As a gay man, I learned a lot about unhealthy relationships through consuming queer media. I loved Justin and Brian’s relationship when I watched Queer as Folk in high school, though now I see how Brian’s character acted in abusive ways both toward Justin and his own friends. When I read and watched Call Me by Your Name as an early grad student, I felt repulsed by the relationship dynamics promoted by the narrative, the glorification of a relationship that entailed little to no healthy communication, boundary setting or conflict resolution, or clarity and mutual respect. I suspect that queer narratives may adopt these unhealthy relationship norms from toxic heterosexual/heteronormative relationships. So much media perpetuates the trope that we should chase a romantic flame – especially a man – even if they are emotionally unavailable, do not treat us well, or are outright manipulative or abusive.
I do not spend much time on romance and dating and men. That said, I have found myself within unhealthy relationships and relationship dynamics, ranging from my abusive mother and neglectful father, to the emotionally neglectful male friend I wrote about in an earlier post, to a few crushes I harbored on guys, to even a few former friendships with women. I feel so sad and angry that our society teaches us about valuing our work and careers and pursuing the heteronormative path of marriage and having children, yet it does not teach us much about what an actually healthy relationship looks like, between parent and child, friend and friend, or partner and partner. Since the fall out of my most recent crush, I have thought a lot about what my expectations for myself and others in healthy relationships. They look kinda like this list my therapist gave me several months ago: Continue reading
Sometimes I idealize people. Take for example, my most recent failed crush. When I read his writing, I thought, oh my goodness, this man is perfect, so this is the kinda guy Ariana Grande sung “Everyday” about. I later learned that this guy kinda sucked at in-depth interpersonal communication, or at least that type of communication to me. I had built him up in my head, my foolish, foolish head.
After this man and I stopped talking, I started to freak out about writing and my favorite authors. Wait a second, I thought to myself, if this man came across as such a talented, thoughtful writer yet actually treated me like a molded potato, how can I trust any writer to be a decent human being? As anyone who read this blog knows, I love books with all my heart, so the thought of my favorite authors treating people like dirt made me feel so hurt and gross. Continue reading
I developed a crush on a guy who messaged me through this blog last year. Our connection felt intense from the start; our emails back and forth often included several paragraphs each. Over the course of several months, a decent amount happened: we both admitted to feeling some romantic desire, he wanted space to heal from a recent breakup before we talked further, and most recently, he shared he only wanted me as a friend. Cue, an image of me crying to “in my head” by Ariana Grande while driving on the highway from Virginia to Maryland at 1am. Continue reading
I starved myself for 36 hours straight last week. Several personal issues blew up in my face and I wanted not to feel. I talked to my close friends and went to therapy and started to eat again. This series of tweets illustrates how I feel after eating:
Ariana’s September 2018 = Thomas’s April 2019. That’s that on that.
Life sucks. Continue reading
I have a thing for guys who went to Harvard. Not just Harvard, but other elite institutions of education too. I do not go on dates often, but I find myself sometimes more willing to give a guy a chance if he went to a prestigious school, like an Oberlin or Yale or William & Mary. I know this taste stems from my internalized classism and the faulty association between educational pedigree and traits like intelligence and work ethic. Yet, I still find myself in the process of unlearning and deconstructing my questionable taste in men.
The three men from Harvard I crushed on, in chronological order: the first, a hotline counselor at a rape crisis center who touted phrases like “restorative social justice” on his online profiles; the second, a med student whose research focused on therapies for postpartum depression; the third, a labor organizer who cares a lot about his mom. Continue reading
Four years ago, a man I loved broke my heart. We met as freshmen hallmates at my undergraduate college, his room at the end of the dorm and mine more toward the middle. We grew into close friends after a few intimate conversations and decided to room together our sophomore year. In the early spring semester of my sophomore year, he told me he did not want our friendship anymore, that he would never care about me as much as I cared about him. He said that I cared too much about him. He said I expected too much.
Now, I understand he took advantage of me throughout the friendship. I remember one of our conversations early freshman year, while walking down Colonial Williamsburg at night fall, the air crisp and fireflies illuminating our path. At one point he told me that he felt impressed by me because I cared so much about people, because he himself struggles to actually care about people. At the time, I found this inspiring: wow, he struggles to care about people and wants to learn how, that’s so deep and self-aware. So, over the next year and a half, I tried to teach him. He would fail and I would feel hurt. I took on the role of his therapist instead of asserting more healthful boundaries. He saw before I did that he would never meet my expectations, so he ended our friendship.
“He literally told me from the start that he doesn’t care about people, which is like, the reddest red flag that’s ever been red,” I told my therapist the other day. “I was so freaking stupid for having ever trusted him, for caring about him.”
My therapist said all the right things: that it wasn’t my fault because I didn’t know as much about abuse then, that I’m so much more empowered and self-aware now. Yet I struggled to believe her. Continue reading
I always wanted to run away from home, from my abusive mother and her screaming fits and mood swings. In high school, I put my head down and worked hard so I could get into a good college and escape. I did run away from home once. I wrote a blog post about it, too. Then, I got into a great college and left at long last, only to run head first into a disturbing relationship and PTSD.
Fast forward five years and countless therapy sessions later. Continue reading