When I was a good little Catholic girl, I was sweet as sugar and always adorned in dresses that fluttered in my wake as I chased after my older brother, longing to fit in his shoes, worshiping the ground he walked on. I pined for his attention and approval. I didn’t know how to put my hair in a ponytail until the sixth grade because all my time was spent trying to copy him. Instead, I knew how to fight a monster with only the items the mysterious shop keep had given me before entering the dark forest. I could tell you with confidence the names of every Pokémon and who would win in a fight. I might not have gotten to be the princess, but I sure knew how to save her. My brother had me romping around the cold yard with plastic toys that fought over kingdoms and territories, but all the while we never actually fought.
I was his dutiful shadow right up until he left for college.
When I was a loud mouthed underclassman that had recently emerged from the protection of my brother’s wing, I tried to embrace my new found freedom to be girly while staying true to my tom boy roots; It was a given that I would be wearing an oversized, hand-me-down T-shirt that draped modestly over my underdeveloped body as I tried to pitifully flirt with my peers. I had a private game of pretend where I was finally Princess Diana, Daisy Buchanan, the prize to be won. Although, I was still trained to chase, not to be chased, so I dropped strong hints with the jock and got shut down; I bat my eyes at the nice boy and was politely rejected.
And I was nothing but a shadow to them.
When I was a confident senior, I flourished into my body, filing out into all the right curves and dimples and features with my new wardrobe of dresses and blouses that fluttered in my wake as I trotted playfully away from the boys that dropped strong hints and bat their eyes. It was all that I had ever dreamed of, while at the same time being the opposite of what I expected:
I would shutter at his touch; revolt at the mere thought of his kiss; feel a sickness in my gut when I could not force myself to reciprocate his buttery compliments.
And I was lost in the dark shadows that swallowed my adolescence.
When I was a confused senior, I felt like a bomb shell for the first time in my life but I could never have felt more physically inept. How could something that was supposed to be hard wired into my biology be so difficult? I felt like a defective toy that could only tease children longing to play with it. And I felt even more like a failure when I saw her.
I learned that there is no hate more hurtful than the kind directed at yourself. The kind of wrongness I felt when I forced myself into the mold I knew I should fit in, paired with the panic I felt when I tried to be true to what I knew I was feeling was both confusing and crippling. Then I realized I didn’t know how to play the part of the princess because I wasn’t born royalty. I was born to be a warrior; Wonder Woman instead of just Princess Diana. My brother always made sure there was always a princess to be saved, and that I always ended up saving her. That I would always win in the end. He would be the bad guy so I would never have to loose. So I would never feel defeated.
I am gay and I cast an unending shadow as I bathe in the warm sunlight of self-acceptance.