Breaking Up and Breaking Down

A couple months ago, I found myself at the bagel shop in our old neighborhood. I approached the counter and glanced down at the baskets of fresh bagels, as if I might not order what I’ve ordered every Sunday for the last three years. But before I even got to the front, there it was, “Whole wheat and cinnamon raisin?” He knows my order — well, our order. Don’t cry in Sam’s Bagels, don’t cry in Sam’s bagels. “Just whole wheat today.”

I remember constructing this whole narrative in my head to explain where — well, “Cinnamon Raisin” was that morning. See, he had Cheerios at home and dropped me off while he parked the car and I was going to meet him in RiteAid. But when it came to my friends and family, I didn’t know how long they’d buy the RiteAid alibi so I went with the truth. I tried to put them at ease when talking about it, but when you and your boyfriend of four years break up, your friends and family — if they’re anything like mine — take the news pretty hilariously.

She’s an old friend, from high school or growing up, if you’re lucky. She was the first person you called when you lost your virginity. In her eyes, few guys are good enough for you, so when she hears of your break up with Cinnamon Raisin, she’s at once a supportive shoulder to cry on and a passive aggressive shit-talker. Cinnamon Raisin and I broke up one week before our anniversary, so instead of crying at home all weekend, I went up to San Francisco. To cry there. With my bestie. She and her boyfriend — let’s call him Poppy Seed — had a big break up six months earlier, so when we went to brunch, we let our protective friend flags fly.

BESTIE: You know Poppy Seed never liked Cinnamon Raisin.
ME: Really? Actually I never really liked Poppy Seed.
BESTIE: Really.
ME: You liked Cinnamon Raisin though.
ME: Really.

I’ve always been wary of the, “We all hated him” line. Pretty sure every time I’ve said that, my friend has promptly gotten back together with that “him” we “all hated.” And turns out, I don’t really shit-talk my own exes. Sure, I’ll make fun of plenty of them, but if Cinnamon Raisin were that bad, wouldn’t that make me an idiot for dating him as long as I did? I loved this person and in some ways always will, so don’t s**t all over your bestie’s relationship just because you figured out faster than her that she deserves better.

Cinnamon Raisin and I fought. Leaving a New Years party in Santa Monica. In San Francisco on his birthday. In Atlanta on Christmas. We fought in our apartment and in my parents’ house, in the car and at restaurants; we fought in a box and with a fox, here and there and everywhere. With all that fighting, I had plenty of opportunities to train my neurotic Jewish mother and psychiatrist father not to analyze my relationship to death. Or at least keep it to themselves when they undoubtedly did. So by the time Cinnamon Raisin and I called the relationship’s time of death, I swear I could hear my parents exhale from across town. And then again from downstairs when I moved back in with them. But bless them, they kept the editorializing to a minimum. Parents “just want you to be happy” and seeing you hurt hurts them. Literally. My mom came into my childhood bedroom while I was casually weeping one evening, as one does, and she started crying. Which only made me cry harder, then feel guilty for making her cry. That Jewish guilt runs deep.

When you tell a single friend that you and your boyfriend are breaking up, she’s secretly thrilled. Yes, she’s “so sorry” and hopes that you’re “doing okay” but she’s also mentally mapped out a veritable pub-crawl for you, her new wingman. “Let’s go out and find you someone else!” 100% of the time someone has said that to me in my lifetime, I’ve thought, I don’t want someone else. It’s not that this friend is selfish, exactly, but you know what they say about misery loving company. And yes, being single in Los Angeles at thirty is pretty close to the definition of misery.

I ran into an old coworker at Starbucks and we covered a lot of ground in the less-than-ten minutes we caught up. He revealed he was drinking again and I mentioned that Cinnamon Raisin and I had broken up. Both updates elicited fairly uncomfortable responses. I could feel my eyebrows tense up, but he saved me with a light, “I’m my own worst enemy. But you seem better than ever!” Me? I’m wearing a sports bra with zero intention of working out. I haven’t shaved my legs in 45 days. And I’m on this side of town because it’s where I live with my mommy and daddy. So if this is “better than ever,” he either really hit the bottle hard or thought I was a bipolar vagabond when we worked together. You don’t need to tell me I seem really great or so happy. I’m not. Which is okay. I’m okay not being okay. Okay?

A few months ago I couldn’t face telling the nice bagel guy that Cinnamon Raisin and I had broken up. Like the bagels, the wound was fresh. But it’s been six months. I still can’t easily sum up what went wrong, who broke up with whom, the chicken or the egg. But I can talk about it. There’s no need to walk around on eggshells. I’m comfortable dropping his name in conversation, so you have permission to be comfortable hearing it.

Some people comment on how okay with it all I seem. But they say it in a way that implies I haven’t processed what’s happened. Like I’m too okay too soon. I can assure I’m just okay, okay. I know the middle school collages of Jared Leto in my bedroom would have you believe otherwise, but I’m a big girl. I haven’t just returned from Afghanistan. This isn’t PTSD. It’s just a little heartbreak. And like the bagels, this too will get stale.

You can read more from Lindsay Gelfand on Twitter.

Feature image via ShutterStock

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