I've been spending time with my novel, Lovelines, and feeling inspired by Fordham's experiences. Although relationships are fluid and it's important to compromise and maintain an open mind, there comes a time we've all wondered if the challenges outweigh the pleasures...
He walked out. You fought and without a shred of remorse he slammed the door. ‘Good riddance’ was your first reaction. You’ll be just fine, thank-you-very-much. Besides, your Aunt Ida has been begging you to meet her periodontist’s son, a lovely boy who is working his way through law school by selling carpeting, and for her at a discounted price, you should know.
You’ll ‘give him a call soon,’ you fib to your aunt over lunch, a pastrami sandwich she insisted you order because you’re too thin. Yes, she did end up eating the whole thing out from under you, and the mound of potato salad on the side. But she did leave the parsley and you weren’t hungry anyway. “Honey,” she says through a bite of sour pickle, “you can bring a horse to water, but to drink, he’s got to be thirsty.” You think for a moment and shrug. She’s old. Non-sequiturs happen. She kisses you goodbye after downing the last bite of apple strudel and presses a business card into your hand. You’re surprised it feels a little fuzzy until you realize it’s supposed to feel like a swatch of wall-to-wall; it reads, Ira Blechenstein, Carpet Expert: I’ve got you covered.
Your boyfriended girlfriends, who’ve admitted most of the good ones have been taken, convince you to give Ira a call, insisting there’s nothing in a name but letters. Besides, if you don’t start going out maybe you should reconsider your break-up. You have pity and realize they’ve been listening to you kvetch about everything for hours on end. You can imagine they’re tired. To give them a break, you whip out the card.
You call Ira, secretly hoping he won’t answer, and realize you’re the horse Aunt Ida had mentioned. In that moment you are trotting to the pond’s edge, uncertain if you really want a sip. You miss your boyfriend and feel compelled to wonder if he misses you too.
It’s been a while, and in an effort to get over him, you not only went out with Ira on a date Woody Allen has yet to script, you’ve met everyone on JDate who hasn’t gone out with your actively-dating mother. Nothing but your worn out mouse has clicked. Every time you’ve tried to make a first kiss resonate for you in some way, if it ever got to that point of course, it hasn’t. The only thing that has happened after the margaritas and nachos has been the empty pit in your stomach, reminding you that your date wasn’t your last love.
You need clarity and advice and turn to your sister and besties. After countless “let’s do coffee” sessions where every relationship of theirs and yours has been analyzed until the caffeine palpitations ensue, you begin to deduce that break-ups, much like coffee, come in all flavors and sizes. There is the mini to mid-size break-up, a short-fused “you’re driving me crazy” split – something about dirty underwear and socks never making it into a hamper, or trails of Frosted Flakes and Cocoa Puffs calling the floor home because he could never manage to acquaint himself with the broom. Or, the infamous toilet fiasco – you’ve repeatedly fallen in, particularly in the wee hours, because it was too taxing for him to put down the seat.
These situations are generally rectified within a few days or a long week or two. While apart, you realize that he always remembers to take out the trash and the recycling. He walks the dog in the rain and gets the car so you don’t have to get soaked. He tickles your arm while he watches repeats of Sex and the City with you, and only asks to check the ballgame scores from time to time. You begin to understand that no one is perfect and that he has to contend with your quirks too. You smear makeup on towels, hang bras from doorknobs, can never find your keys, and drop M&Ms in bed. Let’s not even go near PMS. After a phone call, you meet at Starbucks and decide life may be messier, but still neater together.
Then there’s the break-up grande which could have shades of reconciliation to it, though the parties have to be willing to work together to come to terms with their true feelings in order to reach viable compromises. Like Ross and Rachel, these break-ups are over more serious issues on the order of “you slept with her and we weren’t on a break,” “your mother is not part of this relationship,” “can’t your ex- find a shrink instead?” “the job is in Anchorage, but now I’ll be able to afford the parkas,” “I only take one at night when I can’t sleep, or if I’m nervous,” and the single parent’s nightmare remark from a new partner, “your kids need discipline.” Your cousin is divorced over that one.
You understand that these issues are weightier than those of the mini-break-ups and often require more time to mend. During these splits, you have to seriously consider what brought you together in the first place. If it was instant chemistry or physical attraction, is the aggravation and tension cutting into that magic? If you fell deeply in love, does he return your feelings? Does he let you know that you are the one thing that consistently makes sense in his life? Only you know if this is a break-up grande to-stay or the break-up grande to-go.
The super-size break-up is the one that has you worried since it has more calories than any normal person should consume. It often involves throwing things, from vases to encyclopedias, regardless of whose head is in the line of fire. The bed is just a place to sleep with the cat, a welcome partition keeping you from sharing more than a few snores. You look forward to walking by construction sites so the ogling workers can tell you how hot you are. When you’re being honest with yourself, you believe your ex- is more crackers than a box of Saltines. You acknowledge you felt lonelier with him than you do without him. The only thing left is the idea of who you wanted him to be and you realize he was never that man. Still, in weak moments, you despise being alone.
“Oy,” Aunt Ida just called. “Ira got engaged last night to a nice girl who sells panties at Macy’s.” You hear yourself say “Mazel Tov,” and you do wish them well, but why isn’t it your turn? Maybe because this is the moment you can finally cut your losses and realize your ex- was just a short latte with too much foam. Maybe it’s time to consider that you’re the ultimate frappuccino topped with whipped cream and drizzled with wisdom.
But if you’re really hungry, stop horsing around and go out into the world…you might actually be ready to find your happy meal.