When I was born, I was completely normal but unfortunately, I didn’t stay
that way long. After 3 days, I developed epilepsy. Once I got home from
the hospital, my father verbally, physically and emotionally abused me
until I was 6, leaving me with Avoidant Personality Disorder. I was bullied
and teased at school from kindergarten at 3 years of age until I left school
There were 2 boys who were friends with me in elementary school, plus I
was friendly with about 4 or 5 others and my cousin, whose house I used
to visit. Back in those days, it was easy to make friends — just say hi and a
friendship would start.
However, things changed when I was 11. It wasn’t the move to junior high
that destroyed my friendships, though — it was the change in attitude.
At around that time, I began to notice a change in male friends. They
began asking me whether I was good at football or knew how to play this
or that sport or if I could catch a ball. I had been happy to continue playing
with them the way I always had. Now I felt I had to jump through hoops to
maintain friendships that I already had. I didn’t see why I had to do that, so
I resisted. Most of all, however, due to the Avoidant Personality Disorder
that I didn’t know I had then, I was terrified of their rejection. I knew I
couldn’t pass their tests. I failed all of them and they made me feel it was
all my fault. They told me they didn’t want to hang out with me any more,
so I lost them all.
Then I noticed that girls didn’t do that. They continued to behave the same
way as before. When I considered how my father had beaten me, how the
boys had teased and bullied me and now there was this new “regulation”
thing they had going on, I basically gave up on boys and men. When I
considered how my mother was rock-solid reliable, always showed up on
time, loved me unconditionally and how girls at school, although not
showing me all that much interest so far, had never given me any trouble, I
decided, at the tender age of 11, to move over to the other side and put my
full trust and faith in womankind.
During my teens, I expected that I would eventually get a girlfriend at
some point. Time rolled by and this didn’t happen. At the age of 19, just
two weeks from my 20th. Birthday, I thought my chance had come. I was
invited to an all-night party and the girl I had a crush on was holding it at
her house. Awesome! However, when I ended up standing guard outside
her bedroom door while she had sex with someone else, I realised that this
was not going to happen.
So I reached my 20’s without a single kiss or hug, no touching and
definitely no sex throughout my whole teen years. While my mother
reassured me that not everybody gets a girlfriend then and that teen sex
was dreadfully overrated, I wasn’t convinced that this was normal. I was
working part-time at a supermarket then, so I took advantage of the social
evenings they held to see if I could talk to a few women. I had a number of
very brief, 2-minute conversations. The women were friendly as always. I
felt that I would have to act like a bad boy to get their attention. I wasn’t
happy with this because that wasn’t my usual style. I disliked the
suggestion that if I act like somebody I’m not, women would be attracted
to me but if I act as I really am, they go away. That didn’t make me feel
very happy about myself.
Then, one day, I got a new Deputy Supervisor for my department. She was
fat, with short, black hair and some fluffy hairs around her upper lip and
she wore thick glasses. During the social evenings, she drank beer and we
would chat together. I actually managed to hold down a conversation with
an adult woman for a long time. We talked about all kinds of things. She
helped me to understand women. Finally, at the Christmas party, she drank
a bit too much and got depressed. Outside her house, she told me she
thought she was a terrible person and that her dad treated her badly. I told
her I thought she was wonderful. She was very thankful and kissed me.
Anyway, the next day, I told my mum and she was astonished. “She did
that?” Other employees were also very surprised when somebody told
them and we were the talk of the whole supermarket.
“What’s the big deal?” I thought. “I’m 20, she’s 24 — we’re not kids any
However, it was my mum who told me. “Olly, she’s a lesbian,” she
explained. “She’s got a girlfriend.”
This was an eye-opener but we were still just friends, so I didn’t feel like I
was losing out. I decided to ask her face-to-face. “Are you really a
“I just haven’t found the right man yet,” she replied.
“Well, if you just want to be friends, that’s fine,” I said. “However, if you
WERE interested, then that would be OK.”
“Let’s just keep what we’ve got,” she said. I agreed — I didn’t want to lose
Eventually, she changed jobs and I moved to London, where I had a
number of other crushes.
Later I worked on a cruise ship sailing from Florida to the Bahamas and
Key West. On the ship, I experienced an LGBT cruise, where I met other
lesbians. We got on like a house on fire. There was also a bisexual woman
in my department, plus I became very friendly with the Latina women
onboard. I learned how to give massages and would attend all-female
private conversations where I learned what women really talk about
behind closed doors when there are no other men around.
Finally, an American man, who I was friends with but not to the point
where I could share everything with him, told me he had a girlfriend in
Vietnam he wanted to marry. He invited me over to meet her. I said yes
and so I found myself on a flight to Vietnam in 1999.
We stayed at the same hotel, where there was a cleaning lady who was
older than me. I was 27, she was 35. Well, we got talking and on my last
day, she told me she loved me. At first, I wasn’t sure if I loved her but, as it
turned out, this was my first experience of having someone else love me
first, rather than me love them first. This was new and different and I had
no experience to fall back on. I decided to promise to return, so I came
back to Vietnam during my next leave from the ship. I kept coming back,
by which time I realised that I loved her.
So it was then, that I found myself down on one knee in my hotel room in
Da Nang, popping the question to my girlfriend — “Will you marry me?”
Of course, she said yes and so my years in the friend zone and having my
own love rejected were over. I chose the woman who loved me first and
that was what made her different. It was what I always wanted from the
Originally published on Medium.
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