top of page

the summer my father thought I was a lesbian

by Olivia Serio

two days before I left for my freshman year of college,

while I waited for my coffee to finish brewing

my father asked if I was, well if I, you know,

was interested in girls. since the only boy I’d ever dated seemed a bit

effeminate and you know, he must be gay

because he broke up with me and who wouldn’t want to date me?

and I’d spent a lot of time with older girls and when he’d picked me up

to go to church after I’d spent the night at Natalie’s

I had mussed hair, a fading hickey, and you know he’d always pictured

walking me down the aisle to a nice young man and if I wasn’t

wired that way well then he wanted to start getting used to the idea.

I sipped the coffee too hot, my tongue burnt raw,

wincing before I replied girls are hot

but frankly dad, I’m into dudes.


I didn’t tell him instead of seeing the older sister

of a friend I was making out with the musician

sleeping on the other end of the couch,

eleven years older than me, both of us too drunk to drive

my lipstick so meticulously applied now smeared

red bold on the corners of my mouth.

we were the only two single people at a party full of

couples so I lied about my age. anyway I was

on my period so even though I looked like

a crime scene, he wasn’t a criminal, and his soft

lips tasted like cocktails. I thought back

to the story of how my mom and dad met in a hair salon

when she was my age and though my dad was not a musician

he was still a frat boy artist and eleven years older than her so

I guess he shouldn’t judge.


besides, I’d kissed a girl for the first time that summer in an alley

behind the parking garage. my effeminate boyfriend

doubled over, out of breath and disappointed

he’d missed it. we were running from some guy

from high school who’d propositioned sex.

the moment his back turned, we booked it, coffee abandoned

by the bubbling fountain. when he caught us in an alley

two blocks away, I blurted, we’re lesbians.

my effeminate boyfriend chimed in with a helpful I’m gay too

my father’s suspicions confirmed after all—

but despite this, he didn’t believe us, so the girl in the alley

met my eyes with agreement, no words but her lips

were so soft, I didn’t mind.


my father looked at me so kindly when he talked

about my imaginary wedding to a lovely girl that for a moment

I wished it were true, that the girl in the alley and I had made

a future together, if only so he

would keep trying to understand me.

About the Author

Olivia Serio earned a BA in English and Creative Writing from Washington College in 2017. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in THAT Literary Review and Liminal Women. She currently resides in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. with her two cats Jane and Lizzie

bottom of page