Love & Sex

It’s Breakup Season: All My Springtime Heartbreak

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There's something about April that makes guys who previously wanted to have sex with me just really, really not want to have sex with me anymore.

I don't know if it's the shift in climate or planetary alignment or the proximity to Hitler's birthday or what, but there's something about April that makes guys who previously wanted to have sex with me just really, really not want to have sex with me anymore. In fact, I would wager that when T.S. Eliot wrote "April is the cruelest month," he was presciently referring to my family's 2007 Passover seder, which I spent covertly texting death threats to my estranged boyfriend underneath the tablecloth.

On the afternoon of Thursday, April 21, Justin, my first real boyfriend, broke up with me in the driveway outside our high school. He was an endomorphic young man with red hair, freckles on his ass, and an AIM screen name that referenced a character from the musical Chicago. I was a year older and I madly in love with him.

Although we had only been hooking up for a few months, Justin and I had what in high school passes for a mature, adult relationship, meaning we watched Marx Brothers DVDs on his laptop and went out for sushi and had silent, semi-penetrative sex on his race car sheets. After he broke up with me, I was such an emotional wreck that my sister, who at that time hated me so much that she would literally spit on an item of her clothing to ensure that I would never want to borrow it, called him up crying, demanding that he take me back.  

I remember the exact date of this breakup—Thursday, April 21, 2005— not because I recorded it for posterity, or because it was, according to Wikipedia, the day that Spain officially legalized same-sex marriage (NB, LGBT Spaniards: while you guys were partying it up outside the Cortes Generales, 3000 miles away a little Jewish girl's heart was being torn asunder). I remember it because in the eight years since, most of my subsequent relationships have ended around that month, usually around the time that Passover falls on the Jewish calendar.

When it comes to relationships, everyone has irrational fears and superstitions, and here is mine: I am scared of Aprils. No matter how well a relationship is going, I will spend the entire month in a state of anxiety, constantly looking over my shoulder like a wet T-shirted heroine in a slasher franchise, waiting for the killer's blade to fall. Although I am currently in a long-term relationship with a man who is nothing like Justin—meaning he is neither eumelanin-deficient, nor prone to fornicating on race car beds—I am nonetheless dogged by a feeling of quiet terror that only subsides when May rolls around. I am far from a superstitious person, but for some reason I can't shake this fear of spring breakups, and in this respect I am not alone.

Most people in their twenties and thirties are familiar with the concept of the "breakup season," a stretch of time when all of the couples you know, even the ones you think will be together forever, suddenly call it quits. For many couples of all ages, this period occurs between March 20 and June 21, when the sun is shining and birds are singing and, for the younger set, nubile young co-eds are heading down to Senor Frog's Cabo in droves to flash their pudendae for a free hat. In 2010, the phenomenon was officially documented by British researcher David McCandless, who determined from 10,000 Facebook status updates that the most popular time of the year for breakups was in mid-March, around the time that college students go on spring break.

For me, the most extreme example of this trend was during my senior year of college, when a bunch of my friends, split up with their boyfriends, abruptly and seemingly with no explanation. The weeks leading up to graduation were an elaborately synchronized ballet of heartbreak and sexual humiliation, in which couple by couple, one person would reach into the other's chest cavity, yank out their heart, and toss it in the trash like a used tampon.  

The reasons for these breakups were manifold. A fair percentage of these couples genuinely wanted to stay in the relationship, but felt that they couldn't due to the bad timing of graduation; probably an equal number were just using the breakup as an excuse to bang their way through their undergrad sexual bucket lists. Some of them continued to stay together under the guise of being broken up, continuing to get stoned and watch Dr. Who DVDs and have oral sex in the library archives well up to graduation (i.e., continuing to have what in college passes for a mature, adult relationship). Either way, all of these couples argued that springtime just felt like "the right time" to end their relationships.

So is spring really "the right time" for a breakup; and if so, why? Is it because of planetary alignment? Mating season? Or is it simply that warmer weather is accompanied by an onslaught of scantily-clad nymphs, frolicking around in denim cut-offs and crop tops and those weird Renaissance faerie-headband things?

As someone who is still haunted by the specter of my first spring breakup, who still breathes a little sigh of relief when I've gotten through Passover with my relationship intact and my heart unscathed, I am nonetheless inclined to believe that the spring breakup season is largely a victim of its own press. Like jealousy in a relationship, or diagnosing yourself as lactose intolerant after eating a pint and a half of fro-yo, the spring breakup is a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you tell yourself it's bound to happen, then it probably will, or your relationship was probably pretty shitty to begin with.

For me, Thursday, April 21, 2005 will forever live on as a day of infamy. Intellectually, I know that neither mating season nor planetary alignment nor Hitler's birthday has anything to do with my spring breakup phobia. And yet, even as my boyfriend and I come up on our fifth May together, there might be a small part of me that spends the waning days of April looking over my shoulder, keeping an eye out for the blade-wielding stranger behind me.