Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pen Pals

Now that we have e-mail, Twitter and Facebook, actual pen pals are a thing of the past. Still, I had a couple. And they prove to really make me think.

When I was quite young, I signed up for a pen pal service and a kid in Alabama and I would exchange notes and postcards. I don't recall much about our correspondence. I know it was a boy I was writing to and we didn't do very many, and we both enjoyed the Oz books. I recall the last letter I got from him was telling me that he got a role in a play, and then I never heard from him again. Probably the fact that I'd given up Oz at the time didn't help.

Much later, I met a girl at church. I don't want to say her name here to protect her privacy, so I'll give her the pseudonym Nancy for easy reference. I didn't think much of her at first, in fact, I thought she looked a lot like a friend of my mother's that I didn't really care for.

Still, Nancy and I wound up talking. We connected over a mutual fandom of The Lord of the Rings (she lent me The Fellowship of the Ring on VHS), and eventually, we decided that while she might be away from church due to work concerns (her family runs a commercial garden), we'd stay in contact by writing each other actual paper letters.

We discovered that we had a lot in common. We were both hard workers, neither of us felt like our mothers really understood us, and we both had a variety of interests and hobbies. Some interests we shared, and some we didn't, a big example being she liked Star Wars while I'd only seen The Phantom Menace at the time and didn't really care for it. (I did see the original trilogy years later.)

We were also pretty different. Genders aside, I had a large family, she had just a brother and a sister. My dad worked a job to support the family, their entire family worked their own business (as well as other jobs) and earned a very respectable income. I was beginning to have aspirations about being a writer, she wanted to be an actress. Finally, she could afford to go to college, no chance for me.

I have to admit to misreading our friendship: I thought I was falling in love. But what I now realize was that what Nancy and I were sharing was actually a pretty good friendship. Being socially stymied, I assumed friends were just people who you knew who were nice to you. That sadly is as silly as I was.

So, of course, I made the stupid mistake of writing a letter where I "confessed my love" to her. Well, she was taken aback by it, and I regretted sending it almost right off. We eventually decided that whatever I was feeling wasn't right for either of us and tried to ignore it. Of course, since I now know I'm gay, that really wasn't a romantic love I was feeling at all.

We attempted to keep on writing each other, but her own personal pressures and starting college eventually made the letters peter out. Deciding that she wanted this, I decided to let her have it. I can't recall the last time I saw Nancy. I have her as a friend on Facebook, which informed me that she has married and she has at least worked part time as tech in a theater, which she does by volunteer still.

While not a traditional pen pal, I have been corresponding with a young man named Sam Milazzo in Australia since 2006 via e-mail, Facebook, and we record podcasts together through Skype. We also occasionally send each other packages, though mine are often delayed in getting out, sometimes by months.

Sam and I connected over a love for Oz and a desire to make Oz movies. We also have some shared interests in film and literature, but generally not music. We also discuss what's going on with our lives and our jobs.

Yes, we have been teased to be "boyfriends," but we're not. Seriously. It's not going to happen. Though Sam has some admiration for other men, he's straight.

Sam and I did meet and share a few days together last summer during which we attended an Oz convention in California. (I always had the feeling that if we met, it should be neutral ground: neither of us would be at home.) And I'll say it: Sam is an attractive young man. And in a case of gay staring me in the face and I didn't recognize it: I did feel a little attraction. (So did another guy who was openly gay.) But the closest contact I made was giving him a hug. Okay, more than one hug.

Sam and I are friends and that's all we are, and that's all we'll ever be. And I really hope he can find the right woman for him. Someone's gotta keep the last name "Milazzo" going. It's a cool last name.

No comments: