why didn’t i know?, or a brief study in neil perry

Why do the things that mean the most to us as kids mean the most to us?

(I have a lot of questions lately.)

It’s all some grand tapestry of a conspiracy, of DESTINY in my mind: Walt Whitman and I, each coming into the world many May 31’s a part. I don’t have courage in my own words yet, so I regurgitate his over and over and over again. Some day I will get some of them inked on my skin, I have always dreamed of this.

(You told me not to. I am sorry that I am such a disappointment. But this really matters to me, and I’m going to do it once the world re-opens. You have to trust me.)

I came howling into the world on May 31, 1989, and director Peter Weir was patient enough not to entirely steal my thunder, releasing Dead Poets Society just a few days later on June 2, 1989.


(I need things to mean things. I need this to have meant something to you, though I suspect perhaps it did not. At least not what it meant to me. I am working on that being okay. My methods are quite mysterious, you see.)

I’m spending a lot of time on Tumblr lately. Still Good Omens fun, mostly. But, at night, when I am alone and sad and lying on my pink flannel unicorn sheets, I search for two things even more fervently than I do for Aziraphale and Crowley:

  1. Lesbians.
  2. Dead Poet’s Society.

And my first quest leads me down a path of nice, happy pictures of women kissing, women holding hands, women proposing to one another, and I still don’t know entirely where I fit into this world, but I know that I can also type in “nonbinary lesbian,” and I am rewarded with faces that make me smile, that make me proud, that give me something like hope.

We are stuck inside, and this is so new, and I feel so bad all the time, and thank you for being there, Tumblr. (Fuck.) I don’t really know where else to go.

When I look at Dead Poet’s Society content, I am overwhelmed by being confronted with something that just straight up (ha) didn’t occur to me when I first saw this movie as a 13-year-old.

Neil’s in love with Todd.

Y’all, Tumblr is convinced that Neil Perry is queer and in love with his roommate, and let me tell you, those nerds CITE THEIR SOURCES.

Neil’s in love with Todd.

Sweet Shakespeare muffin Neil Perry who sneaks out of bed at night to read poetry with his friends is in love with Todd Anderson, and my heart will never recover.

Nearly two weeks ago, I had a very low day. A thing happened, and it’s not entirely my story to tell, so I won’t tell it here. (I am working on that.) But I proceeded to get very, very drunk, come home to my sweet roommate making me a cup of tea, and then, wobbly but determined, I got out my Dead Poets DVD and slid it into my old, creaky laptop. Clutching my hands to my heart, I sobbed and sobbed, drunk to the point of talking to the movie, you know?

“It’s okay. You’re okay. You didn’t do anything wrong. You’re okay. I’m so sorry. Don’t be like this, Kurtwood Smith, please. CARPE DIEM.”

Neil got cast in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and even drunk-me knew that it was time to turn the movie off and go to bed.

As usual, I don’t really have a point, beyond, maybe: Thanks, Tumblr? Thank you to fandom and to creators and to explorers and to dreamers, and to all those who use their magic to make subtext into something like text. I don’t know what it would have meant to me as an 8th grader to see Neil Perry earnestly declare his love to Todd Anderson. I mean, the only explicit romantic relationship in DPS is between Knox and Chris, so if I wanted romantic love in my life, I wanted love that looked like that, right?

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may

It is not too late for any of us. It is certainly not too late for me. I am gathering my rosebuds and working on my own words, and, one day, we will all be together again, and I will know a little bit better each day how to introduce myself to you. Not to explain myself, mind you. We are large, we contain multitudes. 

As soon as we’re able, let’s sneak out of bed and go read poetry together in a cave. I can tell you right now: I never don’t want to do that. And we will get drunk, and I can hold your hand, and I will tell you, wobbly and determined: It is okay. You are okay. There’s nothing wrong with you.

Because there’s nothing wrong with me. With my body, with my pronouns, with my heart.

Seize the day, boys, girls, theys. Make your lives extraordinary.

(You already are. It already is.)


Published by Dani

I like breakfast, marine mammals, Star Wars, comedy, the song "Dead Man's Party," and Halloween musical revues at theme parks. Let's be friends!

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