As most people familiar with my poetry know, I often write love poems about my experiences with men: my husband (we have an open relationship), flings, even occasional brief hook ups. A few times, I have included the first name of the person I’m thinking of; I’ve sort of thought that doing this was border-line political, in that plenty of women have poems written about them and their first name (see also the Family Guy joke about songs named after a woman’s first name).
I think a few of the guys I’ve written about did indeed appreciate the notion, for what it’s worth at least. One younger man, though–I won’t name him, but he’s in the “Blue Spectra” poems–got a little worried. I met him through an app; he was 19, in the closet, and in junior college. We had a really fun time, though it was both exhausting to keep up with his energy, and exhausting to help him evade his parents. Eventually, he came out by default when he met a boyfriend and moved from home.
When I mentioned to this guy that one of my poems is about him, he got a little worried about what his boyfriend would think. I pointed out that, if you read closely, I mention that he has moved on and we are not together. Fortunately, that seemed to satisfy him. What, though, if I had not followed up and talked about it? Would it have forever been a misunderstood gesture? And now I realize, agreeing to meet up with someone from an app is not the the same thing as agreeing to be written about, published, etc. The notion of asking permission to name someone seems appropriate, in that light.
I am still glad for what I’ve already written, already documented, as it were. And I don’t think I have the energy to shuttle around a romantically driven house-bound 19 year old; I’m glad for the experience, but I now realize that the men who turned me down when I was 19 with “I don’t date anyone who can’t get into a bar” weren’t insulting me or belittling me; it wasn’t really about me.