A sudden and traumatic end to a seemingly wonderful long-term relationship is not typically an experience that breeds humor. My experience definitely did not breed humor as it unfurled. There was nothing funny about having the closest thing to suicidal thoughts I had ever experienced. There was nothing funny about lying in bed for days on end, getting up only to relieve myself and pound another beer. There was nothing funny about being the scrooge at family gatherings and breaking down in drunken tears in front of my father on Christmas Eve. If anything, the aftermath of a devastating breakup is akin to the embarrassing and unspeakable state of affairs that goes along with a bad case of the flu, except I felt arguably more defiled.
However, in retrospect, there are some things that actually do make me laugh about the months of turmoil following the demise of a relationship I thought would be the rest of my life, even if it’s in a dark and sick way. I am not sure how to begin trusting people again but least I still trust my sense of self-deprecation.
I was probably not the first dejected 20-something-year-old to hole up in his room with a case of beer and every pre-Sammy Hagar Van Halen album, but I might be the only one to have done it in the past 25 years. As I powered through my second consecutive delivery pizza, I was enamored by the three keyboards and too many cocaine shakes to count in the 1987 video for Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again.” I could almost smell the hairspray and Italian leather shirts as I reminisced about a decade in which I’d never actually lived and didn’t know anything about. But hey, J. Geils Band sang “Love Stinks” and I agreed. That phase of my breakup coping culminated with a proclamation to my friends in the most heterosexual way possible that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were the ultimate sex symbols of the ‘70s.
In December I reflected on the fact that my parents recently took out a $50,000 life insurance policy on me and I drunkenly wondered if, in some sick scheme with my ex-girlfriend, they banked on me ultimately succumbing to depression thus providing a payday for them. They’d walk into my apartment to find my body bloated with cheap Mexican take-out and champagne, a combination I somehow gravitated towards in my depression. “Dear God, it smells like something died in here,” my ex-girlfriend would think to herself. If I was smarter I’d have worn a shirt she bought me in a last ditch effort to posthumously inject at least a shadow of guilt into her frozen heart… but instead I’d be wearing a mustard-stained Billy Idol t-shirt I’d put on the week before. I probably would’ve died unshaven and disheveled, unless of course I had gotten drunk enough in the preceding days to have thought I had a shot with the waitress from Buffalo Wild Wings and cleaned myself up for an awkward date that never happened. I can be a real charmer until I have to say something.
But instead of doing anything drastic, I’d typically crack another beer and Facebook message some hot girl from high school I hadn’t talked to in five years and never talked to back then anyway. By the time January rolled around I had left behind me a path of self-destruction laden with empty champagne bottles, dozens of Chipotle receipts, and scattered memories of “what should’ve been.” Instead of steamrolling through a third consecutive month of drowning my sorrows in food, booze, and objectively sub-par hair metal, I decided to get my ass in gear, get back to training for the upcoming mountain bike season, and pretend the depressed, beer-scented hibernation of the past two months had never happened. Looking back, though, I realize that I had a blast. John Hughes would’ve killed for the rights to produce my movie. I lived a college kid’s dream: I got drunk every day, ate what I wanted, and listened to the stereo at maximum volume. And you know what? It saved me.