SHE FELT THE TINGLE

SHE FELT THE TINGLE

I started realizing that I liked girls when I was about 5 years old. And I thought it was normal. I was a total tomboy from birth and would always want to be around girls. I had this childhood friend – Well, she’s still my friend. Let’s call her Caroline for the purpose of this story. We were eight years old when something happened between us, something we’ve not talked about since then, even though I really want to.

During a sleepover, we were both in the bathroom, taking a bath, when we decided to wash each other’s bodies. As she washed me, she got to my privates – and it tingled. I liked the feeling very much. I felt really good. She was my best friend, and I wanted her to feel good too, so when I started washing her, I went straight to her privates. My hand lingered there for some time, and upon getting suddenly breathless, she pushed my hand away while saying she was feeling somehow.

And I knew she had felt the tingle too.

We finished washing and ran off to my room, where we checked our barely existent breasts with that little girl prayer that they would fill out and get big soon. That day, as we played around naked, for the first time, I couldn’t stop my stare from lingering on parts of her body, from her chest to her belly button and down below.

That night after we’d gone to bed, I suddenly woke up because I’d felt something on my pajamas. I awakened to find Caroline’s hand on me, digging into my privates. I almost jumped out of my skin, but then, she was smiling and what she was doing to me was starting to feel good. So I let her continue. In fact, I took my hand to hers and began touching her as she was touching me. Every now and then, she would grope my chest, where my breasts were supposed to be. The tingles intensified and she was clearly feeling as good as I felt. Whatever it was that we were feeling, we both loved it.

We did this several more times during other sleepovers; we were in Primary 3 and then 4 during this period. These sessions happened always at night, quietly, our only communication with each other being with our eyes and smiles. We never even spoke to each other as we touched; and that silence contributed to the intensity of those moments. And then, once we were done, we didn’t talk about it to each other the next day or in the following days – until the next sleepover, when we went right back to touching each other.

And then, just as unceremoniously as we started, we stopped. She soon got into secondary school while I failed the entrance exam and couldn’t get in the same year. So while she went off to start being a grown woman, I was redoing the class. That became the end of our nightly trysts.

However, I was about to understand just how bad everyone else felt about this thing that made me feel so good.

One day, my mother was doing school runs, picking me and my brothers – who were both in JSS3 – up. On our way home, they began talking about two boys who had been expelled from their school. Not knowing what the word “expel” meant, I asked and they told me. My mother then asked why they’d been expelled, and my brothers said, “Because they engaged in homosexuality.”

While my mother flinched from the thing they’d just said, my brothers were giggling. And I was curious again, because I didn’t know what the word meant. So, I asked again. This time, my mother answered me.

She said that the boys had committed one of the greatest sins that someone could go to hell for. She said that it is normal for only a man and a woman to like each other and get married and lie with each other to make babies. But that those boys had liked each other that same way, and it wasn’t normal. That if they weren’t punished, they would go on to get married and try to make babies the same way a man and a woman do. And that it was wrong.

As she talked, I could feel myself getting hot from the fire of guilt that had flickered inside me. With a slightly shaky voice, I asked if it’s also bad when it’s two girls who like each other that way, and my mother said yes, that it’s just as bad as when it is with two boys.

And so, for the first time, at age 11, I saw the feelings I’d always had for girls and the special moments I’d shared with my best friend turn into something sinful and ugly. Guilt blossomed inside me and I didn’t know what to do with it. I liked girls but I didn’t want to go to hell or get punished because of it. I was scared. To hear my mother talk about this, I felt as though I’d committed a very deadly sin. And it affected me. I began to get withdrawn, to internalize my fear. Caroline wasn’t around for me to talk to; she was in boarding school. I couldn’t tell any other person what had happened, what I’d been doing.

That day, I began to understand not only that what I’d done was bad, but that I wasn’t the same as most other kids. I also knew that if my mother knew what I’d done, she would punish me. And judging by the story of the boys who were expelled, I knew that if the world knew what I’d done, I’d be punished. I began to know fear, to live in fear. Even after I got into secondary school the following year, I stayed withdrawn and where before I enjoyed being in the company of girls, I started being too scared to go near them. Because I could tell I still liked girls, but I didn’t want to be near the temptation.

For a whole year, I battled with this guilt and the fear.

Eventually, when I was 12, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to tell somebody. The person I chose to tell was an older cousin – who I’ll call Stella. Stella was about twenty, a relative who was staying with us. She was always so nice, always getting in the way of my brothers bullying me. Because of her niceness, I decided to tell her; I figured she would at least not tell anyone and maybe help me overcome this.

When I told her, she didn’t react with any censure. In fact, she looked kindly at me and told me that it was alright. She was nice about it, told me she wouldn’t tell anyone. I felt at once relieved that she had taken my confession well and perplexed that she hadn’t suggested anything to help me with it.

It would soon become clear why, because that was when it started.

Firstly, Stella started wanting us to take showers together, offering to wash me even though I was clearly old enough to wash myself. Also, after my bath, she would insist on applying the cream to my body. And both during the bath and the application of cream on my body, she would let her hands linger on my privates. She didn’t go any further than this at first; just lingering touches on my privates. Initially, I wasn’t comfortable with this. But she was like my big sister, so I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t even know what to say to her. And eventually, I began to get used to it.

After a while however, she took things up a notch. One Saturday afternoon, while my parents were retired in their room, the rest of us were in the parlour watching a movie. There was a sex scene in the movie.  In the evening, while we were in the bedroom I shared with her, she wanted to try out the sex scene we saw in the movie. She mounted me fully clothed and began dry-humping me. After a few minutes, my mother walked in and she got off of me faster than Flash, all cool as cucumber, like she hadn’t just been sexually abusing me.

Then she got more daring. Stealing kisses from me every once in awhile and really touching my privates – although I refused to let her go beyond the insistent touching because it always hurt. She would ask me to tongue her neck and breasts, and would want to go down on me. Again, when she asked to do this, I refused.

In fact, I wanted to stop, really wanted to stop doing all these things with her. But she would get so mad at me whenever I resisted strongly. And she would remind me of the secret I confessed to her and threaten to tell my mother.

So, for three years, from when I was 12 till I was 15, my twenty-something-year-old cousin molested me. The abuse didn’t even stop because she developed a conscience and decided to stop, or because I got the strength to finally say no.

No.

She did the one thing my mother hated. She stole. And when she was found out, my mother – who doesn’t tolerate thievery – sent her packing back to her father’s house.

And just like that, the sexual abuse stopped.

However, in a weird sort of way, what Stella did to me, coupled with the fact that I was growing, made me less focused on the guilt of who I was and more determined to find answers to the questions I had about myself and what I was still feeling for girls. I began to research these things, hitting up Google for answers. I wanted to know why I was the way I was, what I could do to change me, who I could speak to, if there was even anybody to speak to. And for the longest time, none of the answers I got were satisfactory.

During this time, I had gotten entangled with a few girls. I was starting to discover that there were girls my age who liked other girls, just like me, and who were willing to do to me and with me the things I liked and wanted.

Then one day, when I was in SS3, during a break from school, I was home. My phone was bad. I wanted to check out some lesbian stuff on the internet, and I used my mother’s phone. When I was finished, I forgot to clear the browser. A few days later, she must have checked her history and found the searches about lesbian sex and other related stuff that I used her phone to check the internet for, because she called me to her room and began querying me. I couldn’t deny that it was me who used her phone, but I denied her insinuation that I was into girls, insisting that if I was guilty of being lesbian, I would have been mindful enough to delete the search history to avoid being detected. My mother is a master inquisitor, tougher than the KGB, but the fear of being found out made me stronger than her that day. She pressed and pressed, but I maintained that I was merely curious to know some of these things that other girls in my school were doing, that it didn’t mean I was doing it.

Eventually, she let me go. She looked like she believed me.

That year, as it happened with my primary to secondary school education, I didn’t get into the university. This time though, it was because my dad didn’t like the school that picked me. So, I had to sit for the exams again the next year.

That year spent at home was a really bad year for me. I was attending tutorials ahead of the exam, and during that period, I was getting overwhelmed with my internal struggles. The fear of being found out was still there, plus the fact that I’d been in two bad relationships, and the loneliness that came from having no one to really talk to about the things I was going through.

At the tutorial centre, there was this group of boys and girls who were also attending classes in preparation for the exam to get into the university. They noticed how withdrawn I was, and extended their friendship to me. They didn’t know what I was going through, but they knew I was going through something. And they offered a remedy: weed and alcohol. They said if I indulged, I would feel better. I could have said no. But I didn’t. I wanted to feel good. I wanted to escape the burden of my struggles, even if it was just for some moments.

And so, the gateway into a life of drugs and alcohol was opened and I walked through. Alcohol was more my poison though, just indulging in various mixes of booze and spirits.

My situation took the expected turn. I stopped caring about books and classes. My new friends and I would cut classes all the time, jaunting off to places where we could simply be free and wild. And for a period, it felt good. For a period, I put in the back of my mind all the worries and all the stress over school and exams and my parents and my sins and being found out – and simply focused on being free.

But I wasn’t really free, was I? Because no matter how high I got, I always came back down to reality. And it was often an unpleasant crash.

Eventually, even the drugs and the booze couldn’t do it for me anymore. I was at my breaking point. I needed to talk to someone, to unburden myself, to move this weight away from me to someone else, however temporarily.

I was 17, and the person I chose this time was my mother.

I went to her room that day. I was so scared. My heart was beating so fast, pumping objections to what I was about to do. But I had made up my mind. If I wasn’t so afraid of suicide, I would have taken that route. But I couldn’t kill myself, and if I couldn’t do that, then I might as well hand myself over to the hands of the person who might kill me.

So, I said to her, “Mummy, I want to tell you something. But please, you have to promise not to get mad or to tell daddy.”

She looked at me and said, “OK. What is it?”

And so, I blurted out, “I’m gay.”

Then I shut my eyes tightly and waited for her outburst. I waited a few beats and nothing happened. Instead I heard her sigh. When I opened my eyes, she was still looking at me.

So I said again, in case she hadn’t heard me the first time, “I mean, I like girls.”

“I heard you,” she said.

I waited. But she still didn’t react the way I thought she would. Instead, she dismissed me, told me she would deal with me later. As I walked out of her room, my speedy heartbeat didn’t let up, as I wondered if this meant that she would go back on her word and tell my dad, and together, they would then kill me.

The next day, she came up to me and said, “I heard what you said yesterday. I want you to know that it is a sickness. And I have made an appointment for you to get therapy. You will have therapy and you will be better soon.”

The therapist was my mother’s friend, someone I’d always looked up to. And so, my mother felt that her treating me would make me more receptive because of how much I admired the woman. We would meet at a restaurant, sometimes with my mother and other times, it would be just me and her. And she would ask me so many questions, wanting me to talk in detail about “this whole thing”.

And I told her – them, that is whenever my mother was present – everything. Well, everything except for the trysts I had with Caroline. In fact, this is the first time I am talking about what I did with Caroline. I couldn’t talk to them about Caroline, because that would no doubt affect the friendship between our parents.

I told them about liking girls, about the relationships I’d been in and the one I was in at the time, about my issue with drugs and all. The therapy sessions went on for months. And I was able to get off my addictions, but never off being queer. I stayed as gay whenever we ended each session as I was when we started.

And my father never knew. He still doesn’t know. My immediate elder brother eventually got to know though. He’s my most favorite person in the world, and he had just transferred from the federal university he was in to the private school I gained admission into. And there was this girl he knew that I liked. At this time, even though my mother was still trying to cure me, in a converse way, I had gotten freer about who I was. So, I was dropping all these hints for my brother to catch on that I was interested in his friend. But of course, he didn’t.

So, one day, I just went up to him and told me pointblank that I am a lesbian. I also told him about mum knowing and how she had gotten me into therapy to try and fix it, even though I knew now that it couldn’t be fixed.

His reaction almost made me cry. He was absolutely cool with it, even got very sad that I’d had to go through all I did by myself. And he promised to keep my secret.

And no, I still didn’t get the girl, because it turns out, he liked her too. And that has sort of being our thing now: he stays cool with me, until his female friends start getting flirtatious with me and then he becomes jealous. Lol.

Now, I am 19 years old, in my first year in the university. And I am queer. I am in a much better place than I was a few years ago, but I am still closeted, even to my mother who I have come out to. Someone once said that coming out is something you find yourself doing over and over again, sometimes to the same people. Every time my mom sees me talking to a girl, she glares at me. Sometimes, she would go as far as cutting my allowance to teach me to “behave”. And by “behaving”, it means until I am seen “liking” boys, then she will ease up.

It is depressing. It is exhausting. It is annoying. And every day, I wake up, just wanting to be okay.

Written by Ms. Shadows

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6 Comments

  1. Shawn
    September 23, 09:41 Reply

    this is a good read… Imagine fighting with your brother about a girl you both like….. E for Energy

  2. Pezaro
    September 23, 09:57 Reply

    I felt so sad reading this as it is totally relatable – the struggles of a growing queer child. I’m sorry you had to go through all these at such a tender age. At times I wish I could offer up something for the younger generation of queer folks not to be subject to these kinds of emotional and physical torture.

    But guess what? Ms Shadows, you’ll be alright.

  3. Michael
    September 23, 18:50 Reply

    It is stories like these that make to be aware of how fortunate I was growing up as a queer only child. No struggles, depression or anything. Just curiosity.

    Dear Ms. Shadows, always have it at the back of your mind that it gets better. With every year that passes, you will become freer.

  4. Mega
    September 26, 15:14 Reply

    I really resonated with your story , especially with the part of sexual abuse. Unlike you , I don’t remember who the person was or how they were related to me. I wish you strength on this journey you’ve embarked on. I hope I find the courage to live free too.

  5. Tristan
    September 28, 14:08 Reply

    “It is depressing. It is exhausting. It is annoying. And every day, I wake up, just wanting to be okay.”

    This was me everyday. But, I have chosen to live and channel all the stress into sth else that makes me busy and happy.

    • Dunder
      September 30, 15:32 Reply

      Congratulations Ms. Shadows. Why? Because you are almost free. A few more years and you’ll have a shot at owning your own money, planning your own career and living out your own life. You have been through so much but step after step, you have repeatedly picked yourself up and been your greatest defender. Well done!

      You can seek out professional therapy if that option is on the table or seek out like minded people to have as friends. You are also lucky to have had a break down and recovery before uni so you have a history of rallying from the blues prior to the stress of university. I know how tough uni is, hurling giant closets about and how difficult it was to cope.

      Use what you have, the support of a sibling you are close to and who is close by is priceless. Having a plan drawn up of your career helps as you’ll be too busy with activities helping you edge towards your future to be bothered with something you can’t change. The moment your life starts looking more like your dreams and your degree gives you access to financial independence, professional fulfillment and perhaps even a chance to japa, mummy would count her losses. You have come this far. Every day, the view of the ribbon gets sharper.

      May Ogun kill that your rapey relative.

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