Breaking-Up is Hard To Do

break-up1.jpgIn person would have been nice, after all, I am a big boy and can handle these things. But some people have trouble doing that sort of stuff in person, so I was willing to cut her some slack. But if she couldn’t do it in person, the least she could have done was have the decency to do it over the phone. Instead, the woman I was seeing chose to break up with me via email. And not just any email—not my primary account where the important correspondences go—no, she broke up with me over MySpace. But I suppose since it, and by “it” I mean the silly thing we were calling a relationship, started on MySpace, it was all together fitting and proper that it end there as well.

I’ll spare you the details of the “relationship”—as much as you can call the relatively short time we spent together a relationship. The reality is that we had started out like some sort of fairytale romance—the sort that when recounted to me by others I usually roll my eyes—and it ended very quickly like a silly joke with either no punch line to speak of, or one that is delivered so poorly no one even laughs politely. And that’s why I’m hesitant to call what we had a relationship. It was more like a dream you have after falling asleep while watching a movie, where you find yourself in the film.

What is worth mentioning, however, is that one of the catalysts that triggered the break up was a film called The Break-Up. Ironic, I know. Unfortunately, the irony of the situation was not something I could revel in, because I had never seen The Break-Up.

Under normal circumstances—and keep in mind that “normal circumstances” is not exactly something I can clearly define, but getting dumped over MySpace by someone I basically met on MySpace, in part because of The Break-Up, is not something I consider normal—I would want to know more about why she was dumping me. From my point of view things were going well. I wasn’t shopping for rings or anything like that, but I wasn’t checking my watch or looking for the nearest exit. I was happy with where it all seemed to be headed, and I was committed to seeing where the day was going to take us. Which is why the now infamous email, with its cryptic, seemingly contradictory tone was a head-scratcher if there ever was one. If you read it carefully, as I did several dozen times, it almost seemed like she was saying, “I don’t want to break up with you, but I think I should break up with you, but since I’m not really sure what to do, I’m going to be passive aggressive, and see how you react, and hope that you will do something that will make me feel justified in my uncertain decision to end this thing.”

I guess my problem was that I really liked her. When you are single long enough, you hopefully get to a point in life when it comes to dating that you realize the worst thing you can do with another person is waste each other’s time. And since I never felt like we were wasting each other’s time, in my mind, it meant that I was really into this woman. Don’t get me wrong, I have wasted my time with women before, but I always had one eye open for something better. But my eyes were only on her. Which is why I wanted some sense of clarity—of perhaps it was closure—that her email was not giving me.

The problem was that she refused to talk to me. There were a few text messages sent back and forth, but that is not a viable form of communication, at least not when you are either trying to salvage or end a relationship. Smoke signals and Morse code are just as practical as text messaging under those circumstances. And since I wanted some sort of answers, or at the very least, some sort of insight, I did the only thing I could think to do: I decided to watch The Break-Up.

breakup2.jpgThere’s not much to say about The Break-Up that hasn’t already been said by countless other critics. As a film, I thought it was mildly entertaining. From a critic’s standpoint, one of the film’s biggest flaws was the lack of dimension or development in the supporting characters. Ultimately, Vince Vaughn’s Gary and Jennifer Aniston’s Brooke are not people that you would want to spend much time with—he’s a clueless asshole, she’s an uptight bitch. The film is populated with a cast of supporting characters that are nothing more than jokes—comedic relief designed to deflect the brutal truth that this is a film about two people that have very little in terms of likeable qualities.

At the same time, when I was watching The Break-Up, I wasn’t watching as a film critic so much as I was watching as some poor sap trying to understand why he was being kicked to the curb. The truth is that there was nothing in that movie that was applicable to me, at least not within the context of my current situation. But what I did see was a glimpse into the person who had just ended it with me.

I’m not going to use this space to examine or discuss her, or try to come up with psychological profile. And again, don’t get me wrong, because I have put together a psychological profile of her, but rather than give it away here, for free, I plan to use it in some other way, perhaps in a screenplay or a book, where I can profit from what I’ve been through. And besides, she may be reading this.

There were no profound lessons for me to find in The Break-Up. The reality (or as some might see it, the generalization) is that the undoing of many relationships is the woman’s foolish belief that she can change the man into being what she wants him to be. Ultimately, Jennifer Aniston’s problem is not with Vince Vaughn, but with herself. She didn’t go into the relationship with him because of who he was, but rather with whom she fancied him to be.

Speaking solely as a man, I have been there more than once in my life. You wake up one morning, and your lady goes into one of her meltdown modes, and she says something along the lines of either, “Why can’t you change,” or “I deserve better than this.”

puffychair2.jpgThis is the defining mindset behind The Break-Up, as well as an infinitely superior film called The Puffy Chair. I saw The Puffy Chair several years ago at a film festival, and when Kathryn Aselton’s character Emily tells her boyfriend Josh (Mark Duplass), “I deserve better than this,” I actually said out loud, “Better than what, you dumb fuck?!?!”

The notion that anyone would ever say to the person they are involved with, “I deserve better than this” is, at least in the David Walker Book of the Way Things Are, a clear signal that the relationship needs to end. If you are not getting what you “deserve” from another person, then either your expectations are not realistic as they relate to the person you are with, or you simply aren’t making a fair and equitable trade in terms of what and why you give of yourself.

To deserve something is to claim to be worthy of something. To be worthy of something you must yourself have worth, as in to have value. To have value, something must be desired. We all wish to be valued, in that we wish to be desired. So when a person says they deserve more, what they are saying is they have determined themselves to be worth more, or to be of greater value.

If you have ever been in a relationship and have been compelled to say you deserve better, it either means you are not valued by the person you are with, or you have placed an unrealistically high value upon yourself. In the case of the former, you should not be with that person. In the case of the latter, you need to take a very realistic look at yourself. But in either case, the moment you say that you deserve something better, it is a clear indication that something is wrong.

Where things often become more complicated is when the belief that someone deserves more is a combination of being under-valued by another person, and unrealistically valued by themselves. This deadly formula—a mix of toxic ingredients that we all use to determine our value as human beings—results in self-esteem, which is something most people possess in frighteningly limited amounts. Self-esteem determines how we think of ourselves, and how we allow others to treat us.

puffy-chair.jpgUltimately, what we see in The Break-Up and The Puffy Chair are portraits of women whose self-esteem has been skewered. These are women who feel they deserve better, but have been settling for less, because they think they have the power to change the men they love into someone different, who will in turn give them what they feel they deserve, as opposed to what they have been settling for. What kind of fucked up, demented mind thinks that way? Well, I’ll tell you…A woman with no self-esteem is who thinks that way.

And not to completely pick on the women, because we men have our share of problems as well. But if we were to speak in generalizations—and let’s be honest, generalizations are fun—The Break-Up does a fair job of showing how men and women are. Brooke and Gary are simply caricatures of how a whole lot of people are. And as much as I can attack Brooke, I can not defend Gary. The world is full of chicks like Brooke—I’ve dated and slept with dozens of them—who are broken and confused because they invested too much of themselves in a man who was too blind to see what was in front of him. But when push comes to shove, Gary was guilty of not seeing Brooke for what she offered him. Brooke was guilty of falling for a man in the hopes that he would someday be different than how he was. Gary was an asshole, but Brooke was stupid. Or perhaps Brooke was just plain crazy, since insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results each time.

Where The Break-Up failed the most is in the glimmer of hope it offers in the end. Despite all Brooke and Gary have endured and put each other through, we are left to believe that maybe, someday, they may find a way to work it out. Not to say that that’s total bullshit, but it comes awfully close. Even if both Gary and Brooke didn’t blindly rush off into other relationships, dangerously toting all of their past baggage like a loaded gun with a broken safety and sensitive trigger, chances are slim to none they would ever really work on what was wrong with them. At least The Puffy Chair had the decency to end and leave the audience to wonder how much the characters were going to fuck up their lives and the lives of others after the final credits have rolled. But The Break-Up is insidious enough to imply there is hope, when in reality most people are hopeless. Or more specifically, most people rely solely upon hope, without actually working towards whatever it is they are hoping for. We live in a society of fat people who hope to be thin, while never taking the time to eat right or exercise. We hope to be loved by others, but we never really love ourselves. We hope to get whatever it is we deserve, or feel that we are worthy of, without making of ourselves something of value that in turn is rewarded with something else of comparable value.

All of this brings me back to MySpace, and the premature death of something that was almost, but not quite a relationship. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a bit of a sting there. The truth is that if you are a decent human being, no matter how much time you invest in someone else, it feels like shit when you discover that investment was for naught. Part of me feels like saying, “I deserve better,” but there’s no point in giving voice to that feeling, especially when the other person isn’t listening. Instead, I will do what most people never do. Rather than feeling sorry for myself, and moaning about how I don’t deserve to be treated this way, I simply refuse to settle for what has been offered to me.

“I will not settle for this.” It is a liberating way to think, and much healthier than whining about what I deserve. Everyone should try it.

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2 Responses to “Breaking-Up is Hard To Do”

  1. Boogaloo Baby Says:

    OK 1st let me begin by saying that while romatic affiliations are often rife with comedic moments, I’m not yet convinced that “romantic comedy” should be considered a valid genre and thus tend to avoid them at all costs. Mostly… But somehow I too became a victim of propoganda and found myself most intrigued by the idea behind “The Break-Up”.

    So while I was intrigued I was not quite intrigued enough to drag my rusty on down to the theater howerver I did anxiously await its availability on my Netflix cue. Finally that day arrived. I found a coveted moment alone and popped it in.

    While I agree there is not much to be said about the film that probably hasn’t been said already, what I will say is that I’ve seen sitcoms with more compelling storylines. In fact I might go as far as to say it was basically a sitcom storyline that went on way too damned long. What could have been resolved by some honest to goodness, adult to adult communication turned into some long drawn out secnarios of deception mostly evolving around ego (and the lack thereof). The fact that the supporting characters were all to willing to go along with such dimwitted antics really obliterated any kind of dimension the film could have demonstrated.

    Having been on a few ships of relations myself, I wholeheartedly overstand that talking about the most important of issues can often be somewhat intimidating, but should one intend to have any reasonable modicum of longevity in said relationship, the bottom line is that it’s a bullet one has to bite. I’m pleased to confess that on more than one occassion I’ve found that my fear and dread of talking it out was mostly built up in my head and that once I found the courage to be forthcoming mostly smooth sailing has ensued.

    As each of us must learn, not every story will have a happy ending but in all honesty it’s my belief that sophmoric films such as “the Break-Up” simply perpetuate juvenile behavior, and as average Joe and Jill struggle to emulate such behavior we will seemingly never run out of fuel for the beast better known as “Reality TV”.

    Just keeping it real.

  2. Chief Scalpum Whiteman Says:

    “We live in a society of fat people who hope to be thin, while never taking the time to eat right or exercise.”

    Is that some crack about me? I deserve better than this. I’m going to read rottentomatoes.

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