In Stephen King’s “The Eyes of the Dragon,” Peter, heir to the kingdom of Delain, describes the end of childhood not as a conscious decision to one day put your toys away and move on, but more like looking back and realizing you haven’t thought about your toys in a while.
Nachtraglichkeit is the Freudian term for being aware of a state of existence only after that state has already been occupied, a retroactive awareness. When Neo in the first Matrix film realizes he’s been living in a prison, his existence within the prison precedes his awareness of that fact.
Today, I quit OK Cupid.
My breakup four months ago was my first social media-age breakup. Social media is not an insignificant complication. When the breakup first occurred, I followed the hard-earned lessons of earlier breakups. Cut off contact. Embrace time apart. Embrace distance. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. But like castor oil, leeches, and Yaz, the old remedies are often “old” for a reason. They don’t cut it anymore.
For a while, I was still “friends” with my ex on Facebook; we could still Gchat if we so chose. Even though I was 450 miles away, the distance was effectively non-existent. We had enough friends in common that people couldn’t help talking to me about my ex (in some nefarious cases, some people enjoyed doing so).
In fact, for the record–because I can’t believe it still comes up–I don’t know if my ex is dating someone new. I don’t care. I don’t want to care. I don’t want to know.
I met a couple of cool girls on OK Cupid. For the most part, though, it sucked. And I say that as a man who’s aware that compared to the objectifying grotesquerie that seems to be the female of the species experience with dating sites, mine was nowhere near as creepily cringe-inducing. I may as well have been this dude:
Alas, I wasn’t.
Breakups are always different, but I feel they trigger the same tripwires each time. Like, I’m always caught off-guard at the monstrous sensitivity of my ego after a breakup. I like to think I’m clear-headed, I don’t take myself too seriously, I have a healthy, balanced awareness of my strengths and weaknesses, and I embrace my human fallibility as proof of the divine mystery in all of us.
Truth is, after you’re dumped, the great yawning chasm of personal darkness and despair you thought your relationship proved you’d moved past suddenly moves in to the house across the street from your mental real estate, and you have to confront it.
I joined OK Cupid for many reasons, most of which, in retrospect, were not advisable. First off, you should never ask a question if you only want to hear one answer. I wanted an ego boost, so I joined a dating site. The truth is, I wanted a very specific ego boost that I wasn’t going to get from one. My ego was bruised because someone I loved had told me to take a hike. So really, what I thought I wanted to hear was 1 of 2 things:
1) My ex saying, “Oops. What a mistake. Shouldn’t have dumped you. My bad.”
2) Someone better than my ex in every way saying, “Hey, baby. Did you just fart? ‘Cuz YOU BLEW ME AWAY!”
Both unlikely to occur. Both unsatisfactory, even if they did.
Once someone you trust with all your heart breaks it, you don’t trust them again. So even if they say what you thought you wanted them to say, it won’t register, because you won’t accept it, because you can’t trust it. So you wouldn’t want to hear it, even if you did.
And really, there’s no such thing as someone better than your ex in every way when you’re newly recovering from being dumped. I’m an old-fashioned girl: when I love someone, I think they’re the tops. Otherwise I wouldn’t be in love with them. So until my head- and heartspace have cleared up enough (again, time + distance), I’m usually lamenting that this last girl, the most recent best-girl-I’ll-ever-know, has gotten away. Plus, scatological pick-up lines blow. Pun intended.
So then, you get hit on by all these girls you find rampantly unattractive. On good days, this causes you to think “WTF? Why these nasty girls after me?” On bad days, you think “WTF? Is my self-perception so off that I’ve deluded myself into thinking I can do better than these nasty girls? Was there something wrong with my ex for liking me? Are nasty girls the best I can do? Should I just accept that?” But more than any of those thoughts, the real reason to get off OK Cupid has nothing to do with anyone else.
I don’t know who or what I’m looking for. I’ve been struggling to figure that out. And as is often the case, the answer is so obvious I couldn’t help but miss it.
Whoever and whatever I’m looking for is someone and something I haven’t found, because they don’t exist. Because I don’t think I want anyone or anything right now.
I work a lot. Improving at my job and securing future employment is the most important thing in my life right now.
When I’m not working, I’m writing. I don’t care about anything in my life as much as that.
After work and writing, which is something I hope to craft a career out of someday, everything else pales in significance. I rarely talk on the phone. I watch almost no television. My social life is one night a week, at best. And I like it that way. My priorities feel like they’re where they should be.
I don’t want anyone. How absurd, then, to search for someone who doesn’t exist.
I can’t calculate how much time I wasted on OK Cupid. I did meet a couple cool girls. In the end, the best I can take from it is I at least popped my on-line dating cherry. So if and when I reach a point where I have enough time and security and interest in looking for love, I’ll have a baseline to work off of. And I’m old-fashioned, and I LOVE love, so I’m not closing myself off to the possibility/probability that the instant I sincerely, completely, 100% stop caring about it, that’s when I’ll meet the next great adventure.
But I’m not there yet. And just like I couldn’t begin to get over my ex until I cut her out of my life in actions as well as words, I can’t stop caring about what comes next until I do the same.
Arrivederci, OK Cupid. It’s not you. It’s me.