The brilliant Tina Fey once said, “I have a suspicion — and hear me out, because this is a rough one — that the definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to f**k her anymore.” I’m beginning to suspect it’s true in relationships, too. Everyone has that ‘crazy ex‘ who isn’t so much crazy as they are a person who kept talking to you after you’d lost interest. And is that crazy? One minute, someone’s showering you with love and attention, the next minute they’re over it – isn’t that the crazy thing? Isn’t it the sane thing to try and figure out what went wrong? Is it crazy to want closure? Is it insane to wonder why someone who claimed they wanted you in their life suddenly stopped?
Of course, pop culture has a different story to tell. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and all that. From Fatal Attraction to that movie where Ali Larter fights Beyoncé (seriously, lady, no one takes on Beyoncé), apparently we as a society love a story where a woman gets rejected and then completely loses her mind.
I used to know a girl we all referred to as a “bunny boiler” due to her apparent obsession with the guy I was seeing at the time. It was all the standard “crazy girl” behavior – constant unwanted texting, overly emotional emails. He’d refer to her as crazy, and I was on board with it because frankly, I was a little jealous of the girl. They’d hung out a lot before I entered the picture, and I’d assumed the interest was mutual. Was this girl really so ‘crazy’ to wonder why a guy she used to have long conversations with over drinks suddenly stopped talking to her? Eventually she moved onto obsessing over another guy (who was also taken), and earned herself the “Single White Female” moniker for managing to insinuate herself into this guy’s fiance’s life. Thanks to the movies, I actually wasted a non-insignificant amount of time worrying that this girl was going to do something crazy, when in fact she was just an insecure and lonely person who I probably should have been nicer to.
This isn’t just a girl problem, this happens with guys, too, we just tend to call them ‘creepy’ instead of ‘crazy.’ I have certainly maligned my share of guys with the term, when in fact they were probably just texting me not to be a creepy stalker, but to make sure I had not in fact actually died, due to the fact that I abruptly stopped calling.
“Crazy” is just an excuse we give ourselves to treat someone else terribly. When you end a relationship, and you consider the fact that you’ve probably hurt someone about whom you genuinely care, well, that sucks. The guilt is quite unpleasant and leads to things like loss of sleep and loss of appetite. However, if you can find a way to call someone ‘crazy,’ suddenly you can justify everything. You dodged a bullet! You’re a hero! Suddenly you feel great, while this other perfectly reasonable human being that you used to like quite a lot is still crushed and wondering why you’re not returning their phone calls. They’re hurt and confused, so they keep calling, and now they’re just feeding into this myth of ‘crazy’ that you’ve built around them. I feel pretty certain that there are people out there who are referring to me as “this crazy girl I used to date,” and while I have my problems like everyone else, I tend to think that insanity isn’t among them
So let’s diffuse the crazy. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; no one has ever died from an awkward conversation. I’m just as guilty of this as the next person, the lengths to which I have gone to not have to explain to someone that I just wasn’t interested in them are…long. I’m trying to be better about it. Don’t leave someone hanging. As gently as you can, explain that you’ve met someone else/gotten bored/whatever, and that as such, you’ll no longer be speaking to them on a regular basis. Worst case scenario, they will cry, and you will feel terrible, but they’ll get the message and you can in the future refer to them as “someone I dated who wasn’t a good fit” instead of “my crazy ex.”
(All that said, mental illness is a real issue and I don’t want to discount it. There are people out there whose exes are genuinely troubled people, and those people should be doing anything necessary to protect themselves, and whatever they reasonably can to perhaps help the other person get the help and treatment that they need.)
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