It was 2002. Maybe 2003.
Remember Blockbuster? The blue and yellow ticket stub people that did their best to maximally shaft the customer out of late fees, but you couldn’t avoid it because it was your best option? Yes, that’s the one. They’re dead now. Defunct as of 11/7/13. (I started to say RIP, but that seems overly kind.)
So The Professor and I were in there looking for something to entertain us for an evening. I was listlessly perusing the usual selection of heteroromcoms and adventure or hero movies where the guy saves/gets the girl. All of a sudden I thought and said (those two activities are often nearly simultaneous for me, frequently to my embarrassment or detriment), “I am so sick of watching movies about straight people.” I suppose it’s how Jews feel at the seasonal onslaught of Christmas movies, or how people of color feel all year long. I felt like there was nothing on the shelf in front of me that reflected my experience.
Because The Professor has spent over 20 years tracking all things new and techy, she of course had an answer for me involving the internet. “Why don’t we try Netflix?” I can’t remember if I’d heard of it already, or whether she explained it to me then. But within days, our first red envelope had arrived. It didn’t turn into the AGATT (All Gay All The Time) film festival at our house, but at least we had some options. I still like to watch movies about gay characters sometimes, but mostly I like to watch good movies.
I had a similar thought process recently as I looked through a stack of books I had sitting on the bedside table waiting to be read. (Isn’t a stack of unread books delicious!?!) I don’t read much of anything that doesn’t closely approach four stars on goodreads.com, so I like good books the same as I like good movies. But I thought, “Where are the good gay books? I’m not limited to what they have on the shelf at the nearby library branch like I was at Blockbuster. King County Library System (the gem of all public library gems) can get me anything I want.” Off to the internet I went, in search of lists of best gay and lesbian novels. Cross referencing with goodreads ratings, I added a lot of new things to my “to read” list. That stack beside my bed still isn’t AGATT, but at least I have some options.
One of those highly rated books that I read recently is Call Me By Your Name, by André Aciman. It’s a summer love story about an older teen and a young scholar who meet in Italy in 1986, fall in love and, inevitably, end up going their separate ways after the scholar returns to America for fall term. Even if you are lucky enough to have a summer love, if you’re 17 and 24 when you meet, the chances are rather slim that you’ll end up together for good. This beautiful story captures well the excruciating joy of that first time your heart is pierced so and filled with desire and passion, and the unbearable anguish of losing that same first love. [Intrepid Reader, if you’ll notice this paragraph, no indication is given of the gender of the teen or the scholar. They are two men, but they wouldn’t have to be. The story is universal. Raise your hand if something like this happened to you, if you never got over it, if the person sometimes shadows your days even now these many years later, even now that you’ve moved on to and through many other loves.]
I’ll leave you with a passage in this book that struck me as capturing particularly well the way I felt the first time I really made serious love. This wasn’t the first time I’d kissed a girl; I’d known for a few years that I leaned in that direction. But this was the first time I felt my heart pierced with desire and passion…and so forth, see above. It was the moment my being rose up and said loudly, unmistakably—yes, this is where I belong. I was 18. She was 22. It was summer.
From this moment on, I thought, from this moment on—I had, as I’d never before in my life, the distinct feeling of arriving somewhere very dear, of wanting this forever, of being me, me, me, me and no one else, just me, of finding in each shiver that ran down my arms something totally alien and yet by no means unfamiliar, as if all this had been part of me all of my life and I’d misplaced it and [s]he had helped me find it. The dream had been right—this was like coming home, like asking, Where have I been all my life?