How was your early life and adolescence, especially as it relates to sex and dating?
I was a late bloomer, and pretty much refused to grow up all through middle school, so my parents really didn’t talk about sex and dating with me much. I picked up everything about sex and relationships from summer camp, and later from the Internet. I had one of the best upbringings anyone could ask for, but refusing to grow up really made adolescence difficult for me, and I think I may have stunted my own emotional growth. I never had those silly middle school crushes or three-week fake relationships. I’d had only guy friends in middle school, and I thought most relationships at that age were silly. Then 8th grade rolled around and people were starting to be serious about dating, so I started thinking maybe something was wrong with me – like I just couldn’t feel romantic things about people. I was a little worried. When I did fall in love I was only 14 and had no idea what I was feeling, so I told myself that it was just a strong friendship feeling. It was part ignorance, part denial.
Was this once you started boarding school?
Yes. My parents knew that public high school wouldn’t be a good place for me, so they sent me to an all girls boarding and day school about half-an-hour away in old Virginia.
What happened with your love interest from age 14?
She was a year older than me, and really was the first person that I felt liked me for who I was. I was really weird and had terrible social anxiety, and was convinced my parents were out to get me – typical teen angst stuff. She was the first person who I really felt safe with, so really I couldn’t help but fall in love with her. Then we went to a 4th of July party and I embarrassed her by being my socially anxious, weird self, and she broke off our friendship (and broke my heart). For two months I was either catatonic or hysterical, then I realized I had to buck up and be a better person. School started again, sophomore year for me, and she noticed that I was more confident and well adjusted. We became friends again, grew closer, and sort of realized our feelings for each other were a bit more than friendship.
How did you two develop an intimate relationship?
We had been pretty “intimate” before – cuddling, writing each other little notes, etc. It was definitely more intimate after we reconnected though. She would put her hands all over me, touching my thighs, putting her face in my neck, etc. She was always more needy when it came to sex too. Eventually she just texted me and said, “sometimes I feel really into you and sometimes I don’t.” We decided at that point to try an actual relationship. I’m not sure if I acknowledged my feelings for her, I just wanted to keep her from leaving me again.
You both were quite young at that time: what did your lovemaking consist of?
We did just about everything there was to do, except strap-ons: we didn’t get to that point. We did have a tiny vibrator from Spencers, but it wasn’t great. We did mostly fingering and oral sex. We 69’d a few times, that was definitely my favorite. There were a few rim jobs as well, which were not my favorite, but she seemed to enjoy them. The best time we ever had was the first time we 69’d – after an Idina Menzel concert, on the pullout couch in my parents’ basement. We never went to my house for our sleepovers, since I shared a room with my sister and our brother was usually around too. It was probably after 1:00 am, so we weren’t afraid of interruptions (not having to worry about getting found out was actually a huge turn on). Afterwards we put our clothes back on, held each other tight and fell asleep. It was amazing.
Was the taboo aspect of your relationship part of the appeal?
Not sure…it was definitely exciting, but sometimes I wished we could have a normal relationship, where we could go on dinner dates, hold hands in public and not care what the administration would do to us if we were open about it. We had some suspicions that the administration purposefully expelled gay students who were in open relationships with other students. There was only one that I know of, and one of the participants wasn’t invited back the following year. The other gay students were mostly stoners and didn’t contribute much to the school. We were different in that we were both great students, athletes, and involved in clubs. But even if it weren’t taboo, I probably wouldn’t have told my parents. It’s nice having the relationship to yourself: there’s no one pressuring you or making you feel awkward about it and adding drama to it. That’s probably a big reason why we lasted so long.
How long did the relationship last?
Almost a year-and-a-half: I broke up with her in March of my junior year. I wanted to wait until she graduated, but I couldn’t do it anymore. I’d fallen out of love some time in the beginning of that year, and I couldn’t keep pretending to be in love with her.
Why did things go south – did you become interested in guys?
Nope, no guys. Ever. Literally, I did not talk to any guys other than my roommate’s brother for all of high school, and I didn’t even mind. I’ve thought a lot about it, and really it’s because it was high school and people change. We became two people who just weren’t compatible anymore. That year I wanted to focus on schoolwork and getting into college, and she just refused to think about it, basically. She’d shut down and get mad whenever I talked about college, or even when I got a good grade. So yeah, there was jealousy involved: not of other people, but of my own success. She hadn’t been doing well in school, she was suffering from depression, and I think possibly some mother issues that were making our alone time kind of strange and unpleasant for me.
How has your love life been since?
That relationship helped me to grow up and become confident in myself, and it helped my insecurities. I pretty much conquered my social anxiety and weirdness, as I really needed that unconditional love and support. Of course I get that from my family, but when you’re a teenager you think everyone is out to get you. I came in to the relationship with a lot of damage, and her love helped me to fix it. Since then, I had a year of awesome singleness. Seriously, people think being single is such a bad thing, but it really is awesome. And now that I’m in college, I’m still single. I go to a fairly conservative state school, and the queer community is small and isolated (the dating scene is pretty terrible). It doesn’t usually bother me since I’m busy with school, but I do feel lonely occasionally.
Will you explore other avenues to meet people (e.g. online dating, etc)?
My first relationship happened out of the blue, at a 180-person school with a girl who swore up-and-down that she was straight. In terms of odds, the chances of finding a second relationship at an 18,000-person school where actual lesbians exist are somewhat better. I don’t think I’ll do online dating unless I get into the real world and have absolutely no other choice.
We appreciate you taking the time to do this Claire. Do you have any advice for young women who are romantically attracted to other women, and may be unsure of how to express it?
Don’t feel like you need label yourself. When I was with this girl, we never tried labeling ourselves as lesbians, bisexual, queer or anything. I still don’t, because none of those labels really seem to fit right. Just focus on your feelings, and don’t put a lot pressure on yourself in terms of trying to fit under a certain label.