On Breaking Up (Part 1)

How many times have you ever had your heart "broken" because your ex(es) wanted to break up with you?

How many times have you got out of a relationship/marriage leaving your ex(es) "brokenhearted" because you were the one who decided to call it quit?

How many times have you parted ways with your romantic partner(s) and maintained the no-speaking terms until this very second?

Love is tricky. That's what I used to think. The first time I fell in love with someone, I was in high school. Puppy love, one would say. But I don't think I should belittle, let alone disregard that experience. I honor that phase of feeling the genuine attraction and compassion romantically towards someone else for the first time.

Anyway, I shall not name names, but this person that became my first love was a boy. Obviously, I was (and still am, the last time I checked) gay. The boy (who I assumed straight and is married now to a woman and they have two beautiful kids) (yes, I still keep in touch with him and his family) (and yes, I know that being married to a woman does not guarantee that a guy is straight but that is another topic for another post, because girl... if you only knew..), of course, did not realize that my feelings for him was more than just "brotherly" yet I could not reveal my love to him because even the teenage me knew that it would be "all hell breaks loose". Little did I know that all hell would still indeed break loose when I got older.

He did not live in the same city where I grew up, but his grandma did. During school holiday, he would come visit her for a week or two, and since I lived nearby, we hung out a lot together. Growing up, I always knew that I was different from other boys. I was leaning towards the feminine spectrum and did not get soccer, Tamiya and such. On the other side, Barbie and Sailor Moon were very interesting, hence I would quietly and shyly indulge in entertaining myself with them. Yes, I was THE stereotypical gay boy.

"Bencong!", "Banci!" (derogatory terms for transwoman in Indonesian), "Wati (Wanita bertitit/chick with dick)" were daily dose of shame that I had to put up with. They replaced the name given by my parents who gave birth and nurtured me with those nicknames. Bagia Arif Saputra had been reduced to Bencong. I was not even worthy of my name which means the first son (Saputra) of Arifin (my father's name shortened to Arif, which also means wisdom) who brings Happiness (Bagia). I obviously did not live up to my name, because who would be happy being called out "Bencong" in front of a lot of your friends and teachers (who stayed silent. Did they approve?)? Not the little me, of course. I was so ashamed of myself. I felt unworthy.

The first person who never looked down on me was actually him. On my freshmen year in high school. Isn't it amazing? It took me years until attending high school to finally meet someone who would be cool with me being me. Can you believe?

I can still recall how he never cringed, not to mention looked at me with disgust or with the look of disgrace/disappointment/condescending that people closest to me intentionally and/or unconsciously threw at me (do not even let me begin with those who talked and laughed behind my back...).

Beautiful Thing (1996)

For the first time in my life, I felt seen with respect. I felt accepted. I felt loved. As I'm writing this piece 20 years later, I can still vividly feel that exact emotion.

The way he treated me as if I'm not different validated me. I fell for him. So hard. I was so in love I would spend all day until the evening to spend time with him, and for the first time in my life, I felt truly happy. That constant sensation of butterflies in my stomach, the electricity current that was ignited whenever we brushed arms, his cologne scent mixed with body odor that lingered until I went to bed, the impatience and excitement to see him the next day that made sleeping challenging for a high school freshman, and the erotic dreams of us spooning and sharing a kiss.. I was over the moon.

The day he had to go back to his hometown was the day I experienced an indesrcibable pain that I could not comprehend. I thought I was so used to being bullied that the pain became a normalcy. But this pain was different, if not deeper. We shook hands (because hugging was never the norm in my culture) before he said goodbye, never knowing that I loved him in a way that he never would. That was the last physical touch that I would be longing for the next few months. The longing that I kept on my own. It was so painful that every night, I would fall asleep due to exhaustion from crying.

I know, it's not what you'd call a break-up in a conventional manner because he and I were not an item to begin with lol, but I was heartbroken. It would take another decade (and more breakups) for me to be able to put the broken pieces together and to understand that love is not tricky.

But I'll save it for another post.

Until then, stay in love!



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