When I went through a devastating breakup from my long-term boyfriend, I expected my friends to humor my misery tolerantly. Anticipating endless evenings of red wine, revenge plans, and the occasional crank call, I was irked to find that my typically caustic friends had morphed into soulless Susie Sunshines, fonts of the kind of condescending self-help dictates I found both conventional and impossible to adhere to.
In my heartbroken state I yearned to do all the “wrong” things: exact brutal revenge, wallow in cynicism, and seek out meaningless shags. My concerned posse, on the other hand, suggested yoga, smiling from the inside, recording my feelings in a journal and going on platonic dates with young architects in Agnes B suits. Ignoring their advice, I chose the alternate route.
And I can now proudly affirm that I am now purged through bad behavior.
Without further ado, my rulebook for the self-destructive and newly single:
1. Drink a lot
Aside from lowering inhibitions (see number 2) and providing a few memorable evenings that don’t end with you sobbing over old photographs, drinking can help with excessive talking. I discussed my heartbreak over cocktails so incessantly that, after a couple weeks, even I was utterly bored with it. Think of it as therapy with a hangover. In the appropriate setting, drugs could also take the edge off; if I still lived in Northern California I might have gone up to Humboldt and taken mushrooms while playing bongos with a dreadlocked man named Leaf.
2. Sleep with other guys
If you follow instruction number one, you will find yourself at bars surrounded by the very young architects that you should have been chastely nibbling on salmon with. This is a good thing. You are not ready for another failed relationship; you are ready for distracting, self-confidence-boosting, mindless sex. Why not? You know your ex is doing it. When I first broke up with my boyfriend, I thought I would never be able to sleep with someone else. I didn’t—for about six days. And then I met Nicolo: Italian, hairless, and in possession of a conveniently speedy little Vespa. It’s one thing for your maiden aunt to insist that there are “other fish in the sea.” It’s quite another to dive in, and without abandon. Don’t be afraid of sharks.
3. Develop a shopping addiction
This is the part where I’m supposed to talk about the soothing benefits of chocolate and lasagna—well it ain’t gonna happen. At the risk of sounding like a skinny bitch, donuts may ease the pain, but they will also make you unhealthy and dumpy, which will not help with the Nicolos of this world. But there is another, more empowering addiction, and one that will get you out of the house: shopping. In the weeks after my breakup I maxed out my credit card on endless booty: Chloé wedges, Jo Malone perfume, Calvin Klein underwear. You feel hot, and you want to take your new shoes out for a spin, which is an excellent anti-moping device. And unlike your ex, Miu Miu will never reject you (until your credit line is extinguished, at which point I would refer you to lessons one and two…).
4. Call your ex
I have never understood the accepted breakup wisdom that you shouldn’t communicate with your ex. You want to call him and see him, but you are not “allowed to.” After washing your clothes together and breathing his morning breath for years, you are suddenly supposed to pretend that he doesn’t exist. This whole avoidance tactic was straight-up impossible for me, so I allowed myself the embarrassing weepy phone calls and occasionally showed up at his haunts. My well-meaning friends told me to steer clear of him to be able to “move on,” but I found moving on much easier when I could be reminded fairly regularly of his tendency toward basketball-leaning conversation and greasy sagging jeans. If you don’t see him, the mystique will build, and mystique is a bitch of a thing to surmount.
5. Break shit
After you submit to lesson four, you may not feel so great. In fact, you may be a raging mess of a woman. So my sisters, I beg of you, do not get all Bridget Jones on me and start feeling sorry for yourselves. Anger is your friend; yoga is not. So go ahead and violently destroy stuff: presents from him, pictures of the two of you, his X-Box, whatever. I welcomed single-dom by ripping and breaking every memento I could get my hands on, from necklaces to picture frames to Valentine’s-Day lingerie. And then burning some letters. And emptying an ashtray on top of the whole mess. Be creative: this is your time to shine—and to release all of that aggression.
Take this advice with a grain of salt (or a shot of tequila), and make sure this alternative treatment doesn’t get out of control. You will know that it has gone too far if you find yourself walking naked and smoking a crack pipe on the street at five o’clock in the morning. But in all seriousness, a bit of bad behavior can help you to purge your anger and become independent, which is the only real way to deal.