Connor Garel is a writer and cultural critic based in Toronto, whose work has appeared in Vice, Canadian Art, BuzzFeed, Vanity Fair and FASHION Magazine, among others. A version of this story first appeared on The Eyeopener, and was the recipient of Xtra Award for Diversity Reporting, sponsored by Xtra.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” my grandmother asks, her voice folding into a lofty, menacing cadence.
It was a question I’d grown far too acquainted with, one jammed and bulging with all the familiar violence of optimism and strenuous anticipation. Most often, I’d feel it materialize in locker rooms and over school lunches and at family dinners, splitting the air so sharply I always feared it might draw blood and expose something hidden.
I learned to disarm this sort of question quite naturally — or at least I thought. Offer some vague answer. Conjure a lame or jaded excuse, for instance, about how morally reproachable it was to be so preoccupied with love “at this age.” Mention a tragic love story. My preferred answer, of course, at least as I remember it, was the practiced “I’m just so busy with school and sports” manoeuvre, which, comically and unfailingly, redirected any conversation into some contrived celebration of my athletic merit.
I stuttered out of the question. Of course, by this time my grandmother had already met my boyfriend, only she hadn’t understood the nature of our relationship. To her, he might have been a friend — albeit a pretty one — who shuttled in and out of my home frequently and occasionally chatted her up about the weather (it was cold), or her hair (it looked nice), or the weekend (it was finally here). I imagine she might have enjoyed his presence much more than she enjoyed mine. Read more via Xtra