Breaking up is the worst. I mean, it may not actually be the worst, but it’s pretty bad. Even if the relationship was brief and seemed emotionally benign, even if you dumped the other person and felt totally confident in your decision to do so, even if prior to the relationship you were totally happy and healthy being on your own, sleeping in the same bed with someone for a while and then having no one to sleep in bed with fucks with your psyche somehow. It seems that when you were with the person, all you could focus on was his negative qualities; after you break up, all you can remember are his positive ones. You remember his smile, his laugh, the nice things he did for you, and the good parts of the sex you had; you forget his clinginess, selfishness and seeming insincerity. Before you dated the person, you were happy with being alone. Now, you feel lonely. Even though, objectively, nothing has changed, it just feels so different. Actually, maybe that’s precisely the problem: nothing has changed. You just go back to your life as it was, mourning the potential you thought was intrinsic in your now-dead relationship. You feel like a pod person, and a failed one at that.
Heightening the aforementioned emotional experiences is the ominous unanswered text message. Perhaps you’re just reaching out as a gesture of thoughtfulness, or perhaps it’s a deeper expression of longing, but whatever it is, if it goes unanswered, it can be, and usually is, quite hurtful. Here, the spectrum of texts you can send your ex and what the digital silence signifies.
1. “Hey. How are you?” (HAY)
This is the most basic of texts you can send your ex. Just a simple, hi, what’s up, how are you, how’s it going, that sort of thing. It can be sincere – perhaps you’re really just checking in to see how he’s doing – or it can be the gateway text to test the waters and see if your ex is interested in meeting up for some coffee, some dinner, or maybe some mind-blowing breakup/makeup sex. If your HAY is of the former, the responding silence will probably just briefly piss you off and not really have any further ramifications. But if your HAY is of the latter variety, you may experience soul-crushing devastation as you try to understand why this person who was just fucking you two days/weeks/months ago no longer seems interested in doing so.
2. “Hey. I’ve been thinking about you. Just wanted you to know.” (TAY)
A step up from a simple HAY, a TAY more directly expresses that you still have some sort of feelings for your ex slash want to get back together with him slash want to have sex, but that you don’t really have the balls to say it outright. This is the sort of text you probably think about sending for a long time before you actually send it. Maybe you’re in your bathtub on a Saturday night drinking a beer, and you write five texts and delete them all before you finally just decide to be as direct and honest as possible without putting yourself so much on the line as to say, “I miss you.” No, no, no. The exquisite pain of an unanswered “I miss you” text (see below) is not something you can take in your fragile state. So you tone it down a few notches – because “thinking about” someone is definitely not the same as “missing” them, and as long as you can continue to convince yourself of this, you become invincible. Or so you think, until your TAY goes unanswered and you walk naked to your fridge, dripping water and hoping your roommate doesn’t come home anytime soon, to grab yourself another beer. You then climb back into your relaxing bath. This is now your life.
3. “I miss you.” (IMY)
Uh-oh. Shit just got real. This is the sort of caution-to-the-wind text you send someone in a moment of weakness, when you are so lonely, down or craving of sexual attention that you completely forget all the reasons you had previously compiled not to contact this individual and decide to get your dick out and wave it around in his face while you shout HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES. Rude. You also seem to have forgotten that if you truly want to express feelings for another human being, any real desire to get back together – whether it’s IRL or perhaps just for sex – you should probably call him and/or try to meet with him face-to-face like a goddamn adult. But you tell yourself this isn’t necessary, because you rationalize that the IMY, while definitely ballsy, isn’t a direct expression of wanting to reconcile. It’s just, OK, yes, I am feeble, I miss you. Are you also drunk right now? Wanna hook up? What are you gonna do about it? Huh? The silence is your answer: apparently nothing. Ouch.
4. “I saw on Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr that you’re at XYZ street fair near your apt. I’m there too! Want to grab a bite together?” (STALK)
The STALK is the expression of a lot of things at once, poorly hidden in the guise of just wanting to do some friendly street fair-ing. Number one, you’re stalking this person via social networking sites. This fact is even more obvious if, post-breakup, you unfollowed/unfriended the person – then it’s clear that you are going out of your way to check this person’s status updates and/or tweets, because it’s not like they’re just popping up in your newsfeed. Number two, you are in this person’s neighborhood? Why? If you live in New York, it’s highly unlikely that you live in the same hood as your ex, or that you even live in the same borough. So why are you in his hood? Thirdly, what you’re saying is really this: you want to stop whatever it is you happen to be doing in your ex’s hood in order to meet with him. You, sir, are willing to interrupt your ongoing activities just to have a potentially awkward public meet-up with a person who used to ravenously go down on you. Understandable, sure, but ultimately sad and ridiculous – the ridiculousness of which is amplified if you know that your ex is at said street fair “w/ @newbestfriend,” who may or may not actually be “@newloveofhislife.” And, lastly, the STALK usually comes after a previously ignored HAY, TAY or IMY. Come on, man. Have some self-respect. Step away from the falafel, and don’t send this text. Just don’t. Trust me.
5. “HEEEEY. It’s me. Remember me? Remember when you told me I changed your life? That everything that happened in your life before you met me led you to meeting me? Was any of that real? I’m just really doubting everything we had together. Sad.” (FML)
Usually sent as a desperate attempt at reconciliation following a set of ignored HAYs, TAYs, IMYs and STALKs, the FML is likely the result of a combination of things: mainly exorbitant alcohol consumption and diminished feelings of self-worth, but also maybe finding out that your ex is seeing someone new and perhaps that it’s serious. What?!, you might think. How could this person who once sent me flowers for absolutely no reason now be doing the very same thing for (gasp) someone else?! It’s a known fact that some people simply move on from relationships quicker than others, and if you, dear reader, are like me, then you are not one of these people. You’re the slow kid in school. You just always lag behind when it comes to getting over romantic partners. And, even though your friends tell you it’s not the case, you always question the sincerity of your ex’s feelings for you if he’s moved on super fast whilst you pine away for him. How could he have really cared for you if he’s already caring for someone else and taking her to the same restaurants he took you to? There’s nothing wrong with you, boo, but you can expect to go through more pain than the average Joe. But that’s OK! It just makes you stronger and more creative! Right? Just keep telling yourself that. You can bank that if your ex ignores the FML, the two of you have probably hit a wall and can’t even be friends, at least not for a good, long while. Stop drinking (so much), start going to yoga and remind yourself everyday that you are valuable, amazing and hot. Gradually you’ll start believing it again.