boyfriend

New City

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My boyfriend booted up Sim City the other day and started building a new city from scratch. As he did so, he saw that I was watching and sheepishly said, “I never come up with names for my cities. I always leave them named ‘New City’.  I’m not that creative.”

He frowned at his perceived awkwardness and started laying roads and power plants and zones and pipes.

So I said, “There was an ancient culture called the Phoenicians. They lived in city states on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea near modern Syria and Lebanon. They were renowned mariners and even invented the alphabet that is the basis for the one we now use.

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“They had a rivalry with the ancient Greeks and established colonies all around the Mediterranean coast. Their most prosperous one was called Carthage. When the Phoenician cities were conquered and subjugated into other empires, Carthage was left on its own.

“Carthage eventually became a great power and, similar to the Phoenician rivalry with the Greeks, the Carthaginians had a rivalry with the Romans. After a series of fierce wars, and despite its maritime prowess and economic superiority, Carthage was eventually subdued by the Romans.

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“Despite being conquered, the city of Carthage has a rich legacy. Many modern cities, like Cadiz and Cartagena in Spain, can trace their roots to Carthage.

“By the way, the name Carthage comes from the Phoenician name Qart-hadast.

“That translates to New City.”

By this time, his town had begun to develop nicely. He smiled and said, “I like that story.”

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Crush or Squish?

We all have little crushes every now and then. Occasionally there are those big ones that seem to consume us with desperate longing and poetically appropriate heartache. Growing up and struggling with being gay, I had more than my fair share of these episodes ranging from brief flavor of the week types to years long infatuations.

I kept these feelings to myself and the process became a deeply personal way of reconciling my sexuality. Eventually, when I started my arduous process of coming out, I began to share these feelings with close friends which allowed me to open up to act more confidently on them rather than shy away. 

Flashforward to now, and I am in a relationship that is mature, long term, and absolutely real. No fantasies.  No unrequited love. No pining away for someone distant.

Having been with my significant other for almost three years now, that other part of my mind has been dormant. It’s not really a necessary component anymore, is it?  My boyfriend and I still share pictures with each other of celebrities we think are hot (Hello, Dan Osbourne!). We even mention coworkers and acquaintances whom we find attractive or otherwise endearing, but in a completely honest and non-competitive way that stands as an example of the trust and respect we have for each other.

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We are both men who like men, and finding beauty or quality in men is something we have in common, but our committed relationship is the foremost thing we have in common.

Having said all of that, very recently I have found that old mechanism in my mind waking up and operating in a way I have never experienced before.

It started at a Halloween party for work. This particular party was hosted and organized by my department, but had company wide attendance.  I happened to chat up a younger guy who had the cleverest costume. It was simple, but geeky and humorous.  Honestly, I had written off that experience as something to share with the boyfriend and that was that. 

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Cute guy. Cute costume. Introductions and chatting with not even a whisper of flirtation. That was enough for me.

A few months later this guy joined my department. He learned quickly, advanced appropriately, and even now is ready to take a leadership role. In my time working with him during our meetings throughout the week, I found him to be friendly, professional, and courteous. He was confident, but still humble, and he proved to be a popular and pivotal member of the team.

Were I ten years younger, I thought, he would totally be the type I would crush on. Then I realized, almost horrifyingly, I had actually developed a crush on him.

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Having not had a crush in so long, I was out of touch with how this worked.  I had a few panicked moments when I wondered if this signified a problem with my own relationship. It didn’t. I thought that maybe my feelings would go away as I got more familiar with him. They didn’t. Maybe I would learn something about him that I didn’t like. I didn’t.

What did happen, however, was a change of my feelings over time. I never truly had any deeply romantic feelings, such as  us running off into the sunset together. Nor was there anything sexual sparking, even if I noticed occasionally that his hair was coiffed in a particularly handsome way, or that certain pairs of pants fit quite well in certain areas.

Furthermore, I’ve never been into younger guys, and it was obvious that the world was his oyster. With everything in his exciting future ripe for him to pick, surely there were better things available to him besides some (slightly) older guy pawing after him. Besides, I had that happen to me when I was younger, and it was exhausting despite being a bit flattering. I am no chickenhawk (look it up), after all.

Then again, maybe it’s because I’m older that I feel I could be able to provide him insight or any other kind of assistance as he navigates his early twenties in a way I wish I could have had.

I did feel something, however, I just didn’t know how to classify it. Thanks to Urban Dictionary, an increasingly useful resource for a late twenty-something like me who spends time with some younger people, I was able to find this term:

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I instantly identified with this. The desire to get to know him, perhaps become friends, is something that racks my mind. While building a friendship is not something that may be prudent or professional at this time, at least I have deciphered my feelings enough on the matter not to feel so alarmed.

Perhaps our paths will run parallel to each other for some time yet, but when they diverge, I hope that it’s for the best for both of us. We may not be the next Xena and Gabrielle with something romantic implicitly growing between us, but whatever is between us will have to suffice at a platonic level.

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The lack of a romantic component doesn’t make having a squish any easier, but I can’t help but wonder if knowing about the difference between a squish and a crush while I was growing up would have saved me from much drama and torment.

Who am I kidding? The torment is still there.