the young adult instruction manual

Jun 26, 2021 | 2014 Summer - Intersection: Age, Poetry

By Jessica Johnson

first step: embarrassment.
comb through your life for clues. find them.
feel oblivious.

repeat the word over and over
“bisexual I’m bi I am bisexual”
obsess about it, whisper it to yourself
while you shower, while you stand in line at the grocery
store scrutinizing your selections as if they’ll tell strangers your secret.
tease the idea of it
it’s a revelation, a curiosity, a proclamation, a confusion.
let the words intoxicate you.
your skin alternately fits so well and chafes.

pine for the girls you loved before you realized you could love them.

carry your secret around like a new friend – conspiratorially.
say the words to your reflection. consider saying them to someone else.
sometimes your sexuality feels like a grenade that could detonate your life.
(you’re a phoenix, though. you’ll burn and rebuild over and over if you have to.)

next step: doubt.
ask yourself if you’re lying, painfully examine every
minutiae of your attraction, hyperaware of any signs of monosexuality.
this uncertainty sneaks up, blindsides and trips you and
then you’re an imposter and a liar, a fake, and—
this happens to you more than you want to admit.

you come out the first time with a heart like a sledgehammer.

stomp on the foot of any straight man who asks for a threesome,
and smile at well-meaning liberal friends who spout no-label rhetoric and same love and isn’t everyone a little bi?
all to strip you of your newfound self.

you are at the age where bi girls are barsexual or bi-het or any number of invalidating and fetishizing things:
you’re too young to know for sure.
it’s a phase.
everyone is until graduation.
you’re practically straight.
(you hear that one the most)
do your best to tune out the biphobia, although sometimes it teams with your impostor syndrome and steals your breath.

find your queer friends. find your new family.
create a bisexual collective, if you can, until your life drips with bi positivity.
remember that you are still bisexual even if you sometimes use other words to make life easier.

stumble over the uneven cracks in your existence and smooth them over as you go.

build yourself duplicitous, block upon block of you made to pass through worlds,
remake your every joint until your identity is an armor.
become all that they say you are and revel in it, or reject it all—
it’s your right.

adulthood stretches before you with no blueprints
no instructions for assembly, not like your straight peers who have a pattern to follow: marriage, kids, grandkids, even if it’s just a vague outline.
in conceptualizing your future, you doubt that’s where you end.

so gather the courage to cobble something new.

Jessica Johnson is a 24-year-old fighting the good fight in a small Midwest town. By day she works for a performing arts venue and by night she patrols the Internet as a bisexual wannabe superhero.

Featured image: In the UK, this sign indicates a change in direction, for example, a one-way street becoming two-way.

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