Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Holding the Man: A Beautiful Movie

Many years ago, a boy fell in love. At least he thought it was love. It certainly seemed like what he imagined it would be. He was still in high school, and at last he seemed to be feeling the emotions that he imagined others his age were feeling. The infatuation. The excitement. The nervousness that came from the fear of rejection. The joy that a mere smile from the object of his affections could instill. The thrill of contemplating even the most casual and fleeting of touches. 

The fear of discovery.

I was that boy, and the object of my affections was ... another boy. Those affections were unrequited and unfulfilled, but the memory of those emotions lived in my heart and mind for many years along with the taste of unmet desire, unmet needs and unanswered questions that I assumed would remain forever unexplored.

But then, wonder of wonders, many years later, I met a man who reawakened those memories, with whom I was able to finally explore those desires, those needs, those questions. And the love that we experienced made us both wonder ... what if? What if we had met as boys and had been able to taste what we were now tasting in the full vigor and blush of youth?

These were some of the thoughts that ran through my mind a few weeks ago when I watched a beautiful movie on Netflix entitled, "Holding the Man." An Australian film, the movie is the dramatization of an even more beautiful memoir, the audio version of which I finished listening to this past weekend.

For, you see, Timothy Conigrave, the author of the memoir, was a near-contemporary of mine, born only a year after I was. In the movie, and even more so in the book, he gave voice to feelings that I felt when I was a teenager - feelings and emotions that most heterosexual teenagers take for granted, but which for a gay boy in the 70's had to be carefully hidden and only expressed with the greatest of courage or audacity.

The real Tim and John

Unlike me, Timothy Conigrave was audacious and John Caleo, the captain of his high school football team, was courageous. They took chances, rewarded, that I never did. They felt a level of comfort with their sexuality that I never did. Tim reached out to the object of his affections, and the story of the love that grew between him and his beloved John was nothing less than thrilling, enchanting, heartbreaking and ... beautiful.

For those who read this post who are gay, I heartily recommend the movie and the book. For those who read this who are not gay - especially those close to me in age -  I heartily recommend the movie and the book. Not only does the film open a window into a world that was hidden in plain sight for so many of us, it is also a chronicle of our times, particularly for those who lived through what most of us, myself included, turned away from: the devastation of AIDS in the 80's and early 90's. 

Tim and I do have some things in common, however. I eventually found my courage, and I found my love, and I lost that love. But what a love it was: thrilling, enchanting, heartbreaking and beautiful. As was Tim and John's.

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