No Labels, Please

In the morning I have a medical appointment. The doctor sits me down and talks to me while taking my pulse.

“… How is your appetite?”

“Fine. Normal.”

“… How is your sleep?”

“It’s okay.”

She’s polite and casual, like always. She still treats me like a kid, which frustrates me, but I know she means well. I try to answer her questions honestly and look around the room while doing so to avoid her gaze.

At some point in the conversation she says, “If you have a boyfriend or get one, we should talk about that.”

“I don’t want a boyfriend,” I say. The words come without thinking.

Her eyes widen immediately. “You want a girlfriend?” she asks.

I can feel my face flush. “No, I mean –”

I struggle to find words to correct both of our mistakes. I want to tell her that I just meant I don’t want to be in a relationship with anyone. I want to tell her that I don’t care about a person’s gender – I take human beings one at a time, and I hate being assigned absolute social labels like ‘straight’ or ‘gay’. But there’s a language barrier, and an age gap, and I don’t think she’ll understand.

“You like girls?” she asks me.

“I don’t know, sometimes,” I say, just trying to find the simplest reply.

“That’s okay, too,” she says, smiling at me from above.

I leave the room slightly mortified. I wonder if she now thinks I’m a lesbian. I wonder if her opinion of me has changed.