A Pisces’ Guide to Passion, Limerence, and the Gaymerican Dream, or, À La Folie

“I’m sick and I’m in love.”
“You seem the sort of person who confuses the two.”
“That’s right. That’s the first time you’ve been right. I confuse the two and I don’t care.”

Magnolia (1999)

My walks home from WHITE MUSCLE DADDY rehearsals take two hours. Tonight I stop by a familiar coffee shop on Queen West, one I haven’t been to in eight years, to update my “WMD: Jeremy” watchlist on Letterboxd, a website for movie freaks. I drape my parka over a stool at the front window facing Queen and realize that back in 2016, I vetted a potential hook up and prospective friend here. lol. Ginger, short, and devilishly photogenic, this Disney-Prince-of-a-boy’s attention reminded me of the very thought that chimed through my brain when the scruffy second-year actor kissed me for the first time, a thought that dings anytime anybody’s attracted to me: what a fluke. Beauty and sex appeal, members of the same family twice removed, never invited me over for dinner. Too desperate to play it cool, too earnest to invite myself over, I end most nights walking off my hunger. The importance of being aloof. Those flukes, like all flukes, lingered with me for longer than I care to admit.

Sick and in love, cringing over the weeks I spent pining after that Ginger Prince, I nurse my decaf Americano and add Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 blank-check opus, Magnolia, to the watchlist at #2. My #1 pick? The 1996 filmed production of Sondheim’s final Broadway musical, Passion. Jeremy, the character I play in WHITE MUSCLE DADDY, shares psychological similarities with Passion’s sick and in love Fosca: a melancholic, soggy, hopelessly devoted Italian woman abandoned by 19th century society for the crime of her plainness. Jeremy, a 27-year-old queer Los Angeleno working the graveyard shift at a gym, may as well be Fosca reincarnate.

Jaime wears their hair in a small grey-ish bun. They are wearing a floral button-down shirt with a white collar and a floral jacket on top. At the bottom are music notes around the quote "I don't know how I let you so far inside my mind"
Fosca, Passion (1996)

This gothic romance adapted from Ettore Scola’s 1981 film Passione d’Amore has hypnotized me since mid-2023. The story examines the profound limerence Fosca experiences over Giorgio, a handsome and well-read soldier who doesn’t fit in with the rest of his overtly macho cohorts. I first listened to the musical as a teenager but found all the army subplots too butch. These days, every listen-through inundates me with memories of past flukes. 

For the blessedly uninitiated, limerence is an obsessive, passionate, intrusive fixation on another person, be it romantic, sexual, or otherwise. A constant, intense rumination, it leads people to behave in ways contrary to their own. Limerence appears in countless films, novels, songs, plays, everywhere. You can catch its parasitic influence front and centre in Passion through Fosca, in Magnolia via Quiz Kid Donnie Smith, and, of course, in WHITE MUSCLE DADDY’s Jeremy

The character similarities aren’t the only reason Passion tops my Letterboxd list. While prepping for my Jeremy audition, I recalled what Sondheim said of Donna Murphy, the actress who originated the role of Fosca and, in doing so, won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical. She famously gave what Sondheim hailed as the ‘most impressive’ audition he’d seen. In Look I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics, he wrote:

“…we gave Donna ‘I Read’ to take home and work on. She came back a couple of days later and gave a performance that I would have been glad to have seen on opening night… Actors often talk about the moment when they ‘connect to the part’ – Donna connected to Fosca instantaneously. Months later, I asked her how she understood so much about the character so immediately, and she replied that there had been an incident in her adolescent life which echoed in Fosca, that the minute she met her she recognized her. It showed – for 280 performances.”

Just as I did with Fosca, Quiz Kid Donnie Smith, Diane from Mulholland Drive, Cassie from season two of Euphoria, Don Draper from Mad Men (particularly season 6), Barbara in Notes on a Scandal, Pádraic in The Banshees of Inisherin, hell, even Petra’s Father in Tár, I too recognized Jeremy the minute I met him. All these characters encounter objects of desire (romantic, sexual, otherwise) they cannot stop thinking about to the point of altering their behaviour. I think therefore I am – so – I think of you therefore I’m yours.

Picture limerence as heart shaped cordyceps without the fungus but with all the brain rot. It feeds on any shred of attention and leads zombified infected to accepting dates at comedy clubs or walks through Trinity Bellwoods of all places despite having mountains of sewing to do just so they may get a hit of that sweet limerent-brand dopamine. I often joke that no one desires me until I have no time for desire, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  

Like Passion, I watched Magnolia as a teenager. Magnolia takes place in Los Angeles and charts one coincidental day in the lives of interconnected strangers. While I consumed a lot of film and even more musical theatre in those days, the hours I spent studying America’s Next Top Model eclipsed both mediums combined. Obsessed with beauty, I used the extra pay I got from my movie theatre job working a double shift on the very first family day in 2008 to buy a Sony DSLR. I wanted beautiful self-portraits so I taped my bedsheets to the ceiling and self-timered away. I learned to photoshop by editing my pictures to look like Nigel Barker’s. I only had two photos in my hands, and they were both of me. 

Eventually I showed my mama my efforts and she’d ask why I never took any pictures face on. In truth, it was because I believed my friend Roselle when she told me back in grade four that the reason Madeleine didn’t like me back was because I was ugly. Fair enough. But no matter! Tyra Banks in her infinite wisdom showed me the light: I wasn’t ugly! According to her, ugly could be interesting and high fashion. Oh… Turns out I was something else, then: ordinary, plain, completely unremarkable in every way, perpetually invisible. 

Jaime has messy brown hair and glasses. He wears a white shirt, brown knit tie and a brown blazer. At the bottom of the image, text reads "I'm sick and I'm in love... I confuse the two and I don't care."
Quiz Kid Donnie Smith, Magnolia (1999)

Quiz Kid Donnie Smith, a former niche child celebrity, spends much of Magnolia pining after Brad the bartender, a himbo with braces. Donnie rots at a corner table, admiring Brad in anonymity, going as far as getting braces to impress him despite already having straight teeth. I too spent my early twenties as a ghost wading through gay bars. Navigating those living buffets with chiseled bodies on the menu, I played the role of the sneeze-guard everyone looked past to get to the delicious meat and potatoes. What a dream to be a piece of meat. That’s why when I received the sides for Jeremy, I thought of Donna Murphy recognizing Fosca. 

This isn’t the first time I’ve recognized myself in another character. In grade 12 I adapted Donnie Smith’s arc into a 12-minute monologue for a drama exam and, despite not working that much on it, received such high praise from Ms. Kelk and my classmates, I decided to make acting/writing/filming/Magnolia my career. The praise wasn’t because my acting was particularly good, but because I connected with Donnie Smith the moment I met him. That performance was the most myself I had been in a class where I was determined to be anyone but me. A real actress. 

At 17 I identified with Donnie because I also needed braces. Turns out it was the deep pining I recognized; that intense longing for someone who could change my life for me, change me for me, Brad the bartender. In both our insecure cases, being loved by someone unattainably beautiful was irrefutable proof that we, too, must have something special within us. We’re part of the club: look at our Brad! Please let us in. 

“I don’t know how I let you so far inside my mind
But there you are and there you will stay
How could I ever wish you away?”

Passion (1996)

Though the narratives of Fosca, Donnie, and Jeremy all revolve around their relationship with their own (supposed lack of) beauty, that doesn’t explain why Don Draper should ever experience it. Or even Cassie from Euphoria, Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley. Good to know that despite being totally possessive, intrusive, and mind altering, limerence isn’t shallow. No, the common thread between every one of these characters is the yearning for something they didn’t know they were missing until they were shown it by, in, or through someone else. The unattainable alternate dimension right in front of them and the melancholic rancour of it forever slipping out of reach.

Jaime wears a white shirt, black tie, grey blazer, and black overcoat. He leans against a wall with his eyes closed. At the bottom of the image text bracketed by music notes reads "I must think of a way into your heart"
Don Draper, Mad Men S6E8: The Crash (2013)

My fingers grazed an alternate dimension last year but still I can recall the hazy late-night conversations I had in a so-and-so’s bed. Tangled up in his arms, through anecdotes of past accomplishments shared between kisses, I rediscovered why I moved to the city in the first place. I remember his eyelashes tickling my collarbone. He made me feel so real. Uh oh, it’s happening again. My heart flips, my brain wonders if they’ve messaged me, my dimension-stained fingers automatically type their handle into the search bar even though I wanted to look up something else. What was I looking for? We haven’t spoken in months and still I’m transfixed. Just a little longer, dude. In a year none of this will matter: they’ll be just another person and you’ll be brand new. Until then… What a fluke. 

Going back through my objects of desire, back to scruffy actor or Ginger Prince or my first love or the cute barista with a nose bump who’s currently closing up the cafe (focus, Jaime), I understand that those passionate ruminations began whenever I’ve felt less than myself, out of control, shrivelled up. The calls always came from inside the house, but there’s a power in answering unknown numbers. Limerence led me to learning guitar, writing an anthology, and lifting 25lb weights! Aka hobbies. It led to me reading the words written by Raf Antonio and recognizing myself in them. Not to say I’ll be following in Murphy’s footsteps to win the Tony for Best Actress – being in Toronto makes me ineligible –  but I will think of this latest so-and-so as I deliver my lines, less and less with every show. 

How strange—knowing that attraction isn’t owed, desire isn’t unrenewable, perceptions of beauty are skewed by whiteness, and everyone on TV has had work done—and still forgetting these truths the moment someone beautiful looks twice at me. Not long ago, I would’ve traded everything to be desired by those I yearned for, constantly collecting the affections of anyone who showed interest in me to make due. Catch me on the wrong day in an alley with the devil and who knows. Is limerence ingrained in the queer human experience? Perpetually longing in our youth due to societal constraints, desiring the ‘forbidden’, forever an other – there’s something there. Maybe the world’s changed and it’s different now. Maybe it’s why pining after straight people remains such a reality/trope? Maybe it’s cuz I’m a Pisces. It’s cuz I’m a Pisces.

By the way, my evening with Prince Ginger passed by like any other: we walked to the apartment he shared with his husband, but before we gave into the will-we-won’t-we tension he taught me a new acronym. 

“The last boy I had in here? Literally a model. We jumped right into my bed but as soon as I took his shirt off, I realized. BMW.”


“Body made wrong.”

Jaime wears his blonde hair tied up in a high bun. He is wearing a tan shirt and a black leather jacket.

Horrified, I feigned a work emergency and walked my hunger off all the way home. The importance of being aloof. The next morning, I couldn’t stop obsessing over if he would’ve thought the same thing about my body. I couldn’t believe someone could be so degrading of another person. I don’t even go swimming to avoid being shirtless, thank fuck I didn’t undress with him. I would’ve died if he thought that about me. Would he have, though? I could’ve given him a chance. Am I made wrong? If you have to ask… 

Then my phone vibrated: “Good morning! Hope you got home alright cutie. Plans today?” I ignored the text for a record breaking 2 minutes before responding, apologizing for rushing home. We flirted all throughout my shift at Sephora (how would there be a work emergency at Sephora? Not my best work) before making plans we never honoured. Nothing more ever came from that dalliance except that I started eating a little less and exercising a bit more all for the worst reason. A la folie. Eventually he too became a so-and-so I forgot existed until I stepped foot into this coffee shop to write about my WHITE MUSCLE DADDY inspired Letterboxd list, which you can access here: https://boxd.it/tlLwC

By the way, Donna Murphy? As suspected, she’s a Pisces just like me. Hell hath no misery like a Pisces yearning.

Jaime Lujan

Jaime Lujan (High-meh Loo-han): a first generation Canadian actor, writer, and costume designer. Jaime has appeared on CBC’s Queens, Lifetime’s The Christmas Set-Up, OutTV’s Call Me Mother, and is the co-host, mentor, and judge on OutTV’s original design competition series, Sew Fierce. Jaime studied theatre and drama studies at the University of Toronto and Sheridan College, and has been creating renegade theatre in bars, bathhouses, and ballrooms across so called Toronto since 2018. He most recently appeared in Theatre Aquarius’ production of The Gig, directed by Morris Panych. Catch the second season of Sew Fierce premiering later this year! Ig: @jaimeintheradiator

Read all posts by Jaime Lujan

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