This piece originally appeared in the first issue of Hello Mr.,Â an Australian magazine about men who date men.
Every morning, I spray on the cologne my ex-boyfriend gave to me. Every morning, I have a half-moment of stabbey heart pain (similar to heartburn, sometimes Iâ€™m unsure) and I sigh.
Most people would get rid of the cologne, or at least box it up. I guess Iâ€™ve kept it for two reasons: Iâ€™m cheap as fuck, and I feel that I deserve a small reminder each day of what that relationship was to me. Itâ€™s a reminder that, Wisconsin-born lad that I am, a long-term, long-distance, monogamous and â€œloveâ€-uttering relationship is a possibility for me.
See, Iâ€™m kind of an ass. Not in the â€œtrip you down a flight of stairsâ€ sort of way. More so in a â€œIâ€™m not good at social or emotional cues so Iâ€™m just going to awkwardly stand here while you cry on my shoulderâ€ sort of way. They may very well been what attracted Michael to me in the first place. Itâ€™s cute, at first. I have this endearing social awkwardness that is somehow innocent, confident and open all at the same time.
It appears, though, that it doesnâ€™t work well for relationships. When your boyfriend cries, youâ€™re supposed to coo gentle things. Or â€œactively listen,â€ with a look of empathetic love and concern on your face. As a last resource, an awkward shoulder rub could also work. Asking, in a robotic tone, â€œAre you sure youâ€™re in a place to be in a relationship right now?â€ and claiming that the boyfriend isnâ€™t being solution-based enough isnâ€™t where itâ€™s at.
When he tells you his aspirations, youâ€™re supposed to be supportive, or at the very least, optimistic. Claiming that med school is a terrible option with little evidence, alas, isnâ€™t the best idea.
During my quotidian cologne-spraying/reflection time, Iâ€™ve come to the conclusion that some people must be born with this intuition. I envy them. These are things that my family simply never taught me. That, or I didnâ€™t pay mind.
After all, when horrible things happen in my family, we do one of two things: laugh our asses off, or talk about it loudly and with limited empathy. Everyoneâ€™s aspirations are treated as a dangerous bug that must be quickly killed. I just thought thatâ€™s what people do. That emotions bullshit? Thatâ€™s for girls, movies and Lifetime.
Still, though. There must be something more to it. As every morning, I briefly ponder if there was a â€œwinnerâ€ and a â€œloserâ€ in the relationship. Did I dodge a thin-skinned guy with too many emotions, or did Michael dodge a heartless bastard? Or, thought of thoughts, did we both gain something? I quickly spray away this silly notion with a burst of Lâ€™Homme for men and run to work.
Either way, I leave the house smelling pretty.