Writes of Passage: Bernadette Bowman
Dear Dorothy (since it’s the day after The Wizard of Oz was on television and you will only answer to this name for the next week and a half):
You have been blessed to have wonderful friendships, many of them nurtured from major crushes, with some of the most sensitive and brilliant boys you’ll ever know. You’re only in fourth grade now and have already shown impeccable taste by connecting with the smart and snappy dresser, Stephen, who not only understands the importance and reverence of Friday nights on ABC, but also the importance of implementing proper grammar by his use of “for instance” instead of “like.”
You’re correct. Stephen is special. He is the only boy who will gleefully play Barbies with you while the other more crass boys run around and get dirty, and he had the wherewithal to figure out that his Jane West doll makes a great David Cassidy stand-in for Malibu Barbie’s latest boyfriend. Brilliant.
Yes, Stephen is different from any of the other boys you know, and you share a kindred spirit connection with him. And he is only the first of many magical friendships you will have with men like this for the rest of your life.
There is just something so wonderful about Stephen and the other Special Boys who will cross your path. You and your two sisters will become the darlings of the stage in San Diego— surrounded by these colorful, talented, and hysterically funny boys the way Scarlett O’Hara was surrounded by her admirers at Twelve Oaks. You can always count on these guys for a good laugh, great gossip, and references to your favorite I Love Lucy episodes and musicals. Oh, and the shared heavy sigh when a cute guy walks by and looks your way.
The deep love you have when you make a connection with one or more of these handsome boys who smell so good will be one of the biggest and most important lessons in your life.
You will fall in love with more than a few of them, mostly because you can totally be yourself with them, unlike the people-pleasing phony you will try to be with those other straight boys who just never seem to “get” you. You will cry many nights into your pillow over why the Special Boys can’t love you the way you want them to. It would just be so much easier if they did.
But the tears you cry about this unrequited love will be nothing compared to the tears you will cry later when these boys start to leave your life. Your heart will ache like it’s never ached before, and losing these friends will continue to make you cry for the next two decades of your life.
Witnessing your dear friends die on the vine, or hearing about their passing will touch you in a place so deep in your heart and soul that you will question, well, everything you’ve ever believed. Including God— and why He would take the best people away from a world that so desperately needs all of the magic and pixie dust it can get.
You will lose your first Special Boy in 1985. You will cry nonstop for two weeks after hearing the news that Anthony is gone. You will walk the first-ever AIDS Walk in his honor. You will become a charter member of The Memorial of the Month Club for many years. You will look back at old photos of a more innocent time and realize that most of these cherished smiles are no longer here. You will honor the memory of your dear angel friends by volunteering at an AIDS hospice, and this will be one of the most rewarding periods of your life.
It will never get easier when you hear of another friend passing but you will become more graceful at accepting what is. Instead of crying for two weeks, you will cry for two days, but the tears will still be just as meaningful.
You are a beautiful and open-hearted girl. You will wish when you’re older that more of the men in your life could make it as safe for you to just be “you” as these Special Boys always have. You will be lucky to meet a wonderful partner, James, who is not only appreciated, but approved of, by the Special Boys who share your life as a grown up.
Never forget that you’ve been loved and appreciated by the best, and that they’re all smiling down on you from above, as they blend margaritas and get pedicures with Princess Diana.
Be as good to yourself as your Special Boys have always been to you.
Bernadette Bowman is a writer and recovering actor who lives happily in Seal Beach, California with her Kindle and near her hot, gay-friendly boyfriend.
Read more letters in our National Coming Out Day section on Gay.com.