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Uncomfortable Truths

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

I used to think of him as an extension of myself. Not my other half, not someone I felt I needed to complete myself (though there was a great deal of co-dependence there). This was someone I met and immediately clicked with. Everywhere I went I wanted him with me. If not physically, then on the receiving end of my endless stream of consciousness I’d spill into my phone for him to provide quippy, witty, and most often cynical judgement to in response. I loved his brain. I loved watching him tick. He was the person I’d say the uncensored thoughts to, knowing he’d have thoughts to share, but never quite knowing how he’d respond. He’s a quiet intellectual type. He’d never brag to your face about his credentials or how well-read he is, but he’d quietly seethe if anyone did those things to him, and lambast them in our stream of consciousness text thread later. He also appreciated the off-the-wall weird shit I’d say and do, on a level no one really thought was necessary or interesting (but absolutely should be because I’m fucking funny). I once told him I got a buttery nipple shot at a bar and incredulously told him it tasted exactly how I always thought a buttered nipple would taste and he doubled over laughing, stopping in the middle of a sidewalk because he couldn’t continue walking. Another time I’d circled letters in his daily copy of his newspaper to spell out “Ted Cruz Is The Zodiac Killer” and “Bush Did 9/11” to make him laugh while he was reading a salmon recipe, or an article about some academic scandal.


I met him when I was old enough to make decisions for myself but not yet old enough to realize the full impacts and repercussions of those decisions. I was mentally stable enough to feel the thrill of my own agency and do things that made me feel an extra sense of aliveness, but I was far enough in a pit that I didn’t really care what happened to Later Charlie, mostly because I was living in a constant state of flux with my own being that I didn’t know if I’d even be alive to see the day when I might regret things. I was in a constant state of wanting more from my life, but still in college and not yet in a place to be able to get it.


On the other end of things, he was old enough to make decisions for himself and old enough to see exactly what repercussions lay on the other end of them. He was more cynical than I was, which I was equal parts confused and impressed by. He recognized that maturity-wise I was closer to 35 than I was to 19, and he treated me accordingly, but not in a patronizing or creepy way. He had a razor-sharp wit, and I got the sense while there was more than meets the eye if you really dug for it, he was also refreshingly and uniquely exactly as advertised. He valued how smart I was, in ways no one had. I’d never truly been seen in my life in the way he saw me. This was by design. I showed everyone what I wanted them to see at any given time. A talented musician, an innocent Catholic girl, an absolute dingus at times (to avoid responsibility of having to be smart and then drain myself by keeping being smart), a well-behaved child doing nothing wrong ever and being a model for all other children to follow. I didn’t fall into the trope of making myself dumb so boys would be attracted to me so much as I just hung out with boys who saw women as stupid. There was literally nothing I could do to convince them anyway, and I just didn’t challenge the notion. At home I was little more than a source of things spoken incorrectly for my family members to laugh at and then (poorly) imitate it for their amusement. I wasn’t taken seriously, except as a seriously annoying presence who had to be in attendance because that’s how family goes, and that’s where I was supposed to be as the youngest sibling, and lowest of importance. As soon as he became an added member into my family, someone saw through the cloud of familial stereotypes and imposed behavior and saw me for someone I was, could be, and wanted to become. He valued the things I had to say, the way I thought, my quick wit. it was intoxicating. I had someone around who I could talk to, who would actually listen to me and enjoy being in my presence. Someone I could text underneath the table while insanity was unfolding, who would check in on me if things got rough, and who could act as a buffer to prevent things from getting rough for me.


I can’t count the amount of times I’ve told him I’m done with him over the years. An unhealthy amount, because if a relationship reaches the point where you’re so fed up with a person that you’re seeking the comforts of not having a relationship of any kind with them, much less if that situation happens more than one time, that’s an unhealthy relationship. Any kind of relationship, mind you. Family, friendship, romantic partner, or, in this case, strange platonic life partner of large age gap and maturity difference with no real distinct boundaries. Every time I got close to really pulling that trigger in behavior, I’d send a text when I was angry. I’d call him. I’d wait a day and then send an email detailing my heartache and disappointment. I’d always take space, I think the longest we’d ever gone without talking was like a week and it was about 6 years ago after a rejection-fueled screaming match in his car. I always saw us flaring out in a dramatic fashion. An angry phone call followed by one of us getting hit by a bus and never being able to repair the relationship. Or mailing a physical letter after not talking for a long time after one of us got married. Getting that ill-timed closure neither of us deserved but we both desperately needed. I didn’t really see it happening how it happened in real life.


Things got distant between he and I about three years ago. I graduated college and later that year met my partner. It wasn’t an immediate shift; we stayed close after I was in an established relationship for a while, but I reached a point where things got serious with my partner, and I needed to prioritize. I guess a lack of boundaries will do that to you; you never really say or act in any specific and certain way so when something potentially upsets the balance, the whole thing is at risk of capsizing. I’d seen it coming years prior on my end, so I at least started preparing for the reality that there would someday be someone in one of our lives that would create more space than we had. I’d grown ok with it enough that I started dating my partner and never looked back. The stream-of-consciousness became spaced out texts throughout the day. Valuing each other’s’ brains became a complacent glance at something that had always been there, with seemingly no reason to stop and appreciate it. Our witty sparring banter became bitter arguments. Spontaneity, once my favorite thing about him, now gave me vertigo and whiplash. Our cultural differences were once a conversational spark for us each to explore inside each other’s minds and take in new perspective, but now they acted as kerosene on pre-existing embers. Things crumbled. We’d go days without talking, with him frequently not even being able to remember the last time we talked. I’d voice concerns that I never see him anymore and the answer was always the same: “I was going to ask you if you wanted to facetime but I didn’t want to bother you while you were <doing whatever minute thing I was doing at the time>”.


But I couldn’t quite pin down why things were crumbling more lately than they were when I got married almost a year ago. I’d put boundaries in place long ago around conversation topics, and behaviors I wasn’t going to be continuing when I started dating my partner, and nothing new happened when I got married. He was seemingly happy for me, albeit with what I assume had to have been bittersweet emotions to accompany it. But things still fell apart over a gradual period. Then it hit me: any time I talked about anything queer, his answers were short, neutral, and he’d change the subject as soon as he was able, sometimes after going radio silent for hours or days. I didn’t want to believe this and I kinda shrugged it off until the other day when queerness came up in conversation and I couldn’t let myself ignore it anymore, so I threw something out to see what would happen.


My partner and I recently attended a school board meeting in Marysville. Their school district tried rewriting K-12 school district policy to require parental consent for students to join clubs after a group of elementary school students wanted to start a Safe Spaces club. I went to show support to the queer community, not knowing how many there would actually be in Marysville (I don’t know much about the city but I know it’s not as big or as queer as Seattle, so all bets were off in my head). I was shocked by the dozens of students, parents, community members, and those outside of the community like the state representative for their district who all showed up to urge board members to vote no on the proposed changes. It was inspiring and touching for me as a queer person who came from a household that calls transgender people “Sexual Deviants”. On a whim, I threw it out there in conversation. He asked a couple of questions, all of them about the generalities of the situation, no matter how many queer factors I mentioned. Then he dropped the subject.


I couldn’t ignore it anymore but still didn’t want to believe what I was suspecting to be true, so I flat out asked him.


“Are you uncomfortable about my queerness?”


“From time to time, but mostly because it slips my mind”.


I felt sick to my stomach. Not only did he not think of me as a queer person, but it slips his mind, and when it’s brought up it makes him uncomfortable. I should have seen this coming. I had to explain to him semi-recently why it was homophobic to be laughing at calling his straight friend gay. When I first came out to him and mentioned I was going to probably keep going by Carol and she/her with certain people, he told me he’d probably always think of me as a Carol (As a note, one of my coworkers who I’ve known way less time and not nearly as well asked me what my name/pronoun preference was, and repeatedly told me to keep her updated on it if I ever changed my mind because she wanted me to be comfortable). When I came out to my family in a group chat, he privately asked me if it was ok that he didn’t say anything in the group chat. This isn’t exactly someone who’s well-versed in queer politics or issues, nuanced or otherwise. Specifically because I know he's not up to date on queer stuff, I’d given him so many resources on multiple occasions to try educating himself with. I told him about Q&Q. I told him about my non-profit, Identity Euphoria. I explained the purpose behind both was to help queer people and educate the general public. If you know me, you know I’m relatively patient when it comes to people uncomfortable or unknowledgeable about queer issues, feminism, or any facet of my identity that might take a conversation to explain. I want people to learn so they can do better; education is the antidote to ignorance. I’m definitely willing to have a conversation, but I also always follow up with resources for the other party to understand and do their own homework if they genuinely do actually just not know stuff and aren’t just leaning on “I’m unsure of how to discuss it and don’t want to say anything wrong”. Unfortunately, that’s a direct quote from him when I challenged him and asked him why he felt uncomfortable when I talk about queerness.


Then he improperly summarized the barebones goal of Identity Euphoria that I’ve told him repeatedly before and I realized he didn’t even know what my nonprofit was for. The nonprofit I spend a lot of time working on, traveling to Oregon for, planning events for, working on social media content for, and just in general talking about if you take the time to ask how I’m doing and what I’m up to. He wasn’t even bothering to give me less than the bare minimum at this point. I felt the last remaining pieces of the relationship I thought we had slip through my hands like sand. I had as much of a functional relationship as I have with my father, who basically never reaches out and won’t text me back if I do respond to something he’s sent.


This Easter we celebrated 8 years being friends together. 8 years ended in a conversation that took an hour and a half.


Weeks ago, my therapist asked me what I was really looking for in my relationship with this person. I’d mentioned to them that I wanted to figure out why I kept feeling compelled to let him hurt me. I have a great relationship with my partner, I’m relishing my ability to live my queerest life and explore myself in every way I always wanted to and never felt safe doing, I’m fully medicated and am taking care of my mental health. All things considered, there’s no discernible reason I’d feel the need to be self-destructive by repeating the cycle of abuse and letting myself get hurt in the unique and stinging ways he knows how to hurt me.


What am I looking to get out of a relationship with him? What a question. For weeks my answer was “How the hell should I know?” which like…was always kinda funny to me because I SHOULD know. The fact that I didn’t know was bad enough, but I didn’t have an answer, and it haunted me every time conversation with him would die off, and days would pass without hearing from him, and fights would happen over stupid shit like him saying something homophobic and getting called homophobic for it. Why couldn’t I answer the question? I could answer it for any other person in my life except one of my longest and closest friends? What sense does that make?


But really…was he still one of my closest friends? He certainly was, once upon a time. But at this point I’d had coworkers asking me more personal questions on a more frequent basis than he was. People I basically barely knew were asking me how I was doing when something scary happened to LGBTQ+ people somewhere in the nation or the world. He was acting with behaviors same or similar to my biological family, all of whom had been extremely unsupportive of me, each in their own unique ways. Until this point, he'd been in my family by proxy, in the sense that my parents and sister claimed him but I saw us on our own side apart from them.


Now that I look back on it, I think I clung to a lot of mistruths because until now I don’t know that I could have handled the thought of a life without him. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly didn’t need him to live, I thrived on my own plenty. But I wanted him there. I wanted him in my court. I wanted that future I saw with him in it so long ago where we were able to be platonic life partners in the weird ways we had always been with each other. I didn’t have another vision of the future that he wasn’t in. I’m a planner, I don’t do snap decisions unless I have backup plans B-Z to see through any foreseeable circumstance. Him being so integrated into my family that he couldn’t see past his own discomfort to educate himself and support me never seemed like a possibility, so I never really prepared myself for a reality where I told him “I don’t care what you do anymore”, didn’t hear back from him in 2 days and….am not falling apart over it. Truthfully, I still want him here. It makes me sad that he can’t be who I know he could be, and who I need him to be. I’m sad for that part of myself I built with him. I wonder if she’ll be lost, and if she is, I wonder what will fill her place (that part of me is a girl in summertime wearing ultra-short denim shorts, has curly hair, is wearing keds, is severely underweight, and is really good at taking spicy photos. She is beauty, she is grace. She will accidentally spit bud light lime in your face when she laughs at something stupid).


I lost my best friend because he was uncomfortable and unwilling to learn to how to support me. That’s a hard thing to accept, especially after so many years and how close we were. But it would have been a lot harder to tell people I run a nonprofit for queer people helping them to accept themselves and find community to help themselves cope with queerphobic family and peers, advocating for people to cut yourself off from those who make them feel less than and unsupported, all the while thinking about the deafening silence my best friend has in response to me being queer. You are always going to be your biggest advocate. It’s wonderful and lucky when we find those who can lift us up when we can’t find it in us to lift ourselves up, but you can’t get to shore with water wings alone. You have to swim. So, I’m swimming, and I’m letting my water wings help me. It takes too much energy to be swimming and pulling the weight of an entire dying relationship on my own, meanwhile making sure to keep quiet about the pain and exhaustion it causes me so I don't make waves. I wish I could be mad. It might make it easier to say something extra like "I never want to hear from him again" or "and STAY out", but I'm just sad, and that makes me susceptible to the "What if's". What if he reads this blog and writes me a letter and becomes a whole different person? What if Will Ferrell Jesus from Superstar visits him in the middle of the night and tells him he fucked up? What if I cave and end up back where I started and go back on all of this? But most importantly, what if nothing like that happens at all and I'm doing the right thing by prioritizing myself? That one's the real kicker.


"See, technically, you're, like, in this REM sleep state, and I'm a mixture of your mind's images of God, some past authority figures, uh, Skye, and your dad. Basically, your subconcsious came up with me to help you deal." - Will Ferrell Jesus, Superstar


Embracing someone’s whole true self is the baseline of decency in a relationship. It’s the very least you can do. A relationship where one person can’t be who they are in the fullest way is a relationship built on conditional love, with a lack of acceptance. Loving someone with a fraction of a heart only makes them feel like there are fractions of them that are unlovable. Being uncomfortable is self-descriptive: It’s not comfortable. It’s something we tend to avoid if we can help it, because we’d rather be making ourselves comfortable. But you know what’s worse than being uncomfortable? Being on the receiving end of someone who would put their own comfort in front of understanding how to best support your loved one. Having everything in front of you to know that you've done everything you can to serve up knowledge on a silver platter and seeing the other person not even lift a finger.


You deserve people who are willing to put in the effort to understand you. You deserve to be understood and loved for who you are. You are lovable. You are special. And this week, I'm telling myself "so am I". If anyone is making you feel less than or unworthy of their attention and care to learn who you are as a person, that person isn’t worth your time. It doesn’t matter if they’re your biological family, it doesn’t matter if you put almost 10 years into a relationship with them. If they aren’t being your water wings, it's ok to let them go. I’ll be glad to fill that role, and help you find a whole community who can, too.



This is the community. We're all secretly frogs. We love you. If you talk bad about yourself, we'll know. Do not do it. You are a special lil bean.


- Charlie

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