So I recently went through one of those break up things. But before you go running and screaming from this piece like some demented born again who’s just seen the face of the devil in their cornflakes rest assured this isn’t what it may seem. Clichéd I might be, but not clichéd enough to fill an entire blog with self obsessive analytical whinging about my own character flaws and failed relationship in the belief that you, the reader, will somehow see the raw beauty of my troubled and vulnerable soul. No, I’m not seventeen, I don’t like the band “Him” and I’ve read more than enough raw beauty of troubled souls in my lifetime to see it for the pretentious self indulgent bullshit it actually is and react with nothing but callous contempt for its public display. Rest assured, I’m writing the bad heartbreak poetry and whatnot, I just ain’t sharing it with you fuckers!
But break ups are the topic of my ramblings today because they’re interesting. And we don’t really talk about them. I mean, they’re not exactly “off limits in polite society” not talked about, but generally people in relationships don’t want to think about the possibility of them, single people are still largely fucked up by the last one and anyone who’s neither of those things has no cause to talk about them, and very few friends who would want to talk back. So on a scale of “small talk material” to “taboo” I suppose they inhabit the space somewhere in between dead pets and masturbation frequency.
The exception to this communally agreed silence, of course, is the time immediately after a friend or close family member has been through the experience. At which point you’re free to trot out any kind of received wisdom or semi applicable advice you feel necessary. From the genuinely heartfelt and often soothing words of comfort like “It will get better with time” to seemingly inexplicable and unnecessary hindsight commentary like “Well I did see it coming”. But despite the failings of some of the comments it is nice to see the conversation being had, and to realise the often depressing similarity of emotions we are capable of feeling. In fact, probably of more comfort than the words themselves to the newly heartbroken is the knowledge that: No, this is not some amazingly unique and special process you’re going through that only you can understand. It is, in fact, the mundane norm.
Which, as comforting a notion as it might be to some of us, is also the most alarmingly anti-everything-we’ve-ever-been-taught kind of prospect. In a world where we are encouraged to define our personalities by the type of shoes we wear or the cup of coffee we prefer it can be quite a depressing thought to imagine oneself as essentially the same gormless pile of thoughts and feelings as pretty much everyone else. Yes, we’re all unique in our own little ways and all that other sickeningly uplifting rubbish except we’re not. Not really. OK your smile might be different to everyone else’s and you might think about the way the leaves of trees glide sideways more than anyone you know but essentially we’re all the same. We all feed, we all fight ourselves and we’re all capable of exactly the same kind of selfish depression that accompanies a break up. And, not to break the illusion too much but there’s nigh on 7 billion of us, of which any of us have only met a fraction. There’s probably someone in Tajikistan right now wearing your smile and wondering about leaf gliding.
So perhaps this is the real reason we don’t tend to bring up break ups in polite conversation. Quite aside from the fear of it occurring to some and the painful memories of others perhaps it’s another way of us avoiding whacking our cards down on the table, having a look at each other’s hand and thinking “Huh, so we’re all pretty much the same then?”. There is nothing unique about our hard times, there is nothing special about our pain. And maybe once we get past the initial shock that our individual, customisable ringtones don’t actually change our inherent shared emotions, that can be the most comforting post break up thought possible.