I’m shit at break-ups. Like most people, I’m selfish, bitter, resentful and insecure – especially when some cad has fucked me over. Like most people, magnanimity is not my gut reaction to the violent severance of once-tender bonds. I’ve been known to indulge in weeks or months of self-pity, break-up sex and desperate drunken text messages that can only wield disaster. Just the usual. Move along please, nothing new to see here.
But it isn’t the initial distress that’s the worst thing about break-ups. The heartbreak and all that, that’s just part of life. We learn from it, we grow and we become something better than whatever it is we were before – something stronger, sharper, hotter.
The worst thing about break-ups is ex-partners who just won’t fuck off and leave us alone. Even when we’ve explicitly told them that that’s precisely what they should do. Ex-partners who can’t comprehend that it is far more romantic to let us miss them and wonder what might have been, than it is to stalk us, like the wild-eyed protagonist of some predictable thriller movie. Ex partners who, from the moment we try to excavate ourselves from their lives, cling to us, like barnacles to a slimy rock-face.
I’m talking a small but significant retinue of men – ex-boyfriends, blokes I had one night stands with, friends I snogged at a house party in 2008 – who contact me on a regular basis, years later, just for… I’m not sure what it is they want. To check I’m alive? To suss out whether sex might be on the cards, ever again, at some point in the future? To plug an emotional gap that their current/recently terminated relationships no longer fills?
Do they even know, these ghostly ex-lovers, emitting nonchalant, sexually charged platitudes, what they want, when they message me in the dead of night, their backs turned in the half-dark against wives and girlfriends and new-born children? Do they know what they want as they clutch at the gossamer wisps of the past via Facebook and whatsapp, Twitter and email, text messages and the comments section of this blog?
I don’t flatter myself that the break-up behaviour of my exes is any sign of my innate desirability. Years of singledom have stripped my ego bare in that department. The hot-backed boys I want to sleep with flock away like startled birds at the first flutter of my eyelashes. I do not get new romances very far off the ground before they crash and burn like a Virgin space mission. I have looked in the mirror and Cindy Crawford has not looked back (physically, I’d say I’m a cross between Kathy Burke, Audrey Hepburn and Bianca out of EastEnders). But it does appear I endure, after you’ve been there and seen it without make-up.
It’s well beyond your common or garden variety break-up insanity, this behaviour my exes exhibit. It is not the kind of crazy that stops somewhere between a week and a year after you part ways, depending on the depth and length of the romantic connection. It’s the other kind of break-up insanity – the kind that never ends. Ever. Probably not even after you’re both dead.
I find this terrifying.
Especially at night, when I can’t sleep. Especially when I attempt to soothe myself back to slumber by googling notorious murder cases. Will this be me one day – a Wikipedia entry, finally, but only because I’ve been hacked down or strangled by a rabid, snarling version of a man I once desired? Because isn’t that what they do, these men who won’t leave women alone, in the end?
Or maybe I do flatter myself. It could be that my mates are correct and I am, after all, a narcissistic drama queen. Perhaps it isn’t only me. Perhaps this is just how men behave now, once they’ve slept with you and eschewed long-term commitment. It is entirely possible that this is a technique they learn at some etiquette school for bastards. The endless reminder that, guess what, he’s still here, and you slept with him once.
Ostensibly benign text messages out of the blue, with no indication of the motivation behind them. And then, a sexually charged email, followed by abuse, followed by silence, ad nauseam, until the end of time.
This is not okay, men of the world. Life has moved on, my darlings, and we’re different people now, with longer pubic hair, full-time jobs and killer fingernails. You need emotional articulacy and clear motivations if you’re going to stay in our lives.
And so my answer to that perennial question, ‘but why are you single?’, has to be: ‘break-ups, babe. I can’t fucking handle ‘em.’
*Image is “Mussels And Barnacles” by Karen Shaw (see what I did there?) from freedigitalphotos.net