Accepting myself — and my sexual desires — has made all the difference.
The first time I kissed a girl was at Girl Scout camp when I was 14 years old. Girl Scout camp, of all places! She was a short, red-haired girl named Bailey who I pecked on the lips in a moment of teenage experimentation.
I kissed her again in the parking lot in front of my rather prudish mother who stood by, ready to load me up into our minivan. In my periphery I could see her eyes widen and her face scrunch in disgust. “Let’s go,” she said curtly.
After kissing Bailey, I returned home and started my sophomore year of high school. I didn’t head through the doors of my small town school and proudly proclaim that I was contemplating my sexuality and possibly being a lesbian. A kiss was just a kiss and a peck was my version of "we’ll see."
Although my parents were sexual beings by my estimations — I once found more condoms than any man could possibly need in a dish on my father’s dresser — they never spoke of the big "it" out loud. Since the Internet came of age just as I did, instead of having "the talk" with my parents, I learned about sex via the World Wide Web. Thanks to Ask Jeeves (remember Ask Jeeves?), I learned about "cumming" and the purpose of a clitoris.
From September to June, I admired (and attempted to approach) the boys in my grade and was quickly rebuffed. It seemed I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, popular enough for them. I simply wasn’t enough at all. Come July, I officially switched to the other team, so to speak. Nothing serious, mind you, just casual flirtation and a willingness to be open and affectionate with women.
But it was Girl Scout camp where my curiosity about women first piqued. It wasn’t simply the place I learned to tie a rope, build a fire, kayak and sail; it was where I learned to appreciate women as leaders.
I envied these women because they were able to be themselves and — as it seemed from my teenage vantage point — had been able to forge a path of acceptance in themselves and those around them. The women I met were creative, talented, and kind. They often wore their heart on their sleeves.
These weren't the girls I was forced to be around in my high school for nine months of the year — these were women. Real women. They weren’t mean or haughty, but adventurous and clever. These were the type of women I hoped to become.
Eventually, during my junior year of high school, I moved past personality traits and truly began to notice the female form of my fellow staffers, the way a woman’s body moved with hips and curves. At the time, I was a boob girl. An enthusiast, if you will, so I admired (clandestinely) the chests of those around me to compare and contrast to what I had to offer.
I developed a lesbian crush on my friend Lindsay, but she was dating a fellow counselor. On one of our breaks, I brought Lindsay home with me before heading back to camp. My father was courteous, but later referred to her as "that dyke." It was then I realized that crushing on a woman and holding hands in the woods was as far as it could ever go.
Eleven years later, I stood in the bathroom of my apartment. My girlfriend at the time, Heidi, was taking a bath. I knew she had been dying for one, so I surprised her with a Lush bath bomb. I swirled the water around with my hand and asked how she liked it before receiving a kiss. Not a peck, not experimentation, but a full-on plant where she grabbed my face with her wet hands.
I got up from the edge of the tub and started to undress myself and prepare for bed. We had sex the night before — some of the best sex I've ever had — and she fell asleep wrapped around me so that I could feel her chest on my back.
Three years later, long after Heidi and I broke up, I was sitting on a friend’s rooftop with a group of girlfriends. While I hadn't inherited my parents’ reluctance to discuss sex, I'd been known to keep many intimate details to myself, namely the one where I openly say that I'd had sex with women and I'd probably do it again.
After a bottle of wine or two it came up. Amid close friends, I nonchalantly mentioned an ex who happened to also have a vagina. One friend simply said, “Oh, so you’re bisexual? How did I not know this?” and the conversation moved on. Another friend poked me in the arm, gave me a side-eye and said, “I told you no one cares.”
I'm bisexual. I'm attracted to people, full stop. For far too long, that was something I was reluctant to admit. Once upon a time, my parents sent me off to Girl Scout camp where I was imparted with a healthy dose of independence, and more importantly, an ability to finally find women with whom I could form a bond.
Perhaps it was finding that capacity within myself, in this world full of gray areas, that made it possible for me to eventually be able to connect to women based on friendship and acceptance. Over the years, I've found a natural lust for both women and men, and eventually a confidence to go after both sexes.
In a recent conversation with my once-prudish mother, I mentioned what camp did for me: how it turned me into a woman who loves people — all people — and I told her that she raised a woman who wanted to love (and be loved) by whomever.
I broached the topic carefully, waiting for disappointment. She smiled and said, “Good.” Nothing more, nothing less. Simple acceptance, which is really all I ever wanted.