Twenty-six is going to be a strange birthday because I’m anticipating getting broken up with. It’s not a premonition so much as it as a definitive notion in that my current health insurance doesn’t want to be with me anymore. It thinks we’re at different points in our lives, or something cliché and Owen Wilson-y like that. And yet as my hypochondriacal fears begin to set in (what if I develop tuberculosis or colic before getting new insurance, for example), I’m realizing that it’s been a while since I’ve actually been “dumped” by a person as opposed to a system.
I’m not bragging. My un-dumped track record for the past three years has more to do with the fact that it’s been a while since I’ve been in a “real relationship,” and we’ve skimmed the surface of this before: that in this age of hook ups and hang outs, there’s less breaking and a lot more phasing.
Guys have casually dropped the mic on me, for sure. And I’ve Irish Goodbye’d from men in my rotation as well. But when talking to a friend last night about the breakup she was enduring (to a man who was less than a boyfriend but more than a bedmate) I realized that ending things has gotten significantly more complicated — not just because of technique (again, see: Band-Aids) but because this style of dating adds pressure to play it perennially cool.
She lamented that her feelings were textbook to those of a “traditional” termination (traditional if you consider a relationship to be that which our grandparents once knew): stomach pit, distracted thoughts, and threats of tears when confronted with the endless supply of NYC’s excessive PDA. The problem was, she didn’t know how to “deal” with her emotions. She felt dumb for being sad since they weren’t “technically” a couple.
But so what?
My therapist named Oprah believes that all emotions are relevant; no one can tell you that you can’t feel a certain way. But because my dear friend doesn’t feel like feeling sad about the guy she was sleeping with (but not exactly dating), we came up with a guide for being broken up with in this messy-ass 21st century.
Step 1. Acceptance. Accept that whatever it was, it is now over.
Step 2. Be thankful that because you were not official, there is no awkward post-breakup Facebook protocol to follow: no status to change, no pictures to crop.
Step 3. Don’t get all dramatic and go un-following him or her off Instagram.
Step 4. Feel sad, but maybe don’t tell everyone at the bar how sad you are. Do, however, pretend the juke box and or deejay is your personal iPod and play/request whatever songs you want as often as you like.
Step 5. Meet. New. People. The thing about the world is that it’s technically overpopulated (which I can attest to because of Tinder) so shake hands like you’re the mayor and remind yourself that your prior dalliance is a but a mere blip in a line of great stories you will later tell.
There’s an old song by Peggy Lee where she sounds like a jaded New Yorker, repeatedly asking “is that all there is?” in regards to a circus, a house fire, and finally, love. When she describes having her heart broken, “I thought I’d die,” she says. “But I didn’t.”
And you won’t.
Tuberculosis however…that would be a bitch.