Reflections From Emily E. Dalton’s ‘Be Straight with Me’
When Emily E. Dalton was a sophomore at Middlebury College, she met Max—a boisterous class clown, beloved by his many straight guy friends, who recently came out as gay and was embracing his newly claimed identity. After a make-out dare on Halloween and a revelation of unexpected physical attraction that caught them both by surprise, Emily and Max found themselves in uncharted territory: in a relationship.
This is the premise of memoir-in-verse Be Straight with Me, a poetic book about love that blurs the boundaries of gender and sexuality, told from the perspective of a young, straight woman who finds herself in a serious relationship with her gay male best friend. With unabashed honesty and piercing emotional clarity, Dalton brings to life this timely, true story about a nonconforming romance and its consequences—ultimately leading Dalton down her own path to allyship with the LGBTQIA community.
Throughout the book, Emily inserts reflections amid the retelling of Max and Emily’s story. When asked about this literary choice in a previous interview with Read Poetry, Emily said:
“When I used to try to explain my relationship with Max to other people (both during the relationship and afterward), it almost always felt like I was trying to recount a very weird and vivid dream to someone else. If only they could have the same memories and visions and understanding in the moment as I did, then I wouldn’t sound so delusional!”
Told with great honesty and intimacy, here is one such reflection:
From “Reflections, The Last Time I Saw Max”
“We were the joke
that made us laugh until we cried.
Valentine’s Day diapers,
black bean burgers,
and turnips thrown at freshmen;
Halloween dares, late night spliffs,
and poorly planned threesomes;
a fair fight with Ponyboy,
a journal entry to God,
and a little black fly
buzzing in my ear.
We were slamming doors
and breaking promises;
we were experimenting and dreaming
and trusting the unknown.
We were in Max and Emily World
learning about life and love and
teaching each other
how to become ourselves.”