In Defense of the Grand Romantic Gesture

April 10, 2018

*alternatively titled: Love, Simon, the aftermath*



Her friends filter out, one by one. Thanks and goodbyes.

Miss D. lingers in the kitchen, which I do not expect.

I busy myself with the vegetable drawer and settle on bok choy.

“So, I know you read the book,” she says.

“I did,” I say, shaking water off of incredibly dirty bok choy. “I loved it.”

“I saw it. The book. Your bookshelves are a wreck.”

“Did you read it?”

“No. I thought about it. Did you like it? The movie version?” She looks at me with eyes that recently have been sporting pale eyeshadow. “I mean, I know how bad it pisses you off when the movie is nothing compared to the book.”

“Yeah, I’m awful that way. But no. The movie was different in quite a few ways from the book, but I loved it. The heart of it was still the same, and I think that’s what matters most.”

She smirks a little.

“You cried like a bastard.”

“Hey, I always cry like a bastard in movies. It’s a trademark move. I’m old. It’s allowed.”

I flick water at her. “But at one point, I looked down the row and all of you chicas were teary–even A_____, who constantly says she’s Dead Inside.”

“Mom. I think you probably know this already, but the person who claims to be dead inside is actually the least dead inside.”

“Yeah. We call that defense mechanism.”

“Whatever.” She fiddles with her sparkly gold nail polish. “So, what’s different in the movie?”

With this girl, I’m both lost and trying to hang on. What’s important is that she’s talking to me, and this girl does not talk. Not lately.

“Not different at the core of things,” I say. “But yeah, there are some changes…things that make total sense, if you look at it. The book is quieter, more subtle. Books are allowed to be quiet. Movies are different. Sometimes quiet doesn’t translate.”

She’s listening.

“Like, in the movie, there are those two big declarations. About how people are feeling, and they’re putting it out there, and it’s really, really public in both circumstances. It’s over the top. One goes terribly South and one goes perfectly. And there’s no room for in-between, because it’s the movies and people eat that shit up.”

“I wondered about that,” she says. “I wasn’t sure I bought it. I mean, I loved the movie, don’t get me wrong, but I wasn’t so sure Simon would put himself out so publicly if he’d just seen what happened with Martin and Abby.” She gnaws on her lip.

“Martin had such a cringe-y, epic fail that I don’t think Simon would’ve had the guts to do it. To do that whole, ‘I don’t care who knows, I have nothing to lose, I love you.’ With everyone watching. I…wanted to buy it, though.” She almost looks ashamed.

“D.” I say. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to buy it. That’s what movies, and…Hell, almost everything that was ever written is designed to do. To give us hope. To make us feel that love isn’t stupid. That it’s okay to—”

“No, mom.” She raises a hand, poised for flight. “I mean, I get it, but I would never do that. Stuff like that is stupid risky.”

“It is risky,” I say. “Maybe not so stupid, though.” She gives me the side eye and it makes me laugh.

“You might surprise yourself one day. That’s the thing about feelings. The strong ones. At first, it feels more comfortable to keep them locked tight inside. Keeping them to yourself feels safe, and it does keep you safe. But after a while…especially if those feelings get stronger, it can almost hurt more to keep them in. You start to feel choked.”

I whack through bok choy, studying her. “You may not believe it, and this will probably totally gross you out hearing it, but when I was your age, I had a wrenching, violent crush on a boy for nearly three years. And I never said anything. Not a word.”

“Never?” she says, eyes growing wide. “You just…loved some guy for three years and never told him?”

“Well, I didn’t tell him for almost three years but then I just couldn’t stand it anymore. You know, the whole starting to feel like I was choking thing. So then I did.”

“What did you do?”

I huff out something: a laugh or a shrug or a smile. “Believe it or not, I wrote something for our high school’s literary journal. So…yeah. There it was. Out there. In print. For the whole school to see, and believe me, there was no mistaking who I was writing about.”

My daughter looks at me like I’ve sprouted three heads and she makes a small, horrified croak.

“Let’s just say that he had a very…distinctive sense of style. Which I might have referred to.”

“Mom.  That’s so not something that I can see you doing. Like, at all.”

“That, you’d be right about.”

“Jesus. Mom. What happened? Did it–” she looks like she wants to die on behalf of my former high school self. “Did it go your way?

“That would be a no,” I say. “Not exactly.” I put my knife down and move to sit across from her. “It’s hard to explain. It wasn’t really good but it wasn’t really bad, either. Not in a Love, Simon kind of movie way. I mean, the day the literary journal came out, I wanted to crawl under a rock. That was pretty awful, because I was really shy and everyone was talking but it was my own doing. And it didn’t work out in the sense that, well, he didn’t feel the same about me. That eventually came out. But he was nice about it.”

“Mom. That’s horrible for you.” Poor D. looks wrecked. “I’m so sorry.”

“I know it sounds bad but it really was okay. It was embarrassing in the sense that everyone knew. And until then, it had sort of been my life mission to stay under the radar. Of course, it hurt. But if you long for somebody and just sit by…well.  You’ve already suffered a million little stabs.”

“How is that not the worst thing that’s happened to you. Ever?”

“Well, it’s weird. In a way it was, but also, a lot of kids stopped me that day and told me that they thought I was brave, and that they liked what I’d written. Guys, mostly, which was sort of interesting.”

“The guys said stuff?”

“Yeah. I didn’t expect that. Some popular kid in Honors Bio who I’d never talked to before said, ‘Gotta hand it to you. You are one gutsy chick.’ Which took the sting out a little, I guess.”

“That’s really weird, mom.”

“I know. It was weird. But the world didn’t come crashing down and strangely enough, even though it hurt, I felt better. Lighter. I felt kind of brave, if it makes any sense.”

“Uh, I won’t be doing that, just so you know.”

“I didn’t expect you would.”

She laughs. “You. Are. Nuts.”

“True. But hey, if you ever change your mind and decide to do the sweeping Grand Gesture,” I say, “I’m your gal.”

“Uh, that’s SO a firm Nope.” She exits the room.

“Hey! Don’t write me off! I can write a wicked romantic Haiku!” I yell. “It will drip with fervent intensity!”

“GAAAA, no! Mom!” She yells, running upstairs. “Love you though, weirdo.”




{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kel April 11, 2018 at 6:29 am

I love this.

Teens go through so much crap, and they find it incomprehensible that parents went through the same crap. But they have such fascinating insights, such great observations. D is so lucky to have you as a Mom. =)



Dana Talusani April 11, 2018 at 7:34 pm

I think she sometimes has her doubts, but if I can make it funny somehow, she just might listen.


Jennifer April 11, 2018 at 7:30 am

These girls of ours… I love them so much.


Dana Talusani April 11, 2018 at 7:33 pm


Aren’t they something?


Pam April 11, 2018 at 2:45 pm

I loved this soo so much. I could see it… the bok choy, the side eye, everything. You are one gutsy chick.


Dana Talusani April 11, 2018 at 7:33 pm

Gutsy and probably stupid. But I’m trying to let her know that it’s okay to be both! xoxo


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