Valentine's Day always makes me think about the first time I fell in love -- because it was kinda gay.
I fell in love with my soul mate at 14 years old. Yes, I've had multiple loves, but there will be no reliving the pure intensity and innocence of teenage infatuation.
Our world was exclusive, with 2 a.m. speeding down Laurel Canyon, surging serotonin-fueled singing and nightly phone calls on the landlines till dawn. There was mac n' cheese at Jerry's Deli, laughing laughing laughing, nighttime games of tag on the beach, playing dress up, making art and riding elevators up and down classic haunted hotels. Los Angeles was ours, we were just kids playing, but the happiness highs were so constant and intoxicating, we could barely breathe.
It was magic, I was the best version of myself around him, and it was gay. Gay as in happy, joyful, blissful and good. The Best. Yeah, it was super gay.
But did he like "like" me? He slept over most weekends, and spooned me while we watched a movie. Okay fine, so the movie was A Chorus Line, and he knew the words to every song. One singular sensation, every little step she takes...
Trust me, he was a tall drink-a-wata' with a magnetic personality that could've convinced any girl she was the "most" special. But duh, I was suspicious. We bonded over S Club 7, the You've Got Mail soundtrack and the DVD release of The Little Princess and The Secret Garden double feature. But I could never be sure. I never wanted to be sure. I wanted him to love me.
He said people didn't "get him" in high school, but I called bullshit because he was handsome and every single one of his friends was a girl. Every single one. I was too tall, too awkward, too weird, and felt like I actually didn't fit in. Either way, we got each other -- and Esquivel got us, and Brigitte Bardot, and Fellini, and Harry Nilsson, John Waters, Serge Gainsbourg, and Woody Allen understood us too.
When he finally kissed me, it was like BAM. Okay fine, so I might have kissed him, and he might have been asleep while I did it. I was 16 then, vulnerable and confused as to why my feelings weren't reciprocated. Was this just how relationships worked?
His name circled in my adolescent mind like a weird inescapable vortex of worship that made me consider making shrines. But even though we were inseparable, he wasn't thinking about making shrines for me. I spent sleepless nights wondering why, nuzzled into my pillow because the scent of his hair gel was still on it.
When we were 18, he came out. It was gay. He was gay, and that's why it was all so gay.
It was one of the most powerful moments we shared when he revealed his personal struggles with love, relationships, and fears of being "found out." Now, I understood the great lengths he had gone to fool friends and family. But at the time, he couldn't have understood how much he had fooled me.
Mixed with feelings of happiness and support, was my own private suffering for the loss of a relationship that never was. He was my first ever love, and this was my first ever "breakup." I had been trapped in my yearnings for him for years, and when it was finally over, I didn't feel justified to talk about my pain to anyone. Though it wasn't a real breakup, my emotions were as intense, and I went through them alone knowing my romantic fantasy had always been one-sided, and that now it was dead.
This was his moment, his coming out story, and nothing could take away from that.
But it was my coming out story too. Coming out of my adolescence -- for we had grown up together and taught each other about love. I could now come out of our magical bubble, and feel free (allowed even) to find romance elsewhere.
Not once did I wish my best friend had been straight -- that would have made him a different person, and I loved him for who he was -- because he loved The Music Man, and because he would blast "I Can Show You The World" in the car on the way to Disneyland with me. But in retrospect, I see that my first experience of love and heartbreak was an untold coming out story, deserving of attention too. My feelings were not meant to add to or subtract from his story because they were separate from his story.
We had to come out.
We had to come out of a relationship that was innocent and experimental, and we had to take our connection to a different place that was ultimately more mature, meaningful and long-lasting. We had to come out of teenage-hood and become adults together.
At 14, I could have died completely contented for having been so lucky, that I (me!) got to experience this kind of a connection just once in my life. Because once can be enough when some don't get it at all.
I am 26 now, he is still my best friend, and I still feel like I could die happy just for having the relationship and growing experiences we shared.
Which is, like, really gay -- as in happy, joyous blissful and good. The Best.