Friday, January 8, 2010

Why break-ups are like band-aids

I've been in limbo for the last two weeks. It was over, I knew it was over, I think he knew it was over, but I had to see him again. I had to see if there was anything left, if there was anything to salvage. I needed to feel him, to breathe him in, to let our bodies fill in the gaps where where our minds and our resolve failed. Our chaste, fully-clothed bodies, holding each other under the glare of a 100-watt bulb, and even then, I knew. I knew as he held me, as I softly scratched his back, as he kissed me and then just as suddenly pulled away. "How was your date the other night?" he asked, again, because I had told him I couldn't see him Saturday night, because I was seeing "a friend." Originally I had stubbornly stuck to my story: "A friend, I'm seeing a friend," no gender, no names. But when he kept asking, ribbing me as if it gave him a perverse delight, I finally said, "Fine. It was fine."

"Why do you keep asking me that?" I said when he asked me this time, and burrowed further into his neck. Our words and our actions almost always at odds; the further apart we grow, the closer I cling.

"It's ok," he said, chuckling, "you can see who you want. You're not tied to me."

"I know," I murmured coyly, trying to match his playful tone. But though he had said you, his statement had more than an air of reciprocity, and so I said, "Have you been going on any dates?"

"No," he said after half a second of hesitation. He's lying, I thought. But I was too. No one willing to concede, both of us still playing our roles. The ultimate farce.

He brought up sex again, because talking about it is all we can do. As if by force of repetition I will eventually be convinced by his argument. The same reasons: it changes things, he's not ready, if anything were to happen... Then he says, "Well let me ask you something. Have you ever had casual sex?"

At first I'm frozen, shocked by the question. But we are both adults here. Surely he has to know? I blink once, twice. "Yes," I say. My tone implies an of course, and I fight to keep my shoulders from creeping upwards in a shrug.

"Really?" he says, and I am surprised that he is so surprised, though I suppose after all this I shouldn't be. "I never would have thought..." he says. "I're so reserved and shy." When he says this it hits me viscerally, and I realize: he doesn't know me at all. He doesn't have the least idea who I am. And worse: he doesn't even care enough to find out. "Reserved and shy" is a snap judgment made in the first few minutes of meeting someone. It's a shortcut; a way for extroverts to classify something they don't understand. It's not a person. It's not me. And it has absolutely nothing at all to do with sex. He might as well have said, You're so tall, I never would have expected you to like sushi. I am baffled. He is baffled. "Huh," he says to himself thoughtfully. "Huh."

I knew it was over, too, at the bar, as we sat debating politics, his purported opinions so extreme, so illogical that I wondered if he was baiting me. We argued, talked loudly, interrupted each other, and I thought, reserved and shy? But I like a good debate, like being forced to present my thoughts in a logical way, and so I was having fun. Any guy that's right for me would like this, I thought, would like that I have my own opinions and can argue them logically and convincingly, but he just seemed frustrated. "But how can you even think that?" he said incredulously. "Well, let me try to explain it to you," I said, but he wouldn't listen, or didn't care. After that, our faces flushed, our pulses racing, we should have gone home and torn each other's clothes off, but of course we didn't. Instead he said, "I'll start your car for you," which is really just a nicer way of saying, Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

The next day I didn't hear anything from him; not a word, not a text. The first time we had gone a whole day without talking since we had met, and I knew it was really over. I knew that it had to be, that it was for the best, that it just wasn't working, but knowing that still couldn't stop the awful, dull pain in my chest. I went to work, went home, hung out with friends, but all I could think was, if I knew I only had fifteen minutes left to live, I would have no one to call. Those melodramatic, imagined scenarios: your plane is going down, a meteor is crashing to Earth, you're being held hostage. That one last phone call. Who do you call? They would find my hand a shriveled claw clutching my cell phone, frozen in the act of scrolling again and again through my contacts list, because there is no one person I would want to talk to during my last few minutes on Earth. I am not anyone's someone, and no one is mine. That makes me the saddest of all. I imagine an apocalyptic phone tree for the lonely and unloved: everyone should be able to call someone, even if it is just a stranger's voice on the other end. An end of the world hotline? (Note to self: look into this.)

I woke up today knowing that we would have to talk eventually. Say it out loud, rip off that band-aid. I would send him a text. So, I would say. Or, Well. Or, Well?

When I was little I was absolutely incapable of removing a band-aid in one try, instead spending hours sucking air through my teeth as I loosened it bit by painful bit. Now, as an adult, I routinely rip strips of hot wax from intimate areas, knowing that if I hesitate even a little, the results will be much more painful, and ultimately unsuccessful. If you do it right, it hurts, but it's over quickly. It's for your own good. It's what they always tell you, but I didn't realize when I was little they might actually be right. The easy way, the hard way, and the stubborn way. "They" can tell you all they want which is best, but sometimes you just have to figure it out for yourself.

After I had all but given up hope, but before I could decide on my approach, my phone beeped. Hey u, he said. Four little letters. Hey u.

Hey, I responded, and though I should know better, suddenly I'm five years old, tugging on that damn band-aid again.


  1. Gorgeous post. You're an incredible writer. If no other man will take you then I will.

    Yeah. You're fucking welcome.
    ";)" + "fingerpoint" + "tongueclick"

  2. I agree, very beautiful post. I just found your blog a few days ago and love how you just lay it all out there.

    As to the man above, I say if it's not right, it's not right. It sounds like you've known that for a while. Don't let loneliness make you settle. If I had one phone call, I would call my mother. Ha!

  3. I never rip band-aids off. I soak them in water until they fall off. Do you think your metaphor could extend to cover that, and if so, what does that say about me? Also, I would probably want to call about 5 people if the plane was going down.

    Lovely post. Someone needs to give you a damn book deal already.

  4. Beautifully written for such emotional content.

    I think you are being too hard on yourself; feeling like you can't find a good man, and wondering why you always find the wrong ones. Dear god woman you are only 29! Samantha from Sex and the City was on a manhunt into her 40s and she was funny and fabulous the whole time! You may want a man (and everyone deserves love and companionship) but you don't NEED a man. This guy doesnt sound like he deserves you, and he certainly doesnt seem to 'get' you. Don't waste your time on someone that will hurt you or hold you back. Love will find you one day, and you'll never look back.

  5. He doesn't sound right for you, but it's never easy letting someone go. One step at a time I guess. All the best!!

  6. Rip! Oh my dear god, rip it off!

  7. I have to say, when you got to the part where he said wow, I never thought you'd have casual sex cuz you're so reserved and shy, that's about the part where I mentally smacked him. (FTR: I've been telling my hubby this story and he's convinced the guy is gay if it's taking him this long to come around to sex. Don't know if that helps you at all, but hopefully it'll at least bring a smile to your face. It's meant to anyway.)

    It sounds like he doesn't really understand you and that maybe he's not really right for you - but it sounds like you know that too. But definitely don't stick around with a guy who's going to be judgmental like that and make you feel like crap for the decisions you make. That's not what real marriages are made of. His upbringing might have taught him to "respect sex" but it apparently didn't teach him to respect you.

    I'm sorry...breakups suck. And he sounded like so much potential. I hope someone better comes along real soon.

  8. It's easy to say "rip off the band-aid", and for some people it may indeed be the right thing to do, but only you know how much it hurts to do so.

    Sometimes it's better to let time pass and hold on to your band-aid a little bit longer.

  9. This might seem off-topic, but I think it's something worth contemplating. Before, people used to marry and have kids very young. If you weren't married with kids by thirty, you were a frigid, barren spinster, and adultery was overwhelmingly taboo. Population increased dramatically. Today people are marrying later in life and having less kids. Personally I feel that Japan is the most "progressive and open-minded" (hilarious perverts that get turned on by hilarious things) when it comes to sex and please correct me if you know of a culture that surpasses them in that regard. Japan has an incredibly high percentage of older single women, compared to say the US, which if my non-stupid serves me correctly, would make for a high percentage of single men and just single people in general as well. Saw a documentary about it and there's a social activity women like to do which is going to these male host bars where a selected male provides conversation and whatever the hell it is paid pretty boys do though I'm pretty sure non-sexually. What also shocks me incredibly, is that despite highly sexual culture, they have surprisingly little actual sex according to statistics. They also, logically, have one of the lowest birth rates and is now in a population decline. The Japanese are also very career-oriented people; another factor in their having high single rates and a low number of births. Their pornography of course is a massive factor, and one theory I hold is that it causes an unrealistic expectation for many people which in a sense ruins them for real people. Sex dolls and animated porn unsurprisingly, are very popular.

    Brilliance masked with degenerate alcoholism: Doug Stanhope on Marriage -

    American schooling has taught us to crave spoon-feeding and having things spelled out for us and blind authority. Some vaguely assumed acceptance that this has how it's always been and this is the ways things are supposed to be so just shut up and take it. Marriage in many countries is arranged. In the US, many couples had to get parental approval, a father's blessing. Marriage can be slavery or for money-related matters or whatever else. Is it about love? If two people love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together, what else do you need? Oh but of course, what if something happens - I'd like half - let's get the gov't in this because it's about money, and other things, and not love. Societies and Kings and Gov'ts regulating and mandating love and tax breaks - that's the real perversion of marriage, not gay lovers. They're so great with everything else they do in society, let's get them into regulating love! Can't have two wives - don't get certain tax breaks if you don't get married with us - can't see your partner in a hospital if you don't go through us first, etc. You want to debate gay marriage? Try rethinking the concept of marriage in the first place. And ask, really ask how and why the gov't is involved with marriage at all. But nevermind. The vaguely assumed understanding that this is how it has been and this is how it is supposed to be and this is what everyone else does so just shut the fuck up. You know what? The only thing I like about marriage are the weddings. Why do you need that goddamn paper. My aunt and uncle have been together for decades and they never got married by the gov't but they are the single best example of a couple I know. And the horror stories and 50+ percentages of divorce. The financial advantages of marriage, which is discrimination I feel as Doug pointed out if you were unfairly born unlovable, and it encourages frivolous marriage. "I married him/her for the money. We married for the tax break. I married for a green card." If you're interested at all, take a little time and do some research on marriage customs around the world. Eye-opening and just interesting all themselves.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Anyway, if it's always been done a certain way and everyone else is doing it, shut the fuck up and don't question it and do it as well. Or else we will laugh at you condescendingly and make fun of your child-like ignorance.

  12. Me, I just want to know what the deleted comment said.

    Beautiful stuff as always Rachel. I agree completely with Crystal - you're too young to feel like there is no one out there for you! (Not that I can't TOTALLY relate somedays!)

    Here's what I keep reminding myself (because I'm always forgetting it): I have plenty of other things that need my focus. I have other goals and passions that I am letting go by the wayside because I'm so wrapped up in finding "The One". Once I am involved in the things I TRULY care about and I am happy in my skin I am going to meet that person who is right for me, who loves me just as I am, who really GETS me. This is the place you need to be at too, darling. You're amazing! But you're ignoring yourself. Stop that. You deserve better.

  13. (The deleted comment was just a typo.)

    You know I used to believe that you should in a sense feel whole yourself first and not yet try and yearn to look for someone else to complete you. I saw it as a sign of weakness and desperation to feel the need to be with someone else to complete yourself, that you yourself should be complete first, and not until then are you ready for a relationship. I don't believe that anymore. People need people, and love, and that in no way makes us desperate. It makes us human. And we were meant to complete each other, us being two halves of one whole. Anyway, this doesn't have anything to do with anything.

    On a different note- goddamn it Rach, there are so many goddamn men who would kill to be able to try and make you happy, me being one. This guy obviously isn't one of them and it hurts to see you waste your time on him. In reality, I don't have a doubt in my mind that he actually really wants to be with you, and is just doing what he thinks he should be doing in order to win your affection. Because nice, insecure guys finish last. And you having had seen your 'friend' really did hurt him. There isn't a question in my mind. But it's about you now, and how you feel, and I guess only you know what that feels like and what you should do.

  14. Will send private number via email for use in case of imminent meteor strike on Manhattan or L.A., which are the only two American cities living under constant threat of meteor attacks. Cannot resolve other issues for you. No advice (good or bad) occurs.

    I am tall and hate sushi, by the way.


  15. Evolutionary-In the deleted comment Jack accidentally linked to his blogger profile. (Yes, I can still see that. Mwa ha ha ha...)

    Relatedly, um, Jack, who ARE you? You can't say something like, "there are so many goddamn men who would kill to be able to try and make you happy, me being one," and then remain casually anonymous. Totally unfair.

  16. I think you should date Jack, he's a trip, though he should lay off the guvment and marriage thing really, it was the fucking Puritans and their self righteous ways that fucked it all up, the guvment just got in on the act cuz well some of them back in the day were Puritans, though he is right in that we do it cuz that's the way it is and all our cultural bullshit baggage, plus the "man" wants his cut, taxes and all, you shouldn't get all wrapped up in guy you've only known a few months, "love" is technically a mental illness you know, still makes for fun reading and also makes me glad i don't have to date.

  17. Rip the band-aid OFF!

    As far as feeling you'll have no one to call should the world come to an end etc.... EVERYONE has one or two of those days in their lifetime. Dont be so hard on yourself... this too shall pass.

    You're smart, witty, articulated, and so very worthy of someone who wants to love you, and wont make you crazy trying to have it.

    Dump this guy once and for all. Nothing good has come of this relationship. He makes you unsettled when you're with him and anxious when you're not... and not in good ways. Nothing good is ever going to come out of this one.

    He has issues, whether he knows what they are or not, it's not your job to help him figure it out. He must do that on his own.

    You like and know who you are, you should be with someone the same.

    Excellent writing as always. I"m rooting for ya.

    Being Samiantha

  18. I'm nobody, a- text-generating somebody, a random collection of strung together words thrown out into an electronic void. I'm your greatest fantasy and your worst nightmare and you are everyone in your dreams.

    I wish to remain anonymous for several reasons, one of which being the fact that I am fuck ugly. If being fuck ugly was a disease, I should've died years ago. I just use hookers now, if you really must know, and they are gorgeous, kind creatures that leave right after along with all their unnecessary baggage. I get intimacy from friends and family, from little acts of kindness, from hugs. I'm like the main girl from Charlotte Sometimes. It's an imperfect system, but it's worked so far. I seem to attract all the wrong girls. Beautiful sluts devoid of meaning that apparently have no shame wanting to sleep with a man who is fuck ugly. Sort of like that old joke I can't remember, something like, "I wouldn't want to join a club that would accept me or fuck a girl that would have me." Because that would obviously show massive oversight in their judgment. Oh, the hilarity, I know. I think I have permanently damaged all the girls with which I've had long term relationships, something of which I have so so regretted and thought about a lot. Which let me to contemplate the idea of "The Self-Less Break-Up" (patent pending). It might seem manipulative on the surface to most people at first, but underneath it I hope you understand. The idea is to do everything in your power to make your partner want to leave you, without hurting them, which is easier said than done. One possible route would be smothering. Another could be going crazy, but never full-crazy. (You never go full-crazy.) Another is proclaiming homosexuality but that's a tricky one and he/she could still be hurt by that. Another would be doing things that specifically turn him/her off, and deal-breakers like being just a little too close to your mother or having a Call of Duty addiction. Sorry that I don't buy into our Hollywood conditioned ideals of love. I killed my first love, emotionally. We were just kids for Christ's sake, and after I left her, she started smoking and became suicidal and even called me once in the middle of the night, telling me she was going to do it then, and I almost called the police until I called the house and her mother picked up and then she took the phone and was fine, and then I understood what she was going through and doing. Maybe that's had something to do with the fact that I'm single but fuck me if I pay some cocksucker money for head advice. In all honesty I'm still in that phase where commitment turns me off, in case you couldn't already tell from my tirade on marriage. But if it happens, it happens, and I'll welcome it. You just know, don't you? Sometimes it's at first sight, sometimes it's at third sight but when it happens, you just know. It's undeniable. You can't not know it when it happens. So, anyway, enough from Mr. Fuck Ugly here. God bless, and I hope things work out for ya Rach. I'm sure they will.

  19. First of all, fucking way to go Jack.

    Second of all, I don't use band-aids, so the metaphor doesn't work on me. I AM STRONGER THAN THE PAIN OF OPEN WOUNDS, I tell myself.

    Except it kind of does make sense, because I don't really date either, because I AM STRONGER THAN ANY MAN I KNOW, I tell myself. I think it's an excuse.

  20. And Jack, the line is, "I wouldn't want to be a part of any club that would have me as a member." Groucho Marx. And then Woody Allen.

  21. I agree, rip the band aid (or plaster as we say here in the UK) off!

    Great post, brilliantly written.

    I'd love it if you stop by my blog sometime and see what you think. I'm just starting out in my search of that elusive creature: the man who is perfect for me.

  22. I am JackC's smirking fucking revenge, go on Jack, i love's a misanthrope and a man who loves hookers, the reason hookers are hated is because they put a price on what's supposed to be priceless but Jack is fucking spot on, so please date him, who cares if he's ugly, by dating him you'd help disprove some of his theories and i bet dollars to donuts he's hung like a horse.

  23. Thanks for the post. I know how you felt when he called you "reserved and shy"...I hate it when people make snap judgments like that. It is an indication that they don't really know you---they just want to categorize you because they don't know what else to do with what they see/ experience/ etc. Sounds like he is afraid of true intimacy, and you aren't. I say rip the band aid off. Things always change, and there will be somebody better who comes along.

  24. I am sad that you don't have a best friend you could call if the world was ending. I just started reading your blog so maybe I missed something. Jack C wears me out :/

  25. This post almost made me cry. I know exactly what you mean about feeling extremely sad about not being "anyone's someone." I just broke up with my bf and the hardest part of it all was working up the resolve to just do it. But once you rip the band-aid off, it gets easier. Or at least that's what I'm hoping. I guess I'm still currently feeling the sting of the rip.

    Anyway, your blog is great. Thanks for sharing.

  26. This is amazing, this is just what i needed, you descriibe these feelings we sometimes try to avoid in such vivid way, it feels like i know what to do now that i'm going through the same. Thank you, very wise !