Reading

A Son Of The Circus, or A Read 20 Years In The Making

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John Irving will in all likelihood never be described as a ‘prolific’ writer.

In the course of his 45 year career, the author has released only 13 novels. His most recent, In One Person, is one of his finest in my opinion.  Admittedly, A Prayer For Owen Meany will likely always be my favorite.

Several of Irving’s novels have been turned into films – The World According To Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire, The Cider House Rules, Owen Meany (retitled ‘Simon Birch’ on screen) and A Widow For One Year (retitled ‘The Door In The Floor’ on screen). Most of them, spanning years and having many side-plots, would be difficult to encapsulate into a 90 – 120 minute film.

Irving’s 1994 release, A Son Of The Circus is a book that I have attempted to delve into on several occasions without success.  He has, since I discovered his works, been one of my favorite authors. When he’s released something new, I’ve eagerly devoured it within a month or two, sometimes sooner.  But this book, something about this book, always eluded me.

Until now.

Involving a fictional detective in India cinema….and a very real serial killer……most all of Irving’s usual ‘themes’ are present here….absentee fathers, older woman/younger man infatuation….sexual ‘suspects’….and horrific though utterly fascinating deaths.  Irving’s imagination is a beautiful thing, and he makes good use of it to weave this tale.

That said…..this is likely my least favorite of Irving’s novels….which is likely why I’ve never been able to get through it until now. The length of the book (600+ pages) didn’t deter me…the foreign setting (India) didn’t deter me….the subject matter (serial killers, transexuals, dwarves, etc.) didn’t deter me….it was merely that this is the least ‘cohesive’ Irving book (to me) and something about it was just terribly disjointed.  The novel has little to do with the circus, really, as the title might indicate – and despite several mentions of circuses throughout the story – it just seems as though the central narrative of the book could have been one of several plots and sub-plots.

I’ve come to expect meandering tales from Irving, and to love how he very neatly ties them all together in the end…usually. Here I just didn’t find that to be the case. Yes; the tale concludes….yes; the ‘loose ends’ are wrapped up….and yes; there is an epilogue that tracks the ‘what came next’ for most of the main players….it just seemed at times, to me, that the whole book was a loose end.

If you read this because you love Irving’s prose and imagination – you won’t be disappointed. But if you read this expecting a tight, interweaving tale; which the author is so capable of delivering – this might be the one Irving book you just skip over.

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Miscellaneous

What Were You Thinking Ten Years Ago Today?

It’s not an uncommon question to ask people ‘what were you doing ten years ago today?’

I’d like to know what people were thinking ten years ago today.

On May 17th, 2004, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legally recognize same-sex marriages in a landmark ruling that broke ground for other states to begin to follow suit. It would not happen overnight. As of 2014, seventeen states, and the District of Columbia will issue legal, binding marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Efforts are underway to increase that number by adding additional states.

I grew up in Maine and was a teenager in the 1980’s.  There were few positive gay role models on television and in films.  Gays were usually portrayed as the ‘witty neighbor’ or ‘flamboyant hairdresser’ or even as the ‘deviant psychotic’.  Gays were not, at least on film, the ‘average person next door’.  They were not football players and race car drivers and doctors and cowboys and police officers, at least as far as the average television viewing or movie-going public knew.

And they were not married.

In all my life I have never heard a compelling, rational, well-articulated argument against same-sex marriage that was not faith-based.  I’ve heard people claiming that it will ‘undermine’ traditional marriage. I’ve also heard that it will ‘indoctrinate’ children and corrupt society.  I’ve also heard same-sex marriage blamed for natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and economic collapse.

I’ve not yet seen definitive proof of any of this.

What I have seen is nearly 100,000 couples gain not only legal recognition for their unions/families….but also access to the more than one thousand federally granted benefits that come along with that status.  Spouses in same sex couples can be covered on medical insurance without declaring it as (highly taxed) income at the end of the year.  Life-long partners can inherit one another’s assets without penalization.  Committed members of couples have been granted access to their injured/dying loved ones in the hospital without being turned away by hospital staff/administration.

The population of the world grows daily just as it always has.  Couples partner and marry just like they always have.  Couples part ways just like they always have.  The world keeps turning, despite the legal recognition of same-sex marriage in many countries around the world.

Ten years ago today, I know what I was feeling.  I was feeling overjoyed and validated in a way I thought I never would. I was feeling valued by at least the state I choose to live in.  I was feeling like far less of a second-class citizen than I ever had before in my life.  I was feeling as though, despite years of ridicule and derogatory name-calling and legal oppression,….at least a small part of the world had caught up to what I knew in my heart to be true. Love is love.

I was also feeling scared.  I come from a broken home. My parents separated when I was relatively young (8) and divorced a few years later.  I view my parents’ marriage as relatively one-sided and not terribly functional and loving.  They would both likely agree with me, so I neither mean nor intend any disrespect to either of them in saying this. They were not meant to spend their lives together, and therefore in due course they separated and ended their marriage. It happens.

But these were my ‘role models’ for marriage. Their marriage was what I grew up believing to be ‘normal’, or at least ‘familiar’.  Their marriage, and how I saw it, was the template by which my views of marriage were formed.

Considering the outcome of their marriage….I didn’t necessarily hold out much hope.

I moved to Massachusetts to pursue what had been a long-distance relationship for a full year.  I knew very few people here….I was still interviewing for jobs, I didn’t have much money in the bank, and I was leaving everything that had been familiar to me for my entire life two hours behind me – close enough to get to it for a ‘fix’ now and again, but far enough that for all intents and purposes I had to sink or swim here on my own.

None of that scared me as much as the idea of getting married….or at least to ‘think’ about getting married. I’d never been faced with this prospect before….I could have married a woman any time, but it would not have been an honest marriage. It would not have been what I knew in my heart was ‘right’ for me.  I’d been safely ‘unable’ to partake of marriage (to another many) my entire life.

Now all that had changed in one history making decision.

Now I was faced with examining my thoughts and feelings on marriage, for me, and was it something that I really wanted in my life. I was faced with processing what I had witnessed in my childhood and determining if I placed enough faith in marriage to partake in the institution myself.  It wasn’t something I would enter into lightly or unadvisedly, just because I could. It was a big deal….a really big deal….and I needed to be certain that it was what I felt was right for me. I gave it a lot of thought…months of thought…before I reached a decision.

I proposed at the top of the Arc de Triomph in Paris. The trip was, for my significant other, a graduation present upon his obtaining his degree.  For me it was a present from one of my parents who always said they wanted to send me to Paris some day, and I finally said yes and allowed them to do it.  I brought a ‘ring’ with me, which in truth was the plastic seal from a water bottle obtained during a weekend afternoon in May spent together in Provincetown (which, coincidentally, was fourteen years ago today, the Saturday before Memorial Day Weekend).  I had it in a ring box, and on bended knee proposed marriage, after a fumbling, non-rehearsed preamble about ‘finding yourself able to do something you thought you never would’ and such.

Nine years and two kids later…I’m a married man.  We live in a small (18,000 people) seaside community outside of Boston.  We bought a house together last summer.  We have a single health insurance plan that covers all of us.  We have friends that we see, and places we go where the staff greets us warmly and treats us just like anyone else that walks through the door.  The teachers at the school sit down and discuss the kids with us just as they do any other couple.  People straight, gay, or otherwise recognize us as and treat us as exactly what we are….a family.

Sure, there are places we go where we are looked at, usually briefly, like an African-American family settling into suburban West Honkeyville in the 1950’s, but it typically passes quickly and if some never get over it, they usually don’t make a ‘stink’ about anything they perhaps find ‘unnatural’ or ‘distasteful’ about our family.

No churches have crumbled…..no tsunamis have struck our neighborhood….and we’ve not been thrust into another economic depression, since we infiltrated the scene here in our little corner of mainstream suburban America back in 2002 and then added to our household over time.

What was I thinking ten years ago? Well….I was thinking that I, and every other same sex couple in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, had finally entered the human race, in terms of the law.

In the decade since then, I am glad to say that nearly 200,000 others know exactly what that feels like.

For any who are still wondering….I wish your state ‘God speed’ in reaching a place of equality under the law…..and I assure you of one thing…

It feels really good.

 

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Reading

About Those ‘100 Books To Read Before You Die’ Lists…..

I take online/social media quizzes like many other people. Sometimes you’re waiting for a train or a doctor or school to let out to bring your kids home, and suddenly you’re enticed to find out ‘which’, ‘what’, ‘where’ you either were, are, or should be.

I have found out, over time, what Golden Girl I am, what State I ‘should’ live in, what breakfast meat I am, what my actual mental age is, what I did in a past life, what Star Wars character I am, what type of car I am….etc., etc., etc.

In case you’re wondering, the answers to the above are Sophia, Washington, Bacon (duh!), 38, writer, Yoda, and used.

Okay, I made the last one up.

One of the other online polls I’ve taken is to go through and identify how many selections I have actually read from the ‘100 Books To Read Before You Die’ lists generated by various sources.  On some lists I scored pretty highly, having read more than 60% of the works identified as ‘should reads’. On other lists, more heavily laced with late 20th and early 21st century writings, I’ve scored much lower.  I think the lowest score I got on one was 36 out of 100.

Just as I don’t really subscribe to being Sophia, or Yoda, or have any plans to relocate to the Pacific Northwest, I don’t place a ton of stock in these ‘must read’ lists and immediately make plans to binge buy on Amazon or rush out to Barnes and Noble to max out my credit card on ‘good literature’.

Sure, I’ve read a high percentage of the novels listed as ‘classics’ on these lists.  Crime and Punishment, Count of Monte Cristo, Great Expectations, etc. As an adult I’ve read more than half of Dickens’ major works, I’ve read several of Dostoevsky’s major works, I’ve dabbled in Dumas, heralded Hardy, and even slogged through Moby Dick (which incidentally bored me to no end, but I finished it anyway). I love Jules Verne, and only wish I could find more well-translated copies of his works (in hardcover), and I am a big fan of the works of Wilkie Collins.

But honestly…so what? I also read Steve Berry’s ‘Cotton Malone’ series, James Rollins’ ‘Sigma Force’ novels….Anne Rice’s vampires, witches, and werewolves have enthralled me for more than 20 years now, I have begun reading the ‘Left Behind’ series, and Miss Peregrines Home For Peculiar Children is a SPECTACULAR read at any age, even if it’s billed as a young adult novel.

Some of the works on these lists are, to me, suspect as to how they wound up there.  I’m not a literature snob, I read ‘schlock’ as much as the next person. One selection on the list in particular, Da Vinci Code, while a very interesting subject, is one of the worst written books I’ve ever picked up.  I find it to be the literary equivalent of a Justin Bieber song, and anyone who knows me knows my feelings on that subject as well. I have never read any of the Twilight series; which I refer to as Transylvania 90210, nor have I read any of the Harry Potter series, though I love the films.

These inclusions on some of the lists lead me to say that, while I really don’t judge anyone by what they read (even if I call it Transylvania 90210), and more to the point I don’t judge anyone by what I read…..I have to wonder exactly ‘why’ some of these books and authors are on these lists. Why should ‘everyone’ (per their account) read them before they die?

This is where the lists fail to really explain themselves to me, and why I don’t take them all that seriously.  Moby Dick appears on most of them, and I still wish I could get back the six weeks of my life it took me to finish it, thinking to myself ‘this HAS to get better before it ends…it simply HAS to….’

To me…..it didn’t.  Therefore, I began to wonder why that and so many other books are deemed books that we, as a society, ‘should’ read before we die.

Why?

Can a person not go gentle into that good night without knowing the four houses of Hogwarts? Will Tolstoy himself come haunt you in the afterlife for never picking up War and Peace because it weighed more than a healthy newborn to carry around with you? Can you not pass through the pearly gates (if you believe in such a place) without getting stones and other detritus thrown at your head by Jacqueline Susann or Laura Ingalls Wilder or Raymond Chandler?

Yes, many of the books on the list have ‘influenced mans’ thinking’ in one way or another. Yes, 1984 was a spooky read in the 1980’s about a future society where you are being watched all the time. We live there now (no I’m not a paranoid conspiracy theorist) where your grocery purchases and travel to and fro can be tracked by your credit card activity, and ‘suggested websites’ get sent to you all the time based upon what you click on with your mouse….Amazon.com, one of the producers of a ‘100 books to read before you die’ list is very happy to show you what other people who clicked on the book you did are reading, what they bought, and even a whole butt load of similar books you can choose from. Why not buy ’em all while you are at it? After all, you really SHOULD read them before you die.

So even if Big Brother is indeed watching you, though not quite in the way Orwell imagined it; the impact that 1984 had when it was first released in the mid 20th century, imagining a world 30 years in the future that is now 30 years in the past….isn’t quite the same. It’s nostalgia now, rather than groundbreaking and disturbing.  I’m more disturbed by the ‘enlarge your breasts’ emails that I get in my spam folder since I do not now, nor have I ever had, breasts and therefore have no desire to enlarge them.

In my mind, there are a few different ‘types’ of books you ‘should’ read before you die…provided you like to read at all, which not all people do. Here’s my picks:

1. Books that you can relate to

2. Books that make you feel or think something as you read them

3. Books that entertain you for whatever the reason may be that they do

That’s pretty much it, in my opinion.

My 83 year old mother loves to read.  That’s really where my foundation of loving to read came from. Monkey see, monkey do. She reads a lot of Debbie Macomber and Mary Higgins Clark and the like.  If the cover of a book looks like a movie poster for something Lifetime or Oprah produced…Mom’s all over it. More power to her. Whereas she spends a lot of time ‘sitting’ these days, I’m glad she has this hobby to fill her hours and actually enjoys it.

So ultimately, whatever the intent of these lists were, to either get me shopping, help contribute to the royalties paid to living authors, or simply to give me a literature slut-shame for some of the stuff I’ve picked up and really enjoyed amidst all the ‘high brow’ stuff I’ve also read and enjoyed…..it’s all kind of lost on me. I read what I read.  I don’t know, nor do I care, what’s on the best seller list.  I don’t know that I’ve ever picked up a book, with the exception of high school literature courses, that ‘everyone else was reading’….and that was an effort to get a passing grade on the book, not because I really wanted to read some of them.

In the long run…read what you read….enjoy what you enjoy.  Don’t let any list tell you what you ‘should’ be reading, unless it sounds interesting to you and you want to read it.

Life is short. The only books I really think you ‘should’ read before you die….are the ones that you choose to.

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Reading

What Makes You Put Down A Book?

This morning I read a post on Facebook that contained a ‘chart’ of reasons why readers put down books without finishing them.

The original article can be found at the following link:

http://goodereader.com/blog/commentary/why-do-we-abandon-reading-certain-books

The article also shows top five most abandoned books. I’m amused to see ‘Wicked’ there, and the reason (that people saw the Broadway show and it’s not like that). Wicked, The Musical focuses on a ‘segment’ of Wicked, The Novel…not the entire novel. Having first read the book and then seen the musical, I can say I enjoyed each one just as much as the other.

Presently I’m reading a book by one of my favorite authors that I have owned since its release in 1994 but have never been able to get into it. It’s John Irving’s ‘A Son Of The Circus’.  I’ve tried before, numerous times, and always put the 600+ page work back on a shelf before getting too far into it.  Recently I read Irving’s ‘In One Person’ and decided to revisit this book again, years since I last tried.  I’m now 250 pages into it, and looking forward to finally plowing through it. I’m even enjoying it.

I have several things that would make me not finish a book, though that is a rare occurrence for me. The reasons are as follows:

1. The story doesn’t draw me in after several chapters of reading.

2. The writing style is off-putting and pedestrian in nature.

3. The story itself contains something off-putting or offensive to me personally.

4. A new release from a favorite author comes out before I have a chance to complete what I’m already reading.

5. Whatever is going on in my life is too thought and time consuming for me to read what I’ve chosen, so I pick up something more frivolous instead.

As I said, it’s rare that I put down a book without finishing it, and oftentimes I go back to it eventually and complete it. Even some of my favorite authors have fallen prey to this. Anne Rice’s ‘Servant Of The Bones’ took me three tries to get into, but I made it eventually and really enjoyed the story. In some cases it’s just about timing for me.

When I complete a book, I immediately pick up another one. I either have one that I’m certain I want to read next, or I pick up three or four and read a chapter of each (what I call auditioning books) and whichever draws me in the soonest or most completely is the one I go with. I’ve put down books without finishing them, certainly, but I’ve not gone without reading ‘something’ for at least two decades, even if it took me a month or two to finish a book due to other outside obligations.

For other avid readers, I’m curious as to what makes them put down a book without finishing it.  I’d love to hear the reasons.

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Strictly My Opinion

The Unkindness Of Strangers – Strictly My Opinion

I wonder sometimes what has become of the world, or at least the part that I see regularly.

One day, a couple of years ago now, I was driving home with my son in the back seat.  I approached an intersection where I had the right of way and prepared to drive straight through. Suddenly a car made a sharp left-hand turn in front of me. I hit my brakes quickly to stop, thankful that my son was in a proper car-seat and securely fastened in place.  I came to a stop inches from being struck by the turning car and hit the horn. The young driver, one of four young people in the other car, stuck his middle finger up at me in response and completed his turn.  He was clearly in the wrong, had almost collided with me due to his foolhardy driving, and yet I got ‘the finger’ from him, rather than any indication that he’d perhaps misjudged the time he had to safely make his turn before I entered the intersection.

Two days after Christmas last year I received a very unkind email in response to a blog post I had made.  The anonymous email address attached to the message did not tell me who the person was. I gathered from the content that it was someone I didn’t really ‘know’…and rather was someone who had found their way to my blog by chance and was reading the posts I made.  They berated me in their email, and when I replied to it, inquiring more about who they were and fully prepared to have a mature exchange with them and even explain myself (not that I am under any such obligation to do so), they went on another rant about the terrible person I am, and how even minimal contact with ‘people like me’ sickens them.  I never did learn who this person really is.

About a year ago I made a solo drive to Ikea. I was hungry upon leaving the store and stopped at a sandwich shop for lunch.  The man in line behind me was ordering his sandwich from the clerk who clearly used English as a second language, and was struggling a bit to understand the customer’s request.  The customer, rather than speaking perhaps a bit more slowly and clearly, chose to insult the clerk and told him, ‘If you’re going to import yourself to this country, learn the language.’ He then turned to me and said, ‘Isn’t that right?’ I replied, ‘Unless your ancestors gave birth in teepees, you’re an import, too.’  He said nothing further to me, and the poor clerk was visibly shaking as he made the man’s sandwich.  I didn’t blame him. I wouldn’t want some loud-mouthed jerk talking to me like that and still have to smile and uphold customer service standards just to hold onto my job.

This morning I read a story in the news about a group at a restaurant who were annoyed by the ‘noise’ a special needs child was making at a nearby table and how they were overheard to say ‘special needs children need to go be special someplace else.’  They didn’t say this directly to the child, nor to the child’s parents, but it was overheard by their waiter who then refused to serve them and may have put his job at risk in doing so.

This is not the world I grew up in and the world where I was taught to respect and be kind to others, even strangers.  This is not the behavior that was presented to me as acceptable in daily life, no matter how frustrated or angry you might be, or how much of a hurry you might be in.  This is not what I was taught for behavior that would display even a small amount of dignity and self-respect in the way you treated others. This is not the ‘do unto others’ that I would imagine most want ‘done unto them.’  And yet, this is the world that we have become.

Whether it’s in person or online, it seems like people have forgotten the manners I naively assumed most everyone was raised with. It’s not just the younger generations in my experience…it’s all generations.  People of all ages and all walks of life have just gotten unbelievably rude in the way they interact with others.  No, it’s not ‘everyone’ and yes, there are plenty of nice people out there, but it seems like more and more are daily joining the ranks of those who have little to no regard for anyone else but themselves.

I am a firm believer in standing up for yourself, and asserting your needs and wants, but when did this ‘trait’ become laced with profanity and rudeness and when did it become ‘the norm’ to berate and belittle others just to get your own way or instead of admitting when you might have done something wrong or simply foolish, even accidentally, and just move on?  When did the golden rule become so very, very tarnished that people will do unto others exactly as they please?

I don’t believe that anyone who knows me would consider me a ‘Pollyanna’ who sees the world through rose-colored glasses.  I have had my own lapses in manners, certainly.  I’ve been rude to people many a time, but I cannot recall a time when it was not without provocation and in response to how I was being treated by them.  Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe I’ve just hopped up onto a hypocritical soap-box without any justification to lambast others for their rudeness and seem to be turning a blind eye to my own.

Maybe that’s the case.  But I do know that I try, every day, to conduct myself in a kind, decent manner when relating to others.

I wait my turn in line in stores. I don’t hold phone conversations when someone is trying to wait on me.  When I am holding up traffic to traverse a cross walk, I don’t dilly-dally and text my friends and give drivers the finger when they wish to proceed on their way while I take ‘selfies’ to share on social media, or turn to giggle with my friends about something and just stand there in the middle of the road. I don’t blatantly ignore ‘right lane must turn right’ signs and turn left and cut off traffic and call out ‘F*CK YOU’ when someone honks at me. I say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to wait staff rather than order them about like they are indentured servants existing here on earth to simply do my bidding.  I don’t stiff anyone on tips because they might possibly have a ‘lifestyle’ that I don’t agree with.  I hold doors for people behind me, male or female.  I look at my surroundings when in a crowded place to make sure I’m not the jerk slowing everyone else down because I am too busy paying attention to my phone apps and tablet and weaving from side to side so no one else can get around me.  I try my best to quiet my children in public and not let them run amok and bother others and potentially break things.  I look behind me in stores before I back up to scan a shelf or rack for something rather than just do it and then say ‘WATCH IT!’ when I run into someone I backed into.  If I have a basket full of items in a store and someone has one or two things behind me, I let them go first and be on their way.  If I find that I have mistakenly stepped in front of someone in line, I back off and let them go.  If I’m behind two people in a line and a new register opens up and the clerk says ‘Next person’ I don’t just jump ahead of the person who is in front of me and has been waiting longer than I have…they are next, not me.

None of this is hard to do.  It’s called courtesy. It’s called politeness.  It’s how I was raised.

I, like many other kids, learned ‘the golden rule’ when I was very young. My family was not very religious, but I did attend church for some time in my youth.  These days I consider myself more ‘spiritual’ than religious.  And yet one does not need to sit in a pew nor scour passages of scripture to remember these simple words on a daily basis and apply them to every day life. I recall the lesson of Matthew 7:12 to this day, heathen that I have become.

‘So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.’

I also recall the words of Edwin Markham….utilized so well by the only soap opera I was ever a ‘regular’ viewer of.

“There is a destiny which makes us brothers; none goes his way alone. All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.”

I only wish more people would follow this.

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Miscellaneous

Have You Seen Your High School Crush Since Then?

When I was in high school, I had a crush on a boy. It was my first crush on a boy.  It was what made me realize that my ‘curiosity’ and ‘uncertainty’ weren’t going away any time soon.  At a time when an adolescent realizes what it means to be truly attracted to someone, and the elation that can come with that, it was a time of sorrow for me.  It meant keeping my interest to myself, lest I face further ridicule and persecution than I already was at the time for something that was becoming more and more obvious to those around me, as well as to myself.  It meant I was gay.

He was a couple of years younger than I, handsome and popular, with a big, welcoming smile and an easy way about him. I had only known him since he entered high school whereas we attended different elementary schools and had not grown up together.  We knew one another from shared activities, as well as a few friends in common. We weren’t really friends ourselves, more like acquaintances, but we got along okay. He sang in the high school choir, as did I, and each time I spent another 42 minutes in that classroom I would steal glances at him, watching the way his eyes lit up when he talked with others; watching the ease with which he carried on conversations and drew others to him.

I came to the realization that I had a crush on him my senior year in school.  I can’t pinpoint exactly what attracted me to him. I didn’t know if it was his good looks, his charm, or the way he seemed to so easily navigate the halls of a building that felt to me like a prison, and I an inmate desperate for parole.  It seemed like everyone liked him, for one reason or another.   I suppose like most other adolescents, I wanted to be liked, certainly, but I never had a desire to be overly ‘popular’. I suppose that was my introversion rearing its head at an early age.  Many people who have known me since then have told me they remember me being ‘quiet, but very nice.’  I had friends, I had a ‘group’ I hung around with, but I’ve never been that comfortable with socializing ‘en masse…’. I’m still not comfortable with that, even if I’m not quite as quiet as I used to be.

Not only was he popular with other boys, but with girls as well.  I don’t recall seeing him without an audience of young women with cheeks blushed and eyes dancing as he plied them with his charisma.  My longing was mixed with jealousy then for the consideration he gave to them, wishing against wishing that it could be me who enticed that assiduity from him.  I had no idea what I’d do with his regard, should he choose to favor me with it….I was as inexperienced and unschooled a traveller on the path of passion as I was in most of life. I simply wanted him to smile at me the way he did at his female admirers.  But my desires went unfulfilled and gnawed away at my heart day after day.

I hid my crush on this boy the way I hid most things:  with humor, or at least my unsophisticated and fumbling attempts at it back then.  I was no Oscar Wilde, despite my proclivities. I listened to the things that made him laugh or sparked his interest, and tried to insinuate myself into these conversations, and offer my artless and unrefined contributions to the chatter.  I contented myself with simply being someone he seemed to find funny, and would pay some small amount of attention to, even if he suspected my real intent and behind my back the joke may have been on me.

I think the one thing I ‘regretted’ leaving behind when I graduated high school was him; or at least the ‘worshipful puppy dog’ existence I had back then as I’d follow him around, trying my best to remain an innominate and unobtrusive admirer (what would these days be deemed ‘stalking’ in many circles).  I told one friend; a very close friend, about my crush on him, and she, thankfully, never mocked it or questioned it. She simply continued to love me and be my friend.  It was truly the first evidence I had in life that being gay wasn’t going to be the ruination of my life, and that I wouldn’t find myself ostracized from society entirely.  Over time I found many more people to surround myself with that didn’t find my being gay offensive or odd in the slightest.  Over time I put my crush on him into perspective and the residual wound of unrequited love seemed to scab over for me.  He became a fond memory I had, a romantic liaison that was to remain unrealized. He was never ‘the one that got away’….; more like ‘the one that wasn’t meant to be.’

Lovers came and went, as is frequently the case with youthful courtships.  I gave away my heart without discretion, and learned painful lessons about ‘love’.  I came to the conclusion, relatively early on, that in terms of affection I was more interested in quality than quantity, and set about looking for something more lasting and fulfilling than a night or a weekend dalliance. I learned to value and protect my heart and outgrew that naive schoolboy who first realized where his attractions lay.

One night I ventured out to a local gay bar to hang out with friends.  I left the dance floor and walked out into another room in the bar to order a drink.  I took my drink and stood against a column, silently watching others as they moved back and forth and carried on their pleasant banter with one another.  Something, or rather someone; at the bar caught my attention as he stood and waited for his own order to be filled, and from across the dimly lit, smoke-filled miasma I thought to myself how much the young man standing there reminded me of this boy who I’d long since put on up on a shelf inside my mind as a youthful fancy.  I found myself staring a bit, but went unnoticed in this, watched him interact with a friend or acquaintance of his that approached him, took notice of the familiar touch that passed between them, and it suddenly dawned on me….this young man and the one securely anchored in my memory…..were one and the same.

I recall a sense of both shock and serenity washing over me that night.  This boy, now a young man, who stood just a short distance away from me, was gay….like me.  It was both unnerving, to some degree, and liberating.  The aforementioned scab that I’d carried for years simply fell off….just like that….even if the affection I had felt for him was still unrequited.  Something about recognizing in him a similarity between us that I’d lamented for so long when I’d come to recognize my true interest in him….suddenly made it all okay.  Even if he’d never paid that much attention to me….even if we’d never been the best of friends….even if I’d never had the chance to tell him that he was my very first crush in what would be the true ‘lifestyle’ I would lead, the person who brought me, albeit grudgingly, to this enlightenment of my true nature….it was okay that he’d been that person, just as much as it was okay that I was the person I was.

I approached him, re-introduced myself, and carried on an only slightly bumbling conversation with him, getting reacquainted, even briefly, several years since we’d last seen one another.  His charm and affability had not faded.  His smile was just as engaging and his eyes lit up just as brightly as I had relegated to my memory.  He was still handsome, still charming, and yet my heart was not filled with the same wistful melancholy to realize this about him….it was filled with elation to realize that someone I’d found so alluring….was completely worthy of that devotion.

We are still connected via social media to this day.  Time has done little to ravage that attractiveness, even as his once dark hair is tinted grey and his face shows, like a roadmap, the lines that we all acquire as we live our lives.  We have only passing contact now, occasional ‘liking’ of one another’s status updates and such, and it’s nice to know that he’s found success in life, as well as in love.  The years have been kind to him.

The years have also taught me that the often-times hurtful and onerous attractions we harbor in childhood don’t have to plague us for the rest of our lives.  They’ve taught me that time; while a terrible beautician, is a very capable healer.  Sometimes, no matter how difficult and strenuous childhood experiences can be….a little patience can fix a lot.

The years have also taught me something else.  Yes, he’s a handsome guy…..and just as nice as he is good-looking….and I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to know him, even slightly, as an adult. But when all is said and done…..he’s really not my type.  ;0)

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