At this point, I think Ben and I were actually “dating” and I still didn’t know how I felt about it. One day, when I was at work, his other roommate, Luke, came and visited me on my lunch break. He sat me down on the bench outside and asked what my intentions were with his friend. What my intentions were? Was he Ben’s father? Was I the one that needed to be vetted? What kind of guys were these? They were so sensitive and caring and concerned about the emotional health of one another. I was starting to see why they named their band “The Nancys”. The thing is, they weren’t weak, cowardly, effeminate males. They were real, true men with some actual integrity and character.
This is another thing that really frustrates me: people had accused Ben and his friends of being gay more than once, simply because they were more sensitive and artistic males, not your typical meathead manly machismo. This is hugely problematic in our culture and I knew that I hated that, but this kind of vulnerability from a man? I just wasn’t used to it. It made me feel both uncomfortable and incredibly secure. I assured Luke that I had no ill intentions and that Ben was a wonderful person.
Luke: Well, my ex-wife worked here at Retro Rag. And her name was Danielle too.
Me: No way!
Luke: Yeah, we refer to her now as ‘evil Danielle’ cause now there’s a new Danielle around.
Me: Well, I promise I’m not evil.
Luke: I don’t think so either. Just, please, don’t hurt Ben. His last girlfriend was….well, she ruined him. Don’t ruin him. He has a good heart.
Me: (Not sure if I could keep the promise I was about to make, but I made it anyway) I promise I won’t ruin him. I’ve been ruined before too. I know what that’s like.
Luke: And you already know he’s a virgin, right?
Me: (I WAS FLIPPING OUT ON THE INSIDE) Yeah, totally, no problems at all.
Luke: Okay. Good talk. See ya.
Are you kidding me? A virgin? A virgin? A 25 year old virgin? I was actually super impressed. I didn’t think any less of him, in fact I thought more of him. The thing that was ripping me apart inside was the fact that although he had enough self-control to keep himself from having premarital sex, I most certainly had not. I knew that if I told him, it might be a deal breaker. What was I saying? Of course it was going to be a deal breaker!
Even before I knew I wanted to be with this person, I was already convinced that I couldn’t lose him.
The next time I saw him, we had the conversation. I had to bring it up, I just couldn’t let it fester inside of me. I remember we were sitting in my car, outside of his house when it happened. I had written down all the names on a list earlier that day, just so that I could tell him for sure, with 100% honesty, this shameful part of my past. He listened intently, nodding his head slightly, brows furrowed, fingers twitching for a cigarette. I waited for him to respond.
“I always said that I wanted to marry a virgin. But I also always knew how unrealistic that was in this day and age. I won’t lie and say that this is easy to hear, but I also won’t make you feel bad about it. This doesn’t define you. I don’t want you to feel shameful about this. Growing up in a Christian community, I’m sure you’ve already felt enough shame about your past. And I have a past too. I did a ton of drugs back in the day and you never did….You’ve never once held that against me. I don’t hold this against you either.”
I was relieved. I was elated. I was……wait, why was I so relieved? Why was I so elated? Why did I care so much about this guy who I wasn’t even sure I was ready to be with?
All I know is that I was drawn to this man. His personality was bigger than life. When he played music he was sexy as hell. When he laughed, which was all the time, it was infectious.
I always told myself I wanted to end up with someone who loved everything about me, even the little stupid things like how I chew or the face I make when I’m concentrating, or the shape of my toes….just, everything. And he actually did. This man, sitting beside me, accepted me and loved me despite all my flaws and sloppiness and past stupidity.
He did. Someone finally did. Benjamin McEntee did.