When I look back on it, you could say my strange relationship with boys began with three simple words: “I Love Jesus.”
They were three simple words scrawled into the pages of my diary when I was eight with an obscenely large heart shape over the letter I instead of a dot. The handwriting alone deserved the humiliation I would later endure.
Being that it was my top-secret private diary, my mother had no problem opening it up and reading my secret confession. I knew she treated my diaries like magazines at a doctor’s office waiting room, so I constantly changed the ones I wrote in and hid them in various places around my room. The latest one I had begun was a composition book, titled “4th Grade Language Arts” to throw her off my trail. Unfortunately, I discovered my mother also liked checking how I was doing in class to make sure I was taking good notes and not doodling.
The funny thing was unlike most mothers, she didn’t immediately try to find out who this Jesus boy was or ask what was he like and if had she ever seen him before. Instead, my mother freaked out and called my father to tell him she was afraid that I had secretly converted into Christianity. I was then forced to admit to my parents that I had developed a crush on my fellow classmate, Jesus Ortega, although I didn’t actually use the word “crush” since they were unfamiliar with it and I certainly didn’t want to since I had no idea why the act of liking a boy required me to “crush” on him.
I didn’t get the lecture I had expected about relationships after my embarrassing confession. Instead, my father simply rubbed his beard awkwardly for a few minutes and said I had time when I was older to think about boys. He also thought it was humorous to add that he also loved Jesus too.
“ Not your Jesus though,” he said with a smile.
My mother sniffed and told me to not listen to girls who talked about nothing but boys all the time and that I should tell my teacher if any boy bothers me. She seemed to have no clue that it was me who had the crush, not Jesus. No one was bothering me, which was precisely the problem. They only saw me as the nice girl that offered to turn the rope or grab everyone’s jackets off the floor or staple everyone’s papers. I was convenient and convenient things always get taken advantage of.
Now, I knew I shouldn’t have wanted anyone to crush on me, because that would result in my having to turn him down, since I couldn’t date but I wanted to reject someone. I wanted to blow someone off or have to let him down easy because I wasn’t available, just like the glamorous teenaged girls I saw in TV shows or movies.
But it was in fact my best friend Narmin, who was constantly at the center of attention of guys for as long as I could remember. Her parents had the same iron fist as mine did, but she somehow was able to pry those fingers open enough to learn how to act and carry herself perfectly around the opposite sex. Narmin was the same age as me, though she looked about three years older, but she was also an unapologetical tomboy. I guess that came from having an older brother. She thought makeup was stupid and for old grandmas, that dresses only slowed you down in football and acting too girly meant you were hiding something. Narmin knew what she was, who she was and why she was.
That fearlessness scared me sometimes and made me wonder how she could be that sure of herself and not care if people saw her as arrogant. For some reason, guys hung out with her, called her to be in their groups in class and joked around that she was each of their girlfriend’s. I know this irritated the girly girls in our class that would just sit on the swings and gossip on the monkey bars during recess. The whole situation made absolutely no sense to me, but I wanted to have Narmin’s life so badly. I decided since she was my best friend, I could use her as my teacher to help me better understand the world of men and make me seem more attainable. Attainable to the point that the guy wasn’t stark raving mad over me, just interested in being in my company whenever I wanted him to be. I realized only later how selfish that made me look.
I don’t know whatever happened to Jesus. I think he moved away later on, so I never saw him again and I’m kind of glad in case my parents ever ended up meeting him at a parent teacher conference or school fair. I was much more careful about sharing who I liked after that. And by careful, I mean I didn’t tell anyone, especially Narmin. The only crushes we discussed were celebrity ones, since those were just silly and harmless. Narmin and I were both on the same level of hopeless when it came to boy bands and Disney Channel stars so I didn’t feel the same jealousy or embarrassment then.
Ironically, Narmin complained how her parents wanted her to be more like me because I didn’t talk too much and I was excellent at the flute. I didn’t really get how those two skills were enviable, but I was thankful there was something that made Narmin’s blood boil about me and I pretended to be happy about it. I was apparently much better at being a good little Muslim girl while Narmin was dangerously coloring outside of the lines.
It seemed we both were unhappy with something about ourselves, but there wasn’t anything we could do about it. It was that frustrating, unattainable something that I think brought us together and made us, two polar opposites, attract. We were supposed to be a united front entering high school together, no matter what our pasts were like. I didn’t realize us it was our futures that would be the ones to mess it all up.