When junior Henry Kartsonis came out as gay to his mother at the age of 13, she fell to her knees.
She raised her palms to the sky, praising the Lord above for blessing her with a gay son. While this was the first time it was verbalized, they both knew in their hearts since Henry was young enough to pick out his own outfits. As Kartsonis entered his teenage years, as well into the world of dating, his mother’s love was the first to encourage him to embrace his sexual identity.
The concept of love has always played a key factor in Kartsonis’s life. The love between his two best friends, juniors Patrick Barnickel and Joey Albano, perseveres him through tough breakups. His own self love allows him to freely express his flamboyant personality and fashion sense. And the love within the East community kept his head held high amongst the signs that read “God Hates Fags” during the Westboro Baptist Church protest.
“And I’ve been in love twice,” Kartsonis said as his freshly manicured, white acrylic nails nervously tapped the table.
His first romantic relationship at the age of 14 lasted for three months. When they broke up, Albano gave him the best relationship advice he’s ever received.
“He told me to ‘go home, curl up in bed with a box of chocolates, turn on a rom-com and fall asleep,” Katsonis said. “‘When you wake up the next morning, the outlook you have will determine how you will feel for the rest of the breakup.’”
But like any first heartbreak, emotional pain took over. His first loss of love was so severe, he lacked the energy to find direction in his own life, and the pain in his chest caused his lungs to shut down from the stress, landing him in the emergency room.
“Love almost killed me once,” Kartsonis said with a laugh. “But I’m still here, fabulous as ever!”
He wouldn’t find out the reason he lost his first love until he met Reis. After being introduced through a mutual friend at a football game in Sept., they instantly clicked. After exchanging Snapchats that night, within a week Reis invited him to a barbeque. Their first date consisted of talking and laughing for hours, with no room for awkward silences or forced conversations.
“I finally felt like I could be myself around someone,” Kartsonis said. “It’s not that I can’t be myself [at East] or I can’t be myself around my friends, but it just felt different. It felt like love.”
They became the epitome of the cliche “opposites attract.” Kartsonis describes himself as a “gay-gay” while he describes Reis as a “straight-gay.” As Kartsonis would scroll through Instagram checking out the new Dior foundation, Reis talked through the headset of his Xbox. Kartsonis would try on dresses and five-inch heels, while Reis would sit back and laugh at how ridiculous he looked.
The night before second semester began, Kartsonis remembers falling asleep at exactly 9:59 p.m. and waking up at 5:00 a.m. to a Snapchat text from Reis sent the previous night, explaining how he was “too busy” to be in a relationship. Kartsonis stared at his phone screen as his fingers hovered over his keyboard. Did he seriously just break up with me over Snapchat? Who does he think is? “Too busy?” What does that even mean?
Kartsonis’s mind raced.
After reaching out to Reis in person, the answers to their sudden split became evident. It was the differences that attracted them in the beginning that ultimately became the ones that drove them apart. As Reis continued on his culinary path at the Broadmoor Bistro, Kartsonis continued developing his love for fashion. As their paths diverted, so did their relationship.
“Three weeks is a long time to spend on your own after being with someone for four months,” Kartsonis voice shook. “And I would stop talking to him altogether, but I literally just want my favorite white denim shorts back! Like if he doesn’t give them back I will text his mother.”
As much as Kartsonis wants to curl up in a ball and watch “Sleepless in Seattle,” he knows he can’t let his heartache take over like it did in the past. He knows the only way to get over it is to go through it – this time, with a positive outlook.
So instead, he drives to Savers to model used dresses with Albano, and flaunts cute selfies on his Snapchat story. To him, staying busy in his own life is the only way to keep his mind off of the pain of losing Reis.
According to Kartsonis, every day gets a little bit easier for him, and he truly believes that if their love was real, it will find its way back to them. But for now, he is perfectly okay just being in love with himself.
“Once I told him I was going to put on a pink tutu and a shirt that read ‘I’m gay and I love it’ to a LGBTQ+ pride march this summer and he told me I would look stupid,” Kartsonis said. “Now, I’m for sure going to do it – who cares what he thinks!”
And for anyone going through a breakup, he truly believes that on the days when it seems impossible, chocolate can, and will, solve everything.