I grew up in a town that felt small, even though the population hovered around 90,000. I was a white, Southern Baptist, country-music-and-chicken-fried steak kind of girl who was incredibly sheltered and clueless about the world at large. All I knew then about the weirder things in life was what I had learned at revival meetings, which mostly revolved around the satanic lyrics you heard if you played a record backwards and the many reasons I was probably going straight to hell.
It was a case of mistaken identity that shook the foundations of that little world I lived in and changed my life forever.
I don't remember the exact year – I was 14 or 15 at the time and was watching the Academy Awards with my family. I loved watching the glitz and the glamor – it was a taste of a world far removed from my own. It was during a shot of the audience when the camera zoomed in on one particular person and my heart skipped a beat. He was the most beautiful person I think I had ever seen. Instant crush. His name flashed across the screen, one that stuck in my mind forever.
I went to bed that night, dreaming silly-girl dreams of meeting my new crush. I was in serious love. Those cheekbones, that hair artfully drooping across his eyes. He would be traveling through west Texas (apparently I was so sheltered that even in my fantasies I couldn't imagine life outside my hometown) and some random and mysterious circumstance would bring us together. Perhaps he would show up at the next choir concert and hear me sing, or we would get stuck in an elevator or something. He would look at me with those big, beautiful eyes, and smile that secretive little smile. Then there would be kisses. And more than kisses. It was so romantic.
This crush went on for months, a secret that occupied my thoughts at random times of the day. It was long before the age of the Google, when answers could be found almost before you knew what the question was. Back in those days, we had mystery and anticipation to fuel our thoughts and our fantasies.
I found out later that he was a singer. I went down to Endless Horizons and breathlessly asked for a tape of my true love's music. “Do you have anything by k.d. lang?” I asked. “I saw him on tv the other day and I wanted to get a tape.”
The too-hip-for-everything record clerk looked at me like I was a little bug. “k.d. lang?” he sneered. “k.d. lang is a chick, not some dude.”
Everything went a little blurry. I paid for my tape and walked home, clutching my plastic bag tightly as my mind skittered every which way inside my head. I got home and went straight to my bedroom, closing the door and sitting on the bed, the unwrapped tape lying on the bed in front of me.
There was that face, those gorgeous eyes staring back at me under that luscious mop of hair. I examined the picture, trying to find some definitive answer. Finally, I called one of the local country radio stations - “hiIwanttohearsomethingbyk.d.lang,” I remember saying, “IreallylikeHERalot.” And then I held my breath, waiting for the voice on the other end to correct me.
“Yeah, she's pretty cool,” the DJ said. “Whad'ya wanna hear?”
I hung up with answering him. I couldn't talk. I couldn't, not when there was only one screaming thought going round and round inside my head.
I was in love with a GIRL. A GIRL! With boobs and, and, down there like mine, and ohmygod I had daydreamed about kissing ... but I thought it was a guy, and oh god, I'm going straight to hell!
I was convinced I was queer. That was the only word I knew for it back in those days, and even then I was confused because I thought that was something only guys did with guys. I began to make up excuses not to suit up for P.E. - I didn't want to have to change in front of the other girls. Oh god, remember when I would look at Maribel in the locker room when we would be changing for tennis practice? Or when Heather would prance by in her panties and I would get all nervous and flustered?
I told no one. I didn't know what I would tell them even if I wanted to. Then one day, my friend Jennifer was over and was looking through my tapes. “Hey, I like her,” she said, holding up The Tape. “She's got a cool voice. But,” she stopped and laughed, “I felt like such a dork – I thought she was a guy at first. I totally thought she was some hot guy.” She stopped and looked at the tape again. “She's still pretty hot for a girl, I guess.”
And just like that, it was okay. Jennifer was one of the coolest kids in school – beautiful, with the cute senior boyfriend, the hot car, the coolest clothes. If she thought it was no big deal ... well, then maybe it was okay. Maybe I wasn't a queer after all (though I still wasn't entirely sure what that even meant) even though I still had those daydreams sometimes (although she was always a guy in my version of things). I still thought she was so beautiful and I still had my crush, even after I knew the truth.
“Yeah,” I said casually, “I guess.”
*** This is my Week 4 entry in therealljidol. This week's topic is "I Think I Thought You Were Someone Else (Mistaken Identity)." I will post a link to the poll when it is up. If you liked it, please vote for my entry to keep me in the game. Tell your friends. Tell your frenemies. Stop strangers in the street and tell them too. There might be chocolate unicorns and butterflies sent your way in return.Thanks for reading! ***