Seven days. I wondered what I did wrong. Am I too easy? Am I a slut? Did he not like it? He finally called me and told me I was neither. It was the six years–or at least, that’s what he said. He didn’t enjoy the pressure of being my first boyfriend, my first everything. He would rather I find a boy my own age. I acted nonchalant, sounding cool and dispassionate. The Valentine’s date was still on, though. The conversation ended soon afterwards.
My face went numb within seconds, tears trying to fight gravity and emotion. I sat in my bed and gave a bleary glance to my Valentine’s present to him, a crocheted octopus doll. I spent hours crocheting him an octopus because I saw his elaborate doodles of octopi on his notepad at his apartment. I didn’t want to give it to him anymore.He picked me up on Valentine’s Day. It was the usual: ate dinner, watched a movie (we watched Pan’s Labyrinth). I would occasionally glance over to smile coyly at him. He never noticed.He stopped in front of my house and we sat in his car. Confused. I pulled out the octopus from my jacket and gave it to him. Here, Happy Valentine’s Day. Before I left the car, he gave me a gentle noogie and said Take care, kiddo. I guess that’s what I was to him.
Reading this made me think of friends of mine, years further along in life, trying to teach themselves to show someone they love that they love them, and feeling like they were trying to learn to juggle live animals.
This post seemed like the memory they wouldn’t let themselves have, of when they were first brave enough to try. Though I’m pretty sure you’re better off without someone who’d give you a noogie on Valentine’s Day after he broke up with you. Even if it feels like you’re not.
John is the young author of a new blog called dolphinsaturday, a name I like because it suggests that each Saturday is devoted to spending time with dolphins. I found him because he linked to me off his brand new blog. In his second post ever, he quoted Theresa Hak Yung Cha, a personal writer hero of mine. He just finished reading my novel, he finishes high school in about 9 days, if I count right, and he’s trying to write a scholarship essay, though he’s an excellent writer and I think if, as he says, he can get himself in the right place, he’ll do well.
I am typical Korean male of many in Orange County, California. You see me at Presbyterian churches, praising among the saved and the dead. You watch me finish my calculus tests before anybody else in the classroom. You hear me boast about my Ivy league acceptance and prospective mathematically and/or scientifically related majors. I am the Korean-American success story-to-be.
Oh, and I am homosexual. Queer. Label me what you fancy, but simply put–I like boys. I really, really like them. Too long have I been the subservient little Korean son and brother, catering to my parents’ insatiable desires of wanting a mild-tempered pharmacist son and to my sister’s quasi-intoxicated, belligerent orders…I am trying to break out of this wont of pleasing my parents; it cannot dictate my life any longer. This people-pleasing complex–this god-damned attention-seeking, approval-wanting complex–permeates through to my love life.
I aim to please. I find eroticism in making a man quiver, in making his body tense, in making his toes curl and seize. Man’s physique titillates me, but his lust for me transcends the actual deed. It is troubling, I realize, that I hook up with random blokes via the Internet for the pure sentiment of being wanted. This peculiar portmanteau of depression and parentally-impressed success compels me to pleasure everybody. (Yes, pun intended.
I remember being his age and feeling like everything I wanted in the world was impossible for me as I was, and that I didn’t know how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be. Every step of the way there was someone saying to me something like, well, that’s nice, but you can’t do that, and then I would go and do it and they turned out to be wrong.
The people who tell you you can’t do something can’t do it themselves, my dad used to tell me. What they mean is, they don’t know how to do it. Go find the person who knows how and if no one does, then, be that person.
So, I really want him to know, the world is larger than whether you can get to college, larger than the jerk you fell for first before you knew better, the first one who made you feel special and then ran away. Even if it isn’t larger right now, it gets larger, more interesting. You meet men who dance on tables to get your attention. It gets better, and sometimes while you might not get what you want in this life, what comes your way might be much, much better than you thought to think about. Just remember that even in wanting it, to be an out queer male Korean American, a writer or artist, and loved, that’s brave.
Made me weep (again).
Well, thank you for the words of the encourangement–oh, and for the new audience I have now.
I’m coming to terms with my past, and I’m doing so by reading and writing. More books arrive next week: Marcel Proust and Edmund White. I hope, though, that books won’t be my only friends.