Features | February/March 1998

Romance 101: Lessons Learned in Love

By Ramiro Perez

Birthdays, anniversaries, track meets, the prom, and Valentine's Day were all shared with a special person in my life-my girlfriend. Not only was she the person with whom I thought I was going to leave my house to go to college with for five years, but the person whom I thought the rest of my life was going to be conjoint with. The four years that we were together were the happiest of my life. If we weren't going to the movies together, I was taking her to my family functions. The love that we embraced was treasured like a sapphire on a queen's finger. I had my best friend, my world, my horizon of life, and my sexual pleasures-all in one.

It came to the day that we decided on which college we were going to attend, and so it happened that we chose colleges that were eight hours apart from each other. We gave each other ultimatums and decided to stop seeing each other. We were mature enough to understand that we were going to start meeting other people in our lives. My mom used to always say, "amor de lejos; amor de pendejos." The seriousness of that saying came into my enlightenment. My girlfriend and I spent the last day of seeing each other at the beach.

The next day I was, literally, in an entire different environment. Having moved from Los Angeles to San Diego, I was about to begin a whole modernistic role of life and start gathering a new cluster of friends. I was now in college-a totally different place from high school. Not only did I perceive that in college you would meet your true and unforgettable friends, but you would also experience things you would never forget.

My first year was nothing but trying to meet people and see what crowd I would want to hang out with. I pledged a fraternity, and wow, did I experience things I am not soon going to forget. My sophomore year, though, was the joker in a deck of cards. I remember the day that I went with my fraternity brother to the mall to pick up his girlfriend, Elena. She was waiting with Manuel, her best friend. At this time, I did not think anything of guys, nor did I least expect to think anything of this one.

Five months later, I was living with Elena and two other roommates. We all decided to go clubbing in Tijuana. I went with Elena, and we met the rest of our friends there. Manuel was there and was introduced to me again. I did not recognize him from the first time because he looked very different now. We shook hands and gazed straight into each other's eyes. An eerie vibe struck me, and I know it hit him, too. I was really confused about what that feeling was supposed to mean. I just thought he was cute: his style and his attitude were superb and his Morrissey look attracted me.

The next day, I was still thinking about what had happened. I told one of my other roommates what happened, and she made fun of me. Well, later that day, Manuel called and asked to speak to his best friend, Elena. (I later found out that he was hoping I would answer the phone-I did).

"Hello, is Elena there?" he asked. "No, she isn't, but can I take a message?" I responded. "Can you tell her that Manuel called-hey, aren't you Ramiro?" It all started from there. You see, the reason why he called, in reality, was the same reason why I continued talking to him on the phone: so that we could both figure out why we felt the way we did that night at the club. Right away, we clicked and decided to meet after I got out of work the next day. He picked me up and we had dinner. We talked about many things, and we found that we had much in common and so much more to talk about. I took him to my apartment and showed him my Morrissey collection, which he adored because he was also a fan. When Elena arrived home and found Manuel in my room, I could tell she was wondering what he was doing there. I mean, I had just met him, and I already had him in my room as if I had known him for a long time.

As days went by, Elena started to get jealous that I was hanging around Manuel so much and not paying enough attention to her and the rest of our friends. My fraternity brothers also started to question me. Not knowing that I was falling in love with Manuel, I used the excuse of us just being really close friends. We hung out at the mall and started to go to clubs together. I started developing deeper feelings for him, but I was really embarrassed to share those thoughts and feelings with anyone. It felt like the real Gemini had kicked in because I had two personalities: one telling me that I liked him, and the other telling me that I was just in love with our friendship. I don't know. I was just confused by this situation. There were times when I saw myself fantasizing about him but didn't think anything wrong with it. But one day, I had to do it-I just had to feel that vibe I had towards him.

One night, as he brought me home, right before he dropped me off, I took a lot of pride in myself and got the guts to kiss him on the cheek. I felt like I did nothing wrong, and I know he felt the same because he let me do it. The question was, "What was going to happen next?" We started talking in more detail about why I did what I did, and why he let me do it. It took us a while to finally say to each other, "Hey, I like you!"

After that talk, I felt more comfortable. I just wanted to know that I was not thinking anything different. Was I confused? Yeah! I never imagined that I would ever fall in love with a man. But more than everything else, I was scared about how my friends would react. What would my fraternity brothers say? Manuel and I went on with our secret relationship for a while, but that changed, one day, when my roommate's boyfriend (who happened to be my fraternity brother) walked into my bedroom and saw me and Manuel kissing. That was all it took to start the rumors around the entire campus. When I was questioned, I did not deny it. My fraternity brothers held a meeting to discuss what was going on. I thought they were all going to punish me in some sort of way, but it was the total opposite. I had their support in everything I chose to do. My roommates and all my other friends supported me as well. I felt really comfortable once everyone knew about my sexuality, and it did not offend me when people said I was bisexual or QV.

All of my friends got to know Manuel as my boyfriend and respected us. Now, I was sharing my love with a man and not with a woman. At times, I compared Manuel to my ex-girlfriend, and I always found myself wondering if I should do the same types of things I did for her. I was used to sharing Valentine's Day with my girlfriend, not a boyfriend, so when it came around, I didn't know what to do. Was I to give my boyfriend the same attention I gave my girlfriend? Was a bouquet of roses the appropriate thing to give as a gift or a bottle of cologne? I was confusing myself more and more. What I figured out was that I was seeing love as gender differential. It took me a while to understand that love is love-regardless if it is for a girl or a boy. Needless to say, I sent Manuel flowers on Valentine's Day.

Our relationship lasted a pretty long time. He understood that I was from Los Angeles and at some point, I was going to leave San Diego and go back. We tried to avoid thinking about it, but we had to because it was going to happen, and it happened sooner than expected. Ironically, we had to part from each other for the same reason that my ex-girlfriend and I parted.

I went back to where I started. My name remained the same, but my sexuality did not. Everyone who knew me in LA had known me as a straight person-including my parents. I was getting myself into a whole new world- a third world. Man, what was I getting into? I went back to school in LA and told myself that I could not deny my sexuality. I knew that I was going to be questioned because I wasn't that conservative boy in high school, anymore. My attitude had changed as well as my style. I knew that if someone were to ask me if I was QV, I would reply with a "Yes." One of the most challenging problems I was going to face was telling my old friends. Or was I supposed to tell them? I mean, you don't go around telling everyone that you are straight, so why would you tell them you're QV? I didn't know what to do.

Today, some of my friends know about me because of obvious reasons. Most of my friends are QV and that helps me identify myself more. My parents are slowly beginning to question me. I am beginning to make a lot of new friends-some who know, right away, that I am QV, and many who don't have the slightest clue. I say to myself, "How stupid can they be?" But what should I do with those new friends? Should I tell them that I am QV before our friendship goes any deeper? Or should I just keep my mouth shut, wait until they find out, and then deal with the possibility of them stabbing my back?

I constantly tell myself, "Geez! I worry too damn easily. True friends will stick by me regardless of my sexual orientation. Those who do not respect me are people I wouldn't want to be friends with anyway." Right now, I am still going through complicated situations. My other challenging problem is telling my parents. Whether they know or not, I don't know, and I have yet the guts to say, "Mom, dad, I love you and all, but there is something I have to tell you-I am QV."

This world we live in is only what you make it to be. I know there are a lot of you out there who are going through similar, if not identical situations, but just remember that you are not alone!

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