A few weeks ago, I sat in my therapist’s office, talking about my most recent crush.
“It’s probably because I’m economically advantaged,” I said. “He was a labor organizer, so he’s probably not interested in me because I can’t relate to the class struggle.”
“It makes sense that you’re searching for a reason,” my therapist said. Over the past few months, she has listened to me talk on and on about what happened with this guy – who in this post I will refer to as AWLOB (Attractive Writer Labor Organizer Boy) – why he broke up with his boyfriend, said he felt into me, then said he did not feel ready to talk to me without an explanation.
Though I do not care at all about men finding me attractive or what men think of me in general, for some reason I kept searching for reasons as to why AWLOB wanted space from me. Did he realize I have an underbite, which motivated him to get back together with his ex? Did I express my interest in too much of a forward way, and should I have pretended to prefer petting a random raccoon in the forest instead of talking to him? Is there some indeterminable, foundational aspect of myself that repulses him, that he managed to ignore until several months after his breakup, until after the debris had settled?
I thought about how AWLOB wrote about his Asian family, the similarities I saw to my own, as well as the differences – that my father worked as an engineer, that my mother spoke English well enough to secure a relatively well-paying job in something related to real estate.
“My inherited wealth probably repulses him,” I said.
“So let’s go with that,” my therapist said. Though warm, she always calls me out on my bullshit. “Let’s say he only wants to date poor guys. What then?”
Ugh, I thought to myself, once again, my therapist doing what I’m paying her to. When I take a step back, I can see the situation with more clarity: that if AWLOB only wanted to date poor guys or guys from less economically advantaged backgrounds, that’s his choice, and it doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on me. When I take a step back, I can see that AWLOB most likely is working through his shit related to the end of his five-year relationship and needs time to heal, or he’s not working through his shit and that’s on him and not me too. After I read some of his writing and exchanged a few emails with him, it’s very possible he’s dealing with the fallout of a delayed gay male adolescence, in which this five-year relationship may have served as a space to explore the social experiences he had been denied or did not access as a teenager.
Trauma fucks me up complicates things, though. Because even though I can articulate these explanations on a logical level, my PTSD often brings me back to the start: he’s definitely repulsed by me, there’s something fundamentally wrong with me that turned him away, where did I go awry here? I loathe to write it, but the dynamic reminds me of my relationship with my father: what did I do wrong that my own father wouldn’t protect me from my abusive mother?
Thank goodness for good therapy, good friends, and good self-reflection after listening to BlackPink’s “As If It’s Your Last” 27 times in a row. Because through work on myself, I can see through the haze of my trauma and recognize that AWLOB failing to come through for me and my father failing to come through for me both have nothing to do with me. And unlike when my father abandoned me in my childhood to my mother, which carried serious health consequences, AWLOB ditching me has done nothing to detract from my expression of and commitment to my values of compassion and social justice.
I think what may feel scariest about acknowledging the truth of this situation centers on realizing how little control over I have over so much in my life: AWLOB, my father, the prominence of the wedding industrial complex, the impending environmental destruction of our planet due to corporate greed and excess, when BlackPink will release their next song, and so much more.
I remind myself of an important dialectic though, that I both do not and do have control in my life. As Havelock Ellis once wrote, “all the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” So even though I’m in the process of letting go of my fantasy about AWLOB okay but honestly isn’t it iconic how I literally have made this man child into an acronym that rhymes with olive lol because an olive has more effective communication skills than how he communicated with me, I can still find meaning and agency in so many other areas of my life: friendships, mentoring, helping others, reading books, brainstorming ways to destroy the wedding industrial complex, playing tennis while screaming like a banshee, and more.
AWLOB first messaged me on November 30 last year. I’ve thought about whether I’ll spend that day forlornly staring out my apartment window, envisioning each individual tree as a wooden spike stabbing itself into my abandoned heart. But honestly, fuck that shit, because as Ariana Grande once sang in “Break Free,” “I only wanna die alive, never by the hands of a broken heart.” I may feel sad for a little while, and then, just as I do every day, I’m gonna dance to BlackPink, engage in activities that involve toppling the cisheteronormative white supremacist patriarchy, and invest in people I care about. No man will ever stop me from living my best, most iconic life.
Reactions to this post? Thank you to my 1.5 readers for giving me a safe space to process my emotional arc with AWLOB and I apologize if it is annoying af to read about, though I try to vary up my posts so they do not center men and romance all the time. How do you cope with trauma and how it affects your relationships? How can we all remind ourselves of our inherent self-worth outside of men and romance? Until next post!