My boyfriend Brandon and I have been together for three years. He’s my everything. The only problem is our lack of communication. I will listen for hours while he complains about deadlines at work or how much The Bears suck this season, but he refuses to acknowledge any of my thoughts or feelings or the fact that I am a human being with a rich internal life. So I proposed a compromise. I’d stop buying those $16 smoothie bowls and he would legally register as an emotional support animal.

The process couldn’t have been easier. I filled out a form online describing my desperate need for emotional support, paid $34.95, and a week later I received an official certificate in the mail. Brandon must now provide me with affection and companionship under penalty of Federal prosecution.

Making big changes in a relationship requires getting used to new routines. Before his registration, I would come home after a stressful day at the office and find Brandon playing Fortnite, unwilling to listen to me vent. After his registration, I come home from a stressful day at the office and find Brandon playing Fortnite. But now I point to the certificate from Dr. Michael Berman hanging on the wall and Brandon hauls himself up from the couch, puts on his little orange vest, and is legally obligated to listen.

Last Sunday at brunch, all my girlfriends noticed how much happier I was and how many fewer bottomless mimosas I wept into. After I told them about Brandon, they all wanted to know how to get their male partners signed up too. My single friend Rachel said that a human adult should be capable of empathy without a binding letter from a mental health professional. I said with high standards like that, she’ll stay single!

Even Brandon’s mom says he’s a new man. He used to put her on speakerphone every time she called so he could keep watching baseball, periodically grunting as she spoke. Now when she calls, I strap on his anti-distraction opaque neck cone and he asks thoughtful questions about Aunt Myrtle’s thyroid procedure.

Last night, while Brandon listened to me talk about getting not-all-menned at work, I realized I hadn’t asked what he thought about our compromise. So I took Brandon’s orange vest off of him, put it on myself, and listened. I asked Brandon if he had a new understanding of me as a person, of our relationship, or his role as a man in the world as a result of his new state-mandated empathy. Before I could finish the question, he had slumped back on the couch and put on an episode of Ballers. I sighed, strapped him in his plastic vest, and told him about this weird thing Melanie said.

Now that Brandon listens to me, I can see a future with him, especially if I get him registered a few more times. There would be no more wondering if he’s really hanging with the guys after work if I registered him as a motor vehicle and tracked him with OnStar. He wouldn’t be allowed to change his appearance and grow that stupid goatee again if I got him on the National Register of Historic Places. And most crucially, Hannah who keeps texting him at 3 am couldn’t take him away from me if I registered Brandon as a firearm.

It’s a lot of work (and paperwork) to make my partner do the bare minimum, but that’s what heterosexual relationships require. I love my boyfriend and according to a court order from Judge Thorson Nyhart, he loves me too!

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