Rating: 3.5 stars
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There is a lot to be desired about Dimitrius Jones’ love life. The man he thought he’d finally be able to start building a future with is married, with children. That, however, is just the latest in a long list of missteps for Dimitrius in the game of love.
There are several love interests peppering Dimitrius’ junior high school years. First, there’s Eddie. Despite the rush of having his crush acknowledge him, Dimitrius quickly learns there is a sharp difference between the person you think your crush is and the person they really are. Not only does Eddie seem to have a one track mind, it seems pretty clear he’s not picky about who’s on that track with him.
After a few more short relationships, Dimitrius thinks he’s finally hit the jackpot when a new boy moves to town during their senior year of high school. Dimitrius finds a great ally in Jeff, despite Jeff being straight. They strike up the kind of friendship they both need. Dimitrius gets the shoulder to cry on that his childhood friends deny him; Jeff gets a posse to hang with despite being new blood in an old town. Not even when Jeff goes away to college do they lose their friendship. Except Dimitrius begins to slowly feel more and more for his straight friend—something that does not escape Jeff’s girlfriend’s notice. Full of jealousy, she drives a wedge between Dimitrius and Jeff and they never quite recover.
Fast forward to post college and finally, Dimitrius thinks it’s time to have adult relationships. Except at every turn, he finds there is no shortage of people who just can’t seem to pull normal off. From the guy who thinks it’s acceptable to divulge sexual fetishes on the first date, to the one who completely fabricated a public facade.
Yet for all that Dimitrius has bad experience after bad experience, he knows he does not have to settle for less than he deserves—and putting up with other people’s infidelity, lies, and manipulations are not what he deserves.
To be perfectly clear, this is an autobiographical account of the author’s dating experiences. As I mentioned above, it covers a lot of his early dating experience—during his tweenage years when “dating” means calling your romantic interest and telling them you played video games and figuring out if they “like” like you. In some regards, it was a sweet reminder of the innocence of youth. In other regards, I was amazed to have this insight into the real-life experience of someone growing up in a time I would have absently thought of as “more or less progressive.”
One of the recurring themes in Jones’ early romantic encounters is the way society was just not ready for same sex couples. This may have taken place after Ellen came out, but clearly the confessions of a TV star would not cause an age of enlightenment in Wherever, Texas for Jones. More than a couple of his youthful relationships were hampered or downright broken because the world was not ready for teenagers to be gay.
I thought it was interesting to hear the tone in which he portrays his relationships shift subtly through the text. Especially between his early relationships and those that came post college. As a young adult, he seems to believe he was an innocent, hapless victim of the whims of those he dated. While the later episodes do not go into nearly as much detail—focusing mostly on the proverbial “straw that broke the camels back” rather than developing the whole relationship—it was good to see him at least questioning his reaction when his lover-du-jour busted out some crazy. And the further on I read, the more discernibly off-putting the potential boyfriends became.
There are two notable places where Jones discusses his family life (not actually with his family as all on-page interactions are strictly between Jones and his romantic interest at the time and a few close friends). The first mention of how his father reacted to Jones coming out threw me for a loop. We knew early on his mother was the “hate the sin, love the sinner” type in her disapproval of her son’s orientation. However, his father had a far worse reaction…and we only hear about it in passing. When it pops up again later in a way that necessarily affects the interaction Jones was having with one of his many love interests, there was a bit more detail…but no development. It was enough, though, to pique my interest and wish the situation had either been better incorporated into the text or (and probably the better choice) removed altogether. This was a book about Jones and his relationships with lovers, not his parents.
My only real criticisms are this: the book lacked balance between Jones’ early romances and his later ones—and the later ones were the relationships that really paint the “horribly gay dating life.” The other issue is the lack of a clear message beyond the fact that dating obviously sucks sometimes. At the very end of the last chapter, there was a bit of prose that helped tie things up, but it didn’t really pull all these experiences together with a unifying message or a lesson for the reader to take home. In other words, the purpose of the book was unclear.
Nevertheless, I think this would be an interesting read for young adults—particularly those who feel their identity is suppressed by society or for people who just want to feel better about their own misses in romance. I know I enjoyed reading about romance from a perspective I would never experience myself and found myself mulling over Jones’ reactions to some particularly awkward dates—really, what is the protocol when, on your first date, reveals a very particular sex fetish? If you’re nostalgic for junior high drama or curious to know what it would be like for a gay boy to navigate those waters, if you’ve ever wondered how bad a date could ever be, you would probably enjoy reading this book.