Part of being a gay person in the closet for ten years, part of being out to yourself but not to the world, is that you get to form lots of things in your head. When you’re a romantically suppressed teenager, you form lots of crushes and love affairs and romances that are entirely painless to you in the moment becasue they just stick in side your head. They don’t go out and do anything, like out you.
Well, I guess they’re not painless —because the loneliness their lack of realness demands is super painful. Incredibly painful. It’s the reason I started running laps around the corn fields at my parents house during my senior year of high school. I was so freakin’ pained by one of these crushes that I ran and ran and ran because the the endorphins that running produced was the only thing that made the pain go away.
Moral of the story: Closestedness leads to crushes that happen inside your head, but never go outside your head. And that leads to you not really knowing what a crush is at all. Or at the least the reciprocated part of that. It leads to you not being able to identify when someone likes you or when you just like them.
I remember there was this guy that I liked during college that I was convinced liked me back. Every time we were together, I felt this massive energy and I thought to myself, “Dang. This must be so real. It’s like you can actually FEEL THE CONNECTION between us. Heck yes. This is finally happening.”
I didn’t at the time realize that you can totally have a crush on someone and your world can become ENTIRELY PAINTED with a million bright colors when you are around that person, and that experience can be totally happening only for you. For the other person, maybe nothing is happening at all.
The only experience I knew back then was liking someone, but not directly telling them. It was giving lots of side glances and spending particularly long amounts of time with him and doing things for him and dropping everything else to do things for him. That’s what I learned having a crush on someone is like.
And since that is all I ever knew, I taught myself to spot that in others. I was like a hawk looking for boys that gave back what I gave them. I looked for glances and particularly large amounts of time spent with me and unusually nice things done for me. I separated crushes from actions. No dates or gifts or make-outs. Those things weren't even on the table for me. I decided that liking someone was much more subtle. It was in the whispers.
Now whether they liked me back or not, or whether this was just me making up a story in my head, over the past five years or so, really since senior year of high school, I have had strong crushes on maybe six boys that I told myself are also gay like me and were also closeted like me and were also were sooooo into me.
I identified the glances, the favors, the lots of time spent with me. To me that was real. As real as it got.
Tbh, that is still kind of as real as it’s gotten. Not entirely. But partially. Those really big overwhelming “OH MY GOD THIS PERSON” moments have still stayed tucked away and looped away only with those “is this person even gay/even an option/even a human” moments.
Beyonce included a song on her latest album "Lemonade” that I think describes this experience so freakin’ perfectly. SO PERFECTLY. Her song is definitely not about being a suppressed twenty year old gay man. I think it’s about the rejection and wondering and the disoriented feeling one experiences when cheated on. But the song fits.
Maybe two closeted people liking each other feels a lot like cheating. Maybe that’s entirely what it is —their bodies betraying their hearts.
Here are the lyrics. Here is a link to the song.
You can taste the dishonesty
It's all over your breath as you pass it off so cavalier
But even that's a test
Constantly aware of it all
My lonely ear
Pressed against the walls of your world
Prayin' to catch you whispering
I'm prayin' you catch me listening
I'm prayin' to catch you whispering
I'm prayin' you catch me
**in closing I would like to thank my conservative christian upbringing and college for sponsoring both this post and this experience.