A few days ago, I received a beautiful, tenderly written letter from someone I met 38 years ago. I was 14 at the time, and he was 27. It was the summer of 1973 and the place was Fire Island, New York. For anyone who lived to experience Ocean Beach in their teens or twenties during this historically crazy time, I can guarantee that if the drugs didn't wipe out your every last brain cell, then your memory of this summer was more than likely a great one.
It was during that summer that I fell in love with the man with the long black hair.
He was my first love, and little did I know how the time we'd spend together would affect the rest of my life. It was only a few days, but it was enough to have me smitten, and though I did eventually get over the heartbreak that came with his departure, I never really stopped looking for his traits in other men. He was tall and skinny and had this luxurious head of shiny, straight, black hair -- the longest hair I'd ever seen on a guy, at the time -- and all I know is that he set the standards that I would unconsciously try to adhere to, for decades to come.
Today, in 2011, the fact that he was so much older than me, and that I was still such a kid would be completely unforgivable, but in 1973 things were very different. Back then, we weren't afraid of the world, but then again, the world was a somewhat safer place. And in that safer place, on that safer beach, beneath the very same full moon that puts lovers in the mood today, my first major crush and I walked hand in hand along the water's edge, talking to each other about dreams that we hoped would one day become real.
He was a musician, right at the top of the Punk Rock movement. He'd go on to be a legend within a few years. I would eventually find myself leaving art school to become a part of the Goth-Glam revolution that was happening in Greenwich Village. And as the years went by, I thought less and less about the man with the long black hair.
That was, until a few days ago, when he wrote me. He reminisced in a very romantic style, speaking fondly of his time with me -- remembering what I wore, how my hair looked and how, had things been different ... But alas, things were as they were.
My first love is now a 65-year-old man, who still remembers the sweet, young girl that fell in love with him when he was a much younger man. And I am now a 52-year-old woman who has lived a very intense, very experience-filled life that seemingly all started on the day I kissed the tall man with the long black hair.
We never really know how our past actions will come forth to define us. We think we do, but as we get older, we can't keep track of the endless choices we committed to making during the course of our lifetime. Still, we are the sum of those choices. We are who we are now, because of who we were then.
In my life, without even realizing it, I searched high and low for the man with the long black hair. I found bits of him in my ex-husband, I found traces of him in my ex-boyfriends and when I couldn't find him, I created him in art and writing. I even wrote a book about him.
Looking over the letter, I felt more than nostalgia -- I felt a strange sort of completion. It was as if this lifelong search for the elusive standard was over. I didn't feel the need to continue on with the correspondence. In fact, his note to me served as the perfect epilogue to a story I didn't even know I was living.