You’ve gotta (un)friend

I have spoken many, many, many, many times about my ex.  I’m sick of talking about him, but the fact is, I’m still learning a lot of valuable lessons about myself from him sort of indirectly these days.  I’m also pretty sure all my dearest friends are sick of hearing about him too, but they put up with it because they love me so much (Thanks, y’all.  You know I love you.).  He and I have been broken up for well over a year, but—brace yourselves as I defy all logic—I still haven’t unfriended him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Scarier than pressing a button to launch a nuke

Now, this isn’t necessarily uncommon among people of my generation.  We seem to like holding onto these impersonal social media ties.  I think it has something to do with the fact that psychologically, Millennials, as a whole, like to have as many options as possible so we have the power to choose our own destinies in a way.  Whole sociological articles have been written about how we suffer from something called, “the fear of missing out,” which is the idea that there is always something better we should be doing with our lives or some other person who might be a better fit for us to commit to.  We are paralyzed by having too many choices, so we wind up keeping a LOT of doors open just in case the one we actually choose to walk through doesn’t feel right to us.  The problem with that is by never closing any doors and keeping them FIRMLY closed, we are confusing ourselves and possibly frittering away time and energy that could be spent on people and things that actually make us happy and more fulfilled.  “The Fear of Missing Out” makes even the most committed of us Millennials (myself included) pure commitment-phobes.  So even though I know in my heart my ex and I are never ever EVER getting back together, I haven’t been able to totally sever those ties.  Why?

  1. I don’t like admitting defeat.  Like so many Millennials, my biggest personal fear is of being a total failure at life.  I was the kid who got straight A’s (up until trigonometry in high school; B+), and everyone knew it.  If someone in one of my classes found out I got less than an A on a test in elementary or middle school, they would tease me about it.  “Awww Emmy didn’t get an A!” or “Guess Goldilocks isn’t so golden.”  You know, REAL highbrow wit (Oscar Wilde is shaking in his very dead, probably fabulous boots…NOT).  I was a real life Hermione Granger.  My parents expected good grades from me too, and so I put a LOT of pressure on myself to be the best all the time in everything I did.  In many ways, this work ethic has paid off for me, but it also led me to having at least two emotional breakdowns (one in high school, one in college) by the time I completed my formal education in 2011. 

    Wise words from Commander Peter Quincy Taggart

    I think I still have this “straight A” mentality when it comes to my life and that if I am not constantly achieving, I am not a successful person of worth.  It has taken me a long time to learn I am liked and loved because of who I am and not what I do, and I still struggle with that constantly.  In terms of my relationships, I work as hard on those as I did any paper or project in school and so when they have ended, it’s hard for me to accept some things were out of my control and that it wasn’t a “success.”  With my most recent ex, I often felt like our relationship failed because of things I did (“Um, you realize he’s an asshole for making you feel that way, right?” —my very blunt, wonderful friend, Ariana), so unfriending him feels like the waving of the last white flag on our relationship.

  2. We agreed to “try to stay friends.”  Now, no actual contractual (I could write raps for Empire with rhymes like THAT…or not; you guys, I am OBSESSED with Empire. #hereforCookie) agreement exists binding us to “be friends” after having our “irreconcilable differences” (which, for the record, I finally understand what that means whenever I see it listed in celebrity divorce papers on Extra, which I am ashamed to admit I watch sometimes, because Mario Lopez is probably immortal and will be fine and beautifully sculpted until the end of times).  The thing is that I have always only ever been able to stay friends with the majority of my exes after our “mourning period” ended, so I’m stubborn and think life works like sitcoms where I can be the Elaine to his Seinfeld (You’re not and never will be as funny as Seinfeld, dude, and I am a WAY better dancer than Elaine). 

    When you realize exes can’t be like Jerry and Elaine

    But he’s also a different person than my other exes, so why do I think what is true for them is true for him?  It’s not.  Honestly, I spent as much time with him as I did because I liked him and wanted a boyfriend, but now that I see him for who he really is, I can’t say he’s someone I’d actually hang out with anymore.  I’ve changed a lot since we dated, and I’d like to think that means I’ve grown into myself more as a woman, an artist, and human being.  I have less tolerance for certain people, things, and situations that do more harm than good in my life, and he’s one of them.  I’ve severed ties with other “friends” before, and I am better off, because I have friends who are actually friends in that they cherish me and support me and make me better.  Why would I want to “stay friends” with someone who causes me pain and makes me feel worse?  “Staying friends” only works when you’re Elaine and Jerry…because you’re just characters written that way for the sake of entertainment.

  3. I’m selfish.  I really hate owning up to my less than desirable qualities.  I, like literally every other person on the planet except for maybe Ann Coulter, am afraid of being totally disliked (and good for her for giving zero fucks about spewing the pure festering turds of opinions/hate-speech to the world she does on a daily basis; it’s kind of sickly admirable, really).  However, I have learned over the last couple of years—whether in conversation with close friends or vulnerable moments in acting classes—that admitting these darker thoughts and feelings, really owning up to them, actually feels SO much better than trying to hide and suppress them.  TRUTH: I am NOT always a nice person.  I am not always a “good” person.  I have a lot of anger I don’t always let out.  I have had shitty thoughts about others and myself.  I have done shitty things and lied about them.  I’m selfish sometimes.  I want to be the center of attention sometimes.  And unfriending my ex means I no longer will occupy even a tiny space of his day (at least that I’m aware of and can control).  I want him to occasionally think about and be reminded of me; to see how I’m doing and what I look like, because I’d like to think it will make him feel a little bit sorry for letting me go.  I guess I think that will make me feel better, prettier, etc. 

    Thank you, Beyonce.

    Rationally, I know it won’t, and that this is a completely egotistical reaction, but honestly, it’s what I want.  I want him to feel a twinge of something whenever my face lands in his newsfeed, but honestly, I’m not sure he thinks about me at all anymore anyway…and I’m not sure he ever really thought about me at all back when we were dating.

  4. I have an outlet for my anger.  You guys and gals, here’s something no one tells you except for Bond villains: anger can feel euphorically good.  Screaming feels awesome.  Simmering, seething anger just below the surface can be very weirdly invigorating. 

    Xenia Onatopp: literal Bond femme fatale, killing men by asphyxiation with her legs.

    Anger and rage make you feel really alive, you know?  My ex’s posts give me a sharp intake of breath or an eye roll or a punch to the gut.  They rev me up and get my blood going on days when I feel like a zombie at work.  My friend, Shannon, wisely pointed out that maybe I am addicted to the pain and anger my ex brings out in me; that I would rather keep feeling these things than let them go because I like having an outlet for them.  That anger, which is not an emotion in which I choose to operate on a daily basis, feels so good to me is the very reason I know I need to stop.  I am not a Billy Joel or Alanis Morrisette song protagonist, even though it feels very good to act like I am sometimes.  No one is benefitting from my anger but me, and truthfully, anger benefits no one (though those two singers made a lot of money from their angry songs; and actually, so have a LOT of singers).  Why hold onto it?

  5. Mostly, I’m simply scared.  He was someone who was really important to me for a while, and completely letting him go and not keeping tabs on his life without me means I have to accept he has a life without me.  It means I have to accept he might forget about me even if I never forget about him.  It means taking a firm stance and slamming a door on someone who I know didn’t love me, doesn’t love me, will never love me and being okay with not giving any more of myself or my emotions to someone who never deserved them in the first place and never reciprocated.  It means risking not being liked by at least one person for the rest of my life (though I’m pretty sure other people don’t like me, and I’m pretty sure he’ll never actually think horribly of me, but who cares if he does?).  It means forgoing a designated outlet for my selfishness and anger.  It means really, REALLY moving on in all aspects.  It means taking sole responsibility for my general wellbeing and happiness and admitting he is not a person who contributes to either of those things.  It’s scary to let go of all that junk because it makes you feel important in a way, I think; it gives you a self-indulgent sense of importance in a way only a character in a movie or book feels.  But self-indulgent behavior is bullshit, you know?  No real reward comes without risk.  Goethe said it better: “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

But see?  All of that is just bullshit excuses.  I’m not “missing out” on anything by not being with him.  Do I miss being in a relationship?  Yep.  Am I going to have others?  Absolutely.  I have plenty of other doors left in my Choose Your Own Adventure novel. 

The title of my story, which works both literally and figuratively

Closing the door on something or someone who doesn’t contribute to your health and happiness is actually the best thing you can do for yourself, because it helps you find open doors (and sometimes windows) to things that are better for you.  To PEOPLE who are better for you.  Walking away from something you wanted but ultimately isn’t good for you is difficult, but it’s necessary if you’re ever going to become the person you’re meant to be.  Sometimes, it’s just about putting one foot in front of the other until you literally walk into the life you’re supposed to have.  And you will.  But that’s only when you start closing doors and walking through others.  Making hard choices.  Letting yourself fail sometimes.  Eliminating negative things from your life can only increase positive things in your life!  We have to stop being emotional hoarders; keeping people and things around us that we think we “might need later,” because what we’re really doing is cluttering our life with a lot of people and stuff that aren’t truly serving us instead of looking for what really does.

Pretty much all of my favorite romantic comedies take place in the days before Facebook and Twitter.  When Meg Ryan and Bill Pullman break up in Sleepless in Seattle, they’re done.  They might run into each other at a mutual friend’s party or the supermarket, but other than that, they won’t know how many people “liked” a picture of them running a marathon or constantly “see” one another over Facebook. 

Ah the 90s…when you had to deal with awkward moments and exes in person instead of via Facebook.

Julia Roberts would use Facebook and Instagram to stalk Dermott Mulroney and Cameron Diaz’s relationship in My Best Friend’s Wedding these days, but back in the mid-90s, she had to use a PHONE and her own two FEET.  We give away so much of our personal lives these days (writes the girl currently sharing a LOT about her own personal life), but people didn’t do that before Facebook.  When they broke up, they cut the cord.  And if they did stay in contact, they were basically Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.

Well, I’m not planning on boiling anyone’s bunny anytime soon, despite being a Scorpio (and we DO get a bad rap for being vindictive).  I can’t promise I won’t be like Sally in When Harry Met Sally the day I find out he’s getting married, crying into the arms of my best straight guy friend “But why didn’t he want to marry meeeeee?!  But I know a simple click of the “unfriend” button on all his social media profiles isn’t going to be the end of the world.  Truthfully, he hasn’t been my actual friend for a long time, so it’s time he’s no longer a virtual one either.

[click]

See ya.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out of my life.

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xoxo: Letters versus Texting

I have unscientifically determined that texting is to my generation as letter-writing was to our grandparents’ generation (and all the generations before theirs), at least in the context of dating and relationships. Some scholars bemoan the state of our writing saying no one really learns how to properly write anymore (which, I think, is partially true) or even likes to write, but I would say with the Internet and technology, people are actually writing more than ever, just not necessarily always at the highest of literary/intellectual standards. No one is going to argue “Hey bae, I love u” is anywhere on the same level as Byron or Tennyson, but the sentiments are generally the same (for the record, I had to look up “bae” on Urban Dictionary #Imgettingold).

Proof that real mail is MAGICAL!

Harry Potter: Proof that real mail is MAGICAL!

Let’s look at our grandparents and great-grandparents for a second. Technology was much more limited. People had telephones, sure, but letter-writing was still an effective and important means of communication. You didn’t talk to people on the phone every day, because it still cost a lot of money, so letter-writing was a way to pour out all your thoughts and feelings for just the price of a stamp (which back then, at least around WWII, would have been 3-5 cents). Letters made feelings and worlds tangible; it gave them actual physical weight. Without unlimited access to cameras, you had to describe everything you saw in vivid detail so the letter-reader could see what you saw, smell what you smelled, hear what you heard (song cue: “Do You Hear What I Hear?”). And you would clamor for that next letter, sometimes for a week or a month or more, and as you did, you’d spend hours analyzing every word of the current letter, committing portions to memory. You became hungry for more words from your pen pal, sometimes ravenously so. And the waiting could drive you mad with worry or lust or desperation or love (sound familiar, Millennials?).

The letters from decades and even a couple centuries past are a thing of real beauty because no one writes to each other like THAT anymore (at least, not that I am aware of). Some are almost shocking in their open declarations of love and passion; probably because we have this idea that people from the past are all stuffy and proper when really they were just like any other human being with tons of feelings pulling them every which way. Epistolary romances are basically extinct, and it’s sad to think I will never probably know what it’s like to have someone write to me with such esteem and honesty, to express enamor in such a way. It’s an art rapidly being lost every minute each day. When I think of the great love letters of all time—Beethoven and his Immortal Beloved, Napoleon Bonaparte and his Josephine, Elizabeth and Robert Barrett Browning, etc—I think how much of their souls these people let bleed through the ink of their pens onto paper. That’s why there are so many grandmothers with bushels of old letters carefully preserved in dusty trunks in their attics: because to throw them away would be like throwing away the person who wrote them.

Drunk (texting) in love?

Drunk (texting) in love?

My generation, the Millennials, has grown up with rapidly changing technology. The older of us Millennials may even be the last kids to formally learn how to write in cursive at school. We burrow ourselves into our online personalities, which we carefully construct and sculpt to look the way we want other people to see us. We live in this oddity of a half-virtual, half-real world, and the two are always shaping one another whether it’s Instagramming our meals or checking in to cool places/events on 4Square or Facebook. Communication and the sharing of our “personalities” is a constant, daily practice for us. We feel more naked without our smartphones than we do wearing our barely-there crop-tops.

And dating? Well, there’s an app for that (or a hundred). Meeting people has never been easier. These days with Tinder, it’s literally a swipe of your fingertips across your phone (The lamest conclusion to a “how I met your mother/father” story, which is good news for Ted Mosby).

Ted Mosby: lover of Star Wars and prolonged stories with anti-climactic endings.

Ted Mosby: lover of Star Wars and prolonged stories with anti-climactic endings.

Most of us barely use our phones for actual CALLS these days. No. If you want to get a hold of your Millennial child/friend/whatever, you better text us. We’d rather type with our thumbs than talk. Thus, our preferred method of communicating with our objects of affection is texting, the most personal form of the impersonal virtual contact we allow. And here is where I think we can find some common ground with our elders, because texting both plays into AND against my generation’s dependency on instant gratification. Texting is where we flirt and express ourselves, but many times, it becomes a game, and that’s when it becomes less about communication and more about the act of texting itself. We create all these weird, nonexistent rules for ourselves in this game, rules that drive us crazy. For instance, how soon can I text him/her back without seeming clingy? If he/she texts me three times in a row, can I text them back three times in a row? Do I make him wait two hours before texting back? She didn’t text me back right away, so does she not like me? It goes on and on.

But guess what? Those rules aren’t even real. (“They were real that day I wore a vest!”)Regina - Those rules aren't real We make them up to ease our discomfort with the unknown much like our grandparents and great-grandparents probably made up hundreds of scenarios to explain why they hadn’t received a letter in a reasonable amount of time. We send texts out into a void (ooh the void with the Cybermen) and hope beyond hope we’ll hear back from that person instantly. Each message notification ding becomes a trigger for our happiness and self-worth (Pavlov would have a field day with us “dogs.”). We long to hear back from that other person. We pine. And when we do finally hear back from them, it sends endorphins rushing through our bodies. The older generations devoured their letters to each other, and now the younger generation just as eagerly devours our texts to one another. But my generation no longer has to spend time describing something; we can just send a photo along or a video of where we are, so in a way, we’re writing letters like our grandparents but with technology this time.

Do I wish I had something more tangible to remember romances of old? Yes, and I’m rather jealous of past generations for having such beautiful correspondences they can hold onto and read forever. I regularly preach the power of keeping a hand-written journal of ANY kind and how it unlocks your brain and feelings in ways nothing else does. I finished my first ever 200 page journal in May (covering a two-year timespan of my life) and have already started filling a new one, and it means more to me than anything else I’ve written, because I can see and feel those words, their meaning; I can remember how I felt writing them. No matter how great texting feels short-term, it doesn’t carry the same kind of emotional weight in the long-term as something handwritten. But the times they are a-changin’ and even if we all took the time to write each other proper letters, we wouldn’t have the patience or discipline to keep it up. After all, letters were just conversations spread out over pages and time, and now we can have those conversations more rapidly, for better or worse.

Which reminds me…I have a guy to text back.