Comfortable and Furious

The ABC’s of Breakups


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Written by Matthew McDonald

Pair-bonding goes back as far as cave-paintings, coveting fire, and killing rival tribes for their spinning rims. We come together and invariably part; the die is cast, the patterns play out, and all were left with are crushed emotions and material goods to be divided like some yard sale of the damned. Feelings of betrayal, a sense of loss, and an irrational need to lash out follow obediently, the wound-licking pets of failed monogamy padding along in our pathetic wake. But it’s so much more interesting and terrible than all of that! Here, in my inaugural foray here at Ruthless, I’m going to show you goddamned kids today what it really means to go your separate ways after love falls to earth like Icarus with scorched wings. Grab a pint of ice cream or a fifth of grain alcohol and follow me down the torch-lit tunnel of freshly-butchered romance

Acceptance: This comes way later in the process, after all of the rage, disappointment, finger-pointing, and shattered trust are hashed out and laid to rest. When the wounds are fresh, the idea of accepting anything less than your former lover’s severed head in a fishbowl seems ludicrous. You’d rather see that cheating cocksucker torn apart by wild horses than hear that he’s gotten his anger under control with a decent therapist. You don’t want closure, you want someone at the bar to tell you that Sheila fell off a cliff during some self-discovery hike, and that her remains had to be identified with dental records, because even buzzards don’t eat fillings or crowns.

Blame: This is generally the No Man’s Land of a breakup, a place where both parties throw canisters of toxic gas until one or both hack up a lung trying to refute the accusations. If you accept the blame, you’re a better person than me, because I’d rather eat a drywall-screw sandwich than cop to fucking up someone’s life simply by not living up to a fantasy. And clearly, by this admission, I’m a mature adult who won’t benefit the least from counseling, medication, or electroconvulsive therapy.

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Can We Still Be Friends?: Depending on the severity/intensity of the relationship now collapsing, this question is either a totally viable query or an invitation to be derided until you pull a David Foster Wallace with a rafter and a belt. If the cause for the fracture isn’t too deep-seated, there is hope for the two of you to remain amiable; if the split occurred because someone committed an unforgivable offense, you’re better off palling around with a desperate junkie you wouldn’t normally let within fifty feet of your Xbox and Blu-ray collection.

Drunk Calls/Texts: These can yield surprisingly positive results. I once rekindled a thought-dead relationship by hammered-texting an ex, which resulted in a year of near-bliss. The problem, of course, was that it had all been ignited by false, bottled bravado. So, when shit hit the dirt a second time, I had no one to blame but myself and the entire Macallan clan back in Scotland.

Empathy: Merriam-Webster defines this oft-abused word as meaning “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions; the ability to share someone else’s feelings.” Now, bearing that in mind, how many of us are clear-headed and kind-hearted enough to experience such a thing in the immediate wake of being dumped or having dumped someone else? If you’ve just had your ass carved off or you’ve thrown your lover into a spinning propeller, the last thing on your mind is feeling what they feel, because all you want is to be rid of that fucking person: lock, stock, and smoking asshole.

Facebook: As of this writing, Facebook is a full-blown warzone for the emotionally-wounded to vomit their pain for others to taste. Is it tactful? Absolutely not. Is it necessary? Go fuck yourself. Is it juvenile and eternally adolescent? Boy howdy! Social networking has enabled the chronically-immature to become demigods in their (perceived) ability to persecute those who have wronged them even if the person in question simply broke things off because they’d run their course and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Naturally, this is meaningless to the person who’s built you up in their mind to be the end-all/be-all of their own chronic lack of self-worth. Beware, dear reader: here be dragons, and they’re not the gorgeous CGI creations of modern film spectacle; these winged reptiles eat status updates and shit mortifying hashtags.

Guilt: If you really felt it, would you be reading this?

He Said, She Said: An adage older than God’s baby teeth, this bon mot is now completely ridiculous, in light of philosophy and physics revealing subjective reality as a bias-butchered coping mechanism for the human inability to accurately gauge moment-to-moment experience. Or, in moron speak, two people see a situation from two different perspectives, but because a breakup is inherently charged with emotion, history, et cetera, no one is going to have a factually-accurate take on the events leading up to it.

The only thing that this saying enables is a full-blown weep-fest wherein either party falls apart around trusted friends, horrified acquaintances, or mortified family members. In the end, nobody actually cares if it was his or her fault; all they want is for you to get the fuck out of their house before the neighbors file a police complaint about the indoor livestock apparently being butchered across the street.

Insanity: Depending on the circumstance, you either feel that you yourself are going nuts, or that the brand-new ex is certifiably batshit. It’s difficult to pin down, both because it’s unlikely you’re a licensed psychiatrist, and because the DSM-5 is an industry-shattering clusterfuck. My ex is nuts, people will often say it is a coping mechanism for the sloppy emotional mess they’re trying to free themselves from, but this is usually just a bullshit justification for overlooking personal faults in retrospect.

Was he crazy or did you just really love the taste of strange cocks in dimly-lit alleys? Was she a lunatic or are you simply too chickenshit to face emotional life as an adult? The word and its meaning eventually melt like candle wax poured onto a submissive’s scrotum.

Jackass: Both as the pop-culture phenomenon TV/movie series, and as the pejorative term for those so stupid they should be rendered sterile by a benevolent utopian government, this is something to bear in mind when considering what really went wrong before, during, and after the split.

Karma: An endlessly misinterpreted concept in Hinduism and Buddhism which, according to Western theosophy means the cosmic principle according to which each person is rewarded or punished in one incarnation according to that person’s deeds in the previous incarnation. Most people alive and four-limbed on earth’s current terrain have come to believe that karma is a cosmic analog to cash-money: the more you lend, the more you’re owed; and the more you’ve thrown away, the less you deserve.

This is adorable when viewed through a narcissistic lens, but let’s cut the crap: you either fucked someone over or were fucked over by someone. There is nothing supernatural, paranormal or romantic about any of that. Somebody lost and somebody gained but, more likely than not, both parties lost and suffered in varying degrees. Karma is a word that New Age idiots summon to keep the wolves of responsibility at bay. It’s easier to sleep at night when faeries and leprechauns can be blamed, rather than your shitty judgment and bullet-ridden logic, yes? Yes.

Lies: When were emotionally wounded, the most soothing salve to reach for is the one that says the person who wronged us is full of shit. But were they really? Are we being truly honest about what’s ended things? Is the situation as simple or as complex as it seems? Or is the entire thing a cat’s cradle clusterfuck of self-fed horseshit to keep life feeling smooth and easy? Sorry folks, but honest answers rarely support a clear conscience.

Moving Out: The hard decisions have been made, the major possessions have been divvied up, and the time to literally separate has come. You’ve rented a U-Haul van and gotten a few (thankfully uninvolved) friends to help you load the goddamned thing, so the biggest question now is whether or not you can finish the day with a stiff upper lip. To break down weeping is to show some form of weakness, but to move stoically is, paradoxically, viewed as a sign of cold inhumanity. This is a lose/lose, no matter how either party plays it, so it’s best to just load the truck, slam the doors, and peel off as obnoxiously as possible to silence the feelings of shittiness you’ve earned during this melodramatic mess.

Narcotics: This is a wonderfully polysemous word, since love itself is a drug on many levels. Meanwhile, the intake of chemicals for purposes of hallucination, depersonalization, or self-annihilation can be just as euphoric and trippy as that serotonin sled-race your brain rockets down when you meet The One and decide he’s the guy you’ll spend your waning, dignity-shedding years beside. I’m rambling, but my point is that love, like every other wondrous experience, is much more like a controlled substance than an effortless breeze on some autumnal afternoon. Work (and a regulated dosage) is required to keep things going, and when one or both parties fail at their duties, the trip goes from mind-expanding to nightmarish in a flash. Don’t do drugs, kids.

Over It: You say that even scream it when your danders up but are you really? Is the end genuinely something you can say you’ve reached, or are you bullshitting yourself again, nursing a glass of something flammable and cranking the band she always hated but you still love? Will you ever, truly, be over it? Time will tell, brothers and sisters. Time will fucking tell us all.

Penance: After some time has passed, you may realize that you were, in point of fact, the fly in the romantic ointment. How do you make attrition for this? Is there any way, when so many doors have been slammed shut? Is an apology worth the trouble of guaranteed humiliation, if it sets the record straight? Will you make the gesture at the risk of setting your balls, labia, or some genetically-creative combination of the two aflame?

Questions: When hashing things out after all else has failed, the details that tend to pop up most like an emotional round of Whac-A-Mole are all the questions. Did she ever really love me? Did he try to fuck my sister? Is my rash from her, the one before her, or the chick I miraculously seduced at the bar after stabbing my own drunken foot with a dart last night? None of these queries will ever be answered in a satisfactory manner, because every single one is born of self-loathing, confusion, and the fact that 99% of the human population would sooner chug napalm than admit that they might have made a mistake at some point.

Regret: Nothing saws at the conscience like the hunting knife of What if I had just done [blank] differently? This is a mental trap, of course; if you actually knew how to keep the Good Ship Amour from capsizing before, you’re certainly not going to gain the ability to steady the choppiest sea after the Coast Guard has gathered the bloated, shark-gnawed corpses of your failed ambitions for the mass grave beating in your chest.

Sex Memories: The only worthwhile wreckage from a dramatic split are those moments, etched in your gray matter, of tangled limbs, colliding pelvises, and shared orgasms (probably faked, like love at the end). Cherish these, and keep them close, especially when you get a tingle down there that only lubricant and emotionally-skewed recollections of personal pornography can soothe.

Tact: That short, sharp little word that makes all the difference between a mature adult accepting a life-change, and the shrieking, floor-pounding tantrum of a wounded ego imploding like an Internet startup after Y2K.

Ups and Downs: Every relationship has them, and every breakup is riddled with them. Some days, you’ll feel right as rain, ready for action, and a whole slew of other dopey idioms. Other days, you’ll want to drink yourself into oblivion, scrawl terrible poems into a notebook you’d sooner eat than show another person, or wonder what it’s like to be alive yet emotionless like most of Congress. This is a totally normal, totally healthy reaction to things, and I recommend riding the waves as they even out, rather than running for city council.

Vitriol: Without it, I could not have written most of this.

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Wasted Time: An expression some are inclined to toss around after an unavoidable split, and a cruel, devaluing phrase, as if anything not continued until the day you die is just existence pissed away. You had some laughs, some tears, and the occasional blast; why the bleeding Christ does entropy, when applied to relationships, suddenly void all the prior time spent with a significant other? Answer: It fucking doesn’t, and if you believe that it does, you don’t need a mate, you need a padded room and a head-high pile of books not written by Nicholas Sparks, Danielle Steele, or the cunt who scribbled the Twilight cancer into existence.

X-BF, X-GF: A regrettable, web- and text-centric phrase used to reduce a prior love-of-your-life to a snazzy acronym. Who needs a functional attention span when you’ve got another Chatroulette session waiting to bleach your brain?

Yearning: When the deafening din of blame, insults, regret, remorse, anger, sadness, and assorted emotional shrapnel finally die down, the one feeling many of us seem to experience is a weird, melancholic sense of longing. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter that he fucked half your sorority while you were studying pre-Raphaelite art in Europe, or that she had seventeen clandestine Facebook identities as a dominatrix willing to stomp the scrotums of men all over the world with viable PayPal accounts.

It’s midnight on a Tuesday, you can’t sleep, and suddenly you remember a specific kiss, a moment of undeniable connection, or the first time you thought another person might be someone you could potentially love longer than the entire run (so far) of The Simpsons. Yearning is normal and yearning is healthy, but yearning, left unchecked, will fuck your mind harder than Nacho Vidal after a fistful of Cialis chased with Red Bull. Mind this fickle emotion like the twitchy dude muttering to himself at the train station just before midnight; they both go from harmless to hostile in six seconds flat.

Zoloft: If all else fails and you still can’t get over that son of a bitch/rotten cunt, perhaps it’s time to aim the rage back at yourself like the proverbial shotgun. Antidepressants, though pitched shamelessly by pharmaceutical companies more hellbent on profits than prosperity, really can make a difference in an otherwise one-track mind. Ask your doctor, but don’t ask me. I’m already fucked up enough for three lifetimes, and I’ve spent nearly three thousand words passing the savings on to you.



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2 responses to “The ABC’s of Breakups”

  1. Goat Avatar

    A masterpiece of quality over quantity. Thank you, Matthew.

  2. John Welsh Avatar

    Cue soundtrack : Julie London singing Cry Me A River.
    That’s a cheery way to start the weekend. However, I learned a new word: polysemous.
    Poly, meaning many, and semous, meaning banned in 11 US states and parts of Canada. Required in some counties in Utah.

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