Things I’ve Learned In The Two And A Half Weeks Since The Breakup:
–I like sleeping in the middle of the bed, rather than clinging to one sliver of the end like I’m Bishop at the end of Juice.
–I never remember what day it is, or date.
–I am not a neat freak. But I do like me some order.
–My hair is kinda out of control. I like it this way. But when I go out to the grocery store or take a walk, people stare at me. A lot. Maybe they stared before, too. But now, the world seems smaller, somehow.
–Every single person I see out and about is holding hands with somebody.
–Time & distance make breakups easier.
–Facebook does not.
–After a breakup, you meet the you that you became in the relationship. You never know what bits from the relationship stick with you (I’m sticking with the wheat pasta) and what bits you’re surprised to learn must be discarded, because, oddly, they hurt. I can’t watch I Love Lucy anymore. Ditto the contestant interviews on Jeopardy!
–When you create a relationship with someone, it’s like a figurative child. When a child dies, it’s not like the pain ends with the death. You still have all these practical, everyday matters to attend to: paperwork, arranging the wake/funeral, contacting people to alert & invite them, the mortician, the legal ends of things, etc. When a relationship ends, the death of the emotional relationship may be the first thing to deteriorate, but there are always more details to attend to. These details will trip up emotions you thought you’d already packed up and put away.
–I don’t think I will ever date anyone with kids again. It’s hard enough to breakup with a lover/partner. It’s much worse to have formed a paternal relationship with a child, to love that child and be loved by them, and then to have the plug pulled on that love…and to know it hurts the child, and to know after two years of hard-wiring to want to protect the child from any hurt and do whatever it takes to make them happy again, you now have to sever that instinct.
–Friends are numerators. Capital-R Relationships are denominators. Even if the former changes, the heavy seismic shifts come when the latter does. You may know someone for years, but until you’ve been through a breakup, you don’t really know what that someone is like until you’re hurting.
In honor of this, I present The 10 Types Of People You Meet After A Breakup:
—The Woodworks (as in “come crawling out of”)
These are people you never really talk to or never really hear from who, once news of the breakup is out, reach out to you almost instantaneously. They are identifiable by their inability to pose as sincerely interested in your well-being beyond one or two cursory questions before launching into the gossipy pursuit of any and all details you’ve been keeping to yourself. Woodworks never reach out to you and never respond when you reach out to them , but now that you’re raw and wounded they really really REALLY want to know how you’re doing. Confirming their myopic selfishness, they also can’t resist asking how your ex is doing.
A) Like you’d fucking know how your ex is doing.
B) Like they can’t contact your ex, who they’re also “friends” with.
These people remind you just how loved you always were/are…not as a boyfriend/girlfriend. Not as a stepparent. They love you just for being you, a welcome reminder that even though you’ve been rejected, you’re worthwhile. Flashbacks are a lifeline and a reminder that you are greater than the sum of your feelings.
—The Anti-Chicken Littles
These people so OBVIOUSLY go out of their way to talk to you about anything but the breakup that not talking about it becomes way the hell more conspicuous than what they are talking about. Still, I appreciate A-CLs. They’re like Stalinist 5-year plan versions of the Flashbacks—brutal, but well-intentioned, and if you just focus on the ends and not the means, they’re on the side of the angels.
For all the crap France gets for falling to the Nazis in WWII (‘cuz, you know, it’s not like any other countries fell to the Nazis), Italy somehow gets a free pass despite switching sides in WWI and being the 2nd major player to be conquered in WWII, after France. Post-breakup, Italys are ostensible friends/allies of your ex who reach out to let you know they hope to remain friends with you, too. Italys make the world seem a bigger place. Nothing makes me happier than the world seeming bigger. Grazie, Italys.
These well-meaning people are chock full of advice on what you should do to feel better. Often, this advice centers on one part of you: either the physical/material self, or the emotional/spiritual self. Hippocrats focus on treating symptoms of the self. They’re like Theraflu: very helpful. But there is no cure.
Kabbalistic belief holds there are, at all times, 36 people on Earth who are righteous souls. They keep humanity in balance. If at any point, one of these people dies, someone somewhere assumes the role. Post-breakup Tziddakim are those people who’ve suffered waaaay worse loss than you have, but God bless them, they don’t make you feel lesser for your suffering. They share the wisdom of their experiences, their perspectives, and their understanding. They remind you that you are, ultimately, a symptom of yourself, and a symptom of something much larger than you. They don’t make the world seem bigger. They confirm it beyond any shadow of a doubt.
Switzerlands treat your breakup as an opportunity to showcase how evolved and benevolently neutral they can be. They offer heartfelt, eloquent expressions of sympathy, the exact same heartfelt, eloquent expressions of sympathy you know they’re offering the person who broke up with you. Switzerlands go out of their way to let you and the rest of the world know how much they love (BOTH OF) you, and how hard this must be for (BOTH OF) you, and please know they’re totally there for (BOTH OF) you. Switzerlands rub you the wrong-way after a breakup, because one of the hardest transitions as someone who is newly- or involuntarily-single is learning to embrace focusing on yourself and not care about the person you’ve spent years prioritizing. The fact that Switzerlands care about you and your ex equally isn’t objectionable. The fact that they address newly/involuntarily single you as if you’re still part of a coupling is.
—The Devil On Your Shoulder
These people rip your ex to make you feel better. It is important to make a distinction here: everybody needs a devil on their shoulder at some point. When you date someone, you tend to aggrandize their strengths and minimize/ignore their flaws. It takes awhile to break free of those lenses. One catalyst that aids the process is friends pointing out those things about your ex that you didn’t/wouldn’t admit while you were together. You know when you’ve reached the point where you’re receptive to this. But as is the case with relationships, pressure cookers, and tightrope walking, timing is everything. Some Devils On Your Shoulder rip your ex, like, the very first day of the breakup.
Helpful? Not necessarily.
Sometimes, Devils On Your Shoulder turn out to be:
“You’re single? Sorry to hear that. Wanna fuck?”
One day. Not today.
—My friend Jenn
I’ve known Jenn for 21 years now. We met in 9th grade Spanish. I sat behind her making jokes and smart-ass comments for weeks. Maybe months. She threatened me with her nails. We bonded the day I wrote on the board that my favorite actress was Cady McClain, who played Dixie on All My Children.
Jenn’s the kind of person who almost everyone who knows her will say “She’s my best friend,” and they mean it, and they’re right. But it’s time those people learned the truth: really, she’s my best friend. If I ever get married, I’m sticking her in a tux and making her my best man. Jenn has been there from my first heartbreak all the way through this one. She’s seen me at my best and my worst.
My first instinct when I’m hurt is to cut off from the world. When you’re in love, your worldview expands; when it ends, you’re forced to narrow the scope of your vision just as you’d adjusted to its expansion. The soul reels from the change. You aren’t in a position to know what you need and you feel a loss of control, so you compensate by fixating on what you want. You childishly insist upon it, because you’ve been hurt, damnit, and you’re not gonna let anyone else hurt you. You want to lose yourself, because if you lose yourself, no one can find you. No can hurt you. Jenn doesn’t let me lose myself. I hope anyone reading this has a My Friend Jenn in your life, too.