I’ll never forget the first time I broke a guy’s heart. Yeah, I said first time. Unfortunately, I’ve done it twice. It’s not something I’m proud of, and I hope it never happens again. I don’t think it will!
(I can hear my husband sighing with relief in the other room.)
The first time genuinely surprised me. His reaction was so intense and sorrowful. If I’m honest with myself, I had expected him to be upset, but I hadn’t quite connected the dots between his impending sadness and me. He’d be sad he didn’t have a girlfriend anymore, sure, but would he be sad about losing me in particular? Apparently so. I’d hurt more than his pride. I’d broken his heart. It was awful.
Why did I find that so surprising? At the tender age of twenty-one, I had naively assumed that men and women were vastly different beings. I really thought men entered relationships for the sake of sex and convenience. Companionship at best. Women were the ones who scribbled their married name in the margins of everything and daydreamed about what their children might look like, right? And because I wasn’t imagining his and my future together, I had supposed he wasn’t either.
I liked him a lot. I probably loved him, in as much as someone who doesn’t really know themselves can love another person. I loved the time we spent together. He wasn’t perfect, but neither was I. We were having a lot of fun—right up until he started picking out our children’s names and talking about what we’d do after we got married. You know the next part of the story. I broke his heart. When I told him it was over he cried. I felt his pain and it hurt! He looked so lost and disillusioned. What I couldn’t fathom was why. Not just why did he look so broken up, but why had he been so invested in a future I couldn’t even picture?
I guess saying this was a defining moment would be a bit of an understatement, and also not quite true. It wasn’t until much later that I thought back on that night and understood what had happened, and the significance of it. He had been in love with me. He had wanted a future with me. He’d been the one scribbling our married name in the margins of his notebooks and thinking about our future. Him. The guy. The one who was supposed to be in it for the sex and companionship.
And so I discovered men had hearts too.
Now that I’m older, I can curse my naiveté and shake my head at the ignorance of my younger self. How had I got to twenty-one without knowing men could be just as emotional as women? It’s not my intent for this post to be about the supposed emotional differences between men and women, about the disparity of expectation, about feminism and masculinity, and/or the war(s) between the sexes. But it would be naïve of me again not to acknowledge that a lot of what I’d been taught (and exposed to) in the first twenty years of my life shaped who I was in that relationship—what I brought to it.
Breaking someone’s heart shaped who I was going forward. I’m not going to detail my romantic history here, or tell you about the other heart I broke. That’s another story entirely. I will say that the most successful relationships I had afterward were with men who could have been that guy, however. Men who wore their hearts on their sleeves, for better or worse. I had found my type, and after I grew up a bit and had my own heart shredded a time or two, I looked for him.
I didn’t find him very often. I had mostly stopped reading romance novels because they rarely featured him, the guy who was simultaneously masculine and emotional. I wasn’t interested in seeing the heroine’s heartbreak, I wanted to see his. Not because I’m some sort of sadist, but because I knew it was possible. Not all men were rakes! Not all of them were callous and uncouth. Not all of them were in it just for the sex and companionship.
Ultimately, I found my husband and…he’s going to hate me for this, but you want to know what sealed the deal? On our second formal date, he took me to dinner and a show. We saw Rent. He shed a few tears near the end—and I fell in love.
Which brings me to the point of this ramble. (Yay! She has one!) This is why I enjoy reading and writing male/male romance. (Yes, I’m female and my husband his male, but that’s totally beside the point.)
The rise of the beta hero in heterosexual romance is one of the best things ever to happen to the genre, in my humble opinion. But in male/male romance, it doesn’t matter what type of hero the guys are, they both have to show their hearts or there will be no happy ever after. What makes me happier, though, is the absolute abundance of men in gay romance actively pursuing that happy ever after. Maybe that’s a female perspective on the genre—but maybe not. I’ve read male/male and gay romance by male authors where the hero/heroes are looking for more. They want a partner for something more than sex and companionship. They’re looking for their soulmates too. It’s not just a girl thing. And, often, because of the messed up nature of our society, they have to work so much harder to achieve their goals. Sometimes the sacrifice is greater, the risk higher. And they do it all for love! It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
So here’s to the hearts of men. May they remain sweet (hidden or not), ready to be shared, and beating for the one they love.
This picture is by the awesomely talented NaSyu. Click on the image to visit her gallery at Deviant Art.