The reason I’ve never kissed a girl

mitchelle de leon, reporter

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At 20 years old, I have never kissed, dated, cuddled, spooned, and definitely never done “it” with anyone. I know I’m not the only one:  Google “20 years old never been kissed.”

For most of my teenage years, Valentine’s Day tormented me with visions of eternal bachelorhood. A persistent case of acne left me with little confidence. I spoke to peers outside my group of friends only when necessary but with great trepidation; someone even called me a mime. The Internet was my lover; I was its voyeur, and my hands were a pair of unpaid prostitutes. My friends said that I didn’t have any “game.” They were right.

In eighth grade, I asked someone out for the first and only time so far. Rumor had it that Cupid apparently shot his arrow to one lovely girl. As unlikely as it seemed to me and maybe everyone else, I believed in it because it meant that maybe someone actually saw past my perceived flaws. Maybe people viewed my silence as the sexy, enigmatic type.

My mantra for self-confidence then became: call me a mime, but, at least, I get girls.  My own teenage romance storyline seemed imminent: hot, popular girl meets gawky, unpopular boy. I asked her over the phone, “Will you go out with me?”

Like I had just told her to come kiss me even though I had a bout of mono, she politely declined. It devastated me not because I liked her. It devastated me because she shot down my chance at becoming what I and everyone else around me deemed normal. The problem was that I never liked girls.

I liked guys. But I refused to face that reality. As a teenager, I dodged occasional interrogations on my sexuality. My mother once confronted me with the question I dreaded the most, “Are you gay?” Unconvincingly, I denied it. I was quick to change the topic. With peers that bullied helpless individuals and a community that refused to understand homosexuality, who would be so brave to “come out?” With a family that looked down on it in disgust, who would be so foolish to do it?

Neither brave nor foolish, I decided against coming out, which also seemed so tediously awkward. I wasn’t ready for it, so I used silence as a survival tool.

Consequently, I waded through the thick excrement called gay adolescence alone. Struggling to accept myself, I lamented, why me?

Although I never truly subscribed to any religion, I knelt before altars with clasped palms, praying to change myself. I repeated “I’m gay” so many times to myself until it no longer sounded menacing; I embedded those true words to my mind, securing my love for who I was and who I will always be.

Since then, I’ve been able to picture a life beyond singlehood, a life that is true to who I am. Valentine’s Day now stirs hope, not fear.

But don’t confuse that with loneliness. I still struggle with insecurity like a lot of people, but I’ve grown to love my body, too. Although I pride myself as an introverted and generally awkward individual, social interaction doesn’t intimidate me anymore, but a microphone and a podium do. And I still love the Internet. It sounds pathetic, but, now, I’m able to seek and yearn for my own version of Prince Charming, the “Modern Family” version, without the need for acceptance constraining me. I just need to get a date.

“There are plenty of fish in the sea,” the saying goes. The saying, however, doesn’t seem to apply to the gay community. I don’t even personally know any gay guys my age. Perhaps I should consider joining a group or a club. Join E-Harmony? I think I’m too young for that. Use Facebook to my advantage? I’m not really a fan of social media.

The so-called “gaydar” is effective, but it is not foolproof. Some guys set off the alarm as loudly as a marching band while some do not, like stealth drones. The rest are ambiguous, which often poses the dilemma: to ask or to not ask some variation of “Do you like men?” One extreme response involves a fist while another begins with a kiss. One might argue that the “gaydar” degrades homosexuals with its use of stereotypes, but I believe that it’s a survival mechanism, a way to find love.

I once gawked at a guy for an entire semester. To my delight, he gawked back. My own “gaydar” slighty beeped, but I decided not to pursue him. Instead, I occupied myself with questions like: what if he doesn’t like me? What if he’s not actually gay? My instincts proved right once I found his Tumblr account, filled with images of the male form and posts on his sexual anxiety. But my chance had passed since I didn’t see him after that semester. Besides, in his “About Me” section, he described himself as “straight” despite his apparent phallic obsession. What kind of person shares his or her personal issues for everyone to read anyway?

In an alternate world devoid of bigotry, gay guys should possess some sort of insignia like in “The Scarlet Letter,” without the negative social impact part, to make it easier to at least get a date. “H” for homosexual? “A” for available, not adultery?

In reality, I should be braver.

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