Me, My­self, and My Mir­ror

Hello Mr. Magazine - - CONTENTS - Jaime Woo

I have a sad con­fes­sion to make. I re­cently de­clined the ro­man­tic ad­vances of a beau­ti­ful, in­tel­lec­tu­ally stim­u­lat­ing, mod­estly suc­cess­ful man who ticked each of my re­la­tion­ship boxes. And now, as a self-pro­claimed un­lucky-in-love, Brid­get Jones/Lena Dunham-type, I’m feel­ing like an in­com­pa­ra­ble idiot.

Weath­ered from years of be­ing op­ti­misti­cally pinned to my sleeve and swung blindly against the gym-built torso of man af­ter gor­geous man, my heart would seem to be show­ing the in­evitable signs of har­den­ing – much like the sole of a well-trod­den foot. It makes sense, re­ally. How much wear and tear can one hol­low, blood­pump­ing mus­cle take be­fore it hits the de­fen­sive? Surely it’s mere self-preser­va­tion.

I did some re­search and quickly dis­cov­ered that the process by which the sole of a foot hard­ens is called Hyper­k­er­ato­sis. It in­volves the de­vel­op­ment of hard, thick skin due to “con­stant fric­tion and ex­ces­sive pres­sure.” In­deed, it would seem that foot­paths, much like men, take their hid­den tolls on our bod­ies.

The re­sult, of course, is that you’re now able to walk alone and bare­footed to the bot­tle shop on any given Tues­day night with min­i­mal risk of foot-re­lated in­jury. Hyper­k­er­ato­sis, when ap­plied to the heart, how­ever, isn’t quite so glam­orous. It essen­tially means that any poor sucker who takes an in­ter­est in you will need to demon­strate a level of per­sis­tence not seen since Leo DiCaprio’s twodecade Os­cars bid. One night stands, much like the Golden Globes, don’t re­ally count.

In­deed af­ter count­less knocks and slaps, your heart is now pro­tected within a sturdy shell of bro­ken dreams – and it’s con­tent in its safety. It’s a ro­man­tic limbo in which you play God and no­body, no mat­ter how com­pat­i­ble, is al­lowed to touch you.

Al­ter­na­tively, of course, we could sim­ply be deal­ing with a stan­dard case of mus­cle mem­ory – the heart is, af­ter all, as much a mus­cle as a bi­cep or calve. Ac­cord­ing to Wikipedia: “When a move­ment is re­peated over time, a long-term mus­cle mem­ory is cre­ated for that task, even­tu­ally al­low­ing it to be per­formed with­out con­scious ef­fort.”

This is ob­vi­ously a re­as­sur­ing safety net for spo­radic body-builders and yo-yo di­eters, but what does it mean for the per­pet­u­ally mis­for­tu­nate mod­ern-day ro­man­tic? Could the heart grow so fa­mil­iar with the re­peated jab of un­re­quited love that it pre­emp­tively as­sumes pain at the briefest glimpse of re­cip­ro­cated af­fec­tion? Per­haps our hearts are run­ning on au­topi­lot, hell bent on crash­ing into a ball of flames and spi­ral­ing down to Earth as we even­tu­ally lie un­ac­com­pa­nied on our deathbeds.

I think I find it par­tic­u­larly strange be­cause, as gay men, we’re uni­ver­sally rec­og­nized for our metic­u­lous per­sonal hy­giene. When our skin is blotchy, we cleanse, tone, and mois­tur­ize. When a month of easy liv­ing ap­pears on our hips, we re­new our gym mem­ber­ships and sub­scribe to Liz Hur­ley’s wa­ter­cress soup diet. We are un­de­ni­ably ob­sessed with per­sonal main­te­nance, so much so that we for­get to groom our emo­tional selves. If we made a habit of tak­ing reg­u­lar breaks from this gru­el­ing and seem­ingly end­less pur­suit of love, abs, and af­fec­tion, per­haps our hearts would have the nec­es­sary time to re­cu­per­ate for the next lengthy haul.

Be­cause af­ter all, while a bro­ken heart mends over time, a bruised and bat­tered one grows de­fen­sively hard – And with al­co­hol the pu­mice stone, it’ll take that ex­tra stub­born Prince Charm­ing to break through.

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