Jessica, 29, Poet/Freelancer
I realized I was gay right about the time I turned eight and noticed that I lingered for just a beat too long every time a shampoo ad—that expanse of exposed neck, the resulting glossy mane—came on the screen. In an unfortunate turn of events for any budding homosexual, I had this realization while living smack in the middle of Central Florida, amidst the “it weren’t no Adam and Steve that God put in Eden” Southern Baptist crowd.
What sustained me was poetry. I lay beneath my knee-tented sheets, reading love poems with a flashlight until the batteries died, trying to learn the great mysteries that I hoped awaited me. Ten years of this, pure feeling—unassociated with any specific person or situation—welled up in me, just waiting for the right woman to come along and tap it. (So to speak.)
Christine, 36, Writer/Teacher
“Why do you want to marry my son?” she asked.
Even over the hiss of the espresso machines in the coffee shop, I could hear her loud and clear. In her tone, I heard the following: that I wasn’t good enough for her son, that I wasn’t Jewish, that I wasn’t welcome, that I was an intruder. There wasn’t enough time to continue the list of things her tone could mean before I had to respond to her question.
I held my shoulders square and said, “He asked me to marry HIM,” with the rash temper of who I was when I was twenty-two. I resented the tone of her voice and that she questioned me, when it was she who had to accept me into her family. However, over the course of the ensuing discussion, I agreed to convert to Orthodox Judaism, no small concession, but one I understood was important to her and to our union. My husband had not asked me to convert, but it was the beginning of my understanding of what marriage meant.
Annie, 33, Marketing
A book-lovin’ man . . . you were a rarity in my parade of well-intentioned, but poorly-read exes. We talked about the types of books we liked, and I mentioned the one, my favorite, that made me want to be a better person once I read it.
When you expressed interest in this book—really the first time you expressed much interest in anything I said—I was excited. Maybe this book would help YOU want to be a better person. To not be so self-centered, to stop putting yourself two steps in front of me when we were walking down the street, to generally stop saying the stupid crap I once thought was endearing but was really getting bored of. I told you I don’t loan books, and you promised you’d read it right away, and I’d get it back. So I brought it to you.
Katie, 25, Magazine website editor
Maybe I was feelin’ the moment. Or rather, myself. I actually don’t know why I thought it was a good idea, but it was probably more my insecurity with the relationship than my actual feelings for you. Hell, I was young. In either case, Sub-Par Sort-of Boyfriend from back in the day, I’d like that scandalous picture I took of myself back.
I’m a big kid with real responsibility now and I’m no Kim Kardashian. I can’t be having that kinda stuff popping up on the internet.
I thought it was hot at the time. I felt all liberated and shit, like hey who needs the internet? You’ve got me. But looking back, you didn’t really deserve it. Not that it was even too crazy (’cause I’m a classy broad) but from what I hear you’re a big loser now who just may even (still) be in jail.
Eli, 28, Illustrator
I’m nine years old and I’m driving across the country with my mother for the fourth time in so many months, on my way back to South Carolina from Arizona. This was third grade and I was on school number four for that year. Fifth grade was in Georgia, and you’d think I could use this as a starting point for remembering fourth grade. But I’d moved around between parents so often during that period that I missed the better part of the first semester of fifth grade and, in the shuffle, somehow misplaced all of fourth grade. I often have flashes that I pick up, like leftover pieces from a finished Lego set, that I think are from that year, but they don’t seem to fit even after I’ve scoured the instructions. These are the most important memories I have as a child only because I don’t have them anymore.
Rebecca, 27, Personal Chef
Laura and I never really liked each other. Unfortunately, for reasons I couldn’t understand, my best friend at the time decided to befriend her. It started out innocently enough. We all worked at a restaurant together, and Laura kept to herself for the most part. At first my friend invited Laura along when we’d all go out after work, and their friendship grew from there.
My distaste began when Laura came into work on her night off five minutes before closing, ordered only dessert, and stayed for an hour and a half in my section. This is considered very bad form in Server World. The more I got to know her, the more things unraveled, such as her claims to have hailed from the ghetto in Oakland, where her friends were gangbangers and life was rough. Soon I’d come to find out that she was from an affluent neighborhood in Walnut Creek.
My distaste grew.
She had a volatile personality, and we were like oil and water.
Mandy, 27, Editor
You know . . . the ones my mom bought us in 8th grade, so we could witness Gavin Rossdale AND Gwen Stefani gloriously live and in person? Yeah, I’d like those back. Along with the memory of my first concert ever. In fact, I think I’d like back the memories of all the firsts that adolescent BFFs share – our first crushes, boyfriends, broken hearts. Our first day of junior high; our first day of high school. Embarrassingly big bangs, thumb rings, notes written in code. Sleepovers, mall trips, family vacations. I want it all back. Because if I’d known that one day, out of nowhere, you’d simply stop speaking to me; if I’d known I’d suddenly be left standing alone in the lunch quad and you’d never tell me the reason why; if I’d known that 10 years later, we still can’t look back on all our firsts and laugh and cry about them…well, I would have picked someone else to share them with.