Monday, April 21, 2008

The "Ex" Factor

On Sunday evening, one of our friends popped in for a little girl's evening at home. Now, I know a lot of people out there (none of whom are ever going to read this) are very pained with the popular cultural notion that women who get together only discuss the following things:
1. Men - and how they are such b%$#@^&s
2. Shoes
3. Clothes
4. Bags
5. Men - again for good measure.
For all those people, I would like to emphasize the main events and topics which we covered between 7pm and 12am last night:
1. Our guest's recent break up with long standing boyfriend and how he deserved no less than to be doused with Domex and allowed to whither away like the toilet bowl germs in the ad.
2. She brought over my Thai gift - the sexiest red bag in the world - which I have named Schumi and is officially the "other" man in my life (always by my side and never has issues with having to hold my wallet and keys when I don't have pockets to store them in).
3. A pair of shoes which were too small for her and which fit A like a glove...err...isn't 'sock' a better analogy?
4. All the wonderful shopping A did at Colaba/Fashion Street and how no matter how experienced you are, you will always make some mistakes while shopping off the street.
5. All the fun in store for A in her second innings as a student, after which A hid under the cushions and we had to calm her down by discussing...
6. Exes and A's Exes and everyone's Exes including the DomEx boy.
I kind of envy my friends who are undergoing painful earth shattering breakups now - not that I desperately want to be dumped (I was JOKING about the red bag, okay?), because when I was going through my painful earth shattering break-up, I also had to deal with the following:
1. Being surrounded by friends who were ALL in happy lovey dovey relationships. They were great and I don't think I would have been able to get through it without them, but when I would be sobbing and inhaling a joint of Marijuana, they would one-by-one disappear to have cuddly-coo phone conversations with their loved ones.
2. Being in the 5th year of College and having no idea what I wanted to do with my life and losing the one certainty I (thought I) had.
3. Being a member of the Recruitment Committee of College, which meant that I was in night long meetings and was left with only 20 minutes a night to call my Ex, not that he was picking up my calls anyway.
4. And most importantly - that they were at least given the dignity of being broken up with, at least on the phone. At the risk of delving into my irritating habit of "really? Well, you wanna know what happened to me? I'll tell you..." my break up went a lot like this:
One fine day, during a weekend trip in the outskirts of nowhere: Though we both have plans to "settle" in Mumbai, he tells me, "I'm thinking about going to Delhi for an internship".
One month later: "I won't be able to call you tonight, I'm giving my friends in Mumbai a farewell party"
That same night: Suddenly I wonder: If he's going to Delhi for an internship, why on earth is he giving a farewell party?
The next day, evening: After much fretting and racking my brains over 'maybe he told me that he was going, did he?' I call him.
"If you're going to Delhi for an internship, why on earth are you giving a farewell party?"
"Well, because I'm leaving."
"No, but it's an internship, right? Internships last for 2 weeks, 2 months, and then you come back, right?"
"No... its not like that. I'm going to work there, and if I like it, I'm going to stay."
"And you were planning to tell me this when?" In the meanwhile I had done the stupid mistake of planning my entire life around him, in Mumbai.
"Didn't I?"
"You told me you were going to Delhi for an INTERNSHIP"
"Did I?"
After much huffing and puffing over this doesn't look like it's going to work if you can't even let me know when you're changing the plan of your entire goddamn life, I slammed the phone down, angsted lots, went for daru with my friend Daze, and slept off.
The next day, early morning, say about 11am (we were in the 5th year), I was sitting on the stairs of the Hostel, waiting for Daze to finish her dolling up (till now she's the only person I know who'd wear lipstick before even going out for a smoke, but she's still a gem) so we could go to Hegde's for tea, and I called him. He didn't pick up. So I figured he was busy.
He didn't pick up for the next 8 weeks.
I tried everything - messaging, emailing, calling - I called once from Daze's phone and he hung up as soon as he heard my voice, I couldn't call from other people's phones because he figured the Bangalore Cell Code (and also I couldn't deal with the whole "excuse me, I need to make an STD Call from your phone, my boyfriend isn't picking up my calls, I promise not to take long, anyway he's just going to disconnect as soon as he hears my voice" discussion). Finally, when I completely lost it, I called him from my cell, he didn't pick up, I called him on the landline from my Cell, he didn't pick up, I called him from a landline on his cell, he didn't pick up. Finally I called him from a landline to his landline.
And what do I do? I yell, I scream, I curse him and the next seven generations of his entire family, and then I very spitefully tell him that I wasn't going to give him an opportunity to slam the phone down on me ("how DARE you slam the phone down on me") because "I AM GOING TO SLAM THE PHONE DOWN ON YOU".
The thing with cellphones is, they may be convenient, but you can never get the satisfaction of actually SLAMMING the phone down on someone. Poor sod.
Of course it didn't end there, I managed to lose a lot more of my self respect over the next few months, mostly due to the fact that I NEEDED a reason WHY. At the end of it, I was working, I was doing the job I always wanted, I had a place of my own in a great city, I had great friends who were slowly becoming single, and... well, the rest is the rest.
Now, my friends who get crap in relationships have the following benefits:
1. They are surrounded by women (or at least me) who are living proof that this too, shall also pass.
2. They are making money and thus have the potential to get a life.
3. They have friends (or at least me, though there are people better at this that I am) to teach them how to get a life.
4. There aren't any love-conquers-all women to advise them and say "just give him some time" or "but you were so good together" - even those of us who now are in relationships have become cynical enough to prioritize self over ex.
5. I have a copy of "He's Just Not That Into You", remember?
Meg, my desperately-in-need-of-Domex friend, has asked for ideas, and I am bored and I actually have the gall to act as a relationship expert (experiencing so many crap men should count for something, after all) and propound:
The Ten Commandments of the messy Break Up
1. Thou shalt not be obliged to "still be friends": You already have a lot of friends. Friends are people you can discuss the things that are bothering you the most. Common sense tells you that people don't like other people telling them how horrible they are. Can you bitch about your Ex to your Ex himself? I didn't think so.
2. Thou shall realize that as a concept, 'closure' is overrated: I still don't know what that means. So don't break your head over it and keep repeating "I need closure I need closure" like a moron. What you need is...
3. A life, which thou shall realize getting is easier said than done : Sit down, scroll down your phone contacts and note every person who's number you took down at a party or off facebook saying "oh, you're in Bombay? we should meet up!" (unless you're in Delhi, which would just make it a stupid effort) Message them casually, try and get out of office and go meet them, get introduced to new social circles. This isn't about getting a new guy in your life. It's being able to do something else than sit and remember that it would have been 3 years since he first unhooked your bra (I actually know someone who remembered that date from her relationship. Am sending that one to Ripley's.) Remember, when you have no teeth and actually need to wear diapers all the time, you're going to feel really stupid that you spent some part of the best years of your life acting like you were.
4. Thou shall start dating: Dating, as a term, is used really often but rarely actually done. See, dating is when you don't know what's in store and you're taking a chance. We all have these cut off issues and other hangups. I met a gentleman a few weeks ago who was telling me of the time when he was looking for a bride. He told me that he had a list of 10 qualifications his potential wife would have to have. He met a woman who possessed only 2 of them, and I know this is a cliched story but at the end of their first meeting he knew he wanted to marry her. They've been married for 30 years and appear totally besotted with each other even now.
Anyway, dating is fun, and gives you some much needed attention from the opposite sex and reaffirms the fact that you are an attractive being. And it gives you an excuse to dress up and eat at some cool restaurants. Also, when you meet other men, you get to appreciate qualities which your Ex never had. For example, I never realized the importance of being with a well read individual (I dated a guy who hadn't read a single book except a Judge's Autobiography) till I started seeing a Mastermind India Quizzer. And dating also gives you great stories to tell your friends. Just make sure you go to public places and never leave your drink unattended. But that's just me being my paranoid self.
5. Thou shall not rely on Friends, Sex and the City and any other White Urban Sitcom for inspiration on how to handle your situation: Rule of thumb - if you are talking to some friend of yours about your breakup trauma and some sentence ends in "just like in that episode of..." stop right there. Stop whatever you are doing. See the serials may be fun, you may relate to them, but that's about it. The Mr. Pigs of the world never follow you to Paris. You don't have to be friends with Moss so that you can get back after 8 years. Wake up. Watch Seinfeld instead. Remember - though it comes from the writers of Sex and the City, the theory was confined only to one episode.
6. Thou shall get angry. Very angry: Don't think that the need to be dignified means that you need to act as if nothings gone wrong. When I hear the story of a friend of mine getting dumped, I get angry. So if as someone who's been broken up with, you aren't getting angry, it's a major problem. Don't cringe if you can't help thinking about the past. After all, it was a part of your life. Give yourself the right to be angry and to break some glasses. Your own - we have only two martini glasses left.
7. Thou shall ask thy friends for their 'honest' opinion: In most cases, your friends have already realized that he's a jerk even before you even smelled the faintest whiff of scum. Therefore, when you break up, don't be surprised to hear a lot of sighs of relief and "finally"s. Probe them into what they thought was wrong with him. Although a lot of them might be saying it by way of being polite (I've never heard of anyone saying 'Oh, that's too bad. That was the best you could ever have done, anyway. Can I have his number?'), some of them may have cogent reasons which you should listen to and internalize and that'll help you realize that this was certainly not your best shot. Not a chance.
8. Thou shalt not forget the best person to help you get over your Ex: Is your Ex himself. Really. This was a gem from a friend of the Sensei. An exception of sorts to the "friends with the ex" commandment. At times, after breaking up (either you being broken up with or you being so fed up with the situation that you call it quits), you are filled with doubt - did I do the right thing? Was I too hasty? Maybe I should give it another shot? Especially when you remember the 'good times' in the relationship. In this case, sometimes talking to your Ex helps you realize the reason why you wanted to call it quits. At some point, he'll say something that will leave you with no doubt that ending this relationship is certainly the best thing to have happened to you since Whisper Ultra prices falling.
9. Thou shalt not underestimate the support of your friends: Feel uneasy about the whole thing? Need a shoulder to cry on? Think that Ruma would have gotten fed up considering you chewed her brains for 1/2 an hour on gtalk? Stop right there. You're thinking too much. Keeping everything bottled up inside is a big mistake. Talk about it, especially to people who've been through it. It helps. Really.
And very very importantly:
10. Thou shalt not forget: You are gorgeous, smart, and at the very least, deserving of more than this piece of excreta. So don't even think of breakup sex. (I had to slip that in somewhere, didn't I?)
I'm not going to say that one day you will look back at all this and laugh, because I still haven't been able to get to that stage. But you'll be stronger and think more about yourself. Since they haven't found a vaccine for the scumbag virus in men yet, women, many of whom will be those close to you, will keep getting raw deals in relationships. And you can help them get through it. But screw them. This isn't some NGO you're running here. Don't let the bastards get you down. Seize the day. And any other cliches you can think of.
(Dedicated to Meg. There's always light behind the clouds.)


still ink stained said...

Super! love the 10 commandments to the road to recovery!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic. I guess there are a few people who write that clearly and there are a few people who I am in awe of without even having met them. You are one of them.


Ruma said...

Thanks, guys :)

mem said...

ey ruma i love you marry me

Ruma said...

Mem: you name the date baby :)

NOT. said...

i hereby publicly declare tht i have broken up. for good. dumped him (even though he cheated - emosonal cheating that too! but i found out and dumped.. so does tht make him the dumper or me?). it feels awful and great.

Anonymous said...

:D Naice! you should try stand up comedy..if this comes quick. i mean it as a compliment.