Washington - We know the classic post-breakup tropes. Some people cry over ice cream. Others hit the gym or work around the clock.
Less common, but featured prominently in the thriller genre, are those who simply will not accept a breakup. The type of who turns up wild-eyed at their rejecter's doorstep in the middle of the night, hyperventilating, "Why can't we just give it another shot?"
I, unfortunately, am the poster child for this category.
My inability to let go crescendoed with my first two relationships in Los Angeles. At the end of each, I was dumped by a boyfriend I was still deeply in love with. I felt blindsided. I had no idea how to let go. Turns out being the ex who shows up unannounced, mid-panic attack, isn't usually well-received. I pity any man who has to break up with me. My instinct is to keep reliving the same relationship in a Groundhog Day scenario, trying to make it work, no matter what.
Enter The New York Times Vows column. I realize I'm not the only person with a predilection for this column, but I'm pretty sure my Vows obsession goes beyond the average reader's devotion. I'm not into them because I've been dreaming of my wedding since I was a little girl.
My preference doesn't have anything to do with couples' age, sexuality or race. What I find most abhorrent are the ones where the relationship had been a steady progression from the start. My interest lies in a specific subset, searchable by the terms: "broke up got back together."
I was hooked. I have an app on my computer that constantly tracks my productivity. For years my record for most time logged in a day was 14 hours and 37 minutes, spent exclusively reading Vows columns in which couples broke up and got back together.
If I had spent that time working, say on a film set (as I often was those days), I would've gone into magic hour, made double overtime, and been showered with meal penalties. This wasn't my job, though. It was a stalling tactic. A distraction from the necessary business of putting myself back together.
As I began to memorize the stories, I slowly realized that they weren't very helpful as how-tos. Someone always had an epiphany. You can't make someone else have an epiphany; that's manipulation. I knew that, but I still couldn't stop reading rekindled love stories as my masochistic Rubik's Cube. If I could just figure out the winning combination ...
I did get back together with both of those guys. I got my second chance, and it didn't work. Again. Not because of me, not because of timing, just because the relationships weren't right. Reuniting made me realize they were meant to have an expiration date. A period, not a comma.
I hope my current boyfriend and I don't ever break up, especially not to find each other again. But if we do, I'd like to think I've matured in my ability to move on, that I could handle heartbreak with a little more self-preservation.
Still, those second chance (or more) Vows columns will always have a special place in my heart - for keeping me company when I felt most alone. And for helping me believe in love when I was worried it might be lost forever - even though we are never, ever getting back together again.