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March 17, 2009

How Do I Trust Again?: Love, Betrayal, and Moving On
FILED UNDER: "Our So-Called Lives"
TAGS: gay male cultureGLBTSAloveNorth CarolinaUNC Chapel Hill
By Trevor

poloshirtboys.jpg

This has been a long time coming. Throughout my life, there have been essays-in-progress in my mind and in my heart, stories that have been writing themselves for months or even years. This is a story that I've been carrying with me for many years now. It begins in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where I was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In many ways, this is the romantic tragedy that has defined my relationship to love and to men since that time. I don't usually write this kind of deeply personal story, but I need to tell it. I know that if I do not get it out of me and onto paper, it will only continue to haunt me for years to come. Thank you for listening, and for bearing with me.

So let me begin.

I met him my junor year of college in my Feminist Philosophy class. It was well over halfway through the semester when we crossed paths. It's not that the class was particularly large -- indeed, there were maybe only thirty people enrolled and the classroom was narrow and cramped. But I was supsicious of him from the very first time I saw him: Tall, dark hair, handsome, and a large cross dangling from his neck. At the time, I was knee-deep in a campus culture-war with a Christian student organization which had come under fire for forbidding openly gay and lesbian members from holding official posts. As ridiculous as it may seem, his necklace was for me at that time more than just a sign of faith, but of political commitments.

He was pale and wore glasses, beautiful in a wholesome, simple kind of way. He wore sweaters over button-up shirts, and the overall effect was to come across as a whole-milk-drinking, church-going, future-Father-of-America. He never spoke much in class, but rather seemed to listen intently to what others had to say. So you can imagine my surprise one day when, during a critical discussion of binary gender roles, he raised his hand, brow furrowed, and asked our professor, "If binary gender roles are so deeply problematic, then why don't we simply get rid of them altogether?" I broke out in applause, startling both him and our instructor. I was dumbfounded! Who did this boy think he was? I was the one who usually made ridiculously radical statements about destroying patriarchy and gender oppression in this class! I was shocked. I was flabbergasted. But mostly, I was turned on.

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It was a few days after when he approached me after class. Chris -- I'll call him that for the sake of this essay -- wanted to have lunch. He thought we should get to know each other. Who was I to say no? We headed to Lenoir Dining Hall for the meeting. I was wearing torn-up Diesel jeans and a tight T-shirt with the UK flag on it. He was his usually preppy self. We must have made quite a pairing. I wanted to appear angsty, but confident, so I think I may have put my legs up on the table after I finished eating my veggie burger and fries. He was bisexual, I came to find out, and currently in a relationship -- *with a guy*. I was disappointed but not discouraged by this new information. We traded instant messenger screen names, and went on our way.

It didn't take long for Chris to consume my life. He was the dream I had been waiting for: Political, sexy, and not laden with all the self-deprecating baggage that comes with many young gay men (including myself!). In a few weeks time, we were spending ridiculous amounts of time together. We ate lunch together. And dinner. We spent dozens of hours each week on the phone, hanging out, and sometimes even crafting. We had come up with the ridiculous idea to make rainbow bracelets that we would sell to raise money for the LGBT student organization on campus. It didn't take long for me to realize that I was madly in love with this person -- or, at least, the idea of him.

The "l word" was a big deal for me. Some boys in college fall in love every week, but not me. I had fallen this hard perhaps once before Chris came along, but never since. I desperately wanted to be his boyfriend. I was all in. So when Chris told me that he and his boyfriend had broken up, you can imagine my anxiety and excitement. Could it finally happen? Could we finally be together?

I'm not *exactly* sure how it came to pass, but we gave dating a shot. We went out for drinks at one of my favorite bars in Chapel Hill -- Lantern -- and afterward I drove him back to his dorm. When the car stopped, I leaned over and we kissed briefly. It was pretty bad. He's the kind of kisser who kisses with his lips pursed, like you'd imagine a schoolgirl in the 1950s. I'm the kind of kisser who makes out like a greedy whore, passionately connected to the other. So it was perhaps doomed from the start. He seemed dismayed, so I asked him what was up. "Nothing," he said. "Come on! What's the problem?" He laughed awkwardly, and then said, "Well... you're kind of a bad kisser." My heart fell out of my chest and onto the floor of the car. I felt violated. Here this guy was telling me that *I* was the bad kisser? But I loved him very much, and so I apologized.

That was to be the first of many apologies in our relationship. Chris had a way of twisting everything on its head so that he bore no responsibility for my complaints. Things were always my fault. Or I was overreacting. I think what I begin to experience was what many women complain about in their relationships with straight men. Somehow, women get depicted as irrational and as constantly overreacting. Chris treated me exactly like that. But I was not dismayed. I took it all in, accepting what he said as truth. He was right. And I was wrong.

It wasn't terribly long thereafter that he began to hang out with my and my best friend at the time, who I'll call Jamie for the sake of this piece. We were at the time trying to resuscitate UNC's campus LGBT newsletter, LAMBDA, which had been defunct for several years but had a history going back to the 1970s. I had thrown myself into the project, trying to find all the back issues possible and secure funding for the first few issues. Jamie was working as the magazine's editor, since he had experience in the newspaper business. I was writing and doing my best to get the project off the ground. In any case, Chris quickly latched himself onto the project, spending increasing amounts of time working with Jamie on the magazine's design and content. For a very brief period, all was well in my queer world.

Spring Break was fast approaching, so I invited Jamie and Chris down to my parents' place in Charlotte for a weekend of partying. I figured we'd do some shopping, go party it up in the gay bars there, and enjoy the hot tub my parents have at their place. I knew from the moment they arrived in Charlotte together that this was going to be a truly awful experience. I expected Chris to sleep in my bed with me, but he unpacked into the guest bedroom with Jamie. I did everything in my power to deny what was happening here. He couldn't? Jamie *wouldn't*! That is, until we got into the hot tub and they began making out. In front of me. My world was falling apart. I ran out of the hot tub and to my room, praying for the weekend to end.

This was the same best friend to whom -- just a few weeks earlier -- I had confessed alongside my other friends my deep feelings for Chris. My love. He said he was happy for me. Excited, even. Now here he was in my house, lip-locked in my parents hot tub with the man I was desperately in love with. My heart felt mangled. I felt deeply betrayed by my best friend. And I felt horribly violated by Chris. It felt agonizing. There are no words with how painful and disgusted I felt.

But the worst feeling possible was returning to Chapel Hill to find that everybody knew about this relationship. All of my friends had known about their getting together for weeks at that point. I was the only one, it seemed, in the dark. And no one had deemed it necessary to enlighten me. I thought you knew, a friend casually remarked. Why anyone would think I would be so comfortable with this development as to have never have mentioned it in conversation, I will never really understand. Not only was my heart broken, but my supposedly tight-knit friendship group which was built around Jamie and Is friendship was crumbling before my eyes.

I met separately with Chris and Jamie a few days after we returned to Chapel Hill to confront them about my feelings. First I met with Chris. Back in Lenoir Dining Hall, he managed to make me feel bad about my anger and feelings of betrayal. Cant we be adults about this? he asked. Youre being ridiculous. We made our way down the escalator, towards the exit of the dining hall. I collapsed against the wall in tears, sliding slowly down to the floor. I was devastated. Not only had he not made any gesture of apology or showed any signs of empathy, but he had somehow managed to belittle and condescend to me along the way. I looked up at him from my huddled mess, and he laughed. He laughed at me. Trevor, get up, come on! I will never forget what it felt like when he laughed at me. It was utterly humiliating and degrading. Its as if I was back in middle school and he had slapped a Post-It on my back telling anyone who thought I was gay to kick me.

A few days later, I saw Jamie. Apparently, they had prepared together for these meetings. Why cant we just be adults and deal with this rationally? The same response. Why was I being so god-damned silly about this whole thing? It was obvious that I was the one who should grow up!

I carried my hate for them for years. I still think, somewhere deep inside me, I hate them. Truly despise and loathe their existence. But whats worse about my experience with them was that they single-handedly destroyed my ability to trust. How do you trust someone again after being so violated? Really, I want to know. Its been over five years since it happened, and these experiences still haunt my romantic relationships and friendships.

I made my peace with Jamie two years ago, when we ran into each other in Chapel Hill and instead of slapping him in the face, I shook his hand. Thats the best I can do for now. I havent talked to Chris for over a year now. All I want from his is an acknowledgment that he hurt me. That he knows what he did to me was wrong, and that hes sorry. Perhaps searching for that apology, I tried to be friends with him again a few years ago. But after a year of attempting to build a friendship again, I realized that he had no remorse for the pain he inflicted on me. And when I realized that, I realized that he could never really be a friend to me. I cut all contact with him this past summer, and I havent spoken to him since.

*** Please, if you know who I'm talking about here, keep that information to yourself. Thanks! ***

PERMALINK | Posted at 8:52 PM | Post a Comment (9)

9 Comments

Hey Trevor,

I do know who you're talking about here, and while I certainly didn't know about *everything* that went down that year, let me just say that Chris was an overly-entitled pretentious asshole from the start, and it took everyone a while to figure that out. Which is to say: you shouldn't stop trusting yourself and your own intuition about people, which is what I think ends up most mangled in these situations. As for how to trust again, in my experience it comes from giving yourself permission to, as I said before, trust yourself to have learned better, to know how not to end up in that situation again. If you were dating someone now who belittled you, manipulated you... you would recognize that feeling this time around. There would be red flags. And you would know that this person isn't trustworthy, and it's time to get out.

I know it's been like 3 years since we've talked, so my response to this is completely random, but I just thought I'd throw in my opinion. Since you asked. :) Hope you are (otherwise) doing well - which, based on your other posts, it looks as though you are. I'm proud of you!

xxoo
jes

jes | March 17, 2009 9:46 PM

Aww :) Thanks Jes. That response meant a lot! I hope you're right that in the future I'll recognize the signs -- or "red flags" -- of that kind of person in the future. I dated recently for the first time since and that was a good experience, I think. So slowly getting back there.

I just watched "The L Word" series finale at the Aut Bar and greatly missed our get-togethers way back when. Really, that was a wonderful time. I hope things are treating you well up north. If you're ever in Michigan, gimme a holler. And if I'm ever in Boston (are you still there?), I'll definitely do the same!!!

xoxoxo

T

Trevor Hoppe | March 17, 2009 10:33 PM

I have to say even though we've never spoken and I've just started to read your blog that story made me feel very protective of you(I hope that doesent sound too weird :p)

I dont really know what to say to help seeing that I have no idea really but I hope sharing this will help you, it would be horrible to see this continue to affect you...

I wish you the best of luck.

Gabriel~

Gabriel | March 17, 2009 11:54 PM

Ugh...Trevor, I understand what it feels like. I once had 'that' guy that I was head over heels in love with and that same feeling just was not there on his side. And I remember doing some crazy things, I won't go into full detail here, but let us just say it involved a dunk tank, a toilet, and lots of alcohol.

I've nicknamed those moments "the Black years", and when me and my friend meet up nowadays we talk about them. We laugh a lot about those moments--more like years--now, but back then I remember crying hysterically with her for a long time. We call our lives comedic-romantic-tragedies, because, well, that's what they are.

I think everyone gets that guy (or girl) in their life that is meant to just fuck things up, so that we reach a certain low and get the opportunity to build back up from there.

Sorry that he hurt you so badly, and I'm really sorry that he failed to realize that (that can sometimes be the worst).

But you've seemingly moved on, which all you can do. "Fuck him and make way for Mr. Right", is the advice I got, and so I pass it on.

J. Clarence | March 18, 2009 2:17 AM

Aw thanks Gabriel :) I'm glad to hear someone's got my back!

Yea I think his lack of acknowledgment is what haunts me the most. A lack of regret or remorse. That's what makes me keep hating him.

Trevor Hoppe | March 18, 2009 10:18 AM

Oh, so that explains it - I had you in my "never dates" category and never gave it a second thought about why...

Hey, all I can say is that dating sucks. And its wonderful. You get both.

Bill Jesdale | March 19, 2009 2:29 PM

These days, I consider the statements "just calm down, take a deep breath, and tell me when you're ready to start over", and "why can't we just be rational adults about this", statements of abuse. It sounds like a horrible time in your life and it must feel great to have blogged it all out (does that sounds like onomatopoeia to you too? lol). It also sounds like you reacted with complete emotional integrity at the time - refusing to swallow your feelings just because they made your friends feel uncomfortable.

Daniel | March 19, 2009 11:14 PM

hey darlin'...just wanted to give you some love. because you deserve all the love in the world. 'bravo' for cutting people who aren't celebrating the joy that is you out of your life.

danielle | March 20, 2009 3:07 AM

I had to stop watching the L-Word, sadly, because holyshit they killed it and it made me ashamed to be a lesbian. Much better times (and better episodes!) when we used to have our weekly parties. Sigh. I miss college...

I am still in Boston, and you had BETTER call me if you head this way! :) And I'll do the same for you, of course, if I ever head that way.

xxoo
jes

jes | March 20, 2009 1:58 PM


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