Where Ninth-Grade Lust Will Get You (Sometimes)

Where Ninth-Grade Lust Will Get You (Sometimes)

I was sitting in the back row

of ninth-grade math class

and passing notes with my friend Rob,

who liked Pearl Jam as much as I did.

Rob and I were not exactly troublemakers but we were also definitely not Cool Kids and school was just so stupid and we were sort of mischievous. So we passed a lot of notes and co-authored long documents with silly names like Presto Manifesto and wrote rhyming poems in which the Earth Science teacher became a murderous hockey player. Things like that.

We were fourteen, lamentably younger than all those cool Gen Xers who could drive themselves to Pearl Jam concerts (our generation was too young to even have a name yet); but Rob’s hair was approaching Eddie Vedder length, and he was somehow managing to grow a goatee, which I quite liked. In fact, I was starting to like Rob a lot, and this seemed like bad news.

A few months earlier I’d been hospitalized for severe depression and spent a month on an adolescent psychiatric unit. I was doing much better, going to counseling and “practicing my coping skills,” but even at fourteen, I used to think a lot about how to live well, how to live wisely. And it seemed like maybe not a great idea to get into a relationship when I was just figuring out how to be OK again.

However–I was starting to think maybe he liked me, too. And it was a warm, balmy day at the end of April, and as everyone knows, springtime is very arousing, and I guess lust and spontaneity got the best of me, because there in the back of ninth grade math class I whispered:

“Rob, have you ever had a girlfriend?”
“No,” he said.
“Why not?” I said.
“I’m gay,” he said.
“Oh.” I paused. “Is that true?”

Okay, then. Well.

“Do you want one?” I said.
“Do you get it?”

We went back to our math problems (I guess? It’s hazy) but the situation seemed not entirely settled, so I wrote him a note that said:

When are you going to ask me out?

He wrote back:


And true to his word, around 2:24 (three minutes early!) he passed me a note with our names inserted into the traditionally worded marriage vows.

I read through it and found it a little too restrictive, so I edited it–e.g., crossing out as long as we both shall live and replacing it with as long as it lasts. 

That was the official beginning, but I don’t think there was any kissing until we could get our moms to drive us to the movies a week or so later. (I hated being fourteen. Pined for the day when I could see the big wild fascinating world and make out with my boyfriend whenever I wanted to.)


Some years passed.

We dated, and parted, and then dated again.

And here we are, April 2020.
I am raising two kids during a pandemic with my friend Rob,

who fathered them, and likes Pearl Jam as much as I do.

[This photo was taken long before stay-at-home orders, but it’s the very same tree at our old junior high school.]

It strikes me as funny that–just like back then–

I am once again doing schoolwork I don’t feel like doing!
We can’t go to the movies without the permission of the authorities!
And we are still lustful, but once again RARELY ALONE!

(What a strange time: hundreds of millions of people who are painfully, wearily alone, and hundreds of millions of other people craving a few moments alone.)

In seriousness: We are very, very grateful to be healthy and still employed and paying the bills. The darkward pull of depression is strong in isolation, though, and it’s clinging to my ankles like a medicine ball as I walk through these days.

Rob is a bright spot in this dark time for me, just as he was in 1995. And those coping skills–I am practicing them so hard. When the kids go to bed I put on makeup (and sometimes rock & roll boots) just to feel like myself again, and sometimes we make music. (In happier times, we occasionally do this publicly as The Scrivening Bartlebys.)

Cheers to you, love. Your goatee has flourished into a manly wonder of a beard, and if I have to be cut off from the rest of big wild fascinating world, thank God it’s with you. And these two mischief-makers we’re raising.

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