"'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all," is a common adage in some of our modern poetry and literature, but I must express my vehement disagreement with this ridiculous conclusion. If I may make a parallel, I would say that I don't have cable television. Having only lived with the basic channels for all sixteen years of my life, I am content and could care less that I don't have cable. However, any of my friends who do have cable, were it to be taken away from them, would be devastated by the loss of something they enjoy so much. Human beings are content with what they have until they find something better, and then they can never return to the contentment they had before. The loneliest feeling in the world is to have love, then have it taken from you, and have nothing to fill the void that's left. Perhaps I am being a bit too hasty in calling what I had love, but nonetheless, it was at least a crush, and it has impacted my life more so than any other event to date.

The year was 1997, and it was a hot mid-August day. I'm not sure if it was hot for everyone else, but I remember distinctly how hot the day was for me. My brothers, five of their friends, and I had gone to Kings Dominion for a calm day of relaxation before school started up again and before my brother and his friends went away to their first year of college. This day was meant to be theirs, but in the end, I seem to be the only one who remembers the day clearly. The reason is simple. One of my brother's friends, Dave, began a joke on the first roller coaster that we went on. Everyone else paired up, so we were stuck together in the tiny seat. His huge, muscled frame barely fit into the seat next to me, and so he put his arm around the back of my seat. When the attendant was checking the seats, she looked at us a little strangely, and Dave said, "We're gay lovers." Blood rushed to my face as I laughed in embarrassment, and of course I was embarrassed- ever since childhood, I was taught by my family, my peers, and the Catholic church that being gay is wrong, and that you were supposed to laugh at gay people. I was naïve, and I shared their view. His arm felt good around my back, though, even if he was a man and four years older than I was.

This continued on each ride of the day, and to me, the joke was beginning to feel good. Some of us wanted to go to the water-park, so our group split up, and I followed Dave into the changing room. I must have subconsciously made the decision that morning not to wear my swimming trunks under my shorts that day, which is what I usually do, but instead I brought them along and used the changing room. Dave and I were the only ones who needed to use the changing room, and although it was filled with other men, I felt like I was alone with him. He faced in the opposite direction, so I was able to look at him without him knowing. When he removed his shirt, his face and neck were covered with beads of perspiration, and the smell of it was intoxicating. I realized what I was doing, and that I was about to watch a man get naked, and quickly turned to face the opposite wall. I dressed quickly, because I felt that my hormones were beginning to lose control, and I walked out first. I didn't actually see anything, but I just began to realize that I felt depressed that I hadn't.

We walked out to meet my brother and Katie, the other two people who came to the water-park. Since we really just wanted to cool off, Dave, Katie and I went to the Lazy River, which was a pool that snaked around the length of the park and that you floated in with inner tubes. Dave and I splashed each other for most of the trip, but then we reached a certain spot where the Rebel Yell loomed far over our heads and exotic trees were all around us. Dave was looking into my eyes, and I was completely sucked in, and lost myself. I grabbed his hands, and pulled his tube towards mine. We were alone, and nothing could come between us in that moment. I leaned forward in lust, my small hands gripping his larger ones, desperately wanting to press my lips to his, and be happy forever. In a moment, the world shattered when his leg kicked off of my stomach. The last thing that I expected was for him to push away! I felt like I was going to die right there, if not from embarrassment, then just from the fact that he didn't want to kiss me. I blinked, and panic coursed through my veins, until I realized he was laughing. He thought that I was just continuing the joke that he had started. He swam quickly to catch up to Katie, and gave her a deep, passionate kiss. I didn't know until then that they had been dating. I wanted to fill my lungs with the heavily chlorinated water and end the pain that I felt, but couldn't bring myself to do it. I suppose that the Catholic teachings on suicide made up for their teachings on homosexuality.

After leaving the water, we went back to the changing rooms so we could go meet back up with the others in our group. This time, I watched him remove his bathing suit, and took a more extensive look at his body. He was heavily muscled for a man of seventeen years, and puberty seemed to have already passed him by. He had a lot of hair on his butt, but it wasn't unattractive. Rather, it was quite the opposite, and when I realized what I was thinking, I hurriedly pulled my boxer shorts on and dressed in the rest of my clothes. I barely got them on in time to quell the erection that swelled up, but I don't think anyone noticed. I purposefully kept my back to Dave, but then I heard his deep, rolling voice behind me, "Boy, you sure changed fast." I blushed, keeping my face where he couldn't see it, and laughed nervously. I picked up my stuff and walked out, which I knew would soothe my hormones.

Though I felt dejected, I was still in a good mood. He was still joking around with me, and it was a lot of fun. We went on the Scrambler next, which is a ride that spins in circles, and then also moves around within a larger circle. It's hard to describe the configuration of the ride, but the effect that's created by it is that all of the weight in the seats is pushed very forcefully to the right. Dave chose me on this ride too, and I was sitting on the right side of the seat. Dave, though he wasn't fat, had a lot of muscle, and so he weighed nearly two hundred pounds, and when this weight was thrown into my hundred pound body, the pain was excruciating! The ride threw him into me, then relented, and then threw him into me again, over and over until it made me dizzy. My ribs felt like they were on the verge of cracking! Yet, even amongst so much pain, it felt good. His warm chest was pressed against my side, and we were both laughing. I couldn't help it. If I had to describe it in four words, I'd have to say, "It hurt so good." This is the last ride that I remember us going on that day. Before we left, though, we made a stop at the acrid urinals at the front of the park. There were two urinals and one stall, and my brother took the stall, and Dave took the urinal. He invited me to use the urinal, but we had had a conversation earlier about how weird it is to use a urinal right next to another man. I waited until Dave finished, then used the urinal. We washed our hands and went back to the car.

As I sat alone in the backseat on the way home, I thought very hard to myself. I couldn't deny that I had a huge crush on Dave from spending just that day with him. Then again, I thought that it was wrong to have feelings for men. What was I to do? All I could do was think about how much I wanted to have sex with Dave, and then think about how I could only see myself dating girls. My mind was torn! Dave wasn't the first guy that I had ever felt attracted to, he just happened to be the first who I wanted to date. Eventually, my racing mind realized that it was only running in circles, and so I came to a conclusion. I decided that I had to be bisexual, and that there was no other way to explain it. While my feelings have changed since then, this day was the first step in my journey of accepting myself, who I am, and who I want to be. Without this day to show me that I wasn't sexually attracted to women like I was to men, I would probably still be in denial, and trying to find the girl who pleased me. I would probably be happy, though. Why? I wouldn't know what I was missing.

You're not truly human until you've been in love.
Humans being what they are, you're unlikely to find your true love the first time around.
There is no love without risk. If you won't risk yourself, then keep your lonely bitterness to yourself. Broken hearts hurt like hell, but do you want to die without any scars?

...therefore, it is better to have loved and lost, than never loved at all. It doesn't mean you won't love and be loved again.
When you haven’t loved for a while you get cold. You get cynical and hardened. The sadness in you deepens to a level that could never be wholly reflected by your faraway gaze.
It’s like being an old lonely statue in the overgrown corner of a cemetery. There’s this quietness about everything. The screaming from within finds no answer from the outside world and so you stand there, fixed and trance-like, completely detached and lost. You start to crumble away, the damp creeps in and the only thing you can do to stop the increasing pain is numb yourself to it.
Pretend that it’s all going fine, try not to think about when things were better, that only makes things worse. You stop asking ‘how long will this last?’ because the answer never comes.
“better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”
It sounds nice in theory doesn’t it?
This statement originates from Alfred Lord Tennyson's "In Memoriam A.H.H.": I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

"'Tis better to have loved and lost" often gets thrown around as a platitude meaning "don't fret so much over getting dumped, at least it was fun while it lasted." Just as frequently, as in most of the writups in this node, it gets rebutted for that same meaning. But that's just not fair to Al.

If we're dealing with the quote in its original context, it's important to realize that the person Tennyson's referring to is dead. He's not saying "'tis better to have loved and had the person in question decide you're actually kind of annoying and they're not interested in dating you than never to have loved at all." This is real loss we're talking about here, permanent loss, that nobody could have controlled. And I don't know how callous you'd have to be to say, on thinking of your dead best friend (or possibly "best friend"), "if he had to die, I wish I'd never met him in the first place." Whatever level of callousness it is, I've never reached it. When someone dies, you think about how grateful you are for the time you did have; how much they enriched you; how glad you are that you loved them and let them know while there was still time.

And if you're lucky and careful and very, very strong, maybe you can feel that way about people who have gone away rather than died. And that is, indeed, better.

An Insipid Defense Of A Hoary Old Adage Through Three People

i

She was older than me, not by too much, but enough to make me feel a little weird. It was my junior year of high school. We had been friends for two years. I didn't know that she would make relationships more important to me than I could have guessed they ever would be.

After I had spent a bit of time enduring unsubtle chortling on the part of some friends for a reason which I suspected only vaguely or not at all, she sent me a tentative email. I don't even remember how things proceeded from there.

We went to prom together and the dancing made me acutely uncomfortable, and she fell asleep on my lap at the after-prom party. I sat with her head in my lap for probably at least an hour, stroking her hair.

I have always been ticklish, and she tickled me until I couldn't breathe in the hallway next to the room where my high school's Shakespearean Troupe met and rehearsed. She got me to play opposite her in one of the histories about which I knew nothing, King Henry IV or something, and she played Titania and swooned over me as I wore a papier-mâché donkey head and acted extremely uncomfortable.

She wrote me erudite and lengthy love letters. I picked them up out of the mailbox as I walked to the house of the kid I was tutoring in math, read them on the way, and didn't let him see them. I don't remember if I reciprocated, but for the most part, I was kind to her, and I think I did the best I could.

She told me she was falling in love with me and it scared me. I was not yet out of high school. I couldn't even drive. I was fast becoming attracted to someone else, and at that point I didn't know how to handle it.

I may have loved her, but the word still frightened me and I never had a chance to find out. We went to the woods, sat on a blanket in the bamboo, and ended the relationship then and there. We said we would stay friends and she tickled me until I couldn't breathe.

I think now she's working on her master's degree, writing about teaching disadvantaged kids. The kids she works with apparently really like the guy she's with now.

ii

When I met her, I thought she was an introvert. I suggested that she join the Shakespearean Troupe after one of her presentations in the 10th grade English class we shared. Two years later, I sent her a tentative email.

Our first meeting after that turning point was in a library.

She watched amusedly as my Lysander made pathetic moony eyes at Hermia, who was played by a freshman girl; I watched amusedly as she got picked up and carried off the stage by my friends dressed up as pirates.

We went to dinner with our friends on prom night, and they went to prom while we stayed home and ostensibly watched a movie. We sat outside at three in the morning, waiting for a ride from my mom, and I wanted to sing a Suzanne Vega song to her, but didn't.

Her mom and my mom are still close friends.

Her mom got us both summer jobs at her workplace. Eventually people complained that they didn't think it was professional for us to be holding hands on the corporate campus during our lunch break, so we waited until we got to the surrounding neighborhoods and then sneaked off to the side streets to talk and make out, in that order. I think maybe people still knew.

For our one Valentine's Day together, we got each other dictionaries. This was not premeditated. I still have mine.

I sent her love letters, substituting wit for erudition, and she sent me love letters which had their fair share of both. But we both agreed that the word "love" was either frightening or cheap, and we never used it.

We went to college together, and while it didn't necessarily turn out that well, I feel that saying it was a mistake would be missing the point.

She changed, and I probably did too. We started to lose our closeness. She went to dances and LARPed, made new friends who were just deeper than I was. It made me more uncomfortable than I would ever tell her, and it bothered me more than I ever could understand.

In some ways, she always was just on a different level than I was. In the last couple months, I made a lot of mistakes that I would want to apologize for long after she had probably forgotten about them.

She broke up with me after almost two years. She cried then, and asked me why I didn't; I guess it was because on some level I had seen it coming. But I did cry, later, and for eight months after I realized how much she had challenged and inspired me, I didn't know what to do with myself.

I still occasionally discover things for myself only to realize that they're things she told me two years ago. She graduated from college a semester early, and she's living in Seattle now.

iii

We'd been friends for about five years, and I'd seen her date many of my good friends in high school. At the time, I questioned what I saw as her flightiness. At the end of our relationship I was furious about it. Now I think I understand.

In the summer before my junior year of college, we went to a concert and from there to a party. My antics there somehow had people I had never met questioning my sexual orientation within ten minutes of my arrival. She drove me home at 3 a.m. and I tentatively asked if she minded my flirting with her.

The next afternoon, I went to her house, ostensibly to help fix her car. I think we both knew I didn't know anything about cars and that I just wanted to spend time with her after the quasi-revelations of the previous night.

She worked tech in community theatres, I worked at the job I had gotten through the assisted nepotism of the previous years. We snatched what time we could find together as the summer, and thus the time we had in the same state, drew inexorably nearer to its end.

She watched movies at my house, and as often as not fell asleep during them. I couldn't bear to wake her up when I saw how peacefully she was sleeping. Sometimes I would sing softly to her as she slept. When I left her on the couch overnight and went up to my room, my parents told me in the morning that they didn't really want her staying overnight, no matter where I slept.

She was the first person I ever slept with, literally, not figuratively, in the apartment where she lived with a close friend of mine who used to be her boyfriend and now disapproved of us. Neither of us slept with many clothes on, particularly in the summer. She would sleep for fourteen hours, I would sleep very little, and I didn't mind.

The summer ended and we parted tearfully. We kept in touch as often as we could. She flew up to visit me one weekend and I finished a Real Analysis take-home test in four days rather than the allotted week so that I would have more time to spend with her.

She was the first person outside of my family to whom I have ever said "I love you."

She visited me again in February, for about a month. It was to be our last time spent together as a couple. During that month, I pampered her as much as I knew how; she had had a hard few months working herself to death in theatres. She rewarded me with her presence. She solved the Macalester math department's "Problem of the Week" one week, and worked tech for a show put on by Macalester's theatre club.

She made me feel more sexy than awkward for the first time in my life.

We went to a dance, and I danced in a row of five guys with our shirts off.

She had decided to take a semester off from school to walk the Appalachian Trail, starting in March, and promised to keep in touch as much as possible. I sent her a package, which she received after she sent me an email saying that she was breaking up with me. The relationship couldn't last forever, she said; better that it should end before it grew old, and while we still thought of each other fondly. She called me the best boyfriend she had ever had.

I look back on my indignation at the time almost with amusement, now. She had told me she loved me; I think she did, and I think it may have been as hard for her as it was for me. Eight months after the end, I had learned to forgive.

She's back from the trail now, having hiked some but not all of it. She's with someone she met on it, who seems like a good guy. She changed her major from theatre to art.

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