All the Fine Men

George Washington would have made a great boyfriend. As a young man he was tall, strong, had thick reddish-brown hair and, at the time, his own teeth. He was very focused on his career and carried good family connections. Even though he received no formal education, he displayed intelligence and practiced excellent table manners. When seriously courting Martha Dandridge Custis, he made it clear that he would take in the two children from her first marriage and treat them as his own. He did, and enlarged his already impressive house to accommodate the family and their frequent visitors.

Of course, eventually, the hair and teeth fell out. He was human. Martha wasn’t surprised. When she first met him, he was a feisty up and coming officer who knew the value of a rich widow when he saw one. For years, he’d suppressed adoration and desire for his best friend’s wife and avoided marriage, but decided to nab Martha before someone else did. Then he left his fiancé to fight the French. But he came back alive, and George and Martha Washington shared a long and affectionate marriage. The solidity and practicality of their situation fascinated me at thirteen, and I would visit their historic mansion, just to make sure it had all been for real.

The first time I fell in love it was with Beaver Cleaver. Something about his round face and spring jacket made my six-year-old heart beat a little faster. I doted over the black and white reruns, that is, until Beaver’s voice started to crack, which gave me the creeps. The entire affair was completely innocent, right down to the newsprint picture my mother found and cut out for me. It hung on my personal corkboard, where Beaver beamed for years, through the decades and thumb smudges.

In the late eighties, Jerry Mathers, the actor whose only claim to fame was playing Beaver Cleaver, put together a reunion show with some of the original cast, plus a whole slew of kids and pets. I don’t remember the premise other than the Cleaver family as thirty years older and just as phony. The show didn’t last, and a small portion of my early childhood memories were forever scarred. Fortunately, by then, I’d fallen in love with Ryan.

Ryan was a classmate from kindergarten through graduation. In first grade he chased me around the playground, once cornering me and kissing my cheek before I could whirl around to pretend I didn’t like it. In fourth grade we became an official item. Group projects and school functions created anticipation as Ryan and I hoped to be assigned to the same group. At skating parties our songs were Brian Adams’ Everything I Do and the Ghostbusters theme. In sixth grade we took first and second place in the spelling bee. I only felt a little bad about beating him, since we both got to go to the regional competition.

I didn’t mind that Ryan was almost a full head shorter than me, or that his hands were always sweaty when we skated together. The fact that I was stronger, but often let him win a good arm wrestling match only made me feel kind and supportive. I overlooked all of his pre-teen shortcomings until junior high. That’s when Ryan met Dawn and broke my heart. I didn’t speak to him again until the night of high school graduation. In the only existing picture of us together, from that final night, he is a few inches taller than me and we’re both smiling.

John Lennon didn’t make a good boyfriend. He was always off touring in Germany and couldn’t keep his dick in his pants. Rarely sober, he mixed pills and alcohol and played gigs with a toilet seat around his neck. His aunt told him to find a real job, as one can’t count on making any money with a guitar.

I’m not sure if I was ever really in love with Josh. He suited me at seventeen, with his Camel Lights and patchouli, tattoo and Honda Civic. I remember being impressed by his ability to smoke, mange the manual transmission, hold my hand, and change the radio station all while singing Ben Folds Five and never swerving out of the lane. He was eighteen and obtained my Marlborough Lights, but never offered to pay for them. When we went to the movies he would look at me and ask which one of us was paying for my ticket. I never offered him any gas money. We didn’t really talk much, but were together every night, sitting in Javasphere Coffee House back when the walls were still blue. Sometimes we made out. More often we just held hands. I harbored a sneaking suspicion that he was bi-sexual. I felt very attached to him. I have no idea why.

John Lennon made a fine husband on his second try, third if you include both rounds in his second marriage. He made brown rice and happy music. He spent hours with his young son Sean, and had a newfound appreciation for his wife Yoko. It made me sad to learn the nature of his death, which occured just two days before I was born. I used to send Yoko Ono personal letters just for the hell of it. In return I received Christmas cards and experimental CDs.

Johnathan was nothing more than the adorable, blond, 18 year old druggy who was dating my friend Christa. If I spoke to him, it was to timidly ask if he’d purchase my cigarettes, or to compare how much we knew about the Beatles. Everyone observed his and Christa’s relationship with a certain amount of reverence, calling them “greater than the sum of their parts” and “meant to be.” Distraught at their eventual breakup, and just coming through one of my own, I sat down by Johnathan in the goth dank of Liquid Room Coffee House, and listened to him talk about Christa, and then about other things. When our talking turned to kissing, everything else took a backseat.

I learned about Johnathan one step at a time. He was funny, and horrible at balancing his budget. His room was a mess, and walled with his own paintings and wax sculptures. His first crush was Laura Ingles as portrayed by Melissa Gilbert. We shared a taste for exotic food, but too often it wakened his paranoia. One rehab stint, a UK tour, and six years later we got married. We included Josh and Christa on the guest list, and played a few Beatles songs for nostalgia’s sake.

Marriage became the thing, our shtick. Teeth and hair may fall out. Pudge will grow, and senses of humor will dull. Hands might even be nervous and sweaty. There is an affectionate allowance for such things. The staples of brown rice and shared creativity can sustain a lot, and we look to our predecessors for simple reassurance.

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