Almost exactly one year ago, I was in New Orleans performing in a comedy festival with a cobbled together version of my sketch group (3 out of 7 original members plus the girlfriend of another member who had to back out due to a work commitment). I had, just days before, experienced the most gut wrenching and horrific breakup of my life, and I was in a bad place. Not New Orleans, that is a very good place, but my mental state was no good. I had temporarily lost the will to live, even though I didn’t know it at the time. I wasn’t eating, I woke up mid anxiety attack every morning and would Irish up my coffee and Xanax up my bloodstream to muster the enthusiasm to get out of bed. It was a bad time. It’s probably one of the only times I’ve felt truly out of control and adrift and scared and insane. I wrote about it at the time and looking back, I was definitely trying to spin it into something it wasn’t. I wasn’t growing and flourishing and finding out who I really was, I was drinking heavily (which, for a lightweight prone to headaches was an impressive feat), wearing that old jeans/favorite hoodie uniform that seems fake when a schlubby white dude does it in a rom-com but is unflatteringly real, staring at my phone like I was going to burn a hole in it with my eyes, and having the same conversation with every one of my friends who would listen. I was also traveling to a city I’d never been to before to do comedy shows.
The time between the breakup and the trip to New Orleans was maybe three days, and although I was not looking forward to going, my friends encouraged me to embrace the city, go to a parade or 4, and “get away for a few days.” I was very drunk on the plane, and kept it going after we’d checked into our AirBnB and stocked it with alcohol and food. My friends were very patient with me. I was, for no reason, wearing a (clean) half of a gym sock on my left arm that I’d cut a thumb hole into, taking longer than everyone in the bathroom, dramatically abstaining from eating, and pontificating about for minutes at a time without being provoked. Even in a city where you can ride a bike in the middle of the street without danger and run into a 12 piece brass band on the sidewalk, I was determined to mope and be miserable. You guys are all in happy relationships? Well, I’m going to wander off in public and start drinking at 11am. You’re going to take us to the 9th Ward so we can teach improv to your friend’s kindergarten class full of adorable children? I’ll do that, but I’ll Instagram it a billion times and hope my ex will see what a good person I am. I was a selfish, sad little creep, and if I had the chance, I wouldn’t take any of it it back. Why? Because this past weekend I watched someone else have the exact same bender, and I was happy to be a part of it.
I went with a close friend and her two roommates to Santa Barbara and Solvang, two incredibly quaint, small, touristy California towns. They are living postcards, the kind of places your parents would go on an epic post retirement road trip. They’d come back with artisanal nuts and gourmet Danishes and local wines and they’d print the digital pictures out and put them in a small book and mail them to you and the book would sit in a box for many years until the next time you moved. That’s what these towns are like. This trip was a last minute kind of thing that was organized to see a friend’s short in a film festival, and also to get one of the roommates out of town, as he had just experienced his own gut wrenching breakup, and was reacting to it about the same as I had previously. I agreed to meet them in Santa Barbara on Thursday, a full two days into his own version of Leaving Las Vegas, but one where every restaurant had lace doilies and hotel whiskey binges were replaced with adorable wine tastings with helpful sommeliers.
As soon as I arrived, I noticed similarities between his process and my own from the previous year: A lot of day drinking, barely any eating, spontaneously wandering off, a deep sadness that would get masked by sardonic humor here any there, and brief moments of clarity where he was hilarious, composed, thoughtful, and realistic. Those moments would get broken up by him leaving the table again, or ordering another drink, or saying things like, “I’m going to move to this town,” or, “I’m going to move to the woods and live in a cabin,” or, “what’s the best place to go where I could just disappear?” I did my best not to roll my eyes or tell him he was being silly, because I remembered everything I’d said and done and felt, and at the time, all of that felt true. I DID want to disappear. I DID feel invisible and awful and unable to live after the end of my relationship, and every feeling that came over me in those moments felt authentic and real and horrifically terrible. You can’t tell someone on a breakup bender that it’s going to be fine. They don’t want to hear that. You can’t take a drink out of their hand (unless it’s going to spill or they’re trying to put it in their car’s cupholder), and you can’t rationalize with them. Love is CRAZY. Why do you think there’s a song called Crazy Love? Or a movie called Crazy Stupid Love? OR another movie about love called Crazy (Slash) Beautiful starring Kirsten Dunst? Love is brain chemicals and heart feelings and gut punches and listening to the same song over and over and over (this time, for my friend, it was Brenton Wood’s Give Me Some Kind Of Sign Girl— an amazing pick that he would play on his phone at the oddest and best moments while making unbroken eye contact with strangers. It was heartbreaking and hilarious, as it should have been).
I really don’t pretend to know anything about love or relationships anymore, except for the fact that I’m on board for both. I like them! That ex I had a bender about a year ago? We got back together a month after that. And broke up a few months later. And got back together immediately. And spent the rest of the year taking trips and going to weddings and eating thai food. And then we broke up again last week. Maybe/probably for good this time. We spent 6 hours hysterical in public. We might be the only couple in history who went to a pet adoption in the middle of a breakup. I seriously considered leaving with a pitbull named Peachy Keen, but thought maybe that would have been impulsive. But one thing that I didn’t consider this time was going on another bender. I think you truly get one in this disgusting hilarious and beautiful life. You can only zombie-walk around puppeted by sadness and drugs/alcohol once. You can MAYBE do it twice, but you’re going to need a new ex with new specifics to focus on, and some new friends who haven’t heard this story before. And also, you need to eat. Be sad, wear your rattiest hoodie, write the world’s worst poetry, but you have to eat food. Love is insane because it can make your brain forget that you need to eat, which is a thing you need to do to stay alive. If you don’t spoon someone to sleep, you won’t die, but if you drink whisky and eat nothing, you WILL die.
Brains and hearts, you guys. They’re fragile and slimy. And so are you, you bunch of gorgeous idiots.