“You’ve never seen ‘Finding Nemo’?” I asked in disbelief. “You’ve got to be kidding! That’s my favorite movie.”
“I know,” Ashton replied. “I’ve wanted to see it for a long time but never had the chance.”
“Oh, man!” I shouted. “You definitely have to come over and watch it.” Ashton and I laughed. We had known each other for a week and really hit it off. We made plans for her to come over the following weekend to watch “Nemo.”
“Sure,” my mom replied when I asked. “We have to go out with friends first, but then she can stop by.”
So Ashton came to my house. After meeting my parents, we started the movie, but we didn’t see much of it because we were in such deep conversation the whole time. Since we’re both athletes, we had a lot in common. By the time she left it was late so I headed straight to bed. I didn’t think my mom was still up, but she was waiting for me.
“Go to bed now,” she demanded in a rather mean tone. “I have to be up early for work.”
“Okay, good night, Mom,” I said. I didn’t know what made her so harsh.
The next morning I searched frantically for a sweatshirt as my dad honked the horn outside. When I knelt to tie my sneaker, I saw Ashton’s sweatshirt on the floor, so I took it to wear. After my pitching lesson, we stopped at Mom’s work.
“Hi, sweetie,” she said as she greeted me. “New sweatshirt?”
“No, Mom, it’s Ashton’s,” I replied. “She left it last night, and I didn’t have anything to wear this morning so I borrowed it.”
“Oh,” my mom said, with a nasty look. I was confused since I thought she liked my new friend.
The next afternoon Ashton was driving near my house and asked if she could pick up her sweatshirt. My mom told me she couldn’t. I didn’t think asking permission for her to stop over would cause an argument that would last for two hours, but it did.
“What’s wrong with her? Why do you hate her?” I asked as I wiped away the tears.
“She is a senior and you are a sophomore,” my dad yelled. “She doesn’t like the same things you do. You have absolutely nothing in common!”
I sat there with my mouth shut, tears falling. They didn’t even know her, and yet they were telling me I couldn’t hang out with her. I knew what was wrong and why hanging out was no longer an option, but I was too afraid to say it for fear of making things worse. Truth be told, my parents were acting this way because they had found out Ashton was gay.
“And ... and ... she is a lesbian!” my mom finally screamed in a shaky voice. She shuddered at the word. “You hang around with her, and people are going to start talking. Listen to me, for the sake of your own reputation, stay away from this girl.”
I was glad that the real issue was finally in the open, but at the same time upset by how narrow-minded my parents were. I wanted to defend Ashton, but didn’t know how. Do I deny this widely known fact? I thought. Or do I try to convince them to look beyond her sexuality and see the personality I already appreciate?
I quickly found out that screaming and yelling would get me nowhere. If I wanted my parents to listen, I had to act maturely.
“At least make an attempt to get to know her,” I said. “You can’t tell me I have nothing in common with a friend you know nothing about. Please,” I pleaded, “let me bring her to the house sometimes.” A mumbled “We’ll think about it” was all I got, but I was content.
Later, my mom sat me down and told me she had talked to my dad. They decided that I could not drive with Ashton or go to her house, but she was allowed to come to mine. I agreed to these rules and Ashton came over a week later to hang out. We played cards and watched a movie, laughing hysterically the whole time. She even got along with Mom.
As soon as she left, though, my dad told me I could no longer be friends with this girl because he believed she was touching me on the couch. I realized they were going to pick on any behavior and turn it into a sexual gesture, all because she was gay.
After that I was scared even to mention her name. Although I still see her in school and talk to her on the computer, we are not allowed to hang out. There are days when I don’t see Ashton and find myself missing her. She comes to a lot of my softball games to support me. It’s one of the only times we can see each other outside of school, and even then my parents get really upset when they see her there.
I can’t understand how my parents’ minds work. I’ve seen my sister bring home friends of different races and they are fine with that. What is wrong with Ashton? They are afraid hanging out with her will make me gay. Neither wants to take the time to realize that we are just friends, and no one can change me.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.