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The Democratic Frontrunners Cast as my Exboyfriends

I’m writing a book about boyfriends. In that book, I’m interested in boyfriends in the most capacious sense possible: boys — be they real-life-living human, literary, cultural, textual, ideological, etc. — who draw us in and hold our obsession, for an instant or a lifetime. In this way, boyfriends are both a matter of fantasy and reality.

And of course I’m writing this book during a g-d presidential primary, a circus where we’re invited to court various Democratic contenders as if they were lovers. So let me join the fray. Let me think of these candidates as boyfriends, regardless of their gender. Let me think of these possible nominees as boyfriends that litter my past.

Bernie Sanders is that guy I tried to date in graduate school. Bisexual, always wearing a Žižek t-shirt and ranting angrily with a smile across his face. Not a bad guy, but I was never radical enough for him.

For Cory Booker, I converted to veganism and maxed out my credit card on an unlimited Soul Cycle membership. We broke up when he told me I should smile more.

I regret most of my first year of college. Amy Klobuchar and I met during freshman year at a College Republicans meeting. She was writing a paper on Ayn Rand for her composition class and I tried to tell her the professor probably wouldn’t like it and then she yelled at me about standing up for what I believe in. Okay, I don’t regret making out with her in a janitorial closet in the biological sciences building, but I do regret having been a College Republican once.

Then sophomore year I thought a sugar daddy might be nice. Hey, I was a broke college kid! Joe Biden and I ate lots of cheese coneys at Sonic Drive-In while he told me stories that didn’t really make sense. Last I heard he was consulting for a credit card company somewhere in the Caribbean.

Tom Steyer was this airline employee I dated for eight months (seven months too long) solely so I could use his flight benefits.

Kamala Harris was in law school while I was getting my MFA. Mostly, we studied together, and she would talk to me in this voice that was at once condescending and comforting. Then she’d show up at our MFA parties and be like, “hey, pass me that joint, I’m a cool boyfriend!” It was a very confusing time for me.

Andrew Yang and I hooked up once at a rave, the only rave I ever attended. It was fine, I guess, but he messages me all the time on Facebook now trying to get me to join his multi-level marketing company.

Oh Pete Buttigieg. He was nice. Like, really nice. And my mom adored him. When he came home with me for Thanksgiving, he brought his guitar and played Johnny Cash for my parents on the back deck. That night I tried to get him to, you know, do it with me in my old bedroom but he would only give me a peck on the cheek as he buttoned up his flannel pajamas. A month later I cheated on him with Beto O’Rourke, who I saw at an open mic playing a punk cover of “Wagon Wheel.”

You know that movie My Best Friend’s Wedding? Where Julia Roberts doesn’t realize she’s in love with her best friend Dermot Mulroney until it’s too late? They probably would have, and should have, gotten together but the timing was always off? Well I’m Julia Roberts and Elizabeth Warren is my Dermot Mulroney.

D. Gilson latest books are Avidly Reads Boyfriends (forthcoming from NYU Press) and Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton (Bloomsbury, 2018). His work ahs appeared in Threepenny Review, POETRY, and The Rumpus. Find him at dgilson.com.

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