I used to think there was bravery in hiding your emotions and courage in pretending as if everything is dandy and that the world is your oyster.
There are only a handful of things more tormenting than finding out, most likely via Facebook, that your latest ex is now involved with someone else. Be it casually or seriously or sexually, any way you slice it, it hurts. I say tormenting because your reaction inevitably involves several contradicting feelings, including but not limited to: anger, compassion, denial, sadness or, if you’re so lucky, ambivalence.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s been two weeks or two years, when you really loved someone, your mind and your heart just naturally react because you are being presented with tangible evidence that this person is no longer yours. Your relationship with them has officially become a former relationship, one that’s been relegated to memory and a few pictures you have yet to stash into storage.
You lay in bed alone, your brain turning over the pictures you’ve managed to find on the web of the new person, blankly assuming that this new girl will be the one, that she’s the one who is going to be able to give him what you could not. As if this already wasn’t a horrible way to fall asleep, your thinking inevitably turns into where you and your ex went wrong; the couldas, shouldas and wouldas come charging out of their cages and the next thing you know, a lump comes creeping up your throat.
You shove that lump back where it came from.
Then you start getting mad. You’re mad that he wasn’t able to commit to you, you’re mad he didn’t see the scars of your past relationships, you’re mad he always said ‘making love’ because how dare he make a mockery to your face, since it was clearly not love, so Fuck That Guy. None of this is necessarily rational because your anger has expanded to his very existence, for making you feel pain you do not want to feel, for making you cry when, just last week, you went out, got shit-faced, declared you were ‘over it’ and took home a bartender. You really, really thought you were over it. More importantly, all your friends thought you were over it.
So you start repeating, “I don’t care, I don’t care.”
Your thoughts regarding this ex turn into a palate of black and white. He’s trying to make you jealous or he’s trying to make you mad. You want him back; you want him to rot in hell. The new girl is a slut or, well, the new girl is a slut. You need to see him immediately or never, ever, ever again. They’re going to stay together forever or breakup tomorrow. And just when you’ve stopped looking at his Facebook everyday, you’re right back on the page, scouring for details, desperate to know What It Means.
Someone who knows him will get dinner with you and you’ll put on a front and pretend like you don’t care but you’ll think of a movie, a subject or anything that the ex was really into and drive that into the conversation, all in a thinly-veiled attempt to find out what the fuck is going on. In reality, you only want to know if it’s bad news, but you can’t bring yourself to say it, because if they say nothing, you know it’s good news, the kind of silence that thunders in poignancy. Better to just have it said out loud.
You don’t tell anyone that you know. You pretend like you haven’t looked at his Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc. You didn’t know he was in Morocco for two weeks on a shoot; you didn’t know he was at the same LCD Soundsystem concert you were at. You don’t know, you don’t know, you don’t know. You’ll get really good at putting on the mask of the indifferent ex, the ex that truly moved on, instead of using sex to hide from emotional growth and pain.
I used to think there was courage in this. Then I graduated college, dated lots of randoms and upon my latest breakup—with someone, I hate to say, I suspect is my Mr. Big—realized that not only is that kind of pretending not bravery whatsoever, but it demonstrates a cowardice of deadly proportions, a fear that’s directed towards no one but yourself and your emotions. If you never let yourself feel the anger and the sadness, it doesn’t mean it goes away. It just means that you’re going to get caught off-guard six months later when you see your ex at the Jane Hotel, duck behind a banister, find your friends, take 12 shots at the bar and while puking on the sidewalk, wonder why the fuck you ducked behind that banister.
No one, and I mean absolutely no one, should apologize for how they feel. Yes, of course, you don’t want to bother your friends, they’ve listened to this shit enough, but forget about them, help yourself and cry and get as mad as you want to be for fucking sake. This is how humanity works, we feel things and one of those things is pain. You deserve to open a window onto the Bowery and scream, “I FUCKING HURT!” or to crumble into the couch, doing nothing but thinking about your pain, your relationship, your last few memories of being happy with him. Play Claire de Lune, “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Staring at the Sun” over and over and over until the day you actually don’t want to hear it again.
Because eventually, you’ll realize that there is no true permanence in this life. Suddenly, it really doesn’t matter that he’s seeing someone else because you remember that you’ll see someone else. And it’s a true blue, honest to god Okay, not the shitty plastic Okay you had been using before that only worked half the time and kept cracking along the edges.
That’s why when my best friend asked me if I was okay, I said, bitch please…I can’t even be bothered to pretend like I’m okay.