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  • At The Tip of The Quill

my first girlfriend (not a girl who was a friend)

A Tale from Two Sides of a Squiggly Line


I met the girl I will call Angel in elementary school. We bonded over a mutual love of books. Specifically, we bonded over the fact The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy were my favorite books since I was 7 and she fell in love with them when she was 6.

Angel was my first book soul-sister. We loved all the same genres, we both read vastly above our age level, and we could teach each other new vocabulary words (very hard to do for most people and never accomplished by other kids our age).


Angel was smart in other ways too. As the oldest of a large sibling group, she knew even more than I did about how to help out around the house, how to take care of a baby, plus she even knew how to bake!


I thought she was the most wonderful girl I had ever met. She was also into things I was not: creative with clothes, into crafts, and she fearlessly sang karaoke to all her music.


It's her love of music I remember the most. I'd often watch her dance, carefree and fearless, singing at the top of her lungs, and wish I was that brave. She was also kind. She never put me down for being painfully shy or if she knew something I did not (which was almost always band or song names.)


We both loved books and reading almost more than anything, but she was even more passionate about her songs and dance.


I once asked her why she didn't take dance or singing lessons. She explained her family couldn't afford them as she had too many brothers and sisters, but she also said she didn't care. She tossed her long, dirty blond hair over her shoulder and laughed, "That's what the radio is for!"


Angel and her music inspired my first romantic gift: I spent days in front of the radio with my tape recorder and made her my very first mixed tape.


The next time we got together, I proudly presented the tape along with a bookmark I had made out of construction paper and asked her to be my girlfriend. She was delighted! And, to my surprise, she gave me a big hug and said she would love to be my girlfriend!



I don't remember if I told my mom Angel was my girlfriend right away or if I waited a while. What I do remember was mom telling me (very well-intentioned I'm sure) my news was 'cute', "...but girls don't have girlfriends. Only boys have girlfriends."


I remember feeling a little disappointed about this, but also undaunted. I knew what I meant even if I didn't have the correct words. I don't remember my exact question, but I asked something like, "Then what do girls call each other?"


The answer? "Friends who are girls."


I explained to Angel we had the words wrong. She was as miffed about it as I was. (Vocabulary was, after all, a point of mutual pride) However, we both eventually got over it, and, even though we both absolutely thought girlfriend was far easier to say, our desire to get it 'right' meant we took the extra time to proudly introduce each other as 'my friend who is a girl.' (It took decades to understand the often confused looks given to us at this seemingly obvious statement.)


As elementary school turned into middle school, we wanted to take our relationship to the next level (whatever that meant.) Angel made us matching bracelets, I made us matching book covers, and we exchanged them with a solemn promise to each other we would treat each other's books as if they were our own.


(It's a super scary thing to loan out books. They were our babies! It's why neither of us ever did. Couldn't trust others to treat them right. Now? Now we were each other's exception.)


This was super serious.


Middle school was also when the world started to more forcefully intrude into our little bubble of innocent affection. There was a lot of pressure from others to tell them which cute boy we liked, teases I was only hanging out with Angel so much because I had a crush on one of her brothers, and lots of talk about who we wanted to marry when we grew up.


Angel joked we'd marry our books. I said if we had to marry, maybe we could marry brothers so we'd still be able to be together all the time.

Both of us found other people's expectations of what we supposedly wanted out of a relationship very confusing as it never sounded like us at all. I explained I only liked smart boys and I hadn't met any of them who were my age. Angel said she only liked boys in bands and wouldn't ever meet any of them. All the grownups said to give it time.


As such, I thought we'd figure it out eventually. When we were older. Until then, we were both happy to be friends who were girls.


And then, one night, I lost Angel forever.


She'd been gone a good week with her entire family to some sort of out-of-town conference. When they got back, she called to say she couldn't hang out with me, but she'd see me at an upcoming birthday party for a mutual friend. At the time, I didn't think much about her phone call outside of disappointment I had to wait even longer to see her again. But I could wait. Life is busy sometimes. Plus, we were kids. It's not like either of us knew how to drive.


I don't remember much about the birthday party only that I was miserable. It seemed to me Angel spent most of the night actively avoiding me and I couldn't figure out why. At last, she came over and asked if I wanted to name constellations with her outside. Of course I said yes!


We wandered out under the canopy of bright and shining stars and perched on the rough wood fence which lined our friend's yard.


Angel told me she learned a lot at the conference. She said the biggest, most important thing she learned was god hated girls who liked girls and she couldn't be my 'friend who was a girl' anymore - That's why she had waited until almost the end of the party to talk to me.


She also learned god hated her music, because she spent too much time listening and singing and dancing. Apparently, it took away time she should be spending on more important things.


What exactly those more important things were, we didn't know, but it was important to her to figure them out. My stomach lodged in my throat when she told me she had already thrown away all of her tapes and CDs.


Angel also said she couldn't borrow any more books from me, as she needed to spend a lot more time reading her Bible so she'd learn how to grow up into a good wife for someone else someday.


I don't remember our conversation in detail anymore.


I remember arguing with her about all of it.


It was the first time we had ever fought.


I didn't know any way to protest other than to say it all sounded so very wrong - yet I didn't know why.


I remember us yelling at each other.


I remember the mutual tears.


I remember the embrace at the end when she said she was so super sorry, but this was really for real goodbye forever.


I cried for a week.


At the time, I didn't know forever was for real.


I didn't realize this was my first breakup.


I didn't know I had, in one tragic conversation, formed and cemented a belief there was something shameful about my love for Angel and that I should never, ever talk about it.


I wasn't even angry she said we couldn't see each other anymore. I wanted her to be happy and I certainly wanted her to do what god wanted, even if I was now very confused about who I thought god to be in my universe.


I knew I regretted not knowing how to change her mind, but even that wasn't why I cried.


None of that was why I was devastated.


I mourned, because... at the end of the day...



...They had severed My Angel's wings.



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