I had been hearing a lot about the new Netflix series Everything Sucks from friends so decided to give it a go. Admittedly, the era of Everything Sucks is a little off for me — by 1996, I had graduated high school and was in my first year of Catholic university, and though the wardrobe is familiar, it’s nothing I wore with any regularity. Catholic high school meant plaid in my uniform skirt, not flannel shirt, at least on a daily basis. But a lot of it felt familiar.
I enjoyed the first episode and pressed on to the second, and that’s when I had the worst flashback to my horrible high school years.
I grew up in small-town West Virginia, a nerdy fat girl who knew she liked girls from an early age and tried desperately to hide it. It was an all-encompassing effort — try to fit in and not stick out by doing what everyone else did, don’t look at any females for too long, and joke around and make fun of everyone else so no one would laugh at me. And if all else failed, be hella good in school and perfect in all of the ways that my parents were looking at, you know? Then maybe they wouldn’t care if they knew. If they saw.
It was hard for me, but I survived. I started making decent enough friends and began to feel…lighter. Like maybe I could just ignore that gay stuff, because I was doing a good job of hiding it. I could worry about that later, when I was in a different place. I started being more light-hearted, hugging my friends when I saw them sometimes, just like they did me.
So in Episode 2, when Emaline (Sydney Sweeney) started that rumor that Kate (Peyton Kennedy) was gay, I instantly flashed back to 1993 Monica. That’s when Lisa passed me that note and I was excited because I felt included (my friends are passing notes to me!), and then I read it and it said that I was making people uncomfortable with the hugging (something that everyone did, mind you) because it made them feel like I was gay.
And that bitch signed it “yours in Christ.”
Lisa stole that moment from me, and I’ll never get it back. Just like Emaline did from Kate. Something that should have been something special — feeling normal with friends passing notes, or touching a woman for the first time — was turned into something wrong and bad.
The rumors followed me, just like they did Kate. I wanted to stay home, change schools, kill myself — all to make it go away. Just make it…stop. Seeing her story played out onscreen made me remember that terrified, unsure young woman who was attacked by someone who was scared of how they themselves felt.
Because I later found out that of the two of us in high school, I was not the one who had tried to kiss a girl. Lisa was.
No wonder I made her uncomfortable.
Kate had her savior, though, just like I did. Whereas she had Luke (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) making a music video to ask her out, I had a longtime friend who squashed the rumors immediately…and then signed my yearbook with “whatever gender you decide you prefer, it’s cool.”
I think if I had seen even just this episode in my teens, I would have reacted differently. I wouldn’t have hung my head and tried to disappear into my locker. I would have marched those halls, head held high, not saying anything, because quite frankly, it didn’t matter. The problem was that I felt ALONE. I thought I was the only one struggling; the only one trying to hide.
And there’s strength in numbers.
I would have had Kate. Lovely, sweet, awkward Kate who saw herself at a Tori Amos concert, whereas I saw my future at a Melissa Etheridge one. Same feeling of recognition, of belonging, even if it took me longer to deal with it.
Representation is something that TV has really come a long way with. I see myself more now than I ever did growing up. And I can’t help but shout about how important that is. How many lives did just this particular Netflix show save? Or even just make better? Then you factor in all the others with great representation. One Day at a Time, Wynonna Earp, Supergirl — just to name a few — are leading the way and telling stories about me. About my people. About my life.
Seeing that rumor started was rough for me, because it’s never fun to see your lowest moments retold onscreen. It’s never fun to remember the absolute despair that you went through when you were at your lowest. But every time I relive that, I get stronger. And I’m reminded of how strong I’ve become.
My story doesn’t end like how Kate’s did, and I had to wait until my 20s before I finally dealt with my gay mess of a self. Lisa and I didn’t get a “happily ever after,” thank Rao, because hard pass. And, honestly, the last time I saw her, I put my head down and turned the other way. I know she saw me; I saw the recognition flash across her face.
I do wish I would have done one thing differently, though. I wish I wouldn’t have changed direction. Again, I’d hold my head high and let her know I’m not ashamed anymore. This is who I am and who I have become, and I’m proud of it. All of it.
And…I might have winked at her.
Have you binged Everything Sucks yet? What did you think? Add your thoughts below!
Everything Sucks Season 1 is now available for streaming on Netflix and Netflix Canada.
Monica is a queer fangirl who lives in Pittsburgh with her wife and cat. She cohosts a Wynonna Earp podcast called There’s Something in the Heir, her favorite Buffy episode is “Doppelgangland,” and one of her favorite TV couples is Ben and Leslie. You can find her shouting about strong female characters and queer representation @lesbiyinzer on Twitter.