As a bit of a reclusive tween, Tuesdays were always the most important day of my week, as they were denoted “New Release Days” in North America. Since I was born an Only Child to an Only Child, I was treated many of these Tuesdays to a new album or two without much arm twisting on my part. However, on one very important album release day of my youth, November 3rd, 1998, I was stuck in a log cabin in an isolated part of rural Ontario, in a week long Wilderness Education program with my sixth grade class.

I couldn’t bring myself to enter the communal shower with the girls I had grown up with since kindergarten. It would be towing the line of a potential security breach.When you’re first starting to learn the intricate details of human reproduction from a thirty minute a week sex education class with your giggly peers, it’s important to take the opportunity to spread your wings and get your first real taste of “independence” by “experiencing nature” and playing Predator/Prey somewhere on the outskirts of city life. For my classmates and I, this happened at Lake St. George, not to be confused with Camp Kearney, where every other school went; since I imagine my elementary school was and must still be paying out of their ass for the drastic demolition and re-building that occurred when I was exiting first grade, everything we did as a school was both low budget and low culture. This was, conveniently, the sort of lifestyle I became accustomed to growing up with my parents. In fact, there are exactly two pivotal moments in the last ten years when everyone remembers exactly what they were doing when the news broke: 9/11 (never forget) and Michael Jackson’s untimely demise (too soon). While I was sitting in ninth grade “enriched” geography class during the former, both of my parents decided it was in their best interest to ditch work that day to hit up the slot machines at Casino Rama. While they were enthralled by the neon glow of the “Blazing 7’s,” New York City was incendiary.

Before departing for my first ever overnight stay away from my parents, I gave Mother explicit instructions as she packed my oversized duffel bag with extra pairs of underwear and prescription nasal spray to pick up a copy of Gran Turismo, the Cardigans’ follow-up LP to the very poppy and accessible First Band on the Moon, on its official release day, a promise she made good on. Gran Turismo proudly holds a permanent spot on my “Most Underrated Albums Ever” shelf. While nearly everyone from my generation can at least hum along to “Lovefool,” I am often hard-pressed to find someone who appreciates the first single, “My Favourite Game,” from their most acclaimed album, to the same degree. This is probably the case because the leading track is quite a bit darker in comparison to past releases, and the booty shaking beats were probably a little too “fresh” for a year dominated by boy bands. I can also say with confidence that the Thelma & Louise-inspired music video was played less than five times on Canadian and American Music Television, combined.

Unfortunately, not only was my outdoor education excursion overshadowed by Gran Turismo‘s release, it was also spoiled by puberty.

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I opted not to shower at all during my entire five-day stay at Lake St. George, which was a slightly bold, out of character move for me as I had begun slathering Lady Speed Stick under my pits in the third grade. That same year I also noticed coarse pubic hair growing in sparsely as I sat in my family’s decrepit bathtub one evening. The amount of time I spent soaking in my own filth rapidly decreased after that moment, not because of my sudden growth spurt, but because the bathroom was nearly forty years old at the time and slabs of the pale green tile wall would come loose and plunk into the water, startlingly me every time I was beginning to work up a good lather with unscented bar soap (I have sensitive skin).

I tried to hide from my mother’s gaze by sinking down in my seat and obscuring my face behind the garish centerpiece of artificial flowers. I couldn’t bring myself to enter the communal shower with the girls I had grown up with since kindergarten. I felt like it would be towing the line of a potential security breach if I hopped in there with them, so instead, I resigned myself to sweating/stinking the Wilderness Week out, thinking it would always be “better to be safe than sorry.”

The members of my class were asked to acquire a one subject, spiral notebook in preparation for the trip so we would have ample space to record our observations as we became one with nature. I’m not sure if my peers were utilizing their notebooks to describe the foliage or express their homesickness (two of the boys on the trip bailed early on account of missing their mothers too much), but I only wrote one line during my confinement up North.

It was just before lights out one evening and one of my “roommates” for the week had just come back from hitting the showers and was only sporting a beach towel around her budding, pubescent body. At the time, I thought this spectacle before me was absolutely breathtaking and so I scrawled with my HB pencil, “if I were a boy, I would have a boner right now.”

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It wasn’t enough that I had to scathe a brand new notebook with this closeted tween lesbian sentiment, but I had to leave my mark on the very first page. Eager to get home and crank Gran Turismo on my portable CD player, I absentmindedly neglected to rip out and dispose of that torrid diary entry before my mother unpacked my bag and read it.

This wasn’t the easiest subject to broach at eleven years old. “What do you mean,‘you’d have a boner’?” she asked me from across our kitchen table. I tried to hide from her gaze by sinking down in my seat and attempting to obscure my face behind the garish centerpiece comprised of artificial flowers. If memory serves, I started tearing to avoid delving any deeper into that mortifying uncharted territory. Mother relented but still acted totally shocked when I officially came out to her at the age of seventeen.

We were sitting in our dank basement with the eleven o’clock news on only to fill the silence in between my heaving sobs. At this point, I had recently dropped out of high school (for the second time), and I was wearing the same oversized, oatmeal-colored men’s long sleeve, waffle knit t-shirt day in and day out, going on two weeks. The anchor announced while I was in mid-sob that Hunter S. Thompson had been found dead in his home, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. This type of “breaking news” made me wail even more violently and it was this most opportune moment I chose to tell my mother that her only daughter was a lesbian.

In retrospect I’m not sure why Thompson’s suicide upset me to that magnitude. I had read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas the previous summer but it had failed to leave any sort of profound impact on me. Mother very calmly and kindly tried to explain to me that I was not gay, just confused, and no wonder—I had a pretty major, debilitating chemical imbalance going on upstairs and already, more than two antidepressants hadn’t worked their healing magic on me. I believed her at the time but her reassurance still didn’t prevent me from my introduction to religious fanaticism: repetitively praying in the shower every morning to be straight like everyone else.

At eighteen, I met my first girlfriend and promptly stopped praying. I would come out to Mother again, this time with more certainty. The only difference being that on this occasion, it was her who sobbed all night alone in her bed.

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