I used to hate writing about love. I remember a high school assignment where we had to, and the sentimentality made me sick. And I was in love at the time, too –the same love I’m in now.
Maybe I hated writing about it because for all my personal and familial struggles, I’ve been relatively happy in love, and it feels strange to write about happiness, about comfort. Sixteen years later, I realize how rare it is for a high school sweetheart relationship to survive. It’s a rough path, for sure –I mean, your brains aren’t even fully developed. But it also means you grow up together.
Recently, I went to see the musical Girlfriend, which uses Matthew Sweet’s music to enhance an already poignant story of love and discovery between two gay teenagers. I sat in the front row with my sister and friend, who’d both already seen the show. It was closing night, and that specific type of knowing-it’s-ending sad electricity zapped us hard. When the lights came on, I couldn’t hide my tears. But I wasn’t crying because I was completely crushed (it’s more of a bittersweet, ambiguous ending), and I wasn’t crying because of my more recent struggles with coming out as bisexual (although, okay, yeah I was totally crying because of that, too); I was mainly crying because I saw myself, saw echoes of my relationship in these boys, who were bonding over music in such a joyous, particular way, a way I recognized and felt deeply.
Because that joy was like when we both recalled feeling fundamentally changed after seeing the music video for “Last Night.” It was like when he asked me to download Aquemini off of Kazaa for him. It was like when I bought a record player for his seventeenth birthday and he whispered in my ear that it was the best present he’d ever gotten. It was like listening to mix CDs at night while driving on winding Connecticut roads. It was like when we saw Piebald in high school, or at their break-up show in college, or at their reunion show, when my son had just started growing inside me. It was like walking down the aisle to “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want.”
When the characters in Girlfriend do perfect harmonies during “We’re the Same,” they’re realizing how special, how rare it is to find someone who you know for sure has felt and experienced much of what you have. They’re marveling at that, holding onto it, and I realize I need to do that, too.
(Song recommendation by Emily Costa)