People often do special things to commemorate their milestone birthdays like big celebrations, trips, extravagant purchases. I’ve never been overly big on birthdays and thus far have only dialed things up for two of my milestones. A somewhat infamous costume party for my eighteenth birthday, the mere mention of which likely still sends a certain pizza guy into fit of twitching and flop sweats, and my twenty fifth. Not a celebration per se, but rather a resolution whose time had come.
In high school I had the mixed pleasure of falling soul deep in love for the first time with a good friend who was completely incapable of returning those feelings even if he’d known about them. At that time I was still keeping the romantic and sexual parts of myself very much to myself both because of the small town world around me and my one absolutely disastrous encounter with even tame experimentation.
I never expected to fall in love with him. He was part of my somewhat small inner circle of friends. Introvertedly shy, with a caring heart, a brilliantly agile creative mind, and playfully mischievous grin. At first I merely had a crush on him, no different from any of my other crushes. Then after a year things changed. Sexual fantasizing had never felt wrong in any way, it was purely natural and only in my own mind, but with him I was suddenly completely incapable of it. Any sexual imagining felt wrong, like some form of massive betrayal, while on the other hand envisioning simply holding hands, wrapping my arms around him, or quietly kissing him made my insides evaporate. I suddenly knew what all the songs and poems were about.
And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. By this time I knew him very well and girls were his only romantic interest, as shyly understated as it was. There were times the situation truly tested my capacity for compartmentalizing, seemingly ordinary interactions between friends had the potential to be a bit torturous, but overall I was able to find a level of piece with it. I had these very powerful feelings but there was nowhere for them to go. So I focused on appreciating the friendship and making sure the feelings didn’t intrude or…