Essay, LGBTQ, Life, Love & Romance, Millennials, Movies, Thinkpiece


I watched Call Me By Your Name on a flight back from Amsterdam recently (brag!). And whether it was the combination of airplane red wine and altitude, or perhaps a human, beating heart, I was so deeply affected by the viewing that I’ve floated in a fog the last few days, one that I’ve characterized as a “gay funk.”

A gay funk is a peculiar and particular kind of funk for me – and trust, I’ve got plenty of funk genres. It comes from a place of mixed happiness and sadness – the font of queerdom, the well of homosexuality.

I’m not going to get into it here – for a multitude of reasons, including that you are not paying me, sis, and also I doubt my psychiatrist would recommend that I do it – but I’ve spent the last few months coming to terms with the fact that a lot of my high school experience was fucked-up, and painful, and distinctly not okay. It’s hard in a lot of ways, to recharacterize something after the fact, but I’ve felt lighter for it.

So the idea of watching a movie that essentially splays out the past traumas I’ve been dealing with – youth and queerness and masculinity and love – sent red flares in my vision and, if I’m being honest, I actively avoided seeing the movie. But with the stretch of eight hours ahead of me and nothing to do but sit, I finally relented.

It also comes from a very legitimate place of cynicism. Queer men, particularly gay, white men, are luckier than others in our community in the fact that we have had more and varied representation in the media. But still, the idea of a movie that depicted my experience made me wary and scared. We get so few chances, and I didn’t want one to be squandered. I wanted to remain unseen.

But in a similar way to Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name truthfully and honestly depicted shades of my life in ways that felt like a tribute, rather than an exploitation.

It was painful to watch, Call Me By Your Name, but it was a curious pain because I felt it lancing me softly and beautifully. I felt parts of me uncoil, spirals of sadness that have been clamped up for so long. I was sad watching the movie, and jealous in ways, and unjealous in others.

Surprise, surprise, but I did not have a love story like Elio and Oliver’s in my high school experience. I had one, very intense and unrequited love – in the way that only seventeen-year-old closeted kids can love – but I related to the breathless, heartsick trill of their relationship. And honestly, I can’t ignore the fact that Armie Hammer is of the same mold as my high school crush: blonde and strappingly all-American.

So much of the romance in my life has been wrapped up with shame, longing, sadness and guilt, and that what I felt the movie portrayed so honestly. How love is propelled by a desire to satiate your own loneliness, quell the turmoil and the self-sabotaging desire to jump. Despite growing up in a world that was growing more and more tolerant of being gay, I don’t recall any positive representation of queer love in my childhood. I had no interactions with gay people, had no inkling that they could be thriving adults.

Watching Call Me By Your Name invoked a sadness similar to the first time I read Giovanni’s Room, sadness that our experience of love is so often colored by pain. I know that this can be a universal experience, but it feels particularly like the nexus of queerness. It’s sad, but it’s also comforting; that we’re a part of a lineage and history that extends beyond your singular, mortal self, despite that mantle being so wrought with pain.

Hence the gay funk: so many of the queer people I know didn’t get to have clean, cut-and-dry first experiences. They were tainted by who we were, and how the world treated us. So watching Call Me By Your Name made me viciously jealous of a tenet of teenhood that I missed out on. The movie made me sad for the kid that I was. The kid who was robbed of so many things, so many experiences. For all the love that I did have, there was so much love spilled on the ground, wastefully draining away. I’m sad for what he had to go through, for what he didn’t realize he was going through, and for what he would be going through.

But the movie made me happy in a lot of ways, because that pain was clarifying for me – it crystallized, for good and bad, the person that I am. It made me a fighter and empathetic and clumsy, complex and ruthless and fragile. It made me question who I was – it made me fight for myself. It grounded me in my own soil. It also reminded me that, in spite of it all, I loved being a teenager. I loved feeling all the nuances and complexity of emotions – first best friends, first break-up, first disappointment, first triumph. Like Mike Phelps was built for swimming, I was built for feeling things deeply. A lot of that (lol) was depression, but I think that even without being depressed, my body would be carved for intensity of feeling.

And it’s funny, because if I saw that kid – seventeen-year-old me – I would think that he was beautiful. I would admire his grit, his humor, his broken attempts at concealing how deeply and tumultuously he cared. I would’ve found him brave, and witty, and endearing, even as he attempted to be as spiky as possible. It’s the lasting echo I’ve carried with me since watching the movie: deep, bursting love for the kid that I was, despite everything, despite all the pain. And that’s what the end of the movie was about. Closing yourself off from grief is another kind of trauma. Feeling things deeply is not a curse, it’s part of the experience.

So much of life is love tempered with pain. One doesn’t exist without the other.

Humor, Life


“I just don’t think that ‘first love’ has to mean ‘only,’ you know?” I said to my friend. We were twelve, sitting on the camp bus. I was deciding to break up with my summer love, my first girlfriend, and I can’t even take this post seriously.

At twelve, I believed I had found true love. I was feeling the Seven Year Itch, about fourteen years early, and didn’t want to be trapped in a committed relationship. Again, I was twelve.

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At twelve, I thought that the feeling of “needing to escape” and not be “caged in” were related to the “serious” relationship were in. I was a man who needed to be out on the prowl. Obviously, it took a few years for the reality to sink in. I wasn’t afraid of commitment, I was just into dudes.

But at twelve, in the flush of romance, I did not even think about boys. Much. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot.

My first girlfriend—my only girlfriend—was also my first (heterosexual) kiss at twelve years old. We had dated for two weeks before we kissed. It was in the camp mess hall, at the end of the day. It was our “two week anniversary present.” I told her to close her eyes, and I kissed her. I remember the warmth and softness of her lips and sinking into the well of prickling, pleasant emotions from being close to someone. I scurried away as her eyes opened and we went to our respective buses, which were next to each other.

“Did you like it?” I mouthed to her, separated by two windows and empty space. She nodded, and I remember how bright her blue eyes seemed, searing like stars into mine.

We dated for two months before eighth grade and two months the next summer before ninth grade. She was always pretty when we had dated, but she became beautiful after we broke up and both went through puberty; so whenever I show people her picture as a fun little, “look what I did in the closet!” trip down memory lane, they are very impressed.

I actually saw her recently. I was at the train station that serves as our local Amtrak station, going back to school from a break, when I walked past her and a male I’m assuming is her hot boyfriend. They were waiting for a southbound train that was delayed, and I was heading back up north.

I walked past her and only noticed her coiled up on the floor, long legs tucked underneath her, as I was on par with her. I felt my spine stiffen and wondered if I should stop. But what would that conversation be like? Let’s imagine, shall we?



Me: Oh my god, Darcy?

Darcy: Danny?

Me: How are you? It’s been so long. You look amazing!

Darcy: Thanks! So do you. Um, this is my boyfriend.

Boyfriend: Hey, man, how are you doing?

Me: I’m doing well.

Darcy: Danny and I went to camp when we were youn—

Me: We dated when I was in the closet!

Boyfriend: What?

Me: What?

Darcy: What?

Me: Anyway, great seeing you!


Like, I don’t really imagine it going amazingly. So I kept walking. Because I was unshaven, wearing a baseball cap, and roughly seven years older and a foot taller than when we had last spoken, Darcy didn’t recognize me.

I don’t think of Darcy often, but when I do, I wonder what she thinks of me. I’m incredibly narcissistic, so obviously my only thoughts are self-centered. I often wonder what made her decide to “date” me all those years ago. This was largely before I was gripped by crippling insecurities—LOL—so I was free and uninhibited. I know what made me fall for her; she was tall and beautiful and dorky—she loved horses—and we really got along.

In fact, we got matching military dog tags that said our “ship” name. But this was before “ships” were really a thing, because it was 2007 and we didn’t really have the same Internet culture—that I was aware of. I also can’t write out our actual ship name because that would give away her name—Darcy is my blog name for her—so I guess it would be “Darny” which is lame. Not that our actual ship name wasn’t lame. Anyway, the dog tags both said, “Darny forever,” and we wore them.

My dog tag is stuffed in a tin pushed into the far recesses of my closet—ironically enough—but every so often, when I’m cleaning out my closet, I open up the tin and look at it, along with other relics of my life, mainly a Polly Pocket—in a cloth dress I made—and some ceramic mice. I have led a weird life.

Depressingly enough, Darcy remains my longest relationship, but that’s less to do with my amazing looks and more to do with my self-sabotage and fear of commitment. And my personality. And my narcissism. But did I mention my amazing looks? I did? They’re amazing.


P.S. I tried to find a picture concurrent to the time I’m talking about, but just looking through my old Facebook pictures is making me want to lowkey snap my laptop in half. So I don’t think I will.