Yes, it’s true, I love, love, LOVE me some gay boys! I’ve always loved gay boys. My best friend in High School, who started out as a most unwelcome and unwanted friend in Middle School, provided me with my very first straight girl/ gay boy love affair.

I remember I was sitting in music class waiting for the “Bandbus” (spoken as all one word) to pick me and my best friend Tammy up for Band at the High School. I was in grade 8, (I like saying it like that; grade 8) and Tammy was sitting a seat behind me. All of a sudden Tammy called to me and said, ‘Wendy, this is Greg. He’s going to sit with us on the Bandbus.” I turn around in my seat and there’s Greg with a big cheesy assed grin on his face, smiling like a shit eating dog (don’t you love that delicate Southern colloquialism?) The reason he looked so self satisfied is because he knew that this was a done deal. Tammy had invited him into our circle of three…me, Tammy and Belinda, without even consulting me! I looked at him doubtfully. “You’ll like him,” Tammy said. “He’s funny.” Greg gave me an even goofier grin…if that was even possible, that seemed to say, “I’m in sister, so get used to it!”

And I did get used to it. And Tammy was right; he was funny. I ADORED Greg. He was the first of my friends that could really make me laugh. Once, Greg had the unheard of opportunity to go to NYC with his Aunt Kat. He brought back an album of a show he had seen there. The show was “Chicago.” But not, just any show of Chicago. No, this was 1975, and Greg had the honor and once in a lifetime privilege of seeing this production of Chicago, starring Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach! He could not wait to play the album for me. He was so excited and shocked and enlightened and giddy. He told me of how “nasty” the show was. “The girls are hardly wearing anything,” he explained breathlessly, “And there’s this one part where Roxie Hart, is singing about her husband, Amos, and when she gets to the part in the song where she goes, “ When Amos made love to me it like he was tuning a carburetor or something. I love ya, honey, I love ya!” Then Greg explained that when she said that, the guy who played her husband reaches over and grabs her boob. “ON STAGE! RIGHT THERE! HE GRABS HER BOOB AND SQUEEZES IT!” he all but yelled at me. I remember being shocked by this and thinking, “Why would they let them do that onstage? That is so…gross! I wonder if that lady is embarrassed. I would be.”

And all through the years, Greg was always there. He always said then when he grew up he was going to marry me, or Tammy, or Belinda…it didn’t matter…just as long as he married one of us. You know, thinking back on it, that right there should have been my first clue; that any one of us girls would have been fine as a potential spouse. Greg was the one boy who “didn’t count” when I was grounded. There would be a knock on the door and Greg would want to do something or go to get something to eat, and my mom would remind me that I couldn’t go out because I was grounded. I would say, “It’s just Greg,” and then my mom would say, “Oh…oh okay…if it’s just Greg.” Just Greg…I wonder how he felt about being just Greg. Of course, we didn’t really know that Greg was gay, and one certainly didn’t talk about such things back then. Once, me and Tammy and Belinda all put our heads together, when we found out that at 16 years old, Greg had never been kissed…never had a girlfriend…never gone on a date. We decided I should be the one to do it. So, like a girl that drew the short straw, it was decided that I would be the designated girlfriend. We went on an official date. We held hands that night. He put his arm around me. We kissed…it was like kissing your arm. I know he felt the same way. But, God love Greggy, he tried. We cruised around downtown Rossville with me under his right arm. , all loved up on him, trying to be his girlfriend, as best I could. It was weird and strange. We both looked back on that little episode much like it was a failed chemistry experiment; and really, that’s exactly what it was. One of those experiments that are supposed to a huge explosion of fire and sparks, but instead just pfffft’s out, leaving the participants to scratch their heads and wonder, “what went wrong?”

I guess nothing went wrong; it’s just that Greg was gay. I asked him one time if he was gay. He got really angry and said, “No. Who told you that?” I replied that no one had told me anything, and that I was just asking, and it didn’t matter to me if he was gay…I would love him anyway. He said, “Well, I’m not gay.” And then 2 months later when he turned 18 a big moving van pulled up in his driveway, while his parents were at work and he moved out of his home and into the house of a flamboyantly gay choreographer, who was about 15 years his senior and wore the tightest pants I had ever seen.

It was one of the bravest most scandalous events that our little town had ever seen. Greg was still in High School. His last few months of his Senior year and he was the source of all kinds of gossip and rumors. I didn’t care about all that, but my heart was broken all the same. All of a sudden, Greg was gone. He had better things to do than hang around with me and the girls. And like anyone else who falls in love, his friends took a definite backseat.

However, you know what they say…you never really forget your first love, and a girl’s first love affair with a gay boy is no exception. We drifted apart, but we drifted back together again. And we stayed together until 1994 when I got the first of two major phone calls. The first one, was the one that every straight girl who has a gay boyfriend hopes and prays that she’ll never get. It’s the phone call that stops her heart from beating for what feels like an eternity. You know the phone call. The one where the gay boy says, “Listen, I have something to tell you; I have HIV.” Then, everything stops for the girl and she can’t really hear or say or feel anything, until somewhere in the conversation when she picks up on the gay boy telling her how, “They’re fine. It’s fine. Everything is fine; really .Their T cells are good and they’re don’t have AIDS, and there’s a difference you know, between HIV and AIDS…” And then the straight girl starts to cry and they the gay boy reassures her that, “Everything really is fine. This changes nothing. They just have to take care of themselves,” and damned if before you know it, they actually have you believing all that bullshit. (Now, just a side note for you: you must remember this was almost 20 years ago and HIV/AIDS was not a manageable disease that you lived with for most people. If you got the diseases; you died. Yes, there were some exceptions but they were just that; exceptions.) And then…one day in July of 1995, I got the other phone call…you know the one? The one that makes a straight girl’s heart stop beating and break into a million scattered pieces throughout her soul. The one where the gay boy’s partner tells you through a strangely distant voice that, “he’s gone.”

And I don’t know what triggers me to suddenly remember him. Maybe it’s a certain song, or sitting at a local High School football game when the band marches onto the field. Maybe it’s cafeteria food and those Cokes that come from machines that drop the paper cup down, first and then fill it. Maybe it’s when one of my children has just finished a show. Maybe it’s when I have a show coming up. Maybe it’s when I see an incredible performance, or I audition for a role, maybe…it’s when another person passes from an AIDS related illness. I don’t know…I don’t. I just know that sometimes…I miss Greggy.

Who knew?
Who knew…
That a disease,
a plague,
a virus,
a pox
would steal our young men away?
Like a thief in the night…
Who knew?
That my best friend,
My love,
My hope,
My future
would wither and wilt
and all before he was 35?
I stood in the parlor
stuffy,
fragrant
and dismal.
I looked in disbelief at
an 8 x 10 of his smiling face.
Who knew
That he would be taken from me?
Our whole life together
reduced and represented
by a simple urn.
Who knew?
Not me.
Because if I had
I would have held him.
Kissed him.
Danced in his arms.
Sang with him
and loved him
just a bit more
but who knew?

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7 thoughts on “In Memory of My Greg.

  1. Wendy, I know now why I love you so much. You get it, you understand. This is so wonderful, so sweet, so sad. You awaken emotions that lie deep within me,wanting to scream with every bit of energy my lungs can muster. You understand my love for my son and the excruciating grief I still experience often and unceasing. I have so many blessed memories, and I am so exceedingly blessed by the love and support of you and hundreds of people the world over we are connected with because we are able to share our story. Stephen had friends like you during his short life for which I am so grateful.

    • Matthew, from the moment I first met you and your beautiful wife, I felt so connected. Yes, it’s so difficult, and although I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a child, I know that the pain of losing someone you love never leaves you. What is so strange and wonderful are the connections we make through something like this. People we get to know and grow to love that we would likely never have met, otherwise. I love you, Matthew and I’m so grateful to have you in my life.

  2. Wow ms. Tippens that really did pull at my heart I can’t imagine what you went through and I really feel for you and I am sorry that you lost some one so close and dear and someone you loved I love you ms. Tippens

  3. Corliss Lawler says:

    Ah Wendy, you are a woman after my own heart. I love so many gay boys. They have been my best friends and platonic lovers through so many ups and downs in my life. I have l ost far too many of them. When I worked at erlanger in the early 90s, I lived in Fort Payne. I would drive down the road somedays screaming out my rage and grief over this damn disease.

    • I know, I know. I remember all too well the early 80’s and everyone was just running blind. We just waited, back then. We waited for the worst. I often think that if Greg could have just contracted that disease 5 years later, he’d still be here.

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