulders and put the crown on my head. For the first time, I left accepted by my peers and I was ready to party. This was teenage equivalent of winning the lottery. As the car rounded the corner, the chanted started. It grew louder as I got to the stands where the majority of the jocks were in the front yelling “woot woot, get the f*g off the field…” My heart sank and I fought the urge to cry because honestly, the only thing worse in high school besides being gay was being gay and crying in public. So I did the next best thing.
I smiled until my cheeks hurt. I smiled until I felt like I was going to cry from the pain of smiling, not the pain of being embarrassed for being gay. I waved and smiled as we drove past and it was over. I got out of the car, slipped the sash into my bag along with the crown and waited for the bus. And I waited. “Did they vote me into Court with the intent to embarrass me? Do they hate me that much and why?” Buses came and went, but I didn’t notice them because I was too busy wondering if I had the guts to walk into traffic and end it all. I had never felt so low, so alone, so unhappy in my life. Eventually, I did get on the bus and got home.
I locked myself in the bathroom and I had a good cry. I looked at myself in the mirror and saw for the first time is what I think was “me”. I wasn’t the “fag” that they chanted. I was Courtney. I was smart. I was funny. And I spent the next 10 minutes listing all the things that I possessed. And I smiled. So I put on my rented tux that was a bit too big. I put on my sash and the crown and smiled. I picked up my date and we walked into the dance and I smiled. It wasn’t because I felt amazing. It was because I knew I had to do it. I knew that I had to show up, no matter how horrible it was going to be at the dance. I knew that if I didn’t go, they won. I knew if I didn’t smile and show up, the me I saw in that mirror would never full mature into the me I am today. I had to smile and “show up”. So as the pic shows, I smiled and walked down that long aisle with my heart beating a mile a minute. And when it was over I swore that I would never give another person the power to make me feel less than what I know myself to be. Never. Ever. I am me. I am all the things I know myself to be and those things yet to come.
So I smile today remember those things of years past and knowing that I am the best me for them. And I smile also knowing that many of those folks have not aged well…..sometimes it’s the little things :)
[photo credit: tara graves]
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