Last night I went through some old pictures and I found one from when I worked at bible camp. I was 18 years old. It’s a picture that is scintillating (which means it’s all sparkly and attention getting) in my memory. It is also one that used to cause me to feel shame.
I remember loving the night the picture was taken and the snap of the camera was how it started. We were in the lodge after a camp staff meeting. In the picture you see four of us, me and two other girls on the couch, and a girl named Gina sitting on my lap. Gina is a girl I watched do sit ups every night before bed. She is beautiful, strong, wearing a green t-shirt, and my arms are tightly wrapped around her waist. You can just see my head and one of my shoulders peaking out to the side. Gina has one of her arms around me. The other girls have their hands pretty much to themselves.
This is the first of two pictures. The second one I destroyed years ago because I felt at the time it was too “gay” or it gave me away. I was so embarrassed by it then.
The second picture happened when the other two girls left. Gina didn’t get off my lap instead we just fell over on the couch all wrapped up together. Someone, a guy I think, was in the room and I asked him to take a picture. I remember being so blissfully happy and wishing I could stay there forever. I also remember feeling terror that I was going to get in trouble.
There was a huge bonfire near the beach. So after the picture Gina and I walked down there. Another mutual friend, Susie was there as well. I remember having a conversation where they spoke in a way that invited me into their arms. Other friends I knew didn’t talk like they did. I sat for the rest of the evening in front of the campfire, this time all wrapped up in Susie's arms. I felt very wanted.
Now I don't know what was going on for either of them, but for me this wasn't just the whole friends being touchy thing. It wasn't lustful either, but it was different and I could sense it. There was something about the way they talked that took some of the shame I had learned away. I also was very aware that I didn't feel this way with any men nor with most of my other friends.
This night is one of my favorite bible camp memories. And yet for years I felt guilty about it. So much so, that I destroyed the picture. I think sometime after this was when I started to think I needed to get healed.
Today I wish the 18 year old me never beat her self up for this night and that I had kept the picture. Today in my eyes now being all wrapped up in Gina on a couch is very innocuous. It is in looking back on little moments that I can tell what a huge difference it makes to feel ok with me. Now looking at this picture I don't feel shame I feel grateful and glad. And of course I wish I could have talked more with them or someone "accepting" about what was going on in me.