Sonia Ruiz

Smash or Pass is a “game” which my water polo team played while we waited out storms in the locker room and passed downtime during tournaments. It consisted of stating a girl’s name and then deciding, as a group or individually, whether or not you would like to have sex with, or “smash,” that person.

It’s casual and there aren’t any rules. I hate using the verb “play” to describe participating in it because it objectifies and degrades others.

Smash or Pass was my foremost fear as a gay athlete because I feared outing myself while playing it. I wasn’t worried about admitting that I would like to “smash” a guy. My teammates always suggested girls as objects, but I was worried about being unable to accurately identify whether or not a particular girl on our women’s water polo team was attractive enough to “smash.”

I should back up a bit. My attempts at proving my straightness in high school usually went awry. They achieved the end goal but with unintended consequences.

One such attempt occurred during a conversation about which were hotter: boobs or ass. Unfortunately for me, I was into neither. And even more unfortunately, I was into biology. In pretending to be straight, I learned that it’s easiest to lie as little as possible. This meant always remaining in the majority opinion and never really having to explain myself. I figured straight sex is all about biology, and the way to pass this test would be to pick the choice indicative of the greatest fertility. Most unfortunately of all, I was creative. I answered: the vagina.

And least unfortunately, despite some initial confusion, it was decided that I wanted to eat a girl out, and so in a category of my own, my facade of straightness remained upright.

But back to Smash or Pass. Once, while playing, I very much considered coming out. I didn’t want to do it to protest the heteronormativity of the way we played, or the fact that it’s a shitty activity, but mostly because I just wanted to be included. By this time, I was sure of my homosexuality, so I wasn’t confused by men’s attraction to women. I felt left out.

Today, Smash or Pass represents something frightening about my being in the closet. I know the game is objectifying and rude, but most of the time I think of it as a time I felt excluded. Do I hate the game because it made me feel left out and scared, or do I hate it for what’s gross about it?

This is probably a false dichotomy, but sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. My hatred of Smash or Pass isn’t rational — it’s emotional. Really emotional. Every time I was faced with the dilemma of objecting or keeping my head down, I chose to say nothing. I’m mad that I don’t get to hate Smash or Pass for the obvious reasons. I don’t have that privilege. And the frightening thing about being in the closet is that I don’t have much regret about not speaking up.

The most grotesque experience I had involving Smash or Pass was when a girl on the women’s water polo team heard about it. After catching wind of our game, she asked me for “the list” of which boys would bang which girls. I wondered why I hadn’t been asked my preferences for this sheet. Part of me was worried that the team had realized I was gay and so hadn’t asked me to participate. I set about finding our list, which turned out not to exist. My friend had misunderstood how we played Smash or Pass.

My friend’s desire to find the list came from wanting to confirm if a boy she was crushing on was crushing back. What did he say about her? Smash or pass? I still remember looking into her clear, green eyes when she asked me in earnest about the game. Excitement fueled by a crush. After I realized she had mistaken our pastime for a Google Doc, I remember telling her, “It’s casual, not a big deal, no one really keeps track.”

At the time, I meant it. Smash or Pass was casual for me. Another day pretending to be straight.

Frankie |