Eileen is the author of hilarious - and hilariously real - YA fiction, including the novels What Would Emma Do?, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, and most recently, The Education of Hailey Kendrick, which Kirkus Reviews called "enormously appealing."
Well, they weren't all fun and breezy. She's here to share one with us now.
In high school I had a tendency to fall in love with boys who were gay. I didn’t know they were gay. It wasn’t a situation where I thought I was so amazing that the power of my love would turn them straight, I just didn’t have a clue. In fairness, the guys in question also didn’t know (or weren’t ready to admit) they were gay. They would come out years later and divulge that in school they were so far in the closet they passed Narnia on the way through. All I knew is that these were guys that I liked. Sure, they didn’t seem sexually interested in me, but if I’m honest, the guys who were straight didn’t seem that interested either.
I lived in a small town where we used the term gay to indicate that something was lame. Being called a fag was an insult, but it was used interchangeably to mean loser and didn’t necessarily reflect on your sexuality. There was no Gay/Straight Alliance, no National Coming Out day, no Pride Parade. We knew that the world contained gay people, we had MTV after all, but homosexuality seemed a foreign concept.
My senior year we had a transfer student, I’ll call her Lisa. Lisa hung out on the fringes of my social group. We were into The Smiths, Molly Ringwald, protesting Apartheid, and wearing way too much black eyeliner. Lisa had super short hair, never wore makeup, and wore a lot of flannel shirts. A few of us thought she would look great with a makeover, but we chalked up her look to a style choice. Lisa wrote a note to one of the more popular girls confessing that she liked her and asking her to keep it a secret. I think the secret lasted all of 2.5 seconds before it spread like wildfire in the hallways. We had a real, live, lesbian on our hands.
Our group surrounded Lisa. We made sure that people knew if they called her names they were going to have to deal with all of us. We stood up for her. I think we were excited to have a real cause, something to fight for, something that made us feel like we were starring in our very own John Hughes movie. We stood up for her not because it was the right thing to do, but because we wanted to be the group that was edgy and “big city.” We liked her because we knew our parents wouldn’t. We weren’t really being her friends; we were too busy making a statement about ourselves.
I’m proud of the fact that I didn’t call her names or suddenly pretend not to know her, but I’m ashamed I wasn’t really there for her either. What I learned is that it isn’t enough to do the right thing, but that you also should do it for the right reason.
Thanks so much for sharing that with us, Eileen. There's definitely something to be said for considering the motivations of our behavior - even when we are doing the so-called "right thing."
So what do you think, readers? Can you recall a time when you might have done the right thing, but for the wrong reason? And if so, what, if any, were the consequences?