Breaking up: it’s not just hard it’s horrific, and like grief and Pampers, break-ups come in stages. First there is the pre-break-up stage. For women in particular, this stage can drag on for what seems like an eternity. “I don’t know, I just don’t think he is going to change. I don’t know what to do; I think I should leave him.” If my girlfriends had a dollar for every time they heard me say that in my twenties, I think most of them would have paid off their student loans. If I had written down every piece of seemingly brilliant yet unheeded relationship advice I doled out to my girlfriends during their relationship woes I could have written a book on the topic; I could have been a twenty something dysfunctional Dr. Laura.
Then comes the actual breakup stage. In my case I usually crossed over from the pre-break up stage when I had absolutely no choice to remain in the uncertain agony of the unknown. My exes had a good way of making things clearly known. Such as the time I came home to find my live in boyfriend in our bed with another girl. Perhaps this is why I have never understood these people who are able to be friends with their exes. There is not a lot of room for friendship after you have chased a naked girl out of your bed with a candle stick.
Then there is the wallowing stage of the break-up. Symptoms include: Crying, drinking, blaming, making bad decisions and burning up the phone lines to anyone who will listen. And even though all you want to do is crawl into bed and sleep for days, there is a lot of work to be done after a breakup, you have to sort through all the stuff. Do you throw away pictures? Do you return the clothes they left at your house? Is it ok to ask for your cooler back or do you just go buy a new one? Should there be a law that your ex should have to buy you a new bed if he screwed another girl in yours?
Eventually you have cried and raged all you could and with the encouragement of your girlfriends you peel off your ugly yoga pants and make a triumphant return. You are like Rocky Balboa; the world seems to be playing your song everywhere you run. Until you run into your ex. Back on go the ugly yoga pants, back to blasting Jeff Buckley and bottles of wine.
At this point your friends usually swoop down and rescue your ass. They sit by you on the couch while you eat cereal in your pajamas at two-thirty in the afternoon and they act as if they would rather be nowhere else in the world. They defend your honor to random people. “She has just been through a hellish break-up! Pee outside!” they shout at the person pounding on the other side of the door when you have been in the bathroom too long trying to recover from your public crying fit. They take away your phone and will not allow for any desperate whisky dialing. And the beautiful thing is you would do this for them too, in a heart-beat. And it does not just pertain to boys. You have stood by each other during death, family dysfunction, addiction and even natural disaster. No questions asked because this is what you do. They are your girls.
And with your friends support and with time, eventually you recover from your break-up. You get to the point where you (almost) forget what happen. Should you run into your ex when you are out it becomes more of a minor inconvenience then a catastrophe.
However, what is truly catastrophic and thankfully far less frequent are the times when the break-up is with one of your girlfriends. The only break-up I have never truly recovered from is the break-up of friendship. It just makes no sense. Sure, two people who were romantically involved could turn volatile when things don’t work out. But two friends who have shared secrets, swapped stories, wiped tears and held each other up through the years, for them to suddenly become strangers seems the saddest shock of all. Betrayal by someone you thought was a friend brings about an acute sort of agony, like the sucker punch you never saw coming. And to make things worse it is not socially acceptable, at least outside of junior high, to go through a hellish break-up with a friend. There is no period granted to you where it is ok and even somewhat expected for you to sit around forlorn and heartbroken. You can’t go returning boxes of borrowed sweaters and left behind hair dryers in the middle of the night There are no songs about two friends breaking up to blare until the neighbors call the police. You just sort of pick up and carry on and pretend like the biggest slap in your face didn’t sting a bit.
It’s possible that I “dated” some of the wrong friends. Perhaps I should have seen some of the red flags we always cite in the dating world in my friendships. Maybe I was not as good of a friend as I could have been because I was too swept up in whatever rollercoaster relationship I was riding at the time.
Sometimes in our teens and twenties it felt like girlfriends were just another accessory, someone to walk into a room with or to hang out with until the boy we were pining over asked us out. Even amongst the most laid back of girls, there could be cattiness and jealousy. Often times we just didn’t know how to really be there for each other, we were still figuring out how to keep our own heads above water. When I stepped into a new age bracket several things became very clear to me. And the importance of my girlfriends are at the top of that list. You are few in number but huge in heart and I am so very grateful for you! I can only hope that I can be half as wonderful to you as you have been to me. We are in a long-term relationship now! There is no breaking up with each other’s asses so I guess we will just have to work things out. So, whadaya say? Date night?