H. Reid
Updated Aug 24, 2015 @ 5:27 pm

I had my first boyfriend my senior year of high school. We dated for a whole year and our only date was prom. He was from the state next to mine and we had never actually met before going to prom together. Smart first date, right? I might as well have jumped out of the window of a fourth-story building and expect to land on my feet running. My expectations were high that night, and I was nervous. I bought our prom tickets and my dress two weeks before the event. I hate dresses. That must have meant I really loved him, right? My 17-year-old self was convinced. We had told each other we loved one another hundreds of times by the time we finally met at the train station. Movie moment right? The man you love steps off the train and you meet eyes for the first time, the perfect weekend ahead of you, what could go wrong?

Well, neither of us knew how to or liked the idea of dancing. Instead, we sat outside the sweaty ballroom with a group of my friends. All my “boyfriend” wanted to do was hold my hand and stare into my eyes. There were even a few times during the night where he got frustrated because I was doing my best to feel less awkward and integrate him into my friend group instead of allowing him to pull me to the side and stare into my soul for the rest of the night. Suffice to say, that night I realized I didn’t love the guy.

So I did the one thing any way-too-awkward human would do in that situation. I waited until he got on the train back to his state, and until after he got home and messaged me that he had a wonderful time, to break up with him. He didn’t take it well. We had extensive conversations about why I no longer wanted to be with him and at one point he asked me: “What did it mean then when you said you loved me?” The question hit me and immediately I understood what I had done. I replied: “I think I believed what ‘I love you’ was supposed to mean. Back then I thought I knew what love was, and so I told you I loved you because that’s what I thought I felt for you. But now I realize that I don’t know what love is.” So if I hadn’t loved him, my 17-year-old self thought, what is love?

Fast-forward five months. I was 18, legally an adult. I’d been in college for a month at this point and I was nowhere close to figuring out what love is, nor had I thought about it in the months that had passed. I was officially no longer living with my parents. I had new friends. And the fourth day of college, I cut all my hair off. Love was the last thing on my mind. My new friends were great, and we became close really fast. September 6th was one of my friend’s birthdays and we had decided to throw her a surprise birthday party. We invited everyone in the dorm. It was there where I met Lucy (not her real name). Lucy lived in the room right next to mine in the dormitory, but we hadn’t really talked, but all of that changed at the party.

Within a week Lucy was a full-fledged member of my friend group. Not long after that, Lucy made it evident to everyone that she liked me, though she thought I didn’t know. Then she performed a song she wrote professing her feelings for me. In the eyes of anyone else, this was the most romantic gesture possible. As an awkward band geek who didn’t even like to be hugged, I didn’t know how to feel. Though I had seen the hints that she liked me a few days before she played the song for me, I played it off as if I had no clue. After she performed the song I avoided answering her question about who the song was for until she stopped me and forced me to say what I knew.

One major factor to my awkwardness about her liking me was that I was dead set on the idea I was heterosexual. I denied myself any debate about this. It wasn’t that I had anything against the LGBTQ community; I just didn’t think it possible that I belonged in that community. I was heterosexual. Right? Soon I remembered what I realized after prom: I didn’t know what love was.

In December of my freshman year of college I had my first anxiety attack. I had held all of my emotions in for so long with nothing to do with them that the stress of college caused them to spill over. Lucy was there for the entire three hours and the hours that proceeded it. This was the moment where everything slowly began to change.

Before winter break began, I had two more anxiety attacks that Lucy helped me through. The night before we all left, Lucy and I kissed for the first time. Now, this isn’t quite what you may think. I hadn’t suddenly fallen for her, not yet at least. We stood awkwardly in the middle of my dorm room. She had turned the song “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” on in the background. Yes, of all songs she chose one that quickly made the moment a scene from Twilight. After a lot of awkward laughs and glances toward our feet, we kissed.

It was over winter break that I started to fall for her. We messaged each other constantly and I missed her dearly.

Within a few days of being back at college, Lucy and I were official.

Months passed and we were happy together. We laughed together, constantly kissed and held hands. We had movie dates on Friday nights. We did everything together.

Things were far from perfect. We broke up and got together multiple times. We said things we didn’t mean. And just a few days before our one-year anniversary we broke it off. The months following, we struggled with the feelings we still had for one another and the realization that we just wouldn’t work out.

Despite the fact that we are no longer together, Lucy taught me a lot about what love is and what it means to be in love. When I entered college I was an awkward girl who never let people so much as hug her. Lucy took me out of that awkward stage and now I don’t feel uncomfortable hugging people in my life who mean a lot to me. Lucy introduced me to the LGBTQ community by being my first girlfriend, and as a result, she taught me what love is. It took me a while to admit to myself that Lucy wasn’t my “exception” to my heterosexual rule, rather, she was the first of maybe many. Or at the very least, she was still my first everything. Lucy taught me how to emotionally and physically love another human being. She was patient, and that was key to my romantic development.

My relationship with Lucy taught me that romantic love for another human is the catch of your heart when you lock eyes from any distance. The nervous smile when you’re first realizing your feelings for someone. The warm and electric feeling you get when you hold hands. The skip of your heart when your lips meet is love. For Lucy, love was the rise of goose bumps that were clearly visible on her soft skin. I still have much to learn about love and what all it includes, but Lucy helped to paint the general picture for me. The day I posted on my Facebook profile that I had started dating Lucy and unknowingly “came out” to my friends and family was merely a stage in my understanding of love. Now that I have been out as bisexual for over a year, I’ve set no limitations for who might grab my heart next, and I owe this freedom to love anyone without any fear or denial to Lucy. I am bisexual and I am proud. I am free to love.