Places I’ve Lived as Boyfriends
Updated: Aug 11
James Spader is *niche* mean high school heart throb who turns out to be garbage
The suburb I was born into was the classic Starter High School Boyfriend. He was mean to his mom, low-key addicted to video games, and would pay attention to you while sneakily forwarding on a sports-like ranking system of the hottest girls in school (A REAL THING THAT HAPPENED AT MY HIGH SCHOOL). He was trash who was only a little cute in the way that all white guys are kinda passable if you don’t look too hard. He ended up going to IU, dropping out after that DUI, but is now coasting on his parents’ money and connections. You were never sorry to see him go and now you don’t even mention his name when you’re telling new people your story. But every Thanksgiving, you will see him at Super Target, he will avoid eye contact, and he will slide into your DMs later with a “u up? haha so crazy seein u”. You wish him the best, which is a dental hygienist named Ashley from Brownsburg.
You went to college here for a hot second when you were sixteen and still deep into self-harm and The Libertines. Upland was the corn-fed Hallmark-lead hunk you always saw around campus who was a die-hard Republican before it became synonymous with way worse things and loved his pick-up truck as much as his momma and Jesus. You judged him way hard but would sneak glances at him doing something sweet and generous for someone else. But then he’d talk about his opinion on sexuality and dancing, and you were like “hell nah, boy bye”. You would never be with Upland even if you wanted to….and you never really wanted to except when you saw he got married at 21 to a Rebecca, who has a Christian mommy-blog and caused a hot air balloon accident at her gender reveal baby shower.
Sexy, elusive, only wears black….vive la France!!
Ahhh, your obligatory semester-abroad boyfriend. You met him when he cat-called you by yelling across the street “t’es charmante!” and dramatically blowing a kiss but also like, it worked?? (A real thing that happened to me that still makes me blush). You spent four sun-drenched months together walking on cobblestoned, ancient paths, drinking 1 euro wine while sitting next one of the hundreds of fountains in centre-ville, eating your weight in bread and cheese but like, it was okay because it was with him. You always felt glamorous and sophisticated like Audrey Hepburn, which gave you way too much confidence as you choked on a cigarette and would say horrifically pretentious things like “other Americans just don’t get it” and “sure I can name more than one Impressionist”. (The answer was and always will be only Cezanne). You couldn’t get over how beautiful and perfect he was….until he’d open his mouth. The garble of sounds that come out would melt your heart until you’d feel that icy cold realization that he expected you to respond. As you’d force out some heavily-accented bleh-bleh-blehs, his wondering eye would hit on some new American foreign student. You wanted to tell Aix-en-Provence you’d stay if only he asked. And he never asked. And you knew you’d never really stay. But you could never hated him for it because it allowed him to stay forever perfect in your memory.
You basically went from starring in Amelie to being a background wrestling crowd member in The Fighter. You met your Boston bae in line at friggin’ Dunkins and when you told him you went to school in Wenham, he quickly told you that no, you don’t not in fact get to say you go to school “near” Boston. He drove like a Masshole, cursed like a sailor, and had a wicked temper. But also, he was briny and salt-of-the-earth like, and made you laugh. He was just like the Atlantic beaches- cold and remote, and not home-like, not once, not ever. You stayed with him through the winters just because it was so brutally cold and it was cuffing season, but you broke up with that townie the second you could. You told him that you could never be a Pats fan and he left you with the bill. You always thought before you moved to the North Shore that you were gonna get young Ben Affleck circa the early 90s but then you realized he was more like Ben Affleck circa now. Ew.
Our Romanian prince, Sebastian Stan
A mysterious Eastern European romance to widen your horizons and take you on a magical adventure post-grad? Why not! Did you realize that adventure was living in a harden, post-Communist hillside community where you’d eat a diet comprising only of chickens killed directly in the back yard, hard goat cheese, soft goat cheese, red peppers, and eggplants in an endless combination? Nu. The longer you were there, the more overcome you were by his world and his insistency of inviting you in it. You loved his be-scarfed tiny grandmas, the strong women who lovingly taught you how to harvest and jar food for the winter, the gorgeous ancient language that danced off the tongue, the generosity of his community. You loved Sinaia and Brasov, and the castle where they film ALL the low-budget Hallmark Christmas movies. Ultimately, he belonged there but you knew you were just passing through, much like the herd of goats who would interrupt the hillside youth camp every day. But out of everyone, he was the only one you could say you loved…or really you “te iubesc”‘ed.
I had to physically restrain myself from posting a twerking .gif of the Jollibee up here instead
Every foreign girl whose been to the Philippines knows the three immediate questions you’re gonna get asked are “what are you doing here?” (interning with IJM and fighting cybersex trafficking), “have you tried balut yet?” (I’ll eat the fermented duck embryo when you do, sir), and lastly “would you date a Filipino?” (hmmm, this question seems loaded). At first it was really annoying but later you started to have fun with the questions the more the crazy, chaotic city felt like home. And that’s when you really got to know Manila.
Manila has thick, luxurious hair, is very Catholic, has a massive extended family who are way into his business, and still lives at home with no intention of ever leaving. He slays at karaoke, knows someone who knows someone who knows that guy who played Rufio in Hook, and will never take the hint that you don’t really like pancit. For those magical 16 months, you fully embrace your exotic life full of friends, and food, and deep faith. You always felt like you were on the brink of something exciting, something real….and then it was time’s up. Even up to entering the Ninoy Aquino Airport, you were waiting for Manila to run up through the parked-car traffic and tell you he was crazy for ever letting you go. But he never did. And you experienced your first, deep heartbreak for a place that even if you went back to would never exist again.
The only thing that I felt encapsulated my frustration with Sheridan is that scene where no one can drink out of a water fountain correctly and I stand by this comparison, Larry Bird as my witness
You met Sheridan right after leaving the Philippines. You were vulnerable. Weak. Pathetic. And Sheridan knew it. He sidled up next to you at the La Cascada bar (the only Mexican restaurant in town that is forever crowded because of its $5 endless margs and endless gossip) and didn’t go away for a year. No you didn’t want to go “cruisin'” in his truck to end up at the Dairy Queen where you’d watch him yell at at the teens working there. Yes, you did want to get the pretzel bread from the Amish grocery store but you could do that alone, thank you very much! Sheridan is at least courteous to your family but you’re skeptical of his cousins (who from time to time sport the Confederate flag) and his ex (who works at local boutique that sells bedazzled shirts that say things like “Rise and Wine”). Other people found him small-town in a kinda sorta charming way, like a reoccurring Parks & Rec character, but you never could because your heart simply wasn’t in it. Despite his best attempts to trap you there through a pyramid scheme and/or an out-of-wedlock baby, you left Sheridan where you found him, at the bar at La Cascada on Discount Marg night.
Me when I realized everyone here wears the same pair of wire-rimmed glasses
DC is your latest fling. It’s hard to know if we’re getting serious yet, I mean it’s been only a month, Mom and I’m like, not even sure where we’re even going! It’s not like we’re going to get married! I just met the guy!
DC is young, ambitious, and whip-smart. He’s a total social activist, can tell you more about the impeachment process than Donald Tr*mp can, and can absolutely pull off that tweed jacket. You had a meet-cute with him in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, right in front of the apartment building where Norah Ephron lived. When you mentioned that to him, he said “who?” and you chose to ignore it. You’re trying really hard to impress him, because all the girls here look and sound exactly like you. You’re used to being the most well-cultured and liberal one in the room but now you’re just Maggie from Indiana.
You’re going to try hard but not too hard because out of the whole process, you’ve come to realize your own worth. If Aix-en-Provence brought out your whimsy, and Romania your kindness, and Manila your joy, then DC is getting a pretty great package. And if it’s just that early 20s romance that you have get out of the way before “The One”, then so be it. You’re gonna love it here, kid.