Last week I met up for drinks with an ex-boyfriend. He was very much an ex — by almost seven years — and I felt that enough time had elapsed to allow us to develop some kind of platonic relationship.
I picked him up from the shopping centre where he worked and we hugged tentatively, then I babbled about work and my new car as if nothing else of note had happened to me since grade 9. Fortunately, I require an embarrassingly small amount of alcohol on weeknights to become intoxicated. An hour, no dinner, and three beers later, I was chatting quite comfortably about everything in my life and throwing in some religious and political theories for good measure. The ex was in the middle of telling me about the hideous end of his latest romantic relationship, when he mentioned the fact that he was now seeing somebody new. I initially thought he was referring to me, and panicked, then realised he didn’t mean me, and immediately felt slighted. I took a large sip of my beer in an attempt to hide the fact that for some reason, I really didn’t want to be listening to this. Then I excused myself to use the bathroom, snuck through the beer garden and drove home.
The problem wasn’t that I planned to reinstate this guy as boyfriend one day. God knows, if I wanted to be fifteen again, I’d wear a USA hoodie, drink a six-pack of Strongbow and vomit onto a rosebush. No, the issue here is that I never want to think about my old boyfriends moving on. In my mind, I let them recover enough to get past the stalking stage, but after that I like to imagine each of my ex’s sitting in his living room, unshaven and pantless, drinking whisky and watching day-time television through eyes clouded by addiction and blurred with tears, for the remainder of his miserable, regret-filled, post-Annik life. Occasionally he rises to urinate, wanders aimlessly through the house, and pauses to kneel at the shrine of photos, flowers and candles that he has erected in my honour. Then he crawls into bed and drinks cask-wine straight from the goon-bag, attempting to achieve the alcohol-induced coma in which he sometimes dreams of my beautiful face…
But the truth is, I’m usually the dumpee. It’s hard to imagine somebody being depressed about losing you when they’re the one who initiated the break-up. You would think that being constantly rejected would damage my self esteem, but I have somehow managed to maintain a high level of morale. I am mentally unable to process the fact that I could be anything but the perfect girlfriend. Whenever a guy tells me he wants to end things, I quickly remind him, “But I’m amazing. And gorgeous and smart. Are you gay or just stupid?” If that doesn’t work, I change tactic: “Well you can’t have me anymore anyway, cockbag!” and flounce from the room. As I drive to the nearest bottle shop, crying hysterically and swerving dangerously within my lane, I imagine him back home, sitting with his head in his hands as the full extent of the huge mistake he has just made dawns upon his tiny idiotic brain. He took me for granted. He didn’t know what he had until it was gone. He will never love again.
In reality, they always love again. One boyfriend loved again in front of me at the pub every Friday night. Another called me each weekend after he had gotten laid and gave me a blow-by-blow (no pun intended) description of his shag, analysed her technique and then provided a helpful comparison on what was better or worse about my own abilities. And my latest boyfriend didn’t even bother breaking up with me before loving again.
I think that every relationship, no matter how trivial or traumatic, has something valuable to offer us if we look at things the right way. I wouldn’t want a break-up to affect any of my ex-boyfriends’ abilities to love, just as I don’t let any of them affect my own ability to love. In fact, I kind of want my old boyfriends taken off the market, just to erase any potential sexual tension that may crop up in future chance encounters. And, because I’m not a bitter or spiteful person, I want my ex’s to find somebody they can be in a relationship with, and I want them to be happy. I just don’t want to hear about it.