So I’m watching the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, and the commentator just said that Hungary is the country that has won the most medals in Water Polo than any other. I just had a total flashback to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Why? I’m so glad you asked!
I spent most of the summer of 1996 playing “Brigitta” in a production of “The Sound of Music.” After performances we would go out to eat (its what theatre people do after performances) and once the Olympics started we would often head to Ground Round because they had a big tv. At 1 in the morning, the only even that was usually on was Water Polo, and so we watched Water Polo as we ate our fries, burgers and mozzarella sticks
I remember one moment very clearly. I was probably the only kid there (I usually was) among the adults in the show. We were watching men’s Water Polo, there was a mega crotch shot, and all the women started whooping. One of the women turned to me and noting that I was not whooping, interpreted my facial expression as embarrassment said to me, “Oh honey, you’re, like, 12, you’ve started looking. I know you have.” And I thought to myself, “Um no. There is nothing about that crotch shot that was attractive or enticing to me in any way.” I think that was the first moment that I first realized that there was something different about me than other girls.
I was also sitting at that restaurant when the Atlanta bombing happened, though my memories of that event are mixed up in my excitement to be allowed to stay up later than I ever had.
I have a lot of fond memories of that summer. I am perhaps particularly nostalgic of that short moment in my childhood because there were a great deal of bad memories in the years before and after it. I realize that is not different than anyone else, but still. It was one of those summers when I felt like myself and I was surrounded by people who truly cared about me. Afterwards when I returned to school I faced a lot of bullying and heartache as I slowly started to realize that what my family wanted for me was never going to be what I wanted for myself. I started to realize that I would face even more heartache and rejection before finding my way to the other side of coming out.
That was 16 years ago.
Now there are openly gay athletes competing, and for the first time in olympic history every team has women competitors. I’m working at a music camp as a librarian and making some of the best friends I’ve had in years. Now I’m on track for a career I’m excited about and I’m openly myself– all the time.
And the Ground Round on Pennsylvania Ave. — it’s still there.