Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ex factor

An ex-boyfriend got in touch recently. Always nice that. Ex boyfriends, eh: they crop up just when you least expect them to.

Actually, in this case it WAS nice: he is a very sweet guy, an incredibly good-natured person and someone I have been keen to track down for awhile now. Ever since, in fact, it occurred to me that I had treated him appallingly. It would be nice, I have thought many times over the years, to be able to apologise properly for being so young and so dumb. Not an easy thing to launch into, those apologies, and in this case I haven’t got around to it yet.

But the whole thing has got me thinking about how ridiculously easy it is to stuff people about, particularly when you’re young. I never intended to be cruel to this guy or callous with his affections or any of the stuff I did. At the time I didn’t even realise how mean I was. When he told me, a few months after the break-up, how hurt he was that I’d ignored (read: forgotten) his birthday, I thought ‘what’s he complaining about?’ Only years later, by which time I’d had my own heart trampled on a bit, did I consider how gut-wrenching that sort of thing might have been.

Because it’s the little things that count. Most of us have been (I assume) rejected in one way or another, whether it’s being dumped or just coming to the realisation that someone you fancy like mad doesn’t even know your name. Reasonable, rational people can accept, eventually, that somebody doesn’t want to be with them anymore or doesn’t want to go out with them in the first place but it’s the little things – letting your birthday go by unremarked, having no idea what you’re up, never returning calls or texts or emails, even when they’re BARELY stalkerish in nature, cough, cough – that can be absolutely soul-crushing in their perfect illustration of the reality that this person, about whom you think constantly, doesn’t give a toss about you.

Of course things could always be worse. I mean, your partner could be off having creepy group sex surrounded by wanking men. For example.


Big Man H said...

Creepy group sex and wanking men are fine by me, but i think i'm a minority there.

One of my exes messaged me on facebook last night too... It was an interesting conversation that followed. Akward at best.

my name is kate said...

Yeah but you'd have to have sex with, you know, SPORTSMEN. Ew.

Personally I suspect exes tracking down former beaus account for about 50 per cent of facebook traffic. It's the only explanation.

mike g said...

There's still one that makes me feel genuinely guilty today. I was young and hurt! I thought it was love! But it's way too late now for atonement.

Where's that Brooker article about it?

my name is kate said...

I used to feel very guilty about another botched romance until he turned up to abuse me in the middle of the night with my copy of Catch 22. That really took the sting out.

And GOD I love that Brooker.


Hands up anyone who's had a great experience with romance. Now put your hands back down and stop lying. Romance never works. Romance never does what it says on the tin. Romance, ultimately, is bullshit.

If I sound jaded, it's because I am. I'm so sick and tired of love and its pitfalls I can scarcely lift my fingers to type. If love were a product, the queue at the faulty goods desk would stretch right round the universe and back. It doesn't work properly. The seams come apart and it's full of powdered glass.

Each fresh romance has two potential outcomes: 1. One of you falls heavily, and quickly, until this helpless, unattractive neediness sends the other running for the hills; or 2. by some miracle, your desperate neediness levels balance out, and you stay together for several years - until the love between you withers and dies, at which point one or both of you will stagger away, howling like a wolf with a hook in its gut, wounded beyond reason.

When you're smitten, romance is a thrilling high-wire act over a looming lake of woe. Your head's full of music; the first few steps are a joyful scamper. Then the skies darken, the breeze picks up, the tightrope shudders and you fight to retain your balance. In your heart of hearts, you know you're heading for a tumble, but you're out and exposed and there's no turning back - and who knows, maybe you'll make it?

Imbecile. Of course you won't. Instead, the rope snaps and suddenly you're plunged back into the monochrome work-a-day reality of flowers in the dustbin and dogs being sick on the pavement.

At this point, wandering in a post-romantic shock, things get even worse. Being numb and distant somehow renders you magically attractive to others. It's sod's law in action, and before you know it you're abusing the privilege. Hungering for another go on the tightrope, you hurl yourself at the nearest admirer, but since the love canary's recently flown your cage, you're selfish, robotic, and doomed to wipe your arse all over their soul. Congratulations: you've become an emotional vandal. And you'll do it again and again until you meet another special someone - only this time the tightrope's higher up and more precarious, and you're so scared of falling that your feet shake the moment you step aboard.

On and on and on it goes, and there's no end to it. This madness must be stopped. We can medicate depression into oblivion; why not romance? A preventative tablet, perhaps, or an adhesive patch that suppresses the relevant endorphins, which you can slap on your skin at the first sign of attraction, killing romance dead, stopping you in your tracks before you make a fool of yourself or a hapless Aunt Sally of another. And sizzled on the back of every packet, embossed on every patch, just to keep things melancholic and swoonsome, you'd find the last line from Graham Greene's The End of the Affair - the battered protagonist's final plea, which sums up the absolute aching awfulness of romance so eloquently it makes your heart nod along with tears in its eyes: "O God, You've done enough, You've robbed me of enough, I'm too tired and old to learn to love, leave me alone for ever."

Anyway. Next week: some jokes.