In one of those rare and coveted vacations to Los Angeles, I found myself driving alone with my uncle in his compact car, windows down, palm trees swaying, getting relationship advice at age 17. Women hold the reigns of every relationship during their high school and college years, he said in his confident, thoughtful tone. They determine the pace, route and termination in 99 percent of cases. Guys really have no power.
Of course, impelled to deny this overstatement and redeem women from sassy micromanagement, I contested. At which point, he asked me- straight blank- to think back to every past relationship. Had I ever been dumped, or was I always the dumper? Reclining deeply into the leather of my passenger seat, flip-flopped feet propped and crossed resting above the airbag compartment, the way I do, I stare out the window, letting the breeze comb through my bangs.
No, I had never been dumped--that was until two days ago.
With the memory of cruising alongside my uncle, in mind, and this wrenching sting forking inside my heart, I think it appropriate to apologize to all men. Getting dumped is one of the most bruising, light-headed, confusing feelings I have ever experienced.
So why tell you this? Why share my raw vulnerability and intimate feelings of zero-gravity with the wide web?
Because in this resonate racquetball room of a blog, where ideas fling and smack the walls of my Judaism and youth, I think it's not only healthy, but necessary to say the things no one talks about. I think it's important to be honest with yourself and to others, and to simply reflect.
Here is what it feels like to be dumped:
1. Play back ever moment of the past six months wondering where you stumbled. Try to figure out where you took a wrong turn because you must have done something wrong. You must have failed in some unforgivable way. Close your eyes to concentrate, retracing your steps.
2. Start laughing so loudly, that had their been birds nearby, the entire flock would retreat in a moviesque fleet. Laugh because you've convinced yourself it's only a bad dream, and you've caught on, foiling the "gotcha" punchline. Stop laughing when there's no punchline. Only a cut-line.
3. Cringe at how awkward it's going to be seeing his friends every day, people you considered your friends (only by extension?) What are the rules- is there a handbook for cordial post break-up etiquette?
4. Register a severe loss of appetite. Stereotypes of girls reaching for ice cream are so wrong. Nothing looks appealing.
5. Thank the Heavenly forces above that bestowed to you a sister. Cry to her. Let her in. Let out an exhaustive sigh when she enthusiastically asks, if you want her to start bashing the guy or to just listen.
6. Regret falling in love with your best friend, and mourn the loss of two relationships. Try to picture college without him, but draw a blank. Realize how different you as a person would be.
7. Look towards Pesach and Summer Break with the fidgety eagerness of a kid in line at a water slide. Try to contain your longing to be home. Tissues help. So does Skype.
8. Think about all the friends you've neglected by way of collateral damage during couple-dom. The friends you haven't talked to in months, where are they? What have they been up to? Will they accept you back?
9. Refrain from telling your best friends, because in your fragility you can only handle so many phone calls, so many "you're too good for hims," that you may just faint. When you do tell them, accept 11 individual, half hour long calls. Cry during most of them. For the one's you don't, excuse yourself for not crying, explaining that biologically, you cannot.
10. Take two Advil the next morning for stomach and neck pains as a result of crying. Realize you're making yourself ill.
11. Freak out that while you've been in college, you've been in relationships for longer than you've been single. Have a friend remind you of your 17 years of life being single. Say "oh,ya," and consider them the smartest person in the world, for like 5 minutes.
12. Look in the mirror and analyze your broken nose, the one forever crooked after slamming your face against the bottom of a swimming pool. Inspect your dry, patchy hair, your awkward knees, your protruding gut. Become disgusted in your mirror fixations and cover the mirror in post-it notes with inspirational quotes and feelings. Peg a blue one that reads, "Just because I got dumped doesn't mean I'm garbage" near the top corner. Get excited over this last one and tell your mom about it. Hold the phone away from your ear as a concerned mother bear yells at you for calling yourself garbage. Explain the meaning of DOESN'T.
13. Let pour the guilt of not being shomer. Nuff said.
14. Erase your images of a "future" with the guy. He always made you feel special when he complemented your voice. Feel intensely grateful that you never shared with him the song you had been practicing and planned to serenade him with at just the right moment.
15. Know that there is a filing box full of places, phrases and foods that will forever remind you of him.
16. Feel strung- feel stung.
17. Picture some "other girl." Feel inside-out, like your rib cage and its contents are jutting out.
18. Unfriend him on Facebook, roll your eyes at your cliche-ness.
19. Feel anxious about all the memorabilia of your relationship. Pictures, letters, event stubs, a paper weight... yes, a paper weight, what do you do with them? Remove his Goofy doll from your bed, stashing him in a stow-away box. Remember how happy you were the day he gave it to you shopping together on Black Friday.
20. Get distracted in classes- letting reality settle in- feeling the prickly spasms going on inside, like tiny epileptic neurons firing.
21. Walk to the gym in the rain and spy worms wiggling on the sidewalk like discarded leaves. Pick up a squirming one and return it to a patch of dirt. Feel like you've done something right. See hundreds of worms on your walk but realize you can't stoop for every single one otherwise you'd never get to the gym. Feel helpless.
22. Feel relieved because there were parts in the relationship that didn't match up. Feel the burden of making excuses melt off.
23. Fight the urge to strut in front of everyone you know (and don't know) pretending you are better than normal. Fight the glances of strangers with the accusatory eyes that seem to sing, "we know what happened to you."
24. Realize you're young and beautiful and someone will want to marry you some day. Scream while cutting off a bit of banana bread. When you're roommate asks you whats wrong. Tell her you just realized that everyone's married to themselves for their entire life. Eat banana bread with wide eyes.
25. Come to your senses. He gave you the gift of being dumped. In being dumped, he gave you the freedom to find someone who will love you for your entire essence, and he gave you the ability to know what it's like to be dumped--the clarity to empathize. He added so much to the meaning of you.
Last night one of my best friends, whom I will call Lisa, told me that one day I'm going to find that person who will love me for my articulate, poetic, fearless mind and heart. They will love me not in light of my eating disorder, but because of it! Because I overcame anorexia three years ago when my mom said I needed to "stop this" because we didn't have enough money to send me to rehab. They'll love me not in spite of having been bullied, but because of it! For knowing how to root for the underdog, and for being the underdog! For being the type of person who notices sidewalk worms.
But until then, I've just got to "see the trees in the forest" as mom says. I've got to recognize I am the luckiest person in the world to have such incredible friends. I've got to marry myself unconditionally.
Dumped yet pumped