When my mom warns me not to “put everything out there,” on my Facebook account I think like, Mom, who do you think is looking? I want to say, Mom, I’d be thrilled if someone was looking. Like if some old perv was looking at the pictures of that time when Tif and I went to memorial pool. The pictures of us in our two pieces on the towels painting our toenails that Tif took and then posted on Facebook so fast, I hadn’t even gotten home and logged onto my computer by the time they were up. Why is the idea of that so bad? If there was some perv looking at my pictures and he messaged me to say so and wanted to talk, I’d probably message back. I wouldn’t like meet him in his van but I’d chat if he cared enough to try to talk to me. Shock me, shock me, Mom.

Our health teacher, Mrs. Krasner, is weird. In the fall, she made a big thing to our class. That we were 9th graders, the newbies in highschool, and she was going to be our friend all the way through. She said she’d support us. If we needed help we could always come to her classroom. She pointed to the gay triangle sticker on the classroom door and said how that means this is a safe place. The black boys who play football snickered in the back. Mrs. Krasner gave them a look but didn’t say anything because you could tell she was nervous. Black boys = 1 point. I wanted to look back and smile at them but I was nervous too—school had just started and I wasn’t sure who to align myself with so I didn’t do anything and stayed invisible.

Anyways, a few weeks later Mrs. Krasner told us about blow jobs. She said she loved giving her husband blow jobs and I thought that was disgusting and inappropriate.  So I told my mom. She said Jesus Christ. Then Mrs. Krasner said how when she gives her husband a blow job she always uses a condom.

“That’s nasty!” a bad girl hollered from the back. Everyone laughed. Mrs. Krasner sat on the top of desk, crossed her legs, folded her hands and put them on her knees leaned forward and said, “No Kim, what’s nasty is getting gray-colored genital warts all over your mouth.” TMI means Too Much Information and that was total TMI. “Dang,” the girl whispered leaning back in her seat. Mrs. Krasner = 1 point. I was snapping at my Silly bracelets and pretending to be aloof because that’s what I do, but I was listening. I’m actually always listening. Little known fact.

I haven’t given a blow job yet. I would, I’m not morally opposed. But I have no one to give a blow job to. I would if there was somebody, because I just want to get it over with and make sure I can do it without gagging. The longer I don’t do it, the more nervous I get about when I’ll have to do it. Tif said I shouldn’t worry about gagging, that it’s easy. Tif’s doing something. She told me not to tell anyone.

This is what Tif is doing. She is giving this guy Max, who is a junior and is on the basketball team, blow jobs at night in his car when he picks her up. She tells her mom she is getting frozen yogurt but they park near the water plant and she does it. Tif said they also have really good conversations. He tells her how much he hates his girlfriend, that she is prude and is stupid, but that she just makes sense because she’s part of his group and that his dad really likes her. He can’t stand his dad either, that’s another thing. He says his dad is really mean and is obsessed with Max being perfect. Good grades, varsity teams, the wifey girlfriend, that whole thing.

“I don’t know if I buy that,” I told Tif and she looked at me like I was a backstabbing bitch and goes, “Buy what?” And I realized she thought I meant I was suspicious of her relationship with Max, but I meant that I didn’t buy how bad his dad was. “Oh no,” Tif said looking at me normal again when she realized what I was talking about, “his dad sounds terrible.”

I guess this sounded like a bad thing Tif was doing. That was my first thought. We are pretty hammered home with the respect yourself bit, so that was the first alarm that went off in my head. But I knew if I said anything Tif would get angry at me. I also could tell she was proud—really proud. This annoyed me, but I didn’t let on to it.

I thought about what Max looked like; he’s tall with brown hair and doesn’t have acne. He’s not in the coolest group for the juniors but he is in the second tier of cool groups—which is not nothing. I never thought Tif was prettier than me, I thought we were at the same level, but I guess she is. This also annoyed me.

“So you’re a mistress?” I said. We were eating Starbursts on my bed. Tif likes to flatten them out with her hands like they’re dough and then push different flavors on top, she calls it a Starburst sandwich. I think it’s disgusting- I let her know that but she just laughs and swears she has washed her hands.

Tif thought the mistress thing was funny and laughed. I was sort of jealous. But I was also a little pissed off. And another part of me felt sad for Tif because no matter what Tif says, being Max’s girlfriend is better than being his secret blow job girl. I felt these three emotions all at once: jealous, pissed and sad. I know outside I had to play it cool. Pretend it wasn’t a thing, that I didn’t care. So that’s what I did while my mind ran wild. Story of my life.

Now that I think about it, I really shouldn’t have been that surprised. I should have seen this coming. Tif and I have been best friends since the 5th grade. Every year towards the end of August we do the same thing, figure out who we’re going to be that year. We look through designer websites and celebrity sites and we watch movies where there are cool girls, that sort of thing, and we figure it out.  It actually takes a really long time. I mean like, weeks. But it’s important to do before September when our moms take us back to school shopping so we get the right kind of clothes to be the right kind of person.

You have to realize something, this is the part I really don’t think adults comprehend, that every single thing we put on our bodies is deliberate. Every single thing. It’s exhausting. I mean, if my nail polish looks like it is partially scratched off, it’s not because I’ve been wearing it for a long time it’s because I put it on and then partially scratched it off to look like I don’t care. It sounds stupid writing it out now but it’s true for me and I know it’s true for Tif and I’d bet it’s true for 95% of the girls in our class. And the other 5% are the girls who are completely clueless and obsessed with science and math or have anger problems or whatever.

For this year, and it was an important one because it was our first year in high school, Tif wanted to be Fuck It Girl. Tif’s more extreme than I am and when she said that I just cringed and laughed. I knew what she meant but it sounded ridiculous coming out of her mouth. She said Fuck It Girl is hot, but she doesn’t care that she is hot, and boys like her but she doesn’t care that boys like her.

“Then what is she? You’re saying that she is not anything.”

Tif chewed on that one and said Fuck It Girl has bigger problems than that kind of stupid stuff.

We agreed that Fuck It Girl would wear skinny jeans that had a rip under her ass. Not so you saw her underwear because Fuck It Girl wears thongs but so you saw a slit of her thigh if she bent over.

So yeah, I get it. Fuck It Girl would give secret blow jobs and not care about it. That’s the sort of girl Fuck It Girl is. I get it. Tif went all the way with this. Gold star Tif.

I was more confused than Tif this year because I wanted to be seen as hot but I didn’t want to be slutty. I wanted to be the sort of girl a boy would notice but he would think he is the only one who notices because I am different and special. And then he would like me more for it.

“Retards are different and special,” Tif said.

“No, I want to be like a book only some people understand.”

“That’s tricky,” she said. It was and we thought about it.

“The girl next store?” She said.

“No, they are too prude and quiet.”

“If it talks like a duck.” I threw my balled up sweatshirt at her.

“I am The Great Gasby,” I announced. I hadn’t even read The Great Gasby, but I had a good feeling about it. The Great Gasby would wear a lot of dresses we deducted. And every once in a while she’d lace a ribbon through her braid.

“The Great Gasby would wear white slip-on KEDS!” Tif almost yelled, as if it were a math problem she finally solved correctly.

Part of me thinks the cooler you are the more secrets you have. Because if you don’t have secrets it’s like nothing has happened to you. It’s like no one has bothered to make something happen to you because you aren’t pretty enough or you aren’t cool enough or you aren’t interesting enough.

People tell me their secrets all the time. It’s weird. Teachers even. I’ll be in a classroom after school to go over why I got a C on a math test and all of a sudden Mr. Leffer, the Algebra teacher, will go into this whole tangent about how difficult it is to really teach all 27 of us in the class specific variables because we all learn differently and sometimes he wonders if he is even getting through to any of us and how he thinks about going into the Peace Corps in Ethiopia or some other poor place where he can really be of service because honestly, he sighs, “I’m not even sure that I’m doing this job very well.”

I swear. And I just sit there like, you’re on crack why are you telling me this? I mean I don’t say that, I nod along and then shrug my shoulders at the end like I’m agreeing with him, like I’m saying, Tough lot out there man. And then I tell my mom and Tif. And it’s not just that time; people do this to me all the time. Just load their shit on me like I know something.

“You’re someone people can confide in,” Tif says like she is older than me.

Like a blank journal. Like an empty room. I think, annoyed.

I have one secret though. A secret that has happened to me– is happening to me. This is different than secrets people tell you about themselves, those don’t count. My secret is sort of embarrassing but whatever, here it is– I talk to this guy online at night and nobody knows. We met in real life once though at my friend Susan’s birthday pool party in September right after 9th grade started. His name is Jeff and he is Susan’s cousin’s friend, he lives in a town that is like 45 minutes away or something. We all Facebook friended each other after the party because that’s what you do and then a week later he suddenly Facebook chatted me, “What’s up girl?” I liked that he called me girl, I noted that part in my journal. Nobody calls me girl and it made me feel pretty or special or something.

Anyways. Now we talk on the computer almost every night. Sometimes we don’t, but most nights we do. It’s like, this is embarrassing, but it’s becoming the thing I look forward to during the day. Which seems sort of pathetic because he doesn’t see me and no one really knows he exists in my life and it’s not like he’s my boyfriend or we talk about anything gross or sexual. We’re friends, I think. But his friendship seems more important to me than a lot of friends I see every day at school. I like that I can sit there in my bedroom with my retainer in and hair scunchy, which I think is more comfortable than hair elastics but if I wore a scrunchy to school I’d be made fun of the second I walked through the door. I like that I can tell Jeff what I’m thinking and he tells me what he is thinking. About his family and friends, and how he feels like he is different. How he feels like he doesn’t fit in. That it’s like all his friends are content and happy with everything, going to basement parties on the weekends and hanging out at the tennis courts after school, but he feels like there is so much more out there. That everyone in his town are really sheltered and confined but nobody except him realizes it or cares.

The more he tells me the more I feel like, sort of like Jeff is articulating exactly how I’ve always felt. Like before I was too stupid to realize it myself but yeah, duh, I feel the exact same way! That’s why everything is so exhausting and confusing. That’s why I over think every single thing. That’s not normal, right? I mean I really think about every single detail to every single thing. How boys look at me, how girls talk to me. What everyone is wearing. What everyone is eating. It’s like, I feel like I’m trying really, really hard to figure out how everyone around me works. How they talk and eat and dress and feel things, like what makes them happy and sad and excited and depressed and I just copy it all. Because none of it feels natural. I’m just like, pretending.

I didn’t realize any of this until I started talking with Jeff online. And he totally agrees with me.

“We’re two chameleons lying against a rock, so we look like the rock,” Jeff said one night, “but we aren’t the rock.”

I wrote that in my journal, too.

If your eyes are supposed to be the windows to your soul then Tif is building some pretty heavy shudders over those windows. She keeps applying black liquid eye liner, like every free second she’s got. I told her once that I didn’t think she was doing her eyes any favors and she just said I don’t know what it’s like. She told me how everything is getting really intense. How much life sucks.

I want to shake her and be like, Tif, you’re not really Fuck It Girl, that was just our, our, well I’m totally sure what you’d call what Fuck It Girl was, but it was never real. I know that. You can’t pick who you are, can you? It just like, happens.

I want to tell Tif that all of her problems she has made for herself. They aren’t real. She could just stop being Max’s secret blow job girl. She could just stop sneaking out of my house when she sleeps over on Saturdays to meet Max and then come back at two in the morning through the back door we had unlocked when my parents went to sleep. It’s annoying. Tif’s annoying and has no perspective. And I think it’s gross what she’s doing with Max, I do.

I was telling this to Jeff one night. And he was saying how he feels like he knows a million “Tif’s” at his school, “But you know what?” he said, “I’ve never met anyone like you before.”

I think that was 100% the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. When I read that I felt like happiness was a thing, and that thing was shooting through my body. And I wish I could have trapped it in and put it in my jewelry box so I could open it up and feel that way again. Because then Jeff said the next thing. He told me he has been talking to this guy online that he met on MySpace. And he was thinking of meeting him at this concert that was in the city. Then Jeff told me he was pretty certain he was gay.

And it’s fine, it’s fine Jeff’s gay because it’s not like, I mean like I said we weren’t doing anything sexual. He’s not like my boyfriend. It was never like that. It was just special. But the thing is I’m not gay. And that’s the part that is confusing me. So great, Jeff’s gay. He’s officially different then everybody. He officially has a reason to not fit in. Everyone gets it. But what about me? That’s the part that feels weird to think about. Why can’t I have a reason to feel like I don’t fit in? A reason everybody understands. It’s not like I can talk to Jeff about this because I sound like a total nutbag. And Tif is so annoying she wouldn’t even listen to me or she’d say something crass and stupid like I’m a faghag. And my mom wouldn’t understand.

9th grade is officially the most confusing year ever. And what’s even more disgusting is that I still haven’t read The Great Gabsy yet. I still don’t even know who I’m pretending to be. On weekends I sleep until 11am and when I come downstairs all groggy-eyed my mom looks at me like I’m on crack. But I swear, this is another thing nobody understands, this—whatever all “this” is—it’s really, really exhausting.