“Guy” and I met while working at a tiny summer stock theatre in Vermont.
We quickly fell in love and on the anniversary of our first kiss, onstage, in front of a cooing audience of 150, Guy chivalrously dropped to one knee and presented me with a diamond ring.
He had been engaged once before, he announced, but it didn’t work out. He simply couldn’t marry her. This time he wanted to do it right.
For the right girl.
I burst into tears.
I was nineteen when we met and Guy was my first everything: first boyfriend, first sexual partner, first fiancé, first musician, first bi-polar manic-depressive, first Jesus freak and first deeply-closeted Gay. So looking back, it was only natural that the following year, his was also to be my first broken engagement.
The late-night Vermont cabarets in which we performed were loosely themed around a few staples of hard-scrabbled New England in-jokes: maple syrup, cheese, Flatlanders, fudge and cows.
I had finished my first act number and changed into my next costume before escaping to the back porch where the cast and crew spent intermissions for mid-show smokes and beers.
On that porch, in front of a cringing audience of 15, Guy cavalierly dropped the bomb.
It wasn’t going to work out. He simply couldn’t marry me.
As it turned out, I wasn’t the right girl after all.
I burst into tears.
The emcee stuck his head out the backstage door and called, “Places.”
He looked down at me, crumpled on the ground, wildly sobbing into the arms of a friend –
– in a cow suit –
– one of those black and white Holstein get-ups, complete with a hot pink boa.
The emcee put a gentle hand on my shoulder. “Can you still go on?”
I could not.
I was convulsing so hard that my chest bounced against my friend’s as they pulled the costume from my shoulders – the emcee having chosen to punt and reassign the number, rather than cut it – for as we all know, The Show Must Go On.
I vaguely recall gathering myself together to watch the end of the cabaret. I made it just in time to see someone else onstage, in my cow suit and my feather boa, singing my song: the seminal Cats’ classic: “Memories,” but revamped for Vermont audiences as “Mammaries.”
“Mooooonlight, and no sound from the pasture, all alone with my mammaries, and their days in the sun.”
It suddenly seemed so very, very appropriate.
* * *
I never went back to Vermont after that summer.
I had heard through the grapevine that Guy had gotten engaged twice more after me; breaking off each one with equal severity. Thus bringing the total number of cancelled engagements for him to four in six years.
I never heard of another cow suit, though.
I guess there’s a first for everything.