Her name was Jennifer and she was the girl I was going to marry.
I don't say this in a vague and uncertain way, the words of a teenaged mind coming back to haunt me in the night. Like ghosts of Valentine's Day past I don't lie in bed and am haunted by the visage of Jennifer and wonder what would have been. For you see I know. I knew the first moment I met her I was going to marry her and that was it. She was tall in that sexy, gawky way teenage girls possess. She was a flamingo learning her first steps and though she had mastered nothing, she was a pro at making my head turn. She was funny, intelligent and was everything I wanted in a girl at the time.
And I was going to marry her.
I was 14 when we first met and she literally took my breath away. I mean she actually slammed into me at full force and knocked what little air I had in my lungs at the time out of them. She was running out of the student union of our high school and I was falling in love. It was that simple. Her chestnut hair streamed out behind her like some kind of tribal ribbon proclaiming to all the village boys she was single and of child bearing years. Well it would have been if we were in the 1500's but here it was just Jennifer, and I was smitten.
I was for the next few months the boy she knocked out running late to first period. I had no name, no claim on anything other than I was the boy. I knew how this worked. Girls had different classifications when it came to boys. There were guys, reserved for older guys in varying stages of unrest. Like creepy mail guy who was the weird unibrow guy who always smiled at you when he delivered the mail. Greasy pizza guy was the older man who owned the local pizza joint and looked like he was constantly sweating, even when he wasn't. Guys were the lowest of the low; no one wanted to be a guy. Next was boys. Boys were nondescript males who were involved in something memorable, even if the boy wasn't. Like The Boy who got hit by the line drive during PE. Or broken arm boy for the poor soul who fell out of the English window during 6th period and broke said limb. Boys weren't all bad but they were all forgettable. And I was the boy she knocked out, though she didn't, while being late to 1st period. I wanted to be the cute hottie that she almost killed cause she was too busy staring at me instead of the door. Alas I was no hottie and she wasn't looking at me so I was neither. Normal men would have slunk away in the night from such abuse but I was no normal man. I was a special creature all my own. I was of a race that few can overcome with simple words.
I was a teenage boy with a crush.
I spent the next few weeks....learning about her. Nowadays it would be stalking but then it was cute determined interest. Now I would have a restraining order slapped on me faster than you can say Michael Jackson. I learned her schedule, her locker, what lunch period she had...the creepy stalker guy works. I was going to get this girl to notice me, even if I had to take another shot by a door. I was ready for the long haul on this one. I started by moving some classes around, My history class became her history class, and since I was already a guy, sitting next to her was a simple matter of casual, is this seat taken ? If she knew the lengths I went to for this seat...well in retrospect she would have gone screaming into the quad and proclaimed me forever as Creepy schedule stealing guy. Downclasseed from boy to guy in seconds flat. But luck was with me and she knew noting except that the boy was in her history class and that was ok. I beamed being this close to her, I mean I could smell her hair. Ok I couldn't smell her hair since she sat next to me instead of ahead of me and if she did sit ahead of me I would have been real weird sticking my head in her hair and with my luck something on me would get stuck in her hair and well then folks, we have ourselves a nickname for the ages. But I was in her line of vision, and in the end that was enough for me.
I sat there for says on end, for getting this far was about as complete as Plan Jennifer went. I mean I did the intel, found the class, got the switch...now what ? Talking to her was out of the question. I mean she was a girl and I was a boy wanting to be upgraded soon to a hottie or at least a cutie with an option for dude. But words, words were not something teenage boys used to woo teenage girls. In fact words weren't used by teenage boys in general. Guys out there know I am right and girls are cocking their head in confusion. Watch, this was an average conversation with me and my friends when we were all teenage boys.
What's up ?
That was a very intense conversation for us at the time, so trust me, unless I could turn to her and say, Dude, I was dead. So I sat and I stewed. I was sunk. So I just stared. Not her of course, then I was The Boy who stared at her during history or even worse, creepy staring guy. I stared out of the corner of my eye, which let me tell you, gives you intense headaches. But I was determined. I was going to do something. I had fate, courage and a little something the other boys didn't on my side.
I was a nerd.
Now normally this wouldn't give me any positive points but in this case, it was different. See history wasn't Jennifer's thing. I was pretty sure that flinging her hair over her shoulder and smiling was her thing and as far as I was concerned, that was enough. So after a few softball questions thrown by the teacher were hit out of the park by my superbrain, well suddenly I was History Boy. And better still, I was the Boy who knew history and was willing to let her copy. I was on my way.
As the days went on we found ourselves passing more than just answers from desk to desk, the answers stared having other questions. Instead of who was the 16th president the note read, So what do you do for fun ? I sat there holding the piece of paper for minutes, I looked over my book trying to find what part of history she was asking about but damned if I could find anything on fun. I looked to her and pointed at the book with what I am sure was an endearing look of complete bafflement on my face. Either that or I looked like a total dumbass. But she smiled shook her head and pointed at me. It was the first time she ever gestured to me. It was a Thursday with some cloud cover, somewhere in the mid 70's in October. That was how important it was.
From there we began to talk.
I told her about how I loved music and she said she loved to dance. I said I loved movies and she said she loved popcorn. I said I loved Moonlighting and she agreed. After that, things began to move fast. We decided to meet at a school dance, not a date mind you, just to meet. She was going and I was going so we should meet. Of course I wasn't going until the VERY moment she said she was going but hell what she didn't know wouldn't hurt. She never caught on I was a stalking freak who knew hew locker combo why should she doubt my dancing integrity ? I changed about 465,000 times at evening. I threw every piece of clothing I had out of the closet and I might have in fact started putting on some of my mom’s stuff in a panic. I was so completely lost on what to wear, what to say, what to do. I was way out there, heading towards cutie land and I didn't want to blow it by being downgraded to The boy who showed up to the dance in drag.
I showed up early.
Ok I showed up so early they were still putting up decorations. I somehow became a temporary member of the dance committee since sitting there and watching them wasn't a choice with the pent up energy of Three Mile Island in my body. By the time the dance started and she showed up I was exhausted. I was sitting there sipping a truly horrible concoction of fruit and punch like substance and she was standing there, perfect.
"Hi." she said with a smile.
I dropped the cup as I almost leaped up to meet her eyes. The cup and strange red liquid was scattered all over the table, forgotten in the blueness that was her eyes. "Hi." I said back. I was amazed I got that word out.
"The place looks nice doesn't it ?" she said looking around.
"Thank you." she looked back to me in confusion. "I mean yeah it does. They did a great job." I said planting my hands in the deepest part of my pockets.
"The music sounds good." she said again looking around.
"Yeah, it does." I said looking around also.
Vanna I would like to buy a clue ?
"So." she said looking at me.
"So." I said looking back.
And then Morris Day and the Time walked up to us and screamed.
Well it wasn't Morris Day and The Time it was the two weird guys who went to our school called Cal and Jimmy who went around dressed as Morris Day and Jerome since Jimmy couldn't very well be the other 14 members of the Time. And they didn't so much as scream as they did that weird Prince like thing that was vaguely James Brown in its inflection. They were referring to Jennifer in her dress, I assume it was Prince for damn she’s smoking.
Jennifer apparently didn't speak Prince and moved closer to me for protection.
"James my man." Cal/Morris said. "Who is this fine piece of pleasantry ?"
Jennifer took a step closer to me again. "Huh ?" I asked.
"Who is this little dream who wandered out of my fantasy and into my heart?" by this time Jennifer was practically in my arms. "She your girlfriend ?" he finally asked in English.
"Yes." she answered so quickly I didn't even have time to form the thought of a response in my head. I spun and looked at her with such a quickness there was a little snap like a marital arts movie or something. My eyes were wide and my mouth ajar, did she just say yes ?
"Yes, yes he is." she said slipping her hand around my waist. My arms from pure instinct moved around hers and she pressed up against me in a way that felt like she had always been there. "He is indeed my boyfriend. That's us, a couple. Couple of, people, dating, that's us."
She was so bad I was shocked out of my stupor, "Yes, yes she is. Jennifer this is Cal, ahem, Morris and his manservant Jerome."
She extended one hand with a look on her face that really looked like it was one hand more than she was willing to give. Cal/Morris took is gently and bowed down as if he was going to kiss it. Jennifer took the hand back in a blur, The pleasure is all mine, he said looking a bit crestfallen she had extracted her hand.
Well we need to go dance, she said pulling me towards the dance floor, That's what dating people do, dance, she laughed a laugh that was more nervous energy than actual mirth as we plunged into the crowd. We were three deep into Dancing in the Dark before she bust out laughing. He hand rest on my chest as she steadied herself, the warmth of it I could feel through my Miami Vice like jacket. It was a good night so far.
"What is it with those guys ?" she laughed over The Boss.
They love Prince, I yelled back.
THEY LOVE PRINCE !
THEY LOVE PRINCE !!
And looked at me for a moment in confusion, shrugged her shoulders and kissed me. And the world slowed down to a crawl.
Later I would find out she thought I said something about loving her as a princess or something. It never mattered, it was the first time we kissed and I was sure, I was going to marry this girl. That was where it started.
A few months later a dark haired boy with eyes of pure mischief pulled me out of a screaming mob and into his arms and everything changed. Him and I kissed that night as I wiped the blood out of his hair and though it was a kiss that was every bit of a shock as Jennifer's it changed everything. From that kiss came dating boys as well and from that came loving men and from that came the rest.
I stopped dating girls a few years after that first kiss, I found the love I had for them was never equal no matter how much I felt for the girl in the end. it was a hard choice because it left me with only Hard love left, my easy love choice was forever destroyed. The rest of my life was to be of Hard love after that.
Love is hard.
Anyone who has been in love can tell you love is hard, but there are two types of love.
There is love that is acceptable. There is love that is reflected in popular culture as the love you are supposed to go for. It used to be exclusively white boy/white girl, black boy/black girl, etc etc. There are some parts of the country where that kind of thinking is considered backwards and just ignorant and the acceptable is simply boy/girl. Over the years it has been pushed away from things that were once incredibly taboo. An older man was always supposed to date a younger woman, it was expected. See an ancient guy with some full on hottie on his arm and you just smiled and said sly dog. Well you did if you were Larry Tate from Bewitched but you get the point, it was acceptable and considered all right. Nowadays you can be an older woman with a younger guy, Demi Moore and her boy toy of Ashton comes to mind. I heard no one complain about the pairing except asking if Bruce Willis watched as they had sex or was he involved. But still, an acceptable love and therefore, easy.
And then there is hard love.
When I was growing up I never saw my kind of love. I saw straight love; Debra Winger being scooped up by Richard Gere and taken off to be ravished somewhere. That love is easy to find and cheered by everyone seeing it. Now imagine Gere comes in and sweeps Lou Gossett Junior off his feet. Think anyone is cheering ?
Scratch that, I am gay and I aint cheering...let me try to find another example.
You see Leonardo Dicaprio chasing Kate Winslet all over a sinking ship, bumping uglies in the back of a Model A and it is a billion dollar movie that is universally accepted as one of THE love stories of our life. But Heath Ledger pulls Jake Gyllenhaal into a stairwell to give him a kiss that is closer to mouth to mouth as it is to a romantic gesture and all of a sudden the straight guys in the audience are groaning and looking away. Suddenly it is not just not acceptable it is a betrayal of American icons by subjecting them to homosexuality. Cause everyone knows there are no gay cowboys.
Statements like that make me wonder if we should have an IQ test before breeding is allowed with heterosexuals.
It is a hard love we choose to want, and there is no way around. My love for Jennifer was nice, it was simple and best of all, it was safe. I saw in her a path of acceptance and even contentment. I could hide within her, a band of gold on my hand allowing me to pass through suspicion with Bilbo-like invisibility. I would be immune and best of all, safe.
Easy love is not worth it in my opinion. Easy love, the love you think you should have, with its trappings and its safety is just that, easy. There is no real gain from it. You are comfortable in your little zone of hassle free love. No conflict, no outside pressure, a smiling couple of wax like figure that pose for the camera and allow the rest of the people to see and know, yes, we are normal too.
I am not normal.
I love men, and that's it. And my love is hard. I accept the fact that what I choose to do bug people. Hell it is one of the selling points to me that it bugs people. I consider it a welcome addition if I can push some straight jackass's nose out of place by being me. I loved standing there at a bar, my crewcut buzz, my PT brown t shirt, leaning talking to my friends who were also military and know, anyone looking would see 4 all American boys shooting the shit. And then, I would lean over and kiss my boyfriend causing little straight minds to explode in shock, and it was better.
I know the odds are against me. I know that gay guys in general don't have this great track record when it comes to long term relationships. I know they like young, tight, hot guys and I know I am not getting any younger, hotter or tighter. I know that I will most likely end up being single for the rest of my life, my cat and my friends being my only loves. And I am good with that.
I cannot and will not take the easy love out and just go for what is expected of me. I will not go and find some girl to be with, I will not go out and find some young twink who I can impress with money and status just so I can have someone in my bed. I will not go into that night so easily. I want a hard love.
I want a love that will challenge me, that will force me to think and to react. I want a love that takes your breath away with its intensity. I want a love I have to wrestle to the ground and subdue it with my own two hands. I want to hold it down and make it look me in the eye. I want to smile as we both know, this is far from over...it's just begun.
I want a hard love, a love worth having. A love worth fighting for and with. A love that if it doesn't last, leaves me as full and changed as I left it. I want a hard love, and it's all I will accept.