When we break up, we consume. Something has to fill that hole where your love used to be right? And so many things can go in there: food, drinks, movies, drugs, Netflix, pricey new coats, compliments from strangers, books, YouTube videos of bulldogs, music, tears, and maybe even couch cushion stuffing (if you’re that lady from My Strange Addiction). The Breakup Diet is a feature where we ask our favorite people what they put in, on, or through their bodies when they’re getting over the end of a relationship.
We broke up three minutes into Election Day. The conversation should have gone longer, but I had promised to help hang Obama posters at 12:15, and was already running late. Blaming my sense of urgency on my country, I hurried the words, “can’t do this anymore,” and shut my laptop before Dan could object. I shed trace amounts of tears and rushed toward campus, carrying a stack of flyers reading, “CHANGE!”
I hated doing it through Skype, but hating doing things through Skype was kind of the point. Most of my freshman year was spent staring at my long distance boyfriend on a computer screen, and, though I’d once felt enough love for Dan to make the pixelated life seem worth living, that feeling was gradually replaced with a need to experience college.
No sooner had my itch appeared than one of the Obama Campaign managers stepped in to scratch it. His name was Andrew, and our casual flirting caused me to develop a sudden interest in politics. I signed on as USC’s Obama Event Coordinator, and, much like my candidate, hid my agenda behind words like “progress.” After meetings, Andrew and I stayed up for hours, talking and blowing THC into each other’s faces. We didn’t kiss, at least not while the idea of The Boyfriend loomed over us. In fact, we didn’t kiss until CNN confirmed that Nevada went blue.
Falling fast into someone else definitely made things easier — I’d never understood serial monogamy until I saw how much it dulled the pain. But despite my new rebound (and my new president), some days were hard, and most days, I still missed Dan. He was my phantom limb, and Andrew was the Xanax that made me shut up about it.
As a whole, the breakup was foggy. Like a confused pendulum, I swayed back and forth between Andrew’s recommendations and the marks Dan had left on me. It took a few months of oscillation, but ultimately, I found my center. My breakup diet (Proven effective in whittling the pain away! Call now—we’ll throw in a sex toy!) consisted of the following:
Dan didn’t like to read — that should’ve been a red flag, but since we met on Spring Break in Panama City Beach, literature didn’t really come up.
Andrew, however, had a passion for the written word. After he gifted me his favorite book, As I Lay Dying, I stared in disbelief at the longest sentence I’d ever seen. My mind drifted before I made it to Faulkner’s thirteenth comma, nostalgic for my lowbrow days with Dan. We’d had a thing where we would Skype while streaming the same episode of South Park. Now that Kenny — he knew how to die.
Air Force 1s
Despite (or maybe because of) his Jew fro, Andrew was very into hip-hop. I welcomed the change — Dan only listened to Jimi Hendrix, mediocre bluegrass, and the scratchy uncertainty of himself practicing guitar. Since boredom triggered loneliness, I jumped on the opportunity to appropriate a new culture, and happily decided to ditch my sundresses for sneakers.
It wasn’t until after I forked over $120 that I realized how alien “kicks” felt on me: They made my ankles seem bony, didn’t mesh with my jeans, and weirdly shrank my feet to look like a geisha’s. I spent nights staring at the shoes in the mirror, gawking like a drug addict who didn’t recognize herself.
I only wore them out of the house once — Andrew told me I looked hot.
Certain there was more to hip-hop than shoes, I signed up for a class at L.A.’s “Scratch Academy.” I told myself this would be good not just for impressing Andrew, but also for a much-needed distraction — the class met on Sundays, smack in the middle of my and Dan’s old Skype time. On the first day, I considered wearing the Air Force 1s, then thought the better of it. I needed to look like myself — if I just looked like myself, no one would know I didn’t fit in.
Turned out they knew. While I had chosen a floral blouse from Forever 21, the other students had come dressed like hip-hop icons: I was in DJ 101 with Grandmaster Flash, Left Eye, and half of Kris Kross (though it was unclear which half, probably Kross). After an hour of humiliation behind a pair of Technics, all I wanted was to call Dan; to morph back into the person I was when I was with him. I wanted to hear him play the only song he could play well — the one he’d spent extra time learning because he knew how much I liked it.
“Wagon Wheel” – Old Crow Medicine Show
Instead of making Dan play the song for me, I opted to blast it through my Xterra’s stock speakers while almost sobbing my way into an accident. The familiar twang made me miss Dan and my old self, but at the same time, crying to it felt cathartic and natural — the way you’re supposed feel after an important person leaves your life.
During the fiddle solo, Andrew called, presumably wanting to hear how class went. I ignored it — my phone would’ve gotten wet anyway.
Dan called kombucha “hippie shit.” Andrew called it “expensive bullshit.” But to me, it was good shit, and because I’d hit a breaking point, I decided to stock my fridge. The Variety Pack (some bottles including chia seeds!) cost seven eighthsof an Air Force 1 and impressed Andrew far, far less. But I was upset, lonely, and thirsty, and decided I didn’t have time to care what a boy thought. This was my mouth, and anyone who wanted to kiss it would have to go through live cultures.
A “Leadership” Fraternity
With Obama safely in office, I was starting to remember that I didn’t care about politics. It didn’t help that Andrew was on my last nerve, smothering me with zealous phone calls and too many “where u at?” texts. I searched for a new student organization, and found Delta Omicron Zeta, a “Leadership Fraternity.” It was described as collective of student leaders (sports people, charity people, music people, cool people), and that was just self-aggrandizing enough to be exactly what I needed. We did trust falls, played communication games, and dissected the many different ways to be a leader. It occurred to me I couldn’t get a grip on others until I got one on myself.
Ugly Betty, Season 1 (And One Amy’s Black Bean & Vegetable Burrito)
Mid-January, Andrew and I had a mature conversation that led to us cordially parting ways. Afterwards, I sat on my couch, drinking a kombucha and relishing my solitude. How would I take advantage of my freedom? Now that I had no one to impress, what could I binge watch? Then, as if an oracle, my On Demand menu ran a trailer for Ugly Betty. Without hesitation, I microwaved a burrito. Then I started the first season.
Every bad joke gave me something to bask in: The fact that Dan and Andrew both would have hated it. But they weren’t here — it was just my dramedy, my Cholula-soaked dinner, and me. I sprawled out unflatteringly on my couch, and before Betty could make one office friend, I fell asleep.