Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Off Season Post 11: Surviving the Break Up

Hello and welcome back. It’s been almost two weeks since my last post and I’m certain you’re all squirming in your chairs to see what’s on my mind today. Well, I’m not sure if that’s accurate. Perhaps you’re all begging for an entry in order to escape whatever it is you do for a living for a few minutes. I hope I don’t disappoint.

We’re at that time of year when school teachers work retail to supplement their incomes in hopes of taking that Sandals vacation to St. Wherever in order to escape the confines of their respective school districts and go absolutely nuts knowing that they will not run into the Room Mother at the local watering hole. Children listen to their parents and parents find a way to hide the big gifts. Grandparents over purchase in a passive aggressive effort to get back at their children. Sales people stop pretending to work and actually don’t work. Office staffers incessantly count up their remaining comp time in order to blow their remaining days in exchange for day time trips to the mall or the grocery store. Those of us with professional licenses conspire with each other to put off every deadline and obligation until at least the second week of January.

Ahh yes, the year-end shirking of responsibility. It’s really the only true holiday tradition, isn’t it? It knows no religious, economic, or social boundaries. Indeed, it’s something we all share and something that brings us together. It’s like the laughter of children or France’s love for Jerry Lewis. Let’s all take the time to remember that this holiday season. When you’re standing in line at whatever overcrowded store beckons you during the waning hours of shopping season, give a stranger a familiar nod and take comfort in knowing that, like you, that stranger has lied to his boss.

Yes sir, there’s magic in the air. Well, for some of you, that “magic” is either frost or smog, but even the pollution carries with it the sweet, sugary taste of Christmas cookies and holiday cheer this time of year. Inhale deeply and enjoy it. I’m sure that the traditions you observe are ripe reminders of the joy of the season. Personally, I get very excited when I get to go up to the dark recesses of my top closet shelf and gently lift the otherwise obscure wooden box that resides there for 11 months of the year off the shelf. I bring it down quietly and I savor the moments of anticipation before opening it. I take out its contents, dust it off, and smile as I put on my version of holiday cheer. Yes readers, it’s that time of year. It’s time for me to break out my mistletoe belt buckle. I’m sure you have a similar tradition and I can only hope it brings you as much satisfaction as mine.

This week’s shout out goes to a reader named Kelly C. who sent me an email last week suggesting that I address the universal issue of Surviving the Breakup. I immediately liked the idea for two reasons. First, it would allow me to aggressively vent by passively making reference to all of my old girlfriends who made my life miserable at one time or another. There’s nothing like an opportunity to take an unobstructed cheap shot and I have to admit, I’m not above it. Second, it would give me the chance to put my male perspective to good use. This blog, after all, is read mostly by women. For the men reading, I promise not to give away the farm.

As I continued to read Kelly’s email, I sensed a deeper purpose for her request. She informed me that she recently ended a long term relationship and is dealing with that difficult readjustment to life as a single person that we’ve all been through at one time or another in our lives. Before I begin my generic analysis, allow me to offer a few words of encouragement to Kelly C.

He’s an as*hole who didn’t deserve the abundance of selfless love and affection that you showered upon him like pollen into a thirsty flower day after day. He’s selfish and uncaring and while you had some good times, his true colors are finally showing. Your friends never liked him anyway, but they just pretended to because you seemed happy. Now that the horse if out of the barn they can speak freely. He will end up like any man who abandons a good woman. He’ll drink too much, eat too much, and sit on the couch. He’ll grow soft and unattractive and the miserable failure of his next relationship will be God’s punishment for rejecting one of His angels. You’ll be better off. You’re way too pretty and cute for him.

Alright, I don’t technically know Kelly or her ex-boyfriend, but I heard that entire paragraph while eavesdropping on a man-hating powwow at a wine bar one night. I’m glad that I’m finally able to put it to use. Hang in there, Kelly. This too shall pass. With that said, let’s get to it.

I’ve written about several subjects over the past few months, but I don’t think that any are as personal as Surviving the Breakup. Let me qualify the remainder of this post by saying that there is nothing more agonizing than supporting a friend (male or female) through a break up. The first few weeks of any of the fallout of the demolition of a long-term relationship consist of listening to that friend whine for hours about every aspect of the relationship. It’s a painful yet essential role of a true friend.

It should be noted that single friends are much better people to discuss these nuances with than married people. Married people view all single break ups like ridiculous, almost imperceptible bumps in the road. There’s an irony to this stance, though. As married people they are in the unique position of understanding immeasurable frustration and hopelessness; the staples of any new break up. However, because of their married status they can’t see the down side of being set free like those oil covered Gulf coast birds that have been rescued, cleaned, and nursed back to health. It’s truly a paradox.

Crying on the shoulder of a married person about a single person break up is like telling a person with children that even though you don’t have children you can relate to them because you have a dog or a cat. Despite the dog lovers out there who are shaking their heads in disbelief it just isn’t the same thing. Cats and dogs don’t share your DNA and they don’t become little versions of you. They don’t make you sloppily handwritten drawings with the words “I love you, Mommy” scrawled with care across the center of them and smile from ear to ear when you put them on the refrigerator.

Also, unless you’re married to Brad Pitt, you can’t just run down to the local shelter and pick up a few kids for free. You can’t put your kid in a cage for 8 hours and forget to return home to let him out to pee because you decide to get just one more margarita at happy hour and you can’t leave your kid in the laundry room with bowls of food and water and his favorite blanket. Well, I suppose you could, but CPS would eventually bring that a screeching halt.

On the other hand, you’ll never scar a dog or a cat for life. Your dog will always think you’re the coolest person in the entire world and your cat will always simply tolerate your existence but feign interest from time to time when it suits his cause. Your dog will never sneak out of the house to make out with her boyfriend at 3am and then lie to you about it and your cat will never steal money from your purse and then deny it. Pets are wonderful but they aren’t kids. At any rate, after getting broken up with, it is important to choose the correct people to talk to. I guess that’s my point.

In selecting your Misery Bearing Posse (hereinafter referred to as “MBP”) it is important to prepare yourself for the initial venting of the frustrations session. Truth be told, this is the most important session because it lays the foundation for future meetings at various wine bars and other drinking establishments where groups of embittered women gather to castigate the latest friend-dumping scoundrel.

The ideal number of people in the MBP is, of course, five (plus you). Assuming you remain neutral, this allows for a majority vote on all issues and provides you with the ever-important swing vote in the event that a member of your MBP is forced to miss a meeting. In addition, the average sitting area at a wine bar is designed for 5-8 people, thereby ensuring that the MBP will always have an effective, comfortable place to conduct its activities.

Balance is the first factor to consider in the selection of the MBP. First, the Man-Hater is essential to the mix. This is the one friend who winces in anger at the sound of the word “penis” and takes the mere existence of the male species as an affront to her happiness. Maybe she was wronged by Mr. Right. Maybe her Daddy didn’t love her. Whatever the reason, the Man Hater is not an optional component of the MBP. Everyone knows at least one of these. She’ll enlist early and anxiously with the same fervor as every Southern man named Jeb during the Civil War.

Second, to offset the vitriolic venom spewing from every orifice of the Man Hater, it is essential to have the Voice of Reason. This is the friend who simply loves everyone and has a real belief that every person is truly a good person. She will serve as sort of a core meltdown preventer keeping the Man Hater from exploding. She’s like those sprinkler heads in office buildings or the steam release valve on a furnace. She’s the Ying to the over-aggressive Yang of the Man Hater.

Book ends in place, it is now essential to pick your three middle-of-the-road MBP members. First, there’s the Romantic. This is the person who simply believes that every relationship starts and ends with infinite passion and positivity. She reads only books with covers of shirtless, raven-haired Indians in various stages of passion with vulnerable porcelain-skinned frontier women surrendering to the impending ravishing by a stranger in a foreign land. She believes in the power of love and the dating Bible called Men are From Mars and Women are From Venus. She’s usually the pivot point between the Man Hater and the Voice of Reason. Both of them secretly hate her guts. Obnoxious? Yes. Essential? Definitely.

Next is the female equivalent of Judas Iscariot. We’ll call her Judy Iscariot. This is usually the first friend over to the apartment with a bottle of chardonnay and two glasses after the break up. It never occurs to you to ask her how she knew about the break up, but she knew. She’s only interested in participating because of the information she’ll gather and she’ll automatically turn it right over to her boyfriend, who is invariably the best friend of your ex. Judy has known about the ex’s philandering for over a year now and hasn’t said a word. She knew about the break up before you did. She can’t be trusted, but in your state of vulnerability, you’ll ignore her proximity and access to the enemy camp.

Rounding out the group is the Stranger. This is the disinterested, usually hot, single friend of Judy Iscariot. She’s the girl that knows all of the really bad things that Judy does in her time away from the core group. The Stranger doesn’t say much and isn’t a staple around the wine bar. She’s the person who nods in sympathy as you cry about being wronged. She’s also the person that will inevitably be the next in line to sleep with your ex-boyfriend—if she hasn’t already. Of course, you won’t find out about this for a year when you run into her, your ex, Judy, and her boyfriend at some random location sharing a cheese plate and some hummus.

MBP in place, it is essential to craft a viable strategy for break up survival. Usually, this entails some shopping therapy, a trip to an upscale liquor store to purchase wine and the equivalent of chocolate covered truffles or bonbons, and a few nights on the couch in front of the television devouring the aforementioned wine and bonbons while watching The Sweetest Thing or Under the Tuscan Sun or—in the most extreme cases—Fatal Attraction. Post work trips to wine bars and any place with an outdoor patio and cute, college-aged waiters soon follow.

Halt. This is where Some Guy in Austin steps in. Allow me to offer my male perspective on Surviving the Break Up and—depending on your ultimate goal—some solid solutions to the mysteries of male, post-break up behavior. Here goes.

By the way, I’m well aware that there are a significant number of readers who, upon getting to my Under the Tuscan Sun reference, smiled, sighed, and said to themselves, “I LOVE that movie . . .”. You’re so predictable. Annnyyyyyhoooo . . .

SGIA Tip #1. Make a Decision. Trust me on this one. There is nothing less appealing to a man than a woman who simply has no idea what she wants. Taking twenty minutes to select an entrée in a restaurant with six things on the menu, pondering the wine list for another twenty, or milling around the clearance racks at Express or Urban Outfitters while we sit there in the Guy Chair holding your purse is enough to drive us crazy. We scream inside like The Man in the Iron Mask longing to be released from his cell in order to exact his revenge. Add in a break up and this is especially true.

Decide early if you want the guy back or if you’ll tough it out and move on. Communicate that decision to the ex and stick with it. Teary phone calls, desperate texts, or soppy equivocating emails push us further away. If there’s any hope of reconciliation, indecisiveness on your part will kill it. Watch the opening scene of Swingers. Ron Livingston sums it up perfectly when talking to John Favreau.

SGIA Tip #2. Call off Your Posse. Jilted women tend to share their misery with all of their friends and significant male bashing is an important part of that ritual. Given the opportunity, the Man Hater will go rogue and semi-stalk the ex in public. Drinks in the face, fights with the new girl, and keyed cars are examples of what happens if the MBP isn’t duly warned to keep its distance. Being supportive is one thing. Seeking to destroy another person’s life is another. It’s a hell of a lot easier to move on if the break occurs cleanly. The less drama the better as far as a man is concerned. It’s often that silence that causes a man to actually sit down and think about the good in a past relationship. If we want to reconcile, we know where to look for you. If your friends do something foolish, it ruins everything.

SGIA Tip #3. Get a Hobby. Take up a new interest or tackle something that the relationship did not allow you to do. If that happens to be that delicious looking bell guy at the hotel across the street from your office building, so be it. Just get an interest besides the break up. You’ll be able to dissolve the MBP much earlier than anticipated and you’ll find a new outlet in the process. Fresh starts are good things. Fresh bell boys can be too.

SGIA Tip #4. Be Honest. I mean be honest with everyone. After the weekly (or bi-weekly depending on the severity of the situation) meeting of the MBP you are usually inundated with advice about how to handle various situations. This usually includes such staples as: Don’t call him. Don’t talk to him. Don’t respond to his emails. Send his stuff back to him. Unfriend him on Facebook. Burn his pictures. I could go on, but you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Now we all know that when left alone with our thoughts in the context of a break up, our minds will wander. Phone calls are made, texts are sent, meetings are arranged, mistakes are made. We all know that, but we all lie like Bill Clinton at a press conference when confronted by our friends. We do the same thing to our ex when asked about the reaction of our friends. Being honest to everyone around you about the breakup, your mistakes, your desires, and your faults is essential to allowing the healing process to start and the correct advice to be doled out. Once the cards are on the table, there’s nothing to hide anymore. That’s a good feeling and it’s one less thing to worry about while you’re sneaking off to the coat closet with Mr. Bell Guy during your lunch hour.

SGIA Tip #5. Embrace the Break Up. Men are much better at women than doing this step but are much less effective at the other steps. What do I mean by “embrace the break up”? Look, after any long term relationship ends—friendship, marriage, engagement, etc.—it is necessary to recognize that the grieving of that relationship is a uniquely personal and absolutely essential process. Jumping too early into another relationship without healing the wounds is an invitation to a disaster to which no Save the Date magnet will be mailed.

You’re going to be sad. Be sad. Cry, scream, mope, pout, and eat your bonbons. It’s normal and healthy to feel sad. Allow that to happen instead of trying to fight it.

You’re going to be angry. See “Get a Hobby.” Like sadness, anger is a natural emotion. Just don’t let it get the best of you. You’ll find that it’s possible to reconcile, move on, or be friends with an ex if anger is correctly managed. It it’s not, you end up boiling live bunnies in his house and stalking him at sporting events. Don’t be that girl.

You’re going to be tired. A big break up is a mentally and physically exhausting event. Don’t punish yourself by wallowing in it. Take the time to take care of yourself. Use the wine bar to vent and then use the chin up bar at the gym.

You’re going to be fine. No end to any relationship can steal from you who you are as a person. The choices you make following that break up can, though. Be vigilant. Be thoughtful. Listen to yourself and eventually you’ll realize that with time comes perspective. Like a great book, you may never forget about your ex. You’ll always feel his presence on the shelf and that relationship will be indelibly written into your soul. Take what was good and appreciate it. Take what was bad and don’t repeat it.

Well, there it is. My tips on surviving the break up. Good or bad, I think we all realize that time doesn’t slow up for us to get over a relationship. Speaking of time, we’re only 3 weeks out from the debut of our favorite show. Send me your final off season feedback and ideas. The next post will be my final in this series of Off Season Posts and then I’ll return to Bachelor topics, including the much awaited analysis of Mr. Womack.

Enjoy your wine and bonbons. In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be polishing my mistletoe belt buckle. DP


  1. DP, wow do you happen to know my sister? She fits this perfect! Two marriages later and she still doesn't get the break up process. She would rather boil her ex-husband than bunnies! (-: Thanks for sharing and may I say good luck with the misteltoe belt buckle and have a Merry Christmas! To each his own! Kim in Nevada

    I will send this to my sister and hopefully you gain a new fan or an angry ex who disagrees with everything you just wrote.

  2. DP, I have a friend who fits the profile very well. I must say, you are very good at giving advice, I wish a lot of girls would read this and follow your tips. Their lives would be so much better.

    Love the mistletoe beltbuckle, what a riot. Why don't you post a picture on FB? Merry Christmas!

  3. I think you should have an advice column. File that idea away for the next off-season. Readers can write in with their problems and you can address a couple of them each week. Sort of a WWDPD. You're so practical, yet sensitive and insightful, and I think you could help a lot of people out!

    I really hope you're not kidding about the mistletoe belt buckle, because that's the greatest thing I've ever heard of. And please post a picture!

  4. Wow! How is it that you are not taken yet by some lovely young lady? I can not believe how you can write such wonderful posts. I never knew about all of this since I was a mom at 16. My life centered around my children and I did not experience the things you write about. It is fascinating to read about how other females do things. I agree, you should write an advice column. I know I would read it. I have never seen a mistletoe belt buckle, so please post it so we all can enjoy it. Happy Holidays to you! Debbie

  5. My favorite part about the comments so far is that all of them reference with great fervor the love of the mistletoe belt buckle. Classic. Lofty references be damned. It's always the anatomy jokes that work. I'll see what I can do about a picture on my Facebook site. Search "Guy in Austin" to find my fan page. DP

  6. My favorite -- the end of the year shirking of responsibility!

    As a swinging single lady, my favorite post-break up hobby...planning and throwing a party! All the energy that once went into obsessing about your former hottie, can be transferred to obsessing over every detail of the event. By the time the event rolls around...Put on a new outfit, have a few cocktails, and you'll be back to your old-self in no time!

    Merry Christmas!!! :) And thanks for a great year of blogs! Looking forward to everything you'll have to offer in 2011!!!

  7. The mistletoe belt buckle sounds AWESOME!
    I just found your blog and love it! Glad to find another fellow Texan! Come visit me over at Opto-Mom.

  8. Thank you for your thoughts and help. A break up sucks - especially this time of year when all you see are couple stuff on TV.

    Can't wait for the show to return :)

    And if this is the last post for the off season - Marry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    -Post It Girl

  9. I HATE Under the Tuscan Sun... WORSE MOVIE EVER!!