A Breakup, A Reconciliation, An Unproductive Week

Last week was unproductive for the Project (watched two movies and wrote just a single essay, didn’t go to the gym, maybe twenty pages of reading) because I broke up with somebody I’ve been seeing for two years, and who’s popped up in some of these posts as “ladyfriend” or “companion” or something like that. We were exclusive and very close but never made things official.

The breakup was torturous but nice, in a way, cuz it took about fifteen minutes for us to agree that things weren’t working out, to end the affair on the spot, and then we sat up talking for nine hours about how great it’s been. Didn’t end things on grounds of any sort of conflict, either; we’re both just going in different directions. She wants to go out a lot, see the city, maybe do some traveling. She’s 20. I’ll be 28 in six months and then two days later I’ll be 30 and so I’m trying to be a workaholic for now, to plow through the Project, do as much writing and reading and recording as possible so that maybe there’ll be a book deal, a monetized channel — ahdunno. Something. A way to rope some money outta doing what I love.

It was all very final at first but we’re both pretty weak, it seems, and now we’re talking again about whether we should get back together and what would have to change in order for that to happen. We’d have to be “official,” for one thing, which is a bag of snakes that freaks me out for reasons I don’t totally understand. I adore this girl and we have a great time together, she’s my best friend, but for some reason the thought of using that boyfriend-girlfriend label freaks the shit outta me. I guess it’s because I’m inviting another responsibility into my life by doing that. Like up to now, as we’ve been seeing each other, it’s not at all uncommon that we’ll go two or three days at a time without talking. Then she’ll come over and we’ll order a pizza and sit in bed and debrief one another on everything we’ve been up to. It’ll be a seamless four-hour talk with lots of laughing and aggravated venting and consoling of one another that culminates in whatever, intimacy of one sort or another, and then sleep. Then we wake up and usually I’ll go out and fetch breakfast while she sleeps in, maybe I’ll wake up extra early and watch a movie before dawn, and then we’ll cuddle for a bit before going off on our separate ways. It’s a perfect setup for me, for what I’m trying to do here, while for her it’s been both convenient and not. She likes the breathing room, as I do, and she’s just starting to go out with friends on a regular basis. But she’s getting lots of attention from guys when she goes out and she’s tired of saying, when somebody asks if she’s seeing somebody, that she’s “kinda” seeing someone, or “talking” to someone. She wants to know what we are and to write it in stone.

Which, if we’re gonna call ourselves a Couple, I guess would mean that we’re putting ourselves decidedly on track toward the Couple’s Ladder of Ascent. Like after another year or so it’ll be expected that we move in together. And a couple years after that, marriage. Couple years after that, kids. A boyfriend and girlfriend don’t go three days without talking. It’s just not done. So instead we’d be talking every day, and I’d probably play a larger role in her family life and she’d play a larger one in mine (she’ll become better acquainted with my friends, too).

But I’ve got this anxiety that I tend to describe as a need to be interesting, to be packing conversation with facts and anecdotes that I recently picked up, but as I’ve been giving it more thought in the past two days I’m thinking that maybe “interesting” isn’t the right word. I like to write and record stuff and put it out there on the internet for people to see, and I like doing stand-up at open mics around town, but I’m not really eager to be the life of the party, or to have a spotlight on me when I’m with friends and getting to know people. What I think I’m always eager to be is worthy conversation, bringing little anecdotes and facts and observations to the conversation that, when peppered throughout another person’s monologue, can maybe prompt them to expand on what they’re saying in a way that they haven’t expanded on it before.

I was recently reading this piece about Chevy Chase, for instance, and how everybody in the world of comedy hates him now, how he was a belligerent drunk not too long ago and gained a ton of wait, and how he wants to get back in the spotlight now, wants to host Saturday Night Live again as the start of something like a comeback.

The writer of the profile interviews Lorne Michaels, the showrunner of SNL (where Chase was the breakout star), who makes an interesting point. Says:

“The only thing that I know…as a universal thing in show business is that it’s always, always about reinvention….You have to get offstage so you can come back and make another entrance. It has to be fresh, and everybody who has sustained and been around, knows that.”

So if you really wanna prosper in showbusiness, you’ve gotta disappear for a while so that people don’t overdose on your stuff — I feel like it’s the same thing with socializing. I need to disappear for a bit, have my own experiences and learn my own things while you go off and learn your own stuff and do your own thing, and then we’ll reconvene here next week, same time same place, to compare notes and enjoy one another’s company and kinda feed off one another’s growth.

The more time you spend with somebody, the more you have to deal with silence after running out of things to say; the more silence there is between two people who are supposed to be happy together, the more anxiety it creates (“is (s)he happy? bored? thinking of other people? does (s)he wanna bail and be with someone more stimulating?”).

Or that’s how it is for me, I know lotsa people don’t like doing things alone. Maybe most people.

Ahdunno, man. The breakup has made me look a little more closely at why I behave the way I do, why I want relationships to be a certain way, and I’m seeing the obvious issues. Cuz yeah, I really do feel strongly about all that stuff above, but I realize too that not everybody gets into a relationship just to be stimulated. You want a partner, company. Consistency. I’m wondering, though, if my aversion to that kinda thing is something temporary, or a scar from old breakups and familial shit, this fear of somebody getting bored and walking out. I mean, it’s basically what happened last week.

We’re on good terms, despite the stress. Sending affectionate texts, expressing interest. It’s burning the bluesy fog outta my head so I can at least concentrate on the Project again. So that’s good.

We’ll see what happens.

Anyway. This week I’ll do my best to get everything back up to normal speed. Some updates:

  • You might have seen that the only post from last week was a transcript of a fairy tale thing I wrote, illustrated, and edited together into a quick YouTube video. It took about ten hours and it was a cathartic little exercise during a stressful week. I’m proud of it, and it’s the thing that keeps me from feeling like I was just an immobile blob for seven days. You can have a look at it here.
  • I saw David Gordon Greene’s Halloween reboot and I’ve got lots of thoughts and feelings about it. I’m writing a review of it that’ll be published in Open Letters Review sometime this week. So stay tuned for that.
  • I wrote a review of writer-director Don Coscarelli’s delightful new memoir, True Indie, which will also be hitting Open Letters Review this week.
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7 comments

  • Right, we’ve been talking mostly about the movies up to this point, but I’mma bring my 20 more years of life experience into the conversation now:

    “A boyfriend and girlfriend don’t go three days without talking. It’s just not done.”

    Says who?

    When it comes to couple-dom, there is no rule book. There is no normal. There is no “what you’re supposed to do”. There is only “what works for each of the two unique people who happen to be in this specific relationship”. If you like only checking in every few days, and so does she, then that’s what works for you. Go with God, you’re doing fine.

    Also, the “ladder of couple-dom” does not always inevitably lead to marriage. And, even if it does, there are as many ways to “do” marriage as there are people. I know of married couples that live in different cities – that’s what works for them, they’re both comfortable with that setup, and they made it work.

    Instead of thinking about what you’re “supposed” to be doing, try asking yourself what you need. If she is able to give you that, then hooray. Likewise, if you are able to give her what SHE needs, then hooray. However, if there is something either of you need that the other can’t offer – “I need the time to do my work”, for instance – then that’s what the problem is, rather than you being somehow Flawed As A Person or Incapable Of Being In A Couple or whatever.

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    • By the way, I totally realize this makes what you’re thinking through both easier and more difficult simultaneously – because now you don’t have to worry about “am I living up to what society says a boyfriend should do”, but now you have the very different question of “what kind of boyfriend would I be and is that what she’s looking for”. The second question, though, will fit you better.

      Good luck.

      Like

      • Thank you so much for such a thoughtful response! I really appreciate it. And I know that you’re right. I do think, though, that I’m the kinda person who’s haunted by questions of whether I’m doing things right. I’ve known of married couples that live fairly comfortably in separate bedrooms, even separate buildings, but not separate cities. That’s something to celebrate. Kudos to them for tailoring things to their liking!

        We’ll see how this works out. She’s my best friend, and will stay that way no matter what. This’ll be a good learning experience for both of us.

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  • There are no rules about boyfriend, girlfriend relationship. You two decide what works with for you. And silence was one of the good things about being in a relationship, that you don’t have to fill silence with meaningless chatter.

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    • You’re totally right, and I hope to some day get there comfortably, but I think I’m so anxious about filling that silence, making sure I’m keeping the other person interesting, that my own insecurity will be what pulls the thread outta this sweater.

      Like

  • A wise man once said: A minute wasted on the wrong person, is the same minute that could be spent meeting the right one.
    Remember those people that truly want the best for you. It is a lesson worth knowing.
    And, since I am now hearing the source of freedom: may BOB MARLEY be with you…….

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    • Ralph at the plate once again with all this wisdom! I do think that she and I are a good pair, and we’re really great friends, so theres nothing uncomfortable about what we’re doing. It’s more about wondering where things are going and how that’s gonna influence our respective goals.

      Like

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