Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Heartbreak Rules

I divide people into those who have had their heart smashed to smithereens and those who haven't. If you've never had -- trust me, you can't relate. You watch sobbing friends who've just been abandoned and think to yourself "Oh for goodness sake, get over it already. It's just a guy. You'll find a new one. When Gary and I broke up you didn't catch me calling in sick to work and wearing the same flannel robe for six days straight, did you?"

And I say to you, Gary didn't dump you out of the blue when you were still madly in love with him, now did he?

If, on the other hand, you have had your heart broken, then you understand how awful it is. My heart was rendered a mashed pulp when I was 22. He was my first love, we were on vacation in Nice, and he announced he had a crush on the barista in the coffee shop back home. He had never spoken to her, mind you, but she (what? with her phenomenal latte-pouring skills?) made him question what he felt for me. We were in a romantic town in France and he broke up with me. Unbelievable. It was torture.

Intellectually, I knew life would go on, but I couldn't fathom how. Even breathing became harder. I cried once a day for a year. I swear. (Alright, after about three months I switched to an every-other-day schedule.)

In Victorian novels when a girl lost her beau she would fall into a swoon and be carted off to the mountains for a cure. She was allowed to lie in bed and order everyone around and milk that heartbreak for years. As a sufferer of modern day heartbreak you, too, are allowed to give in to total despondency.

But you're not allowed to milk it for years.

See, heartbreak is so awful you get to be dramatic and irrational. The rules of real life no longer apply. But this doesn't mean there aren't any rules.

Some examples:

--You're allotted several middle-of-the-night hysterical phone calls. Only one may go to your ex, and only within the first two weeks. After that, they go to your friends -- and no friend deserves more than two of these, total. (There is no limit on the calls to Mom, however -- she brought you into this world and so it's really all her fault you're in pain anyway.)

--You may do slightly annoying, but relatively harmless things to them. (I told everyone the reason we'd broken up was he was gay.) But you don't get to be downright mean (like stabbing the teddy bear they gave you and mailing it to them -- I actually have a friend who did this.)

--Follow your irrational whims (I couldn't drink lattes for six months) but don't radically change the course of your life. (Like up and moving to Alaska just to get away. You'll still have a broken heart, but now you're freezing your butt off, too. And worse, hanging up on their answering machine is now a long distance call.)

So wallow in misery, as is your right. Just try to retain a little dignity while doing it. Remember to wash that bathrobe you're living in occasionally, and know that eventually – longer than you'd like, but eventually -- you will begin behaving rationally again.

Or at least semi-rationally. Personally, I have sworn to never set foot in France again.

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