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Teenage Dreams

Love, Simon, The Way We Were, and the LGBT Rescue Fantasy

By Scott King


“Hey, dude. Dude!”
“Why are you wearing a pink t-shirt?”
“So that I’m not naked.”

Howls of laughter.

“Ugh! No, I mean why don’t you wear a more masculine …”

He couldn’t even finish. He knew that he had been had. By a very sharp tongue. I was proud of him for at least trying to articulate his point, that men shouldn’t wear pink shirts. It wasn’t very becoming of their attempts at gender conformity.

His name was also Scott, and he was also gay. I’m almost completely sure that he knew this. I’m also almost completely sure that he was having clandestine gay sex with a guy named Brandon, who sat in the back row of our chemistry class and was bisexual. Brandon always chatted with this girl in her Prince t-shirts in 1997. This girl, Jennifer I think, she was so badass. She let me borrow all three discs of “Emancipation.” Everybody keeps trying to break my heart. Everybody, except for me …

Brandon and I had become flirty, dangerous friends. He was queerbaiting the F out of me, telling me that he was bisexual and asking me if I was gay. I was and I was out to my friends, but it was so conspicuous the way he was asking me, I would just turn away and dooble guitar hero caricatures on my notebooks. Totes masc.

I was ashamed for saying no when he asked me directly, but Brandon was not exactly somebody who was to be trusted. He was a live fucking wire. He was sweet and funny and weird and fit, and his hair was cut kind of like a clown’s, but he had a strong jawline and pretty green eyes. He wore clunky shoes and tight pants and polo shirts and sport coats that he bought at a thrift store but they still fit. I was a grunger in jeans and Tori Amos t-shirts and jackets that said things like, “Plumbing!” My hair was short and platinum blond.

As I got to know Brandon a little better, I realized that he wasn’t dangerous. I just had to tame the monstah. So we set it up that he would buy us alcohol for my friend’s senior prom and then he would hang out with us for a bit at the house. I was really excited. We got back to the house and of course he wasn’t there nor was the alcohol or the money that we had given him.

I was pissed. I was traumatized I was burning up.

I didn’t see Brandon all summer. I figured we’d have a good laugh about it the next fall, or not. But he never showed up. In July, he had driven his Chevy into a telephone pole. He didn’t make it.

Looking back, I wish I had been there for him. I wish I had forgotten about the money and just said hey dude I’m gay, too. It’s okay. We can be friends, and we can be there for each other. You don’t need to drive around messed up on pills thinking that you’re not worth anything because you’re queer.

Of course, nobody talks like that.

What does all this have to do with “Love, Simon,” America’s most beloved feel-good lgbt coming-of-age film? Well, the truth is, it’s not all that feel good. It’s not all pathos and knowing smiles and empathetic hugs. Among the plot twists and the emo feel-good moments, there is howling, poignant drama. There’s heartbreak and neurosis and loneliness and that burning pit in your stomach that everyone is going to know your dirty secret and laugh at you.

Then you grow up, and you realize that they will laugh at you. A nervous laugh, because you scare them. Because you’re free. Because gay dudes are hilarious.

When people wrong you, its okay to hold their feet to the fire. It’s also okay to hold out a hand. Sometimes people just need to be rescued.


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