Part 161: Exit Strategy (or, Simone de Beauvoir as a Vessel for my Self-Pity)



‘Your life’s great,’ my brother enthused, unconvincingly, the other night. He was visiting me in my new, provincial hometown, having taken the fast train from London Paddington because I had called on New Year’s Day and told him, between sobs, that there was no way I would survive through January and the way things were going the chances of my making it to the other side of the weekend were also slim.

‘I mean it,’ he said. ‘You’re living Simone de Beauvoir’s dream right now.’

I responded with a puzzled, ‘?’ – but only because ‘fuck off’ seemed overly aggressive after he’d shelled out almost £100 to travel halfway across the country to make sure I didn’t throw myself under a bus.

‘Independent woman,’ he said. ‘Totally self sufficient and successful.’ (Read, also: single and sexless).

I am not 100% sure that my brother has read Simone de Beauvoir, and my memory of her work is patchy due to my only reading it in fervid chunks, under the influence of whisky and heartbreak (dense French feminism is not really my bag when happy and sober, what with Legally Blonde being much more straightforward and easy to digest), but I don’t particularly remember that being her message. And if it was her message then she was a total hypocrite who knew nothing of the pain I am feeling, what with never having had Jean-Paul Sartre shag her on and off for months on end and then just ignore all her text messages, even the funny ones peppered with crying sad face emojis.

Simone de Beauvoir never had to make an Apple Music playlist called ‘Hurty Heart’ to help her cope with rejection and email it to herself because she doesn’t know how to transfer a playlist from her laptop to her iPhone. Simone de Beauvoir never had to watch Bridget Jones’s Diary with her BFF and his family on the night before Christmas Eve and have her life refracted back at her as a dated cultural cliché. Simone de Beauvoir never had her mother tell her that she should research dating websites because if she didn’t meet someone online, how else was it going to happen for her.

Simone de Beauvoir had her novels and memoirs published by other people in books with pages and covers, and did not have to post them online, herself, so people could read them for free and then accuse her of attention seeking, punctuation misuse and immaturity. Simone de Beauvoir probably didn’t date men who told her that they’d been reading her writing and it was quite good but they probably wouldn’t be reading anything she wrote again because she used ‘too many long words.’

Frankly, if the life I am living right now seemed hypothetically attractive to Simone, back in the last century, when she was alive and could think about possible futures, she didn’t know what she was talking about.

If she had known, she might have advised me to work harder on my exit strategy – because she was a clever woman and she would likely have realised (as my brother and I – who almost certainly have a lower collective IQ than the lovely Ms de Beauvoir once did – when we watched Easy A in a failed attempt to lift my spirits on Sunday night) that the exit is my downfall. The exit is the point at which it all starts to crumble away, like stale biscuits, dusty to the touch, except that stale biscuits don’t send desperate, pleading text messages to men they’ve slept with because they are scared of dying all alone and never having any babies.

I have never known how to get out of anything with dignity, in a timely, appropriate fashion. I always want a nightcap after dinner, even if it’s really late and we all have work in the morning. I am the last person to leave any party I am ever invited to, either drunk with my dress tucked into my knickers and mascara smudged all down my face, or the next morning, in a similar state, only with the host irritably cleaning sick I might well be responsible for out of her carpet. It wasn’t cute when I was 16. It definitely is not cute now that I am 32. And in relationships I similarly cling on to the bitter, twisted end, rather than backing away gracefully when his indifference first becomes apparent. I just lose control and hold on and on, and it never has positive results in terms of either my mental health, or the relationships in question.

But what is the best way to exit before it gets out of hand? Ghosting is vile and borderline evil (and the only time I have done it myself it prompted two years of guilt and an eventual apology to the baffled ghostee, who had, by that point, moved on). I will not indulge in such behaviour. As the ghostee you are without power, but surely there is one last sniper move that might leave you with the upper hand? And if you leave it nicely, with one or the other of you saying you had a lovely time but maybe this is not a thing with a future – then what? How do you live with the possibility that you might have closed the door on the last chance you’ll ever have to be loved, even if he is a complete dickhead who just keeps making you cry?

Is this 2016 for me? Will my self-esteem finally dissolve to the point that it evaporates out of my skin, like a vapour?

It’s January and (as everyone keeps reminding me) perhaps not the best time to pose, or, indeed, answer, such questions. But stay tuned, babies, because, as a motivational quote I read on instagram just now reminded me: when God closes a door, He opens a window.

Happy New Year.

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