As I'm sure whoever reads this already knows, my name is Graham Breitenstein and I am currently dancing on Lady Gaga's "Joanne World Tour." I'm a 31 year old man, a lover since birth, a nomad since I left home at 17, a club kid since 15, a touring dancer since 23, a forever fashion enthusiast, and while I am an introvert, I think it's finally time to expand my own horizons, to step outside myself, and reach outwards rather than inwards. Hence, this blog. Finding the willingness to share my internal dialogue has already been a major step in my growth process; writing out and sharing my deepest feelings and experiences around love, passion, and style has oddly proven to be therapeutic. I hope to invoke progress, not just in myself, but in others as well. Over the years there have been countless lessons, epiphanies, questions, understandings, love gained, love lost, friends gained and lost, and I now feel this great need to share them all in the name of growth. I'm talking relationships, my philosophy around style, what I value, the fact that my dreams continue to change and evolve, and even some game changing ways to pack a suitcase. Sometimes we'll talk love, sometimes we'll talk style, and sometimes we'll talk about both because they are actually intricately connected in all of us. So, as I sit here in the Storyville Coffee Company in Seattle, Washington drinking my first iced latte in 2 and a half weeks, I invite you to join me as I pack my bags, unload some "baggage," and embark on a rite of passage through love, style, and touring.
Touring presents a myriad of challenges, not the least of which is maintaining relationships: your true friends will always be there no matter how long you're gone or however long it is between catch-ups, but what do you do about a relationship you were just starting to build? Do you commit or does the amount of unknown factors that come with touring overwhelm you, or your partner, to the point of walking away? Personally, I've been both the person leaving and the person who stays behind, and I'll tell you something, neither position is easy, especially for an over-thinker like me. To be upfront, I am more than willing to commit to someone long distance, but in order for it to work, for me at least, my effort must be equally reciprocated and communication must be airtight. With that said, it is at this point in this introduction that the hypotheticals end and the real begins. So, without further ado, let's discuss this messy, tricky thing we call love.
Entry 1: "MPD"
In my headphones: Sabrina Claudio "Runnin' Thru Lovers"
My current reality with love is in limbo. Months before this tour began, I met someone who wasn't like anyone I've ever dated. Out of respect for him and his privacy, we'll just call him "MPD." MPD and I had actually known each other for 5 years thanks to social media, but we hadn't actually met until this year, shortly after The Super Bowl performance. The funny thing about MPD is that I knew simply from looking at his pictures and the captions below them that we would click, and after years of flaking and countless unanswered calls and texts, we happened to be at the same bar one West Hollywood night and the second our eyes met, after we both did a double take, CLICK. He was magnetic, charismatic, and, my God, handsome as hell. It would be several weeks before we'd see each other again, but after an on-the-fly meeting at his apartment one hot, San Fernando Valley afternoon, I knew we were goners.
MPD had those qualities that were always missing in my other "relationSHITS:" he was adventurous, spontaneous, and had the ability to make you feel like you were the most important person in the world. He was complimentary, supportive, the best cheerleader to have on your team, and so. damn. inspiring. He was creative, talented beyond his own comprehension, and his potential remains limitless. He's a designer, a damn good one too, and every last design he shared with me left me awe struck and motivated to continue down my own creative path. He made me feel like I could do anything because he believed in me that much. I can honestly say, without a doubt, that I've never had someone in my corner the way he was and I made it a point to never take him for granted.
We're all runnin' thru lovers
From one to the other
But I can't control how much a touch affects me
The 3+ months leading up to the present weren't all rainbows and butterflies, but they were pretty damn close. Even when I was out of town for 3 weeks, we spoke every single day, we Facetime'd, we sent texts, pictures, he even talked me through all my anxieties when I was working with Old Forester during the Kentucky Derby. He was in my corner and I was in his and it was the best feeling in the world. We attended music festivals together, we talked about collaborating on creative projects, we spent countless nights making dinner together, praised each other for the work we've done, inspired each other to do the work we were going to do, set red wine goals in the jacuzzi, and made high on love promises that made me excited for the future. I can't even write it all out without remembering what it felt like to have him by my side. But, as in any relationship, committed or not, challenges presented themselves. At first, we moved through them with ease. Then, the first REAL challenge: he was moving to Boston for work, probably for a year, potentially longer, and then soon after that: I was going on tour for the rest of the year. With both of our job offers on the table, it was the first time I ever worried about our future together.
Cuz I can't recover from every new lover
While people move on so fast, don't understand
For better or for worse, I mentally prepared for MPD to check out. I believed, because both of us were making lifestyle changes due to work, that he wouldn't choose me, that his relocation and my traveling would be the end of what we started. This mindset is just an unfortunate result of being in this type of situation before and it never ending well. I didn't want that fate, especially not with him, but I began to mentally prepare for it. Well, I made an ass out of myself. MPD and I continued seeing each other, we had phenomenal conversations about how lucky we both were to have each other, and even when his flaky, Gemini tendencies reared their ugly head, in no time, he'd have me feeling like it was day 1 all over again. That, I'm sure of it, was his superpower.
MPD's last week in LA, leading up to his move to Boston, was really tough for me, and I know it was for him too. He didn't want to go to Boston, tour rehearsals had already started, he had slowly become distant, I was always tired, and I became more and more anxious about the state of our relationship. Would we leave it as it is? Or would we solidify it and commit to one another even though we were both transitioning out of LA? To be fair, MPD told me he wasn't ready for a committed relationship about 4/5 weeks into us seeing each other. He had a bad breakup in December 2016 that he was still recovering from, but had no interest in going back to. He had given himself a year to be single so he could "get his mind right." I understood where he was coming from, had nothing but faith in our bond, and his honesty made me respect him that much more. That being said, the more time we spent together, the more laughs we shared, the more those coconut oiled-up hands touched mine, my feelings for him grew. The crazy thing is, for the first time in 12 years of dating as an adult, those feelings felt reciprocated. And, for the first time, I knew they were.
How you love someone today, but not tomorrow
How you pull somebody close then turn away
By now you might be wondering, what the hell happened? I am, too, to be completely honest, but the story goes like this: 2 nights before MPD left for Boston I hit him with an "it's all or nothing" ultimatum that I, to this day, regret. The only reason I did it was because I was scared of losing him and that day 1 feeling that, for nearly 2.5 months at that time, had never gone away. I acted out of fear and as we went back and forth (I was being dramatic as fuck) I broke down and cried. Now listen, crying is not something I do, especially not in front of anyone, but everything was different with MPD. It was when he pulled me close, and I rested my head on his shoulder, that I realized I was being an idiot. He could've easily walked out of my 345 square foot apartment, in fact I told him to, but he didn't. Instead, he stayed, sat on the corner of my mattress on the floor, looked at me with wet eyes, and asked, "why can't we take the off-road course to get where we wanna go?" It's like he always knew what to say. I think the answer to that question is that I don't feel like I have control off the beaten path. I am so down for the ride, but I hate not knowing what to expect especially when my heart is on the line. That probably has something to do with my innumerable experiences with shit men over the years...but I digress!
The night of "all or nothing," MPD stayed with me and that next morning it was time to go back to his apartment, box up his shit, and pack his bags for Boston. It was a Saturday, I had rehearsal that day but I still helped him pack up everything before and after work. Before we began, we ate breakfast together and he told me that maybe by the time the tour was over he'd be more sure of his life direction, and we could solidify "us" and get a place together. His words were the symphony I'd never heard but always dreamed of; no one had ever said something like that to me before. We were up until 4/5 AM that night and, by that point, we were both out of our minds delirious. About an hour and a half of sleep later, we loaded up my Jeep and were en route to LAX. I'll never forget those airport kisses. I fought back the tears, he didn't need to see me cry again, but it was when he rolled away, stopped, and turned around to blow me one last kiss that Niagara Falls poured onto my face and flooded down my neck. It's hard to believe I even made it back home in one piece because I could hardly see through the waterfall. Honestly, you would've thought somebody died. It was totally ridiculous, but hey, I can admittedly be one big ball of emotional insanity at times like these.
Can't go on runnin' thru lovers
Can't go on runnin' thru runnin' thru
Can't go on runnin' thru lovers
Can't go on, I can't go on
The first couple weeks of Boston + tour rehearsals were pretty smooth. I was rehearsing every day, slowly boxing up my apartment and preparing to move my things into storage, but throughout everything we continued to text, send each other pictures, talk on the phone, and it felt like everything was as it had been. My stress level was MAXIMUM but every little supportive message and note of encouragement from MPD assured me I would get everything done and all would be okay. One day he told me he had exciting news that he wanted to share with me, but he wanted to do it over the phone not text. Something that small and simple made me feel like I was still special in his eyes. However, four days went by and, even though we'd been texting, I still hadn't heard the news (totally opposite schedules + time difference = not always easy to talk) so on the 5th day I called him, but he didn't answer. Soon after I hung up, he sent a text reading "Babe I'll call you once I'm off. How's the move going? I wish I was there to help you." I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. I needed to hear that. About four hours later, I still hadn't heard from him so when we got our lunch break, I tried calling once more but, again, no answer. I never did get a return phone call, and then, the very next day, I see what I can only assume to be the "exciting news" posted on his Instagram. Cue: gut punch.
Truth is, I don't know why MPD spent a week telling me that he wanted to share his news with me, but never made the effort to actually call me, only to turn around and post it for all his followers to see. It's not like I didn't make an effort to hear the news, we texted about it every day since he first told me and I genuinely was excited to hear what was going on in his life. To add insult to injury, he was extremely active on Instagram that entire weekend, just another thing that was out of character for him. The moment I saw his posts, flashbacks starring some of my less-than-par exes played in my mind, old familiar feelings of insecurity, disrespect, and neglect consumed me. He wasn't like them, so why the behavior switch? Maybe I should have confronted him then, but my all-too-sensitive pride wouldn't let me. I was already putting on my coat of armor, a fairly new garment I've added to my relationship wardrobe in recent years. I wanted to see if he would acknowledge me, recognize that he just built me up for a week only to knock me down to the ground, and explain himself. I never got what I was hoping for; instead, I felt incredibly alone and neglected during my last four days in LA, moving into storage on my own, looking for the same support I worked so hard to give him during his move. I was angry and hurt, but more than anything, I felt his absence all over and throughout and I just wanted my friend back. Two and a half weeks would pass before I would hear from MPD again. Perhaps I needed a phone call rather than a text, an explanation of why he did that to me or at least why so much time had passed, but I didn't get any of that. I told him to delete my number and have a nice life. It was the only thing I ever told him that I didn't mean.
I can't help but wonder
How love is uncovered
When people move on so fast, don't understand
I can say now that the only reason I sent such an abrasive response to him was because 1) we were in 20 hour rehearsals and I was beyond exhausted and 2) I listened to my friends, who only wanted to protect me, and responded how they wanted me to respond. There was a tiny whisper in the back of my mind telling myself not to answer him until I felt like a normal human being again, but impatience got the best of me, as did my anger, and I sent a reply that wasn't genuine to my truth. Days later, I apologized for my response, but to no reply. Several days after that, I tried calling, but no answer. It's like the person on the other side of the phone no longer exists.
Don't wanna be somebody's in-between
Cuz I can't go on being in love until you wanna leave
So what's the lesson in all of this? I feel like, at this point, I've done all I can do to try and move forward. I wanted to find common ground, but that takes two and I've learned that if someone wants to walk out of your life, no matter how much it hurts to watch them go, LET. THEM. GO. That is their choice, their path, and to beg them to stay only discounts your worth as an individual. I know my worth enough to know that what MPD walked away from, someone else will sign up for in a heartbeat. What I lacked in confidence about our relationship, I make up for in confidence in myself. In this millennial era, I know that I am unique and have more to offer in a partnership than most. I may not ever know why MPD disappeared without a trace, but writing this blog has helped me come to peace with it. I no longer need closure from him because it's come from within myself. Because of him, I know that I'm not interested in investing my time, energy, affection, and love into someone who finds it so easy to walk away. I've also learned that people might mean what they say in the moment, but it's only true in that moment, their words are not necessarily longstanding. Disclaimer: nothing I say here is meant to vilify MPD, I still believe that he is a good man and I don't believe that anyone can fabricate the kinds of feelings we had for each other. He is not wrong for walking away. Could he have handled it better? Absolutely. Could I have done some things differently? Without a doubt. That's the thing about relationships, we have to be able to own up to our own shit as much as we might want to blame it all on the other person. On the other side of responsibility, lies solidarity.
So, while I may be a little heavy with self-protection at the moment, I am still working towards finding balance on love's fine line. I'm back to the gypsy life, enjoying every second of performing for the world and spending time with great friends, but I'd be lying if I said MPD doesn't swim through my brainwaves from time to time. The memories we created together have left an imprint on my heart, and I'm grateful for each one of them. He has raised the bar for the next one, whenever he may come along. For now, this is a period of releasing "baggage": mental, emotional, physical, and I'm starting here with this blog. Change is never easy, but I'm striving for progress, not perfection. Till next time...
I wanted you to find me
When the night started to fill the room
But you don't understand me
And neither does the moon