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I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

How I Found My Young Old Man, Part II

So, M. and I became friends. At first, we were hang-out-in-a-group friends. He and DK lived in a centrally located house with another grad student friend, and their place quickly became a social hub, the site of frequent parties, where people - including myself – dropped by at all hours to hang out, mooch food, and even (in the case of my boyfriend KC) to do laundry.

I liked M. more and more, but I remained a bit intimidated by his ineffable aura of coolness. He had gotten into punk and skate culture at an early age, had grown up an hour from New York City. I was a late bloomer in musical terms, and had spent my crucial teenage years stranded in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. So I was nervous when I saw him in the audience the first time my and Feral Mom’s fledgling band played a show, and surprised when I ran into him at the university library a couple days later and he effused about how much he liked us. Our role models were Hole, Liz Phair (back when she actually wrote good songs), and various Riot Grrl bands, but we were still basically dorks with a penchant for pop, not to mention rock and roll beginners. The fact that M. liked our band so much was obviously gratifying, but it also made me further revise my notions about him. He was cool, but he wasn’t narrow minded, hypercritical, or out to impress.

As procrastinating grad students will do, we started dropping by each other’s offices on campus to shoot the shit and talk about music. We had an amazing number of favorite bands in common, and we compared notes on shows we’d seen in different cities. He was four years my junior, but since he was a punk rock prodigy while I was a Johnny-Rotten-come-lately, we found that we’d often gotten into the same bands at the same time. We also discovered that we both had an occasional penchant for getting baked. One Thursday night (the unofficial start of the weekend for grad students), we made plans to get together, smoke, and listen to music. Before long this was a weekly ritual. We’d listen to music we both cherished – Sonic Youth, Stevie Wonder, Joni. I would expose him to music I loved – Superchunk, Sam and Dave, Uncle Tupelo. He’d hip me to music I needed to know but didn’t yet – the Beastie Boys, My Bloody Valentine, Prince.

Prince was a revelation to me, and my deepening respect for him as a musician gave me greater respect for M, as well. This was the artist M. had been listening to since he was thirteen, never wavering in his devotion, even as he’d hidden it from his punk high school friends. One night we were listening to Sign O the Times, and when “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” came on, my mind was blown by how complex and playfully witty it was. Then I caught Prince’s multi-layered citation to Joni’s “Help Me,” and I was sold. “I can tape it for you,” M. said. And as I walked around town with the cassette in my walkman (1995, people), and “If I was your Girlfriend” came on, I was astonished again. The song was so vulnerable and sexy and dorky and gender bending, all intricately and deliciously rolled into one. I had to walk right over to M’s house and expound on how much I dug it.

The more I found out about M, the more I liked him, and the more deeply impressed I was with what a genuine, decent person he was. Little stories would come out – how he’d stolen an entire industrial-sized box of tampons for his girlfriend from the park service warehouse during a summer job. Most guys I knew in grad school – where men claiming feminist credentials was de rigeur – would have busted that anecdote out within an hour of meeting any woman for the first time. With M. it took months.

It also took him more than a month to mention that his girlfriend had broken up with him. He finally did, at the very end of a week-long road trip we took to Memphis and New Orleans with another friend. I was very sad for him, and told him I’d be glad to talk about it with him if he ever needed to. I had been through the break-up of a relationship of a similar length, one that I had assumed would last forever, as I knew M. had with KD. This was probably the point at which we really began to get close, because we started talking about the real shit, getting personal. I tried to be optimistic on his behalf, even though I had resigned myself to never falling in love again. (I figured it was too much to expect true love to come along more than once in my life.) But when I said “I know that some cool woman will come along and see what an amazing man you are,” I meant it. M. was amazing, and there were many more good women out there than men. My chances were less rosy.

It’s significant that, even though I was in and out of my always-unstable relationship with KC during this very period, it never occurred to me that M. and I might get together. We were friends, and he never gave me the slightest indication of anything but a very warm and enthusiastic platonic regard. In fact, I was broken up with KC when M. revealed that he and KD had split. We would get back together in one last ill-fated moment of bad decision-making. And by the time that fell apart and we finally broke up for good, M. and I were so close that he was the first person I went to, crying it all out. He was sympathetic toward me, but worried about KC too, because all the while I'd been getting closer and closer to M, so had my boyfriend. For every hour M. spent with me, he spent one with KC, in addition to the many hours we logged as a threesome.

So here - at the point where M. and I are seemingly free to fall madly in love - is the moment where I almost lose him altogether, even as a friend. Because now he’s caught between two tight friends, each half of a freshly cut wound. And I, while sad and shaken, am basically stable, and my dear but difficult ex is increasingly shaky. Perhaps he needs a considerate, warm, reliable-yet-amusing friend like M. more than me right now. And perhaps I am guilt-ridden enough over the bad breakup to let what’s left of my social and emotional life fall apart that way.

Tune in soon for the third and, I promise, final installment…

(Again, I blame Esereth for instigating this, and DoctorMama for making me think it’s legit to drag any story that’s not a labor story beyond two posts…)


Blogger Orange said...

So, Part Three is when you talk about sharing your innate love of bratwurst with M.?

8:51 AM  
Blogger E. said...

Ah, Orange is in the know. Sheboygan is indeed the self-proclaimed "bratwurst capital of the world." But by the time I met M, we'd both been vegetarians for years. So no bonding over sausage, so to speak.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Esereth said...

That is a great story of friendship, forged primarily over a real love of music. I haven't ever heard of a love starting quite like that. There is something partiuclarly cool about the music part. Especially loving Prince.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Orange said...

I'm greatly relieved that you didn't slip him the bratwurst.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Lucky Star said...

YOU. Are such a jerk.

I love it so better save it somewhere special for that dear O. to read when he is old enough to give a crap. :)

10:26 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I am loving this story. Where'e the next installment? Don't keep your readers in suspense!

Although, well, we kind of know the ending. But it's all about the journey, right?!

1:11 PM  
Anonymous sweatpantsmom said...

Can't wait to read the next part!

3:56 PM  
Anonymous DoctorMama said...

Hey, labor only lasts, like, 21.15 hours (but who counts?). Why should that get more posts than something that took months (years?) to birth?

8:36 PM  
Blogger jen said...

Your story has inspired me to try the same. Thank you for that.

2:37 PM  
Blogger jen said...

9/11. yep. me too.
your blog is good stuff for my head.

3:16 PM  

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