How to Break a Woman’s Heart

Yes, there’s a right and wrong way to break a woman’s heart. Now, I’ve had my heart broken a few times, but never has my heart been broken in the right way. It’s tricky, to be sure, because what is the breaking of a heart? It’s just another way of saying “good bye.”

The differences between how men and women handle heartbreak are as profound as the differences between the sexes. This isn’t meant to be a scathing critique of men, but let’s face it; they seriously need some help in this department. So men, listen up; no longer do you have to continue to fumble around in the dark on this one. Here’s a few things you need to know when it comes to the parting of the ways, and if you learn this and learn it well, you can quite possibly be remembered as, “The one who got away,” instead of, “The no good, son of a bitch who walked out.”

First of all, like most break ups, it’s going to get ugly, so just accept it. If you’re the one that’s saying goodbye, breaking it off, leaving, whatever you want to call it; a woman is going to react in one of two ways; she’s going to get angry or she’s going to get upset and start crying… possibly both. So yeah, it’s going to get ugly. Now, how ugly it gets and how long the ugly lasts, well, that’s up to you.

How do you minimize the ugly time? Here’s how:
First and foremost: If you’ve been intimate with us (slept with us) then you owe us. That’s right; if you’ve taken us to bed, made love to us and experienced us at our most vulnerable then you at least owe us a true reason and explanation of why you no longer want us. So, do NOT just think you can fade away, ignore our calls and texts and then act as though we’re psycho stalkers who won’t leave you alone, when you’re the one who doesn’t have the balls to face us like a real man.

Do NOT attempt to break up with us via text or Facebook. Seriously, what are you, in Middle School? Again, be a man. You started the relationship like a man, so go ahead and end it like one.

Take the high road. Whether you’ve decided that you just don’t want to be in a relationship, grown tired of us, miss your ex-girlfriend, or if we’ve put on weight or turned into a mean ass Bitch; DON’T TELL US ANY OF THAT. Think about it; you’re not going to be dealing with any of that any longer, that’s why you’re leaving, so there’s really no point in throwing all that out there.

Give us closure. We’ll have questions. We’ll have things we want to say. There will be things we want you to know and things we need to hear. The only way we can truly have closure and be able to move on is to be able to talk to you about all of this. Now, since people cannot hear or speak when they’re emotional and break ups tend to be emotional, you probably won’t be able to have a conversation of this nature until at least a few weeks out. Please note, that if you try to have this conversation and we’re screaming, crying or both, it’s not going to do you one bit of good. What you have to do is wait; wait until we’re calm and rational, and then talk to us.

The bottom line is this: no one wants to hear from someone that they love that it’s over and no one wants to tell someone they love that they’re leaving. Marriages and relationships breaking up would be so much easier if the people involved didn’t still love each other, but usually they do, and at the very least one still loves the other, and that’s when the real pain starts. Just know that when the dust settles, when it’s all said and done, how do you want to be remembered?

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Nobody Wants a Fat Ballerina.

At 9 nine years old, I was a fat girl. Well, not fat, but chubby, and to be fair, in 1971 it was the same thing. My best friend’s asshole brother had a nice little song that he composed and sang just for me; “Fat cow. Fat cow. Wendy is a fat cow.” Soon, the kids on the bus all learned the words to this little song and trust me, they sang it often. Even at this young age I was boy crazy (that’s what they called it back then,) not that it did me any good; boys did not like fat girls…but they did like funny girls. Even so, boys still didn’t like fat girls; even if they were funny. Cute and thin trumped fat and funny, even back then.
One day, I came home from the bus stop in tears. The kids had been teasing me and I guess my mom had enough. What set this day apart from all the other days of me coming through the door complaining that the kids had called me fat? I don’t know, but she drew the line in the dirt right then and there. She asked me point blank if I wanted the teasing to stop. I told her I did and the next day I joined Weight Watchers.

Three things:
1.) So much was different back then, you must realize this.
2.) All of what I’m telling you is factual. It’s not exaggerated or embellished for comedic effect.
3.) My mom and dad did the best they could with what they knew, at the time.

I was so excited. I was not going to be fat anymore. People would not make fun of me anymore. Everything that made me unhappy would vanish with every lost pound. My possibilities would be endless. The boys would like me, whether I could make them laugh or not. I could be a cheerleader. I could be Miss America, a model, a movie star, or best of all, a ballerina. I’d always had that dream; I guess lots of little girls do, but nobody wants a fat ballerina. But now, the sky was the limit, and just as soon as I was “normal” I would be happy.

I was five feet tall and weighed one hundred pounds, even. I know this because the nice Weight Watchers lady weighed me; on a very official looking doctor’s scale, in front of everyone. That’s right; no little private cubicles with the 3 digits of your weight silently written on your card; the weighing took place right in front of everyone. After weighing in, we (and by “we” I mean a bunch of fat women,) seated ourselves in the main room and awaited our great and mighty “Lecturer.” That’s what the group leader was called back then; a Lecturer, with a capital “L.”

Okay, if you’re not sitting down then you need to pull up a chair right now so that you don’t hit the floor when I shock your ass with this next part: After the attendees were all seated, the Lecturer entered the room. My Lecturer’s name was Marty. Marty was a man and it was strange because he was the only man I ever saw at a Weight Watchers meeting. All of us females wanting to lose weight and for what? Men. Oh sure, there were other reasons, but for most of us none of those reasons were nearly important as the “Man” reason. Society had shoved it down our throats and we bought it hook, line and sinker. We were nothing without a man and men wouldn’t give us a second look if we were fat. And now, who were we waiting for? Who were we to be accountable to? A man. Think I’m overreacting and getting all fat girl militant? Read this next part and tell me if you still feel that way.

Marty was handed a stack of cards. Every Weight Watcher member had her own card. They pulled it from the box when you paid your weekly dues and you took it to the lady who weighed you in, so that she could record whether you had gained, lost or stayed the same. We all sat holding our collective breaths while Marty pulled the first card.

Marty: (Scanning the room) Fran Walker. Where are you Fran?
A terrified, fat woman raises her hand, reluctantly.
Marty: Fran? (Fran makes quick eye contact at Marty then looks at the floor.) Let’s see here, Fran, It says that you gained two pounds this week?
Soft gasps and some low moans of pain from the room.
Fran: (Almost imperceptibly) …y…y…yes.
Marty: (Loudly and with mock disbelief) TWO POUNDS? How did you GAIN TWO POUNDS?
Fran: I…I…don’t know…
Marty: You don’t know? Well, you must be EATING a lot of ILLEGAL FOODS!
Yep. You heard right. Foods that you were allowed to eat were “Legal,” and all others were “ILLEGAL.”
Fran: I…guess.
Marty: Well, I don’t GUESS. I know because you gained TWO POUNDS! Do you have your food diary?
Fran: I…I didn’t keep it this week.
Marty: I guess not, because you gained TWO POUNDS. (Pulling another card) Marcia Crane. Where is Marcia Crane?
(Marcia raises her hand, easily. She is not afraid. She seems fine; almost eager, but here’s why.)
Marty: Marcia, is a new member. Marcia, stand up. (She stands, a bit self-consciously in a snug, red dress.) Marcia, why are you here?
Marcia: What?
Marty: Why are you here?
Marcia: (More uneasily, now) Well…I’m…um, I here to lose weight.
Marty: What?
Marcia: I’m here to lose weight?
Marty: You’re here to lose weight?
Marcia: (Very uneasily, now)…yes?
Marty: No. You are not here to lose weight. Why are you here? Say it.
Marcia: (Looking around like a scared rabbit and trying to decide whether she should bolt from the room.) Say…what?
Marty: Say it. Say, “I’m not here because I need to lose weight. I’m here because I’m FAT.”

Now, you might think that we were all outraged, incensed and in our collective fury beat Marty to death with our heavy duty, metal folding chairs, but we didn’t. Why? Because this was nothing. We were used to it and better yet, we deserved it. We were after all, fat women. We didn’t deserve respect. We were invisible. And even this next exchange, didn’t cause us to bat a false eyelash.

Marty: (Continuing, calmly) Say it.
Marcia: I’m…fat.
No, he didn’t step up to her nose to nose, like some deranged drill Sargent and yell “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” He didn’t have to, because what he said next was far worse.
Marty: Yes, you are fat. You look like a Coke machine in that red dress.

Ohhhh, I can hear your collective gasps of outrage through the span of cyberspace between us. That’s more than poor Marcia got that day, but it did give us pause; for a second or two.

I reached my goal weight of seventy seven pounds, two months later. For those two months, I was afraid to stray from the program; God only knows what humiliation I would have underwent at the hands of our Lecturer. I remember when they pinned that black enamel pin with the little diamond chip to my dress, I was so proud. I was finally pretty. I was cute. I had a “nice figure.” I didn’t have to shop in the “Chubby” section. I…was…NORMAL!

Now, I told you that Weight Watchers was very different in 1974, and here’s how different.
The eating program was this: Everything was prepared wither DRY BROILED, GRILLED or BOILED. NO seasoning except for salt, pepper or lemon. NOTHING ELSE. There were no diet anything except for a few diet sodas: Tab, Diet Rite, Shasta and Fresca. You couldn’t go anywhere and get a diet beverage except the grocery store. Nothing light, low fat, no fat, diet, Lean Cuisine, Smart Ones and NO FLEX POINTS. It was so horribly difficult to be on a diet back then.

Chicken: 2-3 days a week. NO SKIN. NO SAUCE OF ANY KIND…and don’t even think about frying it.
Fish: 2-3 days a week. NO SKIN. NO SAUCE OF ANY KIND…and don’t even think about frying it.
Beef: 1 Day a week. Grilled, broiled. You won’t think about frying it because it will taste so damn good to you that you won’t need to.
LIVER: 1 dreaded horrible day out of the week. Grilled or broiled ONLY. And you will not think of frying it because it tastes like shit and will always taste like shit no matter what.

That day; the day that I reached my goal weight would also be the day that I would start “Maintenance.” I could not wait to begin Maintenance because Maintenance meant no more liver! I HATED liver. Saturday was “Liver Day” and I would beg my mom to just let me skip eating it altogether, but she wouldn’t She said that if I skipped any meals I would just get hungry later on and then I might “cheat.” What she didn’t realize was that I wouldn’t have cheated. I would have fallen over dead from malnutrition if could just NOT EAT THAT LIVER.

Aside from not having to choke down liver anymore, Maintenance meant that I was ready to maintain my perfect svelte weight. After my, “I’m skinny now, bitches, pinning,” I stayed after and went to Maintenance Classes. Classes. Plural. That should have tipped me off that this would be a process, but it didn’t. I guess in my 10 year old head you got skinny, walked through that door, something magical happened and you came back out able to eat anything you wanted and not gain an ounce.

No. That is not the way it worked. As a matter of fact the first stage of Maintenance was a bitter letdown, to say the least. All I got; then only thing that happened was that I could substitute one sheet of graham crackers for a piece of bread. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe it. I remember crying hysterically as I left, saying, “But all I want is to not eat the liver, anymore.”

That’s was it, though. Nothing changed. Nothing. I was still the same person, only thinner. Let me say that again: I was still the same person I was only thinner. I didn’t realize the power of those words then, but I do now. I was still the same. I was still beautiful, funny, caring, intelligent, incredibly creative, kind, compassionate and generous to a fault.

I was still the same person, only thinner.

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The Times They Are A Changin’.

Warning: I don’t water things down. This is exactly the way it was. Yes, I could censor the “N” word or use these things (%$#@) but I’m not. I write the truth. The truth is important, so that we don’t ever forget. This may not be your story, but it’s mine…and if you’re of a certain age and from the South, don’t lie; it’s your story too.

Recently, I was speaking with a new friend about the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s. He told me that he really didn’t think we had come that far. I told him that I didn’t agree and that if one were to consider civilization and time as say, a calendar year, that the Civil Rights Movement was basically a revolution that happened a second ago. I felt as though, for the movement to be so new, that we had achieved a great deal. Although, we still have a ways to go, and we certainly don’t live in a harmonious, racial Nirvana; I remember when things were quite different.

I’m a Southerner, born and bred. I love living in the South but it’s definitely a love/hate/shame relationship. Is the South more prone to racial prejudice between blacks and whites? You bet your ass we are; but I have a theory on this. When you’re from the South it’s basically two sets of prejudices and hatreds, that pits “us” against “them.” The first group, quite obviously is the white/black thing. White people with a deep hatred or prejudice against black people. The second group is the Southerner/Northerner thing. Yes, yes, hell yes, we lost the Civil War, but we’ll be damned if we’re going to let it go. And when you combine the fact that the reason the Civil War was fought was because Southerners wanted to keep their slaves and the North beat our ass and we had to give up our slaves, well, that little fact just doesn’t sit well with some. Whites against Blacks, South against North; it’s a recipe for disaster. At any rate, because we haven’t really had the lion’s share of different ethnic groups down South,we’ve had to hate on what we do have; black people.
I’m 52 years old. I was 5 years old in 1967, just catching the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement. But, you know, just because some date or legislation marks the end of oppression doesn’t mean that it all instantly vanishes. Even today, I see the remnants of backwoods ignorance. Oh, you might have to look a little harder for it, but you just have to know where to look; unfortunately, it’s still alive and kicking.
But, as a little girl, it was all around me, and the sad thing is; no one thought anything about it.

“Lock your doors. We’re going through Niggertown.”
“Don’t put that in your mouth; an old nigger man mighta’ had his hands on it.”
“Lord, look at this mess. It looks like a family of niggers been livin’ here.”
“You need to be careful. Some big, black buck nigger might jump you.”
“Look at your tan. You’re black as a nigger.”
“And I heard, she took up with a nigger.”
“Eeenie meanie miney mo, catch a nigger by his toe.”

The only people that should be gasping at this are those that were born after 1975 or so, or Northerners. I know it’s hard to believe, but back then, we just didn’t think anything of it…or did we? I remember when my bus would stop at Dewberry to let the black kids off, that the white kids on the bus would yell out “nigger” as the bus pulled off…as the bus pulled off and not before. So, yeah, we must have known it was wrong to yell that at them; why else would we wait until the bus was pulling away. Now, to answer your question that’s I know is burning at your brain: Did I yell that out at the black kids as they got off the bus? I don’t know. I honestly don’t remember; I was only in the 2nd or 3rd grade; but here’s the thing; I think I probably did. Why? I don’t know. I was a little kid. It’s just what we did. Here’s what I do remember; I had black friends and whether I did or didn’t yell nigger at them as they got off the bus, I never used that word around them, face to face because, somehow, I knew it was wrong. So, if, at 7 or 8 years old, I knew it was wrong, how could grown men and women 3 and 4 times that age not know it was wrong?

Now, just in case you think that I must have been a junior Klansman in training; I wasn’t. I seemed to catch on to the social injustice thing really quickly. I was pissed, outraged, infuriated , campaigning for Kennedy and ready to join Dr. King and march on Washington…only that march had already happened and a couple of psychos had already taken both Kennedy and King. By the way, both of these events led much rejoicing in the South. Kennedy was no great loss because he was not only NOT a Baptist; he was a Catholic, and a Yankee and a nigger loving liberal. Dr. King being assassinated gave way to a bunch of good old boy rednecks, laughing heartily and slapping other on the back while saying, “Well, Ah always say that the only good Nigger is a DEAD Nigger.” Wooo, yeah, that’s real damn funny. I tell you all of this just to let you know what I was up against.

How many times was I, myself called a nigger lover? I don’t know. I’ve lost count. How many times have I been eyed suspiciously and asked, “Where you from, girl?” A whole damn bunch; too many to count. I’ve heard and seen so much backwoods, racial bullshit, you wouldn’t believe it. This is not a cop out, but the truth of the matter was that it was a different time; and we didn’t think twice about it. It was a white world. There was just so much that we didn’t see; so much that we just took for granted as being routine and “normal.”
There just weren’t any black people…not any that we could see, anyway.

No, black people on television, except for Julia, George Jefferson, the cast of Good Times and everyone on Soul Train (except for that one Asian girl.) For the most part, music was pretty much segregated in the South. We had about 4 stations to listen to: the “white” pop station, the “black” R&B station, the “country station” and the “old people’s station” of easy listening music. No black baby dolls. No black Barbies. Except for Fat Albert, no black cartoon characters. Sidney Portier and Sammy Davis Jr. were the only black entertainers and Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis were the only black singers white enough and non-threatening enough to be played at Thanksgiving and Christmas. You didn’t walk into a restaurant and see just as many black folks as white folks. At the mall, the grocery store, church, and swimming pools we were just as separated as we had ever been. I mean, for the love of God; I can still remember getting on the elevator with my Grandmother in the Doctor’s building and have having the elevator operator; an elderly black man, ask us “What floor, ‘mam?”

Socializing with black kids was fine as long as it was strictly platonic, but there were absolutely positively NO INTERRACIAL COUPLES. “He/she’s good looking, to be a black person.” A salt and pepper couple at Prom would have shut that dance down. If the white world found out that your boyfriend was black, it could very easily be the end of him; literally. Once, while waiting for my grandmother to pick me up from High School, I sat under a tree on the campus lawn and talked with some black friends of mine; Walter Henderson and his cousin Moses Foster. My grandmother pulled up in her Caddy, popped the automatic door locks and I got in. As soon as we rounded the corner the let me have it; spewing hate through a blue cloud of cigarette smoke. “I just thought my heart would stop beating when I saw you there sitting with those nigger boys! My God; what if one of those big black bucks were to rape you?”

I was just as outraged as she was, and I gave it right back to her by telling her that those boys were my friends. I will never forget her turning to me, her eyes full of hate as she said, “They’re not like us. They come from monkeys.” I told her that she was wrong and they were just like us. I told her that their blood was red; just like ours and that if you looked at the inside of them, they looked just like us. She told me again, that I was wrong and that they came from monkeys. Well, I suppose that I had just about all I could take because I will never, ever forget the words that came out of my mouth, next, and they were: “Well, if they come from monkeys then how come when they get sick they go to a hospital just like we do instead of the vet?” My grandmother gave me a go to hell look and informed me that I had a damned smart mouth. That was all good with me because at least I had the pleasure of knowing that I wasn’t a red necked racist like she was.

When I was 19 years old, I went away to work as a Summer Camp Counselor. While tucked snugly away in the backwoods of Soddy Daisy (yes, you heard me right; good old “No niggers allowed,” Soddy Daisy,) I met Al. Al was my age; a fellow counselor. He was good looking, devilishly charming with this smile that could just melt you and…he was black. Al and I spent all of our free time together, moonlight swims, canoeing, long walks holding hands and to my surprise when I kissed him, it was just like kissing any other boy…only his lips were much fuller and a bit more delicious. One day, as I was finishing up my daily run, the caretaker of the property stopped me.

“I thought you were a nice girl,” he said.
“I am a nice girl. What are you talking about?”
“Well…I thought you was…until I saw you holding hands with one of them.”
I knew who them was.

What did I do, you ask? Did I let him have it? Give him an earful? Storm off, outraged? No. I think I just…walked off. Yes, it happens. Sometimes, the shock and audacity of a situation overrides everything else and you just…walk away.

Has anything really changed? Yes. A lot has changed and yes, a lot more needs to change; and it will and that’s why I wrote this piece; this piece that was as painful to write as it was to read. But let me tell you what never seems to change; we as a species never seem to learn. We just keep making the same mistakes over and over and over. We just keep fighting the same battles but with different names. We just keep waiting on the world to change, as long as it’s not too much of an inconvenience.

So, I ask you to think about that. You think about that the next time that you say you’re tolerant so long as another’s beliefs aren’t too far off from your own. You think about that the next time you think it’s too much trouble to go and cast your vote for another’s deprivation of their civil rights. The next time you get so pissed off at some Hispanic that can’t speak English, you think about it. The next time you say to yourself, “It’s not my problem,” you think about this; if you’re a member of the human race then it is your problem.

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Cody is gay and he can prove it.

So, my son goes to NYC for three days with his Musical Theater class. He has waaaaaay more money than he needs for this trip, and even though it’s his graduation money that he’s gotten early, I tell him that he’d better make this money last because I’m not giving him any more – and this time I mean it.
Upon his arrival back from NYC I ask him how much of his money he has left. He informs me that he has very little left. I would say that I’m not surprised, but I really kind of am. It was a lot of money and I cannot figure out how he has managed to spend all… (Well, almost all of it) in just a few short days.
About an hour later, my son is suddenly seized by an inexplicable fit of excitement, when he remembers that he has something that he wants to show me…something that he bought in New York. …something so amazing and incredible that I will gasp in wonder and awe. I will ask myself, how he could have gone 18 and one half years without this item. As he rushes from the room, barely able to contain himself, he turns to me and says to me with assurance, “This will prove to you that I really am gay.”
Okay, I can explain. It’s not that I was one of those parents that when their kid comes out they ask them if they’re sure or suggest that it’s just “a phase.” On the contrary, I knew Cody was gay when he was 3 years old. I was just waiting for him to realize this too. When he finally did come out, he didn’t act the way I thought he should as a young, good looking gay boy. My basic problem was this: he seemed to have no fashion sense. I mean straight guys were dressing better than he was and I don’t think he owned a single fragrance, or anything else for that matter, from Abercrombie & Fitch. It was embarrassing for me. I’m known in the gay community and my gorgeous gay son was dressing like a homeless person. So, of course, I made fun of him every single chance I got; which was a lot.
I’m telling you now, that I cannot convey to you how those 10 words gave me pause. God only knows what he would present to me that would be amazing and incredible enough to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt my son’s homosexuality. I don’t have to tell you that I was sweating bullets at this point. So, he rushes back into the living room and shows me…a pair of underwear. Oh, but this was unlike any underwear I had ever seen. “Aren’t they amazing?” he asks, staring at the undies in wonder. And I gotta’ tell you, that what was most amazing to me was how…tiny they were. I just can’t understand how offspring of mine can possibly own underwear that is any size under, “XLARGE” (Or as the label reads in Spanish; GRANDE. You wanna know what’s worse that having to buy big, huge undergarments that read “XLARGE”? Try buying big, huge undergarments that read; GRANDE…or “MUY GRANDE”…or “EL RIDICULOSO MUY GRANDE”)
Sorry, I kind of strayed from my point, there for a second. Anyway, he’s showing me this underwear and damned if they weren’t pretty awesome! White, boy cut, boxer briefs…looks like a poly/lycra blend and the underwear is designed to look like a cross between the work of M.C Escher and Edward Gorey. So, I tell him that those really are cool. He tells me that, “H&M always has the coolest underwear, but he’s never had the funds to plunk down $25.00 A PAIR!!!…until this year. So…yeah…I’d say that pretty much shuts me up on teasing and taunting my son about how he can’t possibly be gay because he has such shitty taste in clothing. I mean anyone would spend $25.00 on underwear, that is sold exclusively at H&M in Manhattan is definitely, absolutely, positively gay.

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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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Funny how some things never change.

Some things never change. I remember the first time I fell “in like” with a boy. Falling in like is sort of like the training wheels to falling in love. Most people fall in like before they fall in love, and this usually happens somewhere between Middle School and the time a person graduates High School.
I fell in like in Middle School; 7th grade. I was in the Library with my best friend, Tammy when I a boy I knew suddenly appeared at my side with a boy I didn’t know. The boy I did know (David) was begging this boy to, “Please, man, don’t. Don’t.” But he did.
As I said, I didn’t know this boy; I had never seen or spoken to him before and (most importantly) it was 1974. He had sun streaked, swoopy Bieber bangs, long before Bieber had even came into existence, beautiful brown eyes and a smile that half angelic innocence and devilish mischief. He worked his way in much too close to me, nodded his head at Dave, turned back to me, flashed his precious, deep dimples and said, “That boy told me that he wants to eat your pussy.”
I was shocked! Tammy was appalled! We both gasped in such horror and disgust that it almost got us thrown out of the Library. I was 12 years old. It was 1974! The word “pussy” was NOT spoken out loud; EVER! If you did have to refer to…down there, you spoke of it only to your closest girlfriends and then you referred to it as…”you know” followed by a discreet nod of the head or as “down there.” I quickly recovered, narrowed my eyes to angry slits, and gave both boys a go to “H-E double toothpicks” look and stormed out of the Library. Once a safe distance down the hall, I turned to Tammy, “That boy is so CUTE” I said. “Do you think he likes me?”
The next day Steve apologized and I found out that he did indeed like me. Soon, he asked me to “go with him.” We were going together, which is like going steady or dating…only without actual dates. We didn’t have actual dates because at 12 and 13 years old, neither one of us could drive a car. It didn’t matter though; that didn’t stop me from being in serious “like.” We talked on the phone for hours…literally 3 and 4 hours at a time. We spent precious moments of tender romance at school, in the gym, sitting by each other in the gym and on the bus; we went to school dances together and of course school football and basketball games.
I LOVED him, but not just because he was sooooo cute. He had a great tan…he wasn’t too tall or short, but the perfect height. He was in the band AND played sax, just like me, so we had that in common. He smelled really good, but most of all; he was bold. Yes, it was nasty and gross what he said to me in the Library. And yes, it really embarrassed me; but the truth was, it excited me as well. I don’t mean it excited me in a sexual way; no, it excited me because in a world of boys afraid to even speak to a girl, Steve had the brazen confidence to be…well, brazen with a girl. He said exactly what he felt and asked for what he wanted with unapologetic abandon.
Steve gave me my first real kiss and I absolutely thought my legs would go out from under me. It literally took my breath away and when it was over all I could think was, “Oh my God…When can I do that again?” He had kisses that did all the work for him. You know? I would say that his kisses could make a girl melt, but I won’t because that so cliche’ and it’s an understatement. He had kisses that made me forget. I forgot where I was. I forgot my name. I forgot how to stand, but even worse; I forgot how to say “no.” Now, for those of you that aren’t over 45 years of age, you have to realize a few things. 1974 was SUCH a different time. As far as teens and anything to do with sex…ANYTHING; it was ultra conservative. It’s really difficult to explain, but I’ll try as simply as I can.

NO. The answer was NO. A girl was conditioned, obligated and taught to say NO, and most of the time, we didn’t even know why. All teen girls knew in 1974 was that it was…just…not what nice girls did, so NO. If that wasn’t enough to get you to keep your panties on there was always that 1 girl that everyone whispered and waited about. We whispered because there was a rumor that she was pregnant. We waited because if she was pregnant, she would most certainly disappear about the time that “you could tell.”
There’s nothing worse than telling someone that you’re really into, no, when you really want to say yes. But I was. I was constantly telling him, “No! Quit! Stop!” He was all hands and I was forever having to fight him off. When he would finally stop trying to feel me up on top of my clothes, it was only because he had, with lightning speed managed to get his hands under my shirt and was attempting to get them under my bra. If I stopped him from doing that, then he simply tried to get his hands into my pants.
Even though I did that thing where you write down you and you’re beloved’s first, middle and last name and them add up all the letters that both names have in common with a point system that tells whether or not your love is “true love,” and even though I diligently practiced writing my name with his last name and even though my mood ring was always blue, the color of love, when he was around; it was bound to happen. We broke up.
Well, there was no actual “we” as far as the breaking up went. There was only “he.” He broke up with me. . You see, the break up really was destined to happen. Steve was a year older than me and a grade higher than me. Our Middle School was 7th and 8th grade only, so at the end of his 8th grade year, Steve moved on up to the High School and left me behind. I didn’t worry about it because he swore to me that he not only loved me but he would always love me and no amount of flirting from any big tittied High School girl would ever, EVER change that. Bullshit.
That breakup was horrible. It was as embarrassing, terrible and awful. I was heartbroken…and I had no dignity about it; that was the worst part I hoped and prayed and prayed some more that we’d get back together, but no; it wasn’t  happening. I didn’t stand a chance because he wasn’t at the same school as me. I couldn’t look really cute so that he’d think maybe he’d made a mistake. I couldn’t flirt with other boys or get a new boyfriend and make him crazy jealous. I couldn’t  give him hateful looks, pass him notes, run into him in the hall; nothing!
Eventually, I got over it and Steve was just a vague memory. I’ve  had a few more break ups since then, but here’s what gets me. That very first break up at 12 years old was just as heartbreaking as break ups I had years later. Once, I had a very upset student come to my room, fighting back tears, desperate to talk to me about a break up that had just happened in 2nd block. As we walked around the outside perimeter of the school, I watched as lazy tears welled in his eyes and slipped down his cheeks. Yes, the tears welled up in his eyes. He was an all-star football player, a rough and rowdy good old boy who could beat the hell out of someone just for fun or just walk away, but at that moment, his sadness and pain was breaking my heart. Because love and/or losing love doesn’t care if you’re male or female, young or old, rich or poor, straight or gay, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, or whatever. No one escapes unscathed. He turned to me and with optimistic hope he asked me; “Will it always hurt this bad?” I couldn’t lie to him, I told him; “Yes. It will always hurt at least this bad. Sometimes, it will hurt even more, but I promise; you’ll be okay.”
It’s funny how some things never change.

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