In fifth grade, I became the youngest member of a rock band called Lenny Incline and the Cosmic Doodads. My bandmates (all really old men in their early thirties) were friends of my father. He'd met them at his AA meeting. Each Thursday, my dad would drive me and my Casio keyboard over to Lenny's house for band practice where I amplified my young bohemian life with a staggering quantity of southern rock and unlimited amounts of Pepsi products.
Our claim to fame, besides being the only band with a little kid in it was winning the Battle of the Bands competition at "Chip n' Dales," (the Holiday Inn restaurant/bar) six times. I have fond memories of walking on and off that stage in my plum colored Member's Only jacket and thinking that life just didn't get any better.
Which is why I was shocked when Delmont (our drummer) told us after our sixth title that he was quitting the band. He said he wanted to take his music to the next level. He wanted to play his own songs. He wanted to tour. Maybe move to LA. Cut an album. He felt like we were holding him back.
My bandmates thought Delmont was selfish. They called him the "bad guy." We were the "good guys." But, I knew Delmont's feelings were valid. We were holding him back. All my bandmates had kids and family responsibilities and couldn't tour. I knew when I got older I would feel the same way Delmont did and when that time came, I guess I would be the bad guy too.
Delmont left. We limped along with a drum machine for a few months before eventually breaking up.
This is the story I told my girlfriend, May, when I flew out to Texas to see her last week. I really wanted to understand why she rejected my marriage proposal the previous month. I was there to try and get to the root of it all. Was it really a May-December issue as I assumed it was? Was I ready to cut things off too soon? Was I the problem? To me, the story of Delmont was the perfect analogy.
Delmont was just like me. He wasn't content playing gigs at the Holiday Inn month after month. I wasn't content being in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship year after year. Delmont had felt something deeper calling to him after six Battle of the Band titles. I felt something deeper calling to me after four years in a committed monogamous relationship. I wanted to take things to the next level. I wanted to be married.
May rolled her eyes. She kept saying the Delmont analogy didn't make any sense. And so for an entire week, within steps of the Alamo, we battled one another for understanding.
She didn't see why I needed a formal commitment like marriage to affirm our love. "Why the sudden need to define the bonds of our relationship with a ceremony?" she argued. "Commitment is something that is proven on a daily basis with or without marriage."
May felt my need to be married was rooted in insecurity which, in some way, made her feel that I doubted my connection to her. I told her I simply loved her and wanted to take our connection to a deeper level.
She called me rigid because she felt my need to stick to my marriage agenda timeline was more important than my love for her or our relationship. I told her I was sick of not being able to sleep in the same room with her at her parents house when we visited.
She didn't feel I was committed to working on things as a couple, something my surprise marriage proposal at the circus proved to her. I told her I was a full-time romantic who would have loved to have our proposal posted on a banner and pulled across the sky by an airplane.
She felt my recent blog entry (revealing my doubt about our relationship) had proven that I wasn't concerned about her. I asked her why she was surprised after four years that I was still working out my internal struggles publicly through my creativity.
After a week, it began to wear me down. Her rhetoric, piled high on top of my crash-and-burn proposal from the previous month, finally helped me see that we were in two different places. Like Delmont, I felt like I had given our relationship ample time to reach it's potential. It wasn't working and I needed to walk away. Though deeply saddened and disappointed, I resigned to leave Texas a single man.
Which is why on the morning of my last day in Texas as the sunrise spread sherbert orange across the horizon, I was surprised when May handed me a tiny music box that played "Here Comes the Bride" and admitted that she was ready to be engaged.
It took me by surprise. There had been no hint whatsoever of her change of heart during the previous week. It took me a moment to acclimate.
She waited for my response. Yet, what should have made me feel joyful made me feel like I might crumple to the ground, curl up and start sucking my thumb. I nodded and smiled. We hugged. I asked her if she was sure. She said she was. I told her I didn't want her decision to be based on her fear of losing me. She said it wasn't. I flew home. Engaged.
When I got home the first thing I did was tell my parents the good news. But, to be honest, after such a long road to our engagement the congratulations seemed more like the kind warranted for someone who escapes from an episode of Dexter without being killed off.
Not to worry. It all worked itself out nearly a week later when I made the announcement of our engagement on Facebook. You see, by then it had really sunk in. I was engaged. After living and breathing and waking and sleeping with the idea for the past five days I was giddy with excitement.
Filled with the spirit of the holidays, I awoke early one morning and posted my status change. Slashtipher Coleman is ENGAGED. A smile spread across my face. I texted May the news. She needed to accept the status change for it to take effect. She did. In the modern world our engagement was now official, but by the end of the day our relationship would be unofficially over.
You see, May never told her parents about the engagement. They found out about it from a friend who saw the Facebook posting. They were hurt. May blamed me. She was livid. During the ensuing arguments, any inkling of joy surrounding our newly minted commitment leaked onto the floor. It proved to be the straw that would break the camel's back.
This straw in particular proved to May once and for all that I wasn't interested in working on things as a couple with her. To her, something as important as a public engagement announcement was a decision that needed to be made together. The fact that I rode off like Marco Polo once again and made the decision on my own was an unforgivable offense.
But, it was a straw for me too, literally - a straw I stuck into a banana fosters smoothie in the parking lot of Wa-Wa where I sat in my pick-up truck and sipped the demise that my marriage proposal had caused. Like the mystery surrounding the death of a sea monkey, I just couldn't understand why May (if she had really wanted to be married) hadn't told her folks.
After nearly two months of battling the girl I loved more than anything else in the entire world (armed only with an engagement ring), it occurred to me that engagements are what they used to call battles during the civil war. And in terms of our engagement, she just wasn't ready. When we finally took the time to talk honestly with one another this fact was inescapable.
Whether our engagement debacle is from our May-December age difference is debatable. I think it isn't, but a recent comment left on my blog suggests differently.
And now, on the eve of the New Year, back home in Dixie for the holidays where I am contemplating my loss and my broken heart like so many southern young men have done before me, I feel like I did when Delmont left the band. I've been looking on Craigslist for a drum machine. I know it won't help, but I'm looking for one anyway, hoping it'll help me limp along until I can get back on my feet again.