Thursday, June 10, 2004

Out of the Blue (Part I)

The year is 1977 and I’ve just transferred from the local junior college to the local 4-year University (4YU) in the SoCal city in which grew up. I was a competitive gymnast (from 10th grade through age 30). Gymnastics was my life, my identity, and my liberator from an adolescence of short-guy jokes. And...okay, I’ll just say it: I was pretty good: State Champion in High School; National Champion in Junior College. I came to 4YU on a gymnastics scholarship, but actually chose it for its outstanding Art Department (my major was commercial Illustration). The Men’s Gymnastics program there was promising, but not as good as a few of the schools I turned down scholarship offers from. As for my new program, there was a lot of anticipation as to what I could bring to the table, and I took that challenge seriously. I had every confidence that I was prepared to take my performance to the next level. What I wasn’t prepared for was the extraordinary serendipity of having the Women’s Gymnastics team sharing a workout room with the Men’s team that year!

Can I get a YOWZA from the CONgreGAtion!

After long consideration, I’ve decided not to go with a pseudonym for the female love-interest of my story. Her name actually is Gabrielle. And if she somehow gets wind of this blog someday, I ask for her forgiveness, but hope she understands that my using her real name simply could not have been helped.

Part of the reason I've put off posting this story to my blog for so long is that I've simply been unable to come up with an alternative name that would do her justice. You see, Gabrielle was a vision; she was as lovely as her name. And even today, just the thought of this goddess makes me feel more than a bit bumfuzzled.

But let me clarify something forthwith. The way that preceding statement may come off represents my greatest point of hesitation in actually put this story into words.

I need anyone reading this to understand what is in my heart right now, in no uncertain terms. This is not the story of someone who I now pine for, as if letting her get away was some kind of great mistake. Gabrielle’s specialness to me is much more complicated than just that. My brief relationship with her began an 18-month series of fits-and-starts in my love life, which ultimately resulted in my discovering a friend who would become my life’s partner almost exactly two years later — my wife, Michelle. We’ve now been married for 25 years, and I can honestly say that I wonder how I could survive without her.

But what Gabrielle did do for me, in terms of making me feel great about myself, while keeping me on the verge of suicide at the same time, forged the confidence and the impetus for me to overcome what had been a paralyzing shyness around women. So in a very real sense, she pointed me in the direction that I needed to go, in a way that I may not have found on my own at that point in my life.

Next: The Flirtation
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