Saturday, February 14, 2009

I can't remember her name

I was 21 years old at OU in Norman, and I had switched my major to Construction Science. It seemed like the perfect mix of business, architecture, and engineering. I had toyed with every major I could think of, and finally felt like I had found my niche. Being a female in the field was intimidating to me, but gave me more resolve. You see, I had been hurt by a guy I loved who was emotionally abusive. I believe I wanted to prove to myself and every man out there that they cannot define me.

OU’s program was small, and there were very few females. I was new to the major my second semester in Norman, and knew no one. I had classes all over campus, and realized that one girl I had seen in the college of Architecture was also the same girl in my physics class. Out of familiarity, we became acquaintances.

One day, she asked me to go to lunch with her, and I accepted the invitation. We went to a food court that was packed with students. We looked in vain for a place to sit, and she turned to me and asked, “Hey, you wanna go upstairs and sit in one of the club offices?”
“Sure” I said, relieved to get away from the crowd.
I began to follow her up a staircase, and before I could put my foot on the 3rd or 4th step, she turned around and asked, “We’re going to the GLBA room. Is that OK?”
I shrugged, “Sure!”
“Do you know that GLBA stands for?”
“No.”
“Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Alliance. Is it still OK?”
“Um...........OK!”

I don’t remember my exact feeling except shock. We walked into a room filled with old chairs and a sofa. She verbally greeted a few people and introduced me. I sat and ate my pizza, as my mind began to swirl. I’m a modern girl, right? I can handle this, right? How could I have missed it? The short hair, boyish gait, masculine clothes, construction major . . . . . . . . .(wait, that one was SO not fair!). I had never connected her to the gay community. I sat and ate my pizza in silence, as my mind raced.

We left the building, and walked to class together after eating. I remember passing people she knew, and they said “Hello”. In my mind, she greeted half the campus, and they all knew she was gay, and they all thought I was her lover!!!!! In reality, I’m sure she only greeted 1 or 2 people. But I had become paranoid. She explained that she was in a serious relationship and was trying to buy a house. I was relieved to know she wasn’t interested in me.

I wish I could say I became closer to her or it didn’t affect me. But it did bother me. Deeply. I was raised Christian. Homosexuals were . . . . .different from us. I struggled for a few weeks with this issue. I had never known anyone openly gay. How did I feel about gay people? Finally, I concluded that it wasn’t the fact that her “lifestyle” offended my faith, it was about the perception others had of me. It was all about me.

I avoided her for about 2 weeks. I came to class just in the nick of time and sat away from her. I left immediately after class, clamoring for the door before she got there and racing away. I was afraid to be seen with her. I was afraid of what others would think. I was, essentially, rejecting her friendship over a technicality. She had opened up to me, and I had rejected her. I felt badly, knowing I was being a huge bitch. I felt guilty. I felt confused. I had already been questioning my religious beliefs before she came along. (College does that to ya!) And suddenly I was rethinking my views on homosexuals—actually, I was defining my own views instead of adopting anyone else’s.

Finally, I remember realizing, “I know I am not gay, and God knows I am not gay, and she knows I am not gay. That’s all that matters. Everyone else is just judging.” Those brief sentences powered their way through my brain over and over again, breaking down those fears.

I walked into physics one day, and sat next to her. I felt horrible, knowing I had no right to be her friend. I didn’t deserve her friendship. She looked at me and simply asked, “ Are you better now?”
“Yeah, I’m fine now.”

And we picked up where we left off, never discussing my absence. She knew I had struggled, and she gave me time to do so. She showed me amazing grace. I remember many discussions in the following months about her family, the dysfunction, the abuse, the intense rejection. Many of my views on homosexuality were formed from the honesty of that friendship.

After that semester, I never saw her again. I believe she flunked out of school, as she feared she would. I can’t even remember her name. But I will never forget her friendship. The lessons I learned about friendship. selfishness, and acceptance will follow me forever.

2 comments:

Jeff said...

Kristi,

Wow! What a powerful experience! You are so fortunate to have had time over the (few) years since to process all of this. The realization that we are all discovering--that we are not "us" and "them" but just "us"--is liberating and precious.

My experience with the homeless (and former homeless) this weekend just confirmed what I already knew but sometimes forget. That we all are more alike than we can imagine.

Kristi said...

My time at OU was a time of awakening for me, Jeff. It was a time in my life where I had to question everything I had been taught. I was suddenly out of the protective shell I had been raised in. I was surrounded by people who were from all ethnicities, religions, countries, and backgrounds. I'm thankful that God spoke to my heart and changed my thinking about this girl.