On the John
Originally completed May 15, 2006
Of all of the unsettling aspects of going through a break up—particularly after a meaningful, one to two year plus relationship in which your closest friends, family members, and various associates have begun to think of you as synonymous with your other—perhaps the most unforeseen is the ridiculously irritating act of having to tell people. It’s awful. I feel like Michael Corleone. Just when I thought I was over her, they puuuuuull me back in. This is probably one of the only set of circumstances in which I’d rather be a celebrity than a regular person. To have the ability to call a press conference and get the whole thing over with in one shot…incredible. Jennifer Aniston has it easy; she just lets the tabloids do their jobs. I’d invite the White House press corps, with Helen Thomas delivering the first question, followed by at least three from my grandmother. After that, it’s open season.
I’ve decided something important, and I’m going to say it now: going through a break up should not be nearly as agonizing as it usually is. We should all be used to breaking up; it is an inevitability, much like death. Assuming that you never embark upon a Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell type partnership, and taking death out of the equation, every relationship that you ever have—EVER!—will end in either marriage or break up. That’s it. Those are the only two options. In the U.S., the divorce rate alone is 49%. That’s an astounding figure, but that’s just the marriages. Think about all of the relationships that have to brick before a person even gets married. All told, the success rate for any non-platonic relationship has got to be around ten percent, and that’s a very generous estimation based on nothing. Even so, ten percent. Ten percent! That means that for every ten people that you ever date, you’ll probably end up with a strong distaste for seven of them, with two of them sitting in a holding pattern of polite appreciation.
And what’s wrong with that? Most people will, at some point or another, dedicate themselves to one person. It’s a pretty standard decision. So there’s really no shame in being involved in a relationship that ends before death. It’s simply God’s way of telling you that this is not the person with whom you are destined to live blissfully, because if it were, she probably would not care what your breath smells of in the morning.
In many cases, this is the most difficult aspect of a break up: knowing that in order to get back to the point of comfort that you had achieved with your previous lover, you have to trudge back through the awkward stages in which both parties grow to accept all of the opposite’s flaws and less-appealing yet still human qualities, such as the need to excrete waste. A first date is not much more than a bold faced lie, and everything after that is just delayed truth-telling, as we test each other, seeing just how much truth about the “real me” the other person can handle. If there is a bright side of the break up, it is the freedom to pursue a new lover, but that is quickly dampened when you realize that this new person probably has all of the same problems that the old person had.
The big difference, then, between your old lover and your new lover is that you still have a lot of heavy lifting to do with the new lover before you can even get to the break up. It’s a frustrating cycle, one that many video game players of the late ’80s experienced when they realized that while reaching Mike Tyson was relatively easy, defeating him was pretty much impossible. And that’s when most of us got hooked on the straight-to-Tyson code, so that we could jump right to Kid Dynamite and get our asses handed to us time and again in the first round.
After a while, we decided that simply getting wrecked by Tyson was not an enjoyable video game experience, and it was then that we began to truly appreciate the journey; the silly joy of knocking out Glass Joe in fifteen seconds, the giddy thrill of KOing King Hippo with an endless attack of stomach punches, the overwhelming ecstasy of applying the perfectly timed punch that would defeat Bald Bull’s Bull Charge. Indeed, a certain amount of enjoyment can be culled from the simple act of pursuit, even if it is well-known to both parties that the lies will eventually end, along with the relationship.
And if it does, so what? Breaking up is a part of love, perhaps the most important part. After all, it is only after having your heart stamped out again and again by the people who are supposed to love you most that you can ever grow desperate and cynical enough to actually sustain a marriage without the hope that something better is out there.
Copyright 2006, jm silverstein