At 19, I suffered my first broken heart. It felt more like an implosion, honestly, combined with the systemic failure of my central nervous system and the rupture of at least a spleen. It hurt, is the point. Back in those days, the recovery lasted longer than the entire length of the relationship and I was young enough to actually enjoy the melodramatic wallowing. I recall remarking that it was romantic to be hopelessly in eternal, unrequited love. I have an entire album of music born of this first failed romance.
I’m 35 now. I don’t have time for that shit. I don’t care how brilliant the resultant ballad or how jerked a reader’s tears are bound to be following the inevitable multi-volume poetry…I barely have the attention span to sit through Pride and Prejudice before I have to get up and run some laundry. I just don’t have months or years of pining left in me. To keep up with the times, I had to get good at getting over break-ups since- let’s face it- every relationship I’ve had has ended in one to date. I have finally found a shortcut that worked so well this last time (I went from “fuck this” to “whoa, I can facebook stalk him and my gut doesn’t even twinge” in about 30 days), that I felt compelled not only to put it into writing, but to share it. I want everyone I know to benefit from my hard found wisdom.
Step 1: Over Text Like a Muthafucka
A lot of people will tell you that it is best to maintain your dignity and bow out with grace at the end. Yeah. Hm. Maybe. I wouldn’t know what that’s like, having never managed it myself. What I DO know is that everything I’ve ever left unsaid has haunted me for weeks afterward. I can’t think because I’m rewording every argument, getting in that one last point in my mind, wishing I’d just fit in a couple more really eloquent kidney punches. This last time, I decided not to let anything go. A bold move, but I can promise that after two weeks of combined over-texting, facebook IMing, spotify messaging, emailing, calling, and even old-fashioned letter writing, I finally ran out of words- and subsequently all of those nagging thoughts that linger.
Step 2: Ambien and Wine
It is my natural reaction to try to distract myself with the company of friends and, often, new acquaintances after a break-up. This time, I decided that was putting off the inevitable- that moment when you have to admit you are alone again. Instead, I shut it down. I spent nearly every night at home for four weeks. Too hard, you claim? How do you keep from going crazy? Easy. Ambien and wine. I actually began to look forward to it on my drive home. Oh, I’ve heard the warnings- ambien is a serious drug (and it is, don’t be fooled be my nonchalance, I put myself to bed before taking it and did NOT get up til morning), but the worst side effect I had was some crazy texting about simean dancers with nipple tassels and an evening spent friend requesting all of my ex-boyfriends on facebook. I did eventually wean myself off of it, but I will remember my month of agoraphobic early nights with fondness. What parts I CAN remember, anyway.
Step 3: Stop Cleaning
I did this preemptively, back in 1996. The great thing about it, aside from the obvious time saver it is to not have to clean anything, thereby enabling you to get to your ambien much sooner every evening, is that visitors will be more likely to leave you alone. Those who demand entrance, despite the cloud of fruit flies and pungent decay wafting through the crack in the front door, will immediately take pity on you and probably offer to buy you more wine. Accept the wine. Don’t be an ungrateful douche.
Step 4: Dwell on Shit
I like lists. A lot. I found that when I thought about all the things I hated about the last dude, it was really hard to be sad. (I know, profound.) So I made a list of every little thing that made me miserable or irritated or annoyed when I was with him, and I read that list over and over throughout each day, often adding to it as I would remember some of his more effeminate facial gestures or that one thing he said that one time that made me want to stab myself in the eye socket… I would then call the people most likely to rally around my pettiness (thanks, Mom!) and seek their reassurance that that one thing WAS so annoying and oh my god how DID I ever put up with it?! Eventually, I couldn’t remember anything I liked about him, and by eventually, I mean within 3 weeks. It was magical.
Step 5: Utilize Online Dating
This is tricky- after a few weeks, online dating is vital to a quick recovery, but my specific method is key. You must ONLY post photos that are not particularly flattering. The reason for this is that when you meet your potential suitors in person, you are immediately met with the compliment “Oh, you are SO much prettier in person!” Ego. Fucking. Boost. It might also work to be less charming in your written profile than you are in person, but I don’t have it in me. The downside to this method, of course, is that the real winners aren’t going to be interested in you, but who cares? You just got your heart broken! You aren’t really ready to date yet anyway. You can save that photoshopped prom picture for when you are soem semblance of emotionally stable again. It doesn’t matter that your date is missing teeth, has a slicked down comb-over, voted for Nixon, and needs your help turning his hearing aid up because his osteo-arthritic shoulder doesn’t permit his arm to bend that way- when he looks you up and down through that vintage monacle, slaps his knee in delight through his mom jeans, and showers you with old-timey praise, it’s going to feel good regardless.
Step 6: Look Amazing
This is easier than you think. If you’ve diligently been going to bed early with the assistance of heavy medication, not only is the extra rest good for your complexion and eliminates dark circles, but you probably haven’t been eating as much (who has time with all the texting and emailing going on!) and you should drop weight faster than a teenage boy headed to a wrestling championship. Couple that effort with a shopping spree for some new makeup and a killer pair of boots- yeah, you’re going to make heartbreak look like it really agrees with you. This will come in handy for the next step…
Step 7: Fake Being Awesome
Actually being awesome may seem like a challenge if your self-image has just taken a little hit, but if you’re like most women who’ve dated enough, you’ve gotten good at faking things by now. For once, though, you’re going to fake things for yourself. Tell yourself you are good at something, and then go do it. Fill up your schedule. Bury yourself in creative outlets. Make yourself live the life of someone who is incredible and, in short order, you won’t be faking it any more. You will just be awesome. I played multiple open mics (drunk, so drunk I forgot words and quit the last song halfway throguh by mumbling “oh christ, I don’t know this song”), I went camping and fishing and had my first pedicure and started a punk bluegrass band (actually we just met for beers one night, but it’s technically still on my to do list)…obviously, my outlets are just examples. I’m sure rock climbing or pottery or rescuing orphans from shark-infested waters are also fulfilling.
Step 8: Meet Someone Better
Don’t do this until you are actually ready to be over him. You’re going to find someone worth keeping and you won’t want baggage in the way. Although I pulled this off pretty quickly despite straying slightly from my formula (I hung out with a really cool chick who vastly outshone me), I recommend the following method to guarantee success. First, choose chubbier, less attractive friends to accompany you out. If you can possibly make sure they are also less interesting and funny, your stage is set. Second, refer back to step 6. This may require a trip to a salon; don’t cheat yourself. Shower. Wear clean clothes that fit. Come on, girl. Try. Third, go somewhere full of worthwhile single people, preferably of the correct sexual orientation and gender to find you attractive. You aren’t likely to meet prince charming in a biker bar or at a drag show, although both can be fun if you aren’t goal-oriented. Fourth, spend the entire evening having a genuinely great time. Nothing is more attractive than happiness. If you are the prettiest, happiest girl in the room, you’re going to meet someone better than that jackass who dumped you back when you were chubbier, boring, and so into crazy texting…
Step 9: Scrub the Bathroom With His Toothbrush
I made a pile early on of everything I was gong to give back to him (and never did), but I left his toothbrush. I don’t know why. It served as a reminder of what I had left behind. For some reason, his ridiculously expensive, ergonomically correct toothbrush stood as a symbol of all of the pretension and overblown self-importance that permeated our four months together, and every time I brushed my teeth I would glare at it with its articulating, multi-tongued head and multi-level bristles and part of my heart would heal. Last week, as I was cleaning the bathroom, my eye caught site of it and I realized the healing was done…it was time for that toothbrush to hit the road. I scrubbed every hint of soap scum from around the faucet, the sink, the nooks in the tub, and finally…the toilet. I have to admit, though, that ergonomic crap is no joke. My wrist feels amazing.
And that’s it. Nine steps to overcoming a broken heart so you can get back to watching Downton Abbey and googling cat memes like your soul deserves. I know I haven’t cured cancer here, but if I can help somebody brilliant stop crying a little sooner…maybe she will.