Listen, dating as a high schooler is one of the most awkward, confusing, embarrassing, and emotional things a person can go through. And if you’re queer — and this is a conservative estimate — it’s 10 trillion times harder. Take me, for example. As a semi-closeted girl in grade 10 in a high school with less than 40 students, my dating options were fairly limited. To make matters worse, I lived in the suburbs and didn’t have a car or a driver’s license — I still have neither — meaning I couldn’t really get anywhere unless I could get a ride. One of the few places I could actually walk to was a local discussion and hangout group for LGBTQ+ youth. I am forever grateful to that space for offering much-needed support, friendship, and community. It was also where I met a person I’m going to call “Amy.”
I don’t believe in love at first sight. I do, however, believe in the sweaty-palms joy of crushes at first sight. Amy appeared to be effortlessly cool, funny, and charming compared to my nervous, fidgety, and weird self. Not to mention, she was really cute.
I managed to pluck up some courage and ask for her number. From that moment on, we started texting constantly, talking about all the movies and books and shows we liked — for me, it was Doctor Who and Jane Austen, and for her it was Les Misérables and Neil Gaiman. When we both expressed mutual admiration for the Stephen Chbosky novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I decided to seize the moment by asking if she wanted to see the film adaptation, which had just come out. We made our plans and I casually informed my mother that I was going to go to the movies with a girl I had met at my youth group.
My mother, both supportive and aware of my bisexuality, asked, “Is this a date?” and I, in that classic, patented voice that only kids in grade 10 with lots of teenage angst can truly master, said something like, “Ew! Mom, no! Gross! She’s just a friend.” And to be honest, I really did think this was just going to be two friends seeing a movie. Because, while I definitely had a massive crush on her, I also assumed that I had no chance with her either. I also didn’t know how to flirt.
The thing is, society gives straight people a framework for how relationships should function early on, in all kinds of media. From an early age, straight people get to see how their romantic relationships play out — or at least how society tells them they should play out — thanks to endless books, movies, and other media catering to their romantic fantasies. There’s the prince and princess in fairy tales, the cutesy love stories of tween and teen dramas, romantic comedies, romance novels, side plots in most genre films, and so on.
We are socialized from an early age to understand romance between men and women. But what happens if you don’t fit into these heterocisnormative ideals? What happens if you grow up without seeing anyone whose romantic life might resemble yours? Because, at least until high school, and even then, I never saw any romances between women, not in real life or in the world of fiction. I had no clue how to flirt with another girl, how to ask her out, how to tell if she liked me. And I had also been taught that straight girls might compliment each other’s appearance, might be somewhat physically intimate, and might even say “I love you,” and still be 100 per cent platonic. So really, in my defence, I had no way of knowing that Amy might have liked me too.
So we met up at the movie theatre and hugged in that awkward way that friends-who-might-be-more-than-friends sometimes do. Half my attention went to the movie and the other half went to an extremely self-conscious examination of my every move. Did it mean something when our hands touched over the popcorn? Did it mean something when we made eye contact and laughed together?
After the movie, we went out for dinner at a nearby restaurant and spent most of the meal dissecting the movie. So it wasn’t until we were leaving that I finally, somehow, to my own amazement, managed to ask the question that had been on my mind the whole time: “Was this a date?”
And she responded, “I was wondering the same thing.”
We realized that it was up to the two of us to make the call whether it was or was not a date. And to my great delight, we decided that yes, it was a date. And since it was a date, Amy decided it could also be a time and place to share what would be my first kiss.
My relationship with Amy didn’t end up lasting forever, but we parted on good terms, with the knowledge that, on occasion, things can turn out in favour of the awkward queer teen dating in high school.