Facebook continues to throw me into the occasional memory tailspin. I'm starting to think that the emotions of your past (particularly your youthful past) do not fade away from lack of use (like, say, remembering the quadratic formula). Instead they just get buried under newer emotions that have actual relevance to your current life. But you can still expose them, the way you might expose the dentin of a tooth if a filling falls out. This can be painful, although this particular story is not a painful one. The reason I'm telling it is that the strength of the memories this evokes surprises me a little.
In my case my most powerful emotional memories all seem to center on growing up as a gayboy, and the position that put you in forty years ago. I realize this can start to seem repetitive after a while, since what is there to say after "I felt alone and monstrous and an alien on my own planet"? Well, plenty, really, but how do you make that interesting to anybody who is not being paid to be your therapist? It's a risk.
In this case the core of the story is no story at all. There was a guy in my high school a year ahead of me, a public figure (he was involved in student government and he sang) to whom I responded in that way you don't really have much control over -- the whole crushboy thing. I still respond like this to people sometimes, and just as strongly (if much less frequently), but the difference is that when I was 15 just having this response to another man had all manner of intense and complicated overlay. It was a response inside of yourself much too powerful to deny or dismiss, and (at least in my case) it was the sort of thing that made me confront the awful things that went along with that (culturally, internally). So the whole response is not just about "Hey, here's a guy I find incredibly attractive" but also "Oh my gosh I'm a homo" as well as "and this is something nobody can EVER know". (Some people -- many people I'm afraid -- have far more self-destructive responses than that, and I suppose even I had my moments of that sort.)
Now I gotta' say right here -- so you know how odd it is that I even have a story to tell -- that this guy was not somebody I had much contact with at all. We had a couple of mutual friends, but he was a different year. I only exchanged words with him once or twice, and he was smiley and pleasant. In reality, away from the whole mooning-over phenomenon, he was just a guy in my school who (although I wouldn't have used these words at the time) I thought was really hot. Or cute. Or something. Plus I was and remain a complete sucker for people who can sing. But here, see for yourself and try to see this through the stylistic overlays of what was attractive in 1972 (but really, that's a handsome face no matter the surrounding):
What you don't see here is what a husky fireplug he was, and how he looked a bit older than his years. (Do you hear the hotness points ringing up for me?)
I can't say that I never thought about this person at all for the next 37 years, but only in the occasional yearbook lookthrough and the memory of how attractive to me I remembered this guy as being. Then yesterday I was looking at the Facebook friends list of a high school friend and saw this guy's name -- well, just his last name as he no longer goes by the same first name (which was, no lie, "Butch"). Just seeing the name brought back -- unbidden and of a sudden -- all of those crushboy feelings, as alive and intense as in 1973. And this was the profile pic (about which, to many of you, I can simply ask "Need I say more?"):
He's the older guy, the one who is my age, and why yes, he's grown up into quite the Daddy Bear. Actually the Daddy Muscle Bear. He hangs out at times at the piano bar I go to when I'm in NYC. He's back in the hometown area in NJ. Here's a sweet picture (most of his pictures show him in more standard daddymusclebear garb: sunglasses, cigars, muscle shirts, serious expression -- but this one speaks more to what I responded to long ago):
As I say, I didn't really know this guy as anything other than, oh, an image to ponder back then, but I couldn't resist friend-requesting him (along with a note saying that I was a year behind him in high school and mentioning our mutual friends). I seriously doubt he knows who I am, but he accepted the friend request.
There are two things this makes me think about.
One, it's kind of funny how intense and immediate and in the present the memory of my response to him four decades ago was, just from seeing his name. That speaks, I think, to what an intense time those years are. This is far, far from the only time I have had that sort of emotional memory from that time come flooding back to me as if I were not remembering it but re-experiencing it.
But second, I'm thinking about why my impulse was to friend-request this guy (and then wait nervously to see whether he'd accept the request). Why would I care? I certainly have no shared memories with this man, and it's not as if I imagine that I could suggest we go out to Marie's Crisis next time I'm in New York City. From what I can see on Facebook he seems like a lovely, optimistic man with a full life and many interests (he still performs sometimes), but I don't know him and never really did. What connection was I trying to make? Yes, we went to the same high school and are both gay, but is that enough? Experience long ago taught me that the answer to that question is "no". (Although I recently heard -- through Facebook -- from a woman I knew all through school who didn't identify as a lesbian until later and I was delighted to make that connection and feel that bond, but that was somebody I actually knew and come to think of it I would have been happy to make that connection regardless.)
I think what's going on here is that the emotion this unburied is one that I would describe as longing. As wistful, frustrated longing -- for something that at the time of its genesis I was thoroughly completely unarguably convinced would never be assuaged. So this memory, this guy I didn't know, is a sort of manifestation of that. But then I saw the current pictures and everything about them is completely and obviously reflective of the meaning that being gay holds for me now. For me there is still wistfulness, and there are still crushes, and there is a general longing that I think characterizes life, but oh what a difference. This is now a source of pleasure to me, of hope, of companionship. I think just pulling those feelings of back then and forcing them into the present is a good thing.
All of this from a name and a picture...