I met Will at a volunteer orientation at a psychiatric hospital over the summer, and I developed a huge crush on him a few months later. At first I tried to resist my attraction with foolproof strategies, such as by saying “undergraduate men are way too immature for me” over and over while reading Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or by playing “Focus” by Ariana Grande until I could sing it backwards in my sleep. But my pull toward Will’s deep voice, his listening skills, and his confidence soon forced me to accept my feelings. I talked about him with several of my friends, I penned a creative nonfiction piece about him that I shared with my entire class, and I even wrote a psychoanalysis of my thoughts toward him while sitting next to him in my Developmental Psychology course. I was, unfortunately, in love.
So I planned my heartbreak for 4 p.m. today. Earlier in the week I had asked him to go on a walk with me, and as we entered the woods just a few hours ago, I inquired about his classes and his faith organization. As I listened, I kept thinking “Thomas, you are about to make this extremely awkward. You are going to make this so awkward, you will still feel the awkwardness pouring out of your soul when you write about it in your memoir.” Red, orange, and yellow leaves paved our path, 70 (Fahrenheit) degrees of heat warmed our skin, and the sun glowed behind the many trees surrounding us. When we sat at an open space near a large amphitheater, I took a deep breath and made the plunge.
“So, this is going to be really awkward,” I said, proud of my useless self-awareness. “But I’m attracted to you.”
“Thanks for your honesty,” he said. He smiled, which made me angry at myself, because I still found his face attractive even as he broke my heart. “I appreciate it, but I can’t return your feelings, because I’m straight.”
I expected this outcome, of course. I knew about his straightness, I knew that he would reject me in a compassionate way, and I knew that in the end I would have to spend several hours crying and working and writing to cope with it all. The decision to tell him was not one of impulse or false hope; as always, I had chosen to confess because of my values, because of my penchant for open communication and vulnerability. But I did not expect him to divulge a secret of his own.
“This reminds me of something,” he said, as we walked back to the library. “I’m actually really attracted to Tori.”
Wow, I thought to myself, so this is what it feels like to have your heart broken, then shot into pieces by a machine gun, then burned by a flamethrower and dropped into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.
“Yeah, it’s weird,” he said. I tried to focus both on the brick cobblestones beneath my feet and on the way he articulated his feelings for a coworker and friend of mine. “I’m not sure whether to tell her. Neither of us want a relationship, but I am definitely attracted to her.”
For the next couple of minutes, I continued to listen to him, to empathize with him, and to provide him with my counsel when he wanted it. I also started to develop an irrational hatred toward Tori, one which I knew would fade after I got over Will, or as soon as the world itself ended. This is fine, I thought to myself, as I gave my crush advice about his crush. This is totally, totally fine.
By the time we got back to the library, Will had the decency to look a little sheepish. He apologized for bringing up Tori, and I clutched my black cardigan to my chest as if doing so would ward off the insensitivity of my latest romantic interest. Fellow students wearing backpacks and carrying cups brimming with iced tea traversed around us, oblivious to the melodramatic and all-encompassing shattering of my heart. After a few awkward exchanges of dialogue later, Will and I parted ways.
As I write this, I sit in my dorm room, sipping Diet Mountain Dew and alternating between listening to Taylor Swift’s “Clean” and Ariana Grande’s “Break Free.” Though my heart feels bruised, torn, and just one moment away from breaking all over again, I want to reflect on a few things I have learned from this incident and from this semester in general.
I have the most amazing support system. After Will and I had our awkward encounter, a few of my closest friends made me feel so much better by listening to me, throwing shade at him with me, and validating all of my emotions, even the immature and irrational ones. Throughout last semester and at the beginning of this semester I faced chilling moments of utter isolation, and though I know those moments will still come and go, I feel confident in and grateful for my amazing allies, both in-person and online.
I have also learned that life is long. At the beginning of this year, one of my closest friends hurt me in an awful way and I lost a couple of my other key supporters in the process. However, months later I have had the great fortune of cultivating an even more compassionate network of friends. This “life is long” mantra also applies to my romantic relationships. I have come to recognize that though my brutal self-awareness, my supposed maturity, and my defined sense of purpose may make me feel older than those around me, a lot of time remains for me to find a guy who shares my values of empathy and caring and hope, as well as my obsession with books and writing and Ariana Grande.
Most importantly: I am human. It is human of me to desire understanding, to get upset when people mistreat me, and to make mistakes and learn from them. It is human of me to honor my complex sensitivity, to always try my best to live with compassion and empathy, and to assume good will of people, even the ones who may hurt me. It is human of me to feel this deeply, to disclose with this much depth, and to make myself vulnerable again even after getting burned.
Whether he likes it or not, Thomas is human. I am human. I am.
Thoughts? Anyone have any heartbreak experiences or pieces of advice they would like to provide? I apologize for the once-a-month posting; academics and work and volunteering and research have taken up all of my time. Though I find meaning in and enjoy all of these endeavors, I cannot wait for the day when I can sit back and blog all day (retirement, anyone?) I hope you are all well and I look forward to hearing from you soon!
19 responses to “Thomas Gets His Heart Broken by a Straight Boy, and Other Personal Updates”
I’ve been only lucky enough one time to have a crush reciprocated. We were together for 7 years. All the other times I was in you current shoes. I don’t have any cure except maybe a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and a day hiding under the covers. Thankfully good friends work well too.
Thank you for the solidarity! Yep, self-care and time always work wonders when it comes to broken hearts. Hope you are doing well and thank you for reading and commenting.
Faced with the same situation my lesser self would’ve won out. I think you handled yourself very well. You’re a brave and compassionate person. Don’t change.
Thank you for your kindness and camaraderie, Ray, I always appreciate it!
Hey Thomas! In case you don’t remember me, I`m your friend from Goodreads.
As shocking as this may sound, I`ve been following you for quite a while but this is the first post I read. (Apologies, but in my defense I don’t blog a lot these days, due to a busy schedule)
This post- wow, man. I`m amazed at the way you write. I could see the whole scene unfold right in front of me. I`m so upset with Will, though. You told the guy you like him and he tells you that he likes someone else? Who also happens to be your friend. What, was he expecting you to volunteer to play match-maker? I don’t hate him, just voicing my opinion.
You handled it pretty well. Your friends helped through it all, so consider this a small bump to the path of finding the right one- sounds too cheesy or you accept it?
I love your Halloween costume. Very…creative. 🙂
I know this is personal stuff, but since it’s already out there I wanna throw in a question. Are you still friends with the guy? – You don’t have to answer my ridiculous questions..
It must take a lot of courage to tell someone you like them when you know you won’t hear the same response, huh?
Erica, you have no idea how thankful I feel for this amazing comment; it made me smile quite often after I first published this post. Indeed, I also found Will’s response pretty insensitive at the time, though in all fairness to him I guess my confession did come as a surprise and he might have felt flustered/unsure how to respond. We have talked about this conversation though – I even showed him this post – and our friendship is as strong as ever! Effective and empathetic communication can go a long way. (:
Again, I appreciate your solidarity and your compliment toward my writing so much. Looking forward to exchanging more ideas and thoughts as time goes by!
Wow! How I wish you were my friend. A writer, a reader and a good adviser- that’s what a friend should be. Those are my requirements, at the least. 🙂 Keep writing Thomas!
Oh, petal! It took a lot of courage to tell him – I could never have done that with any crush I had! And probably the best thing to do, even if it hurts now. He didn’t behave that well in his reaction, but it looks like he realised that, and it is quite a difficult situation for both of you … but you came out of this the better man. Onward and upward. You are worthy of having someone wonderful to love and to love you!
Thank you so much for your wise guidance as always, Liz! Hope you are doing well with your books and your work. (:
Thanks for writing this piece Thomas, it feels very familiar to me, I too have been in your painful shoes. I also like to process things the same way you do – lots of thinking, writing, and (where possible) talking.
I think you have an awesome way of expressing these things and I love reading about your musings on social interaction. I also commend you for having the strength to make yourself vulnerable and really putting yourself out there by expressing all your thoughts and observations. It certainly helps me and makes me feel like less of a freak, so thanks! 😀
Aw, so glad to hear that we have many similarities in terms of how we interact with the world and process it! I feel happy that we can have this solidarity with one another and share the way we experience our surroundings. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on this post; thank you for stopping by. (:
Hey Thomas. It feels so good to be able to read one of your blog posts again. And it just so happened that this issue has been smothering me for a couple of months. It’s just so hard to try to get to know a guy (again) where you’re the one who’s always trying too hard to get his attentions and how it’s always one-sided. I feel like giving up, most of the time, but I try not to.
I, too, had my heart broken once by a straight guy. Well, he cared about me but I guess it was just that. And silly me, I never really told him what I felt. I wish I was as brave as you. And yes, I cried for a few days, I think, but it’s all in the past now. But, I just can’t seem to forget about him. Or hate him.
But hey, I know you’re a very strong guy. So, just keep them hopes up, I’m sure you’ll find someone who reciprocates your feelings. It takes time, and probably a few heartbreaks, but it’ll all be worth it.
Great Halloween costume, by the way! And thank you, once again, for reminding that we are all vulnerable. And that we’re all humans. 🙂
Andreas, I appreciate your sharing and thoughtfulness so much. I am sorry that you have gone through your own heartbreaks, but I do believe that these battles do make us stronger in the end, as well as more mature and wise. I also think the duality of learning to love yourself while also putting yourself out there for others can be difficult to navigate, though learning how to handle both of those tasks at once comes with its fair share of rewards.
Thank you for taking the time to comment and please know I am cheering you on in all of your life endeavors! Glad we can stay in touch after all these years.
That’s so typical if you to try and counsel the guy who just broke your heart. Huge online hugs your way. I spent my early twenties madly in lover with a guy who wasn’t interested in me. There’s no way to get over it other than time. Sorry. It will get better though. It sounds like hd respects your honesty. Hopefully you can be good friends. It’s great to catch up with you
Thank you for your insight and for taking the time to read and comment, Kev! I always appreciate your mature outlook and your honesty when you describe your experiences. Hope you are well.
If you loved him enough, you would have respected his response, and let go of “what could have been.”His sexual orientation is what he is, because that is who he is. You cannot wish in your wild fantasies for him to be any different than that. His life is another matter apart from your own.
Thanks for the comment, mint! Indeed, I did respect his response, both in the moment and afterward. We talked about what went down and agreed to continue our friendship. Perhaps I dramatized my reaction in this piece or captured the initial emotional disappointment, though in no way did I wish Will would change as a person for the sake of my own fulfillment. Hope this clarifies the post and its aftermath.
I know this isn’t very current (I was reading your entry on your 10 best books of the year and drifted here), but I “get it” and it’s tough enough to tell a person of interest your feelings. He should have been more sensitive about Tori, but, like you, he’s human and probably didn’t know how to best respond. In addition to being human, he’s young. And I think you realized and even he realized a few moments later that he wasn’t trying to be intentionally hurtful.
Hurt sucks. Intentional hurt is the worst. Live is long. Feelings of security and insecurity will come and go. This is life. We are human.
Hi Thomas! I’ve just returned to WordPress for the first time in like a year. As part of my catching up, I’ve been reading a few of your old posts. This one especially hits home for me.
My freshman year of college, my best friend, who I had a crush on, told me that he had a crush on another girl. Immediately, I correctly guessed who it was. He was impressed. “Wow. You know me so well!” And that killed me.
A week later, I couldn’t take the pain anymore, so I ended up telling him. He’s an extremely straight-forward, non-emotional person, but he was very surprised, because he’d had the misconception that I liked someone else. I told him that I wanted to stay friends with him, because his friendship was important to me. Within 10 minutes of my confession to him, he saw his crush walk by and called out to her, waved to her, and all that. I felt almost invisible.
So when you wrote, “…this is what it feels like to have your heart broken, then shot into pieces by a machine gun, then burned by a flamethrower and dropped into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean”, it brought me back to freshman year. Believe me, I know heartbreak.
You wrote this post several months ago, so I hope the heartache has subsided for you, just as it has for me.
Thank you so much for sharing your stories! I’m really looking forward to seeing where your adventures and thoughts take you next.