When You Were Ghosted Gen X Style

Sometimes you can let go of the hard parts and just carry forward with the sweetness.

It might surprise you to learn that my first love, the love of innocent teen yearning, was a boy.

It wasn’t a reciprocated love. We had some moments. We went on a date to Wendy’s. We walked for miles after midnight just for something to do. We worked together. Until one day, he stopped talking to me.

The mist is lifting slowly
I can see the way ahead
And I’ve left behind the empty streets
That once inspired my life
And the strength of the emotion
Is like thunder in the air
‘Cos the promise that we made each other
Haunts me to the end

Like hard stop, no explanation, no clarification, no nothing. He has never spoken to me again since 1987. To be fair, we have exchanged a very few notes on Messenger. Most recently, I decided to ask him “why?” the question that had puzzled me for years.

In high school, I would try to figure out what had happened listening to my beloved music on the dimestore walkman. Two songs that became fused with this sad memory were from The Moody Blues. Your Wildest Dreams and I Know You Are Out There Somewhere. Music is so powerful. I was 15 years old. Almost 40 years later, the opening chords of either song takes me right back.

And when the music plays
And when the words are
Touched with sorrow
When the music plays
And when the music plays
I hear the sound
I had to follow
Once upon a time

Back to the sadness, yes, but also back to the unique ways we feel love as teens. It is all wrapped up in sentimentality, sexuality, and a precocious certainty that our experiences were unique. No one could understand even as that same sentiment was echoed across our entire generation.

I thought sometimes that he understood me because he grew up in my neighborhood. Maybe I simply wanted to believe that someone understood me, felt protective of me? That’s not a particularly unique feeling for any teen. We want to be loved, respected, appreciated.

I did let this haunt me, wrapped up in the angst of all teens and my own particular trauma. Told myself if I just waited, surely someday we’d pass on the street and he would tell me why. It became bigger and bigger. I spent time with his siblings, parents, learned he had some interactions with my Dad through work. Never once saw him in all those years. Never asked anyone to pass a message. Just always wondered.

I didn’t want to be reunited or anything like that. We both grew up, married, have lives. I just wanted to know why.

To be truthful, perhaps John’s birthday has a part to play. I’m not referencing John here. But he was part of that period of my life. He heard this story from me. I knew he wanted to make it better for me, but it wasn’t in the cards.

So I decided to ask him. Why now? I guess all the chaos and mind-blowing choices of the past seven months, the bad things without explanation, made me brave enough to just ask. Surely he couldn’t still harbor ill will to me 40 years later. So I prepared myself for the worst and asked.

I wonder where you are
I wonder if you
Think about me
Once upon a time
In your wildest dreams
In your wildest dreams
In your wildest dreams

He agreed to discuss via Messenger and told me that I was a gossip and would deliberately stir up trouble by sharing information. He said I had burned him so he decided to cut ties.

It was ghosting Gen X style.

I’m absolutely sure he is right. It tracks that I would act like this given my childhood. I don’t remember specifically doing that to him, but I can remember three specific incidents where I did it to someone else. I had already apologized to those folx, but failed to realize it probably happened more often. Trauma has a tendency to wipe memories.

So I told him this and offered an apology because regardless of the reasons, I had treated him poorly. He acknowledged he could have handled it better. Maybe, but what we could have done doesn’t really matter now. It is how we move forward. And we haven’t spoken again. Maybe we never will.

But it matters that he answered. He didn’t have to. He could have said literally anything. Perhaps we are better off knowing people in our 50’s than in our teen years?

If your takeaway here is “OMG she’s a lesbian talking about a high school crush on a boy” then you are missing the point. One point is the power of music to transcend decades. A second point is the theme of silence and secret keeping that haunts my life – in this case, I could resist and say something. The third point is that sometimes you can let go of the hard parts and just carry forward with the sweetness. Final point – stop telling me how to be a lesbian.

But why The Moody Blues? These two songs were written to frame a story, a little out of sync with their usual fare, and a clear ‘sequel’ of sorts. That’s unusual.

Your Wildest Dreams was released in 1986 and I Know You’re Out There Somewhere in 1989, perfectly bookending that time period.

Learning that my gossiping ways hurt someone, regardless of intent, is sad. It confirmed my fear that it was all my fault. But at 53, I can put ‘was a gossip’ into perspective against my other failings and faults. It is sad, but not devastating. I’m not filled with regret or rending my garments. I’m actually glad it wasn’t something worse or just him being cruel.

Maybe it was as simple as wondering if he ever thought of me with the filter that only comes with being 15. That I’m getting closer to protecting myself with the truth by gaining insight into my younger life.

It was never really a rom-com narrative of finding love later in life with a childhood sweetheart. I never creeped on his social media or have any anticipation we’ll ever meet.

It’s actually about me. I was very hurt to unknowingly push him away without understanding why. I poured a lot of angst and trauma into that wound. It helped me avoid the things actually happening in my family. It helped me break free of Pittsburgh and go to college in DC. And my refusal to believe he never actually cared about me eventually helped me be okay that he probably never did. And that was fine.

When I think about moments we shared now, I still smile softly. I still like to think it meant something vulnerable for both of us. That it was never eternal love and certainly involved no promises. But being able to close a chapter with innocence and sentiment is a rarity for survivors.

We deserve those memories and to move forward with all the smiles we can plumb from the depths of our young lives.

I also highly recommend The Moody Blues. Not exactly usual fare for a Gen X teen, but they know how to craft a melody that speaks to your while life. They spanned multiple decades and genres. Cassettes of them. Buddy Holly, Alan Parsons Project all helped me study college level maths.

I passed trig just fine and was inspired to tackle calculus again because why not? I still couldn’t quite get it, But I passed and was quite proud of myself. When the music plays, it is all about time signatures, beats per minute and formulaic progressions that reinforce math concepts – our brains learn while listening.

The secret of your beauty
And the mystery of your soul
I’ve been searching for in everyone I meet
And the times I’ve been mistaken
It’s impossible to say
And the grass is growing
Underneath our feet

I can’t say enough how good it feels to have that little bit of closure. I’m in my 50s. My great loves are long past. After events of the past year, I cannot imagine ever trusting anyone again. But I can trust myself to not wait 40 years to resolve other wounds and hurts.

One last Moody Blues memory. It is 1994. I’m living in grad student housing in Baton Rouge while I pretended to work on my thesis. Our housing was at the intersection of the baseball, basketball, and football fields. The Moody Blues came to town. I was longing to see them, but decided to be responsible with my meager pittance of a stipend. Night of the show,I turn on my stereo at the low end of the dial to find NPR. I caught a few familiar chords and figured it was a local station previewing the concert.

Nope. It was the concert. I was close enough to pick up the sound system or some technical thing like that. I sat the floor of my apartment, ear glued to the speaker. I knew they were out there somewhere.

Good times.


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