The Exphiles

Ottawa XPress – Shotgun – March 16, 2006

Being in a relationship is a lot like gambling. You play your cards, hedge or make your bets and hope you don’t get fucked up the ass. Unless, of course, you’re into that.

But let’s say you get royally screwed. How long do we have to listen to you babbling on about it?

I call these people the Exphiles – bastards who talk incessantly about how fabulous their ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend was, despite everyone knowing the relationship was first-class crap.

Is it an addiction? A joke?

I’m convinced the truth is out there. It’s got to be so I can make sense of what I overheard at sushi last week: “He said he was sorry but that he couldn’t go out with me ’cause he wasn’t over his ex-girlfriend even though she treated him like shit and cheated on him twice. Like, what’s up with that?”

The key to partially understanding this obsession with the Ex came to me one warm summer’s evening on a train bound for Kitchener, when I met up with a young male University of Guelph student; we were both too tired to sleep. And so we wrote in our journals, then we took turns staring out the window at the darkness, ’til boredom overtook us, and I began to speak.

I said, “Son, I’ve made a life out of readin’ people’s faces, and knowin’ what their hearts are by the way they hold their eyes. So if you don’t mind my sayin’, I can see you’re out of pages and for a look at the Josh Rouse article in your Spin magazine, I’ll give you some advice.”

He said to me: “I’m writing a ‘goodbye forever’ letter. There’s this girl…” and she was making his life miserable ’cause he loved her so much but she wasn’t “ready” to be in a relationship with him even though she was “ready” for the whole football team, and this and that, and si puis ça, cue Cutting Crew’s “I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight” and drop the needle on the Air Supply…

So I says: “Dude, you’re being taken for more than a ride to Waterloo station.”

I told him to iron out his kinks fast because a great girl might suddenly appear but he’ll be all depressed and miss the most amazing ride of his life! No shit he wasn’t playing his cards right nor dealing well with the hand he’d been dealt.

So why the persistent suffering? Love. And I think in some sick way, we like suffering. It makes us feel A-L-I-V-E.

Breaking up with someone – or saying goodbye – impacts people really strangely no matter how irrational, illogical, idiotic and unreasonable the relationship, or non-relationship, was. Your soul aches. You get diarrhea. And some people relish in that misery. The forlorn’s defence against the fed-up? “The disappointment was electric, but you don’t know it because you’ve never been in love,” laments Luke Doucet in his song “Wallow.” Maybe, but to rehabilitated survivors of love gone wrong, all’s they hear is, “You don’t have a clue okay, Mom, I really loved Pierrette even though she slept with my best friend… and Uncle Ted.”

Ah, love. A bitch in many disguises. She comes dressed as desperation, rebound, an attempt to repair childhood problems, surrogate parent, craving for acceptance, or fear of becoming the Cat Lady. Gosh, that ain’t love, honey – that’s a $140 bill for a shrink. Now how did I know it was $140?

I feel bad for these fuckers who define their existence – or their choice of grocery stores and fitness clubs – according to or against the Ex.

Maybe it’s an excuse to reject undesirable suitors gracefully? Yeah, “I can’t go on another date with you because I’m thinking of the time my Ex got so loaded he nearly hit me.” Ah, isn’t that cute? Forget about Him already!

Haven’t you noticed every time you say you’ll never find anyone like the Ex again, you turn the corner, and poof! Someone really cool walks right into you? But maybe this only happens to those who want to see it.

My buddy, Jeff, labels me “Starfucker” for that reason alone – I find a lot of folks amazing. Nothing wrong with seeing potential in everyone, just watch you don’t lift them so high they’re looking down on you, right?

The other side of this is that if there’s always someone cooler, how do we choose to settle down with one person? And if we have stayed put already with someone like our Ex for such a long time, how do we let go of that investment? Ah, piss. Vicious circle, my ass. Here’s how you break it.

What you had, you didn’t want or it didn’t want you. Deal with it. Write out a wish list and stick it on your fridge. That’s your message to the universe. Memorize it. Don’t look back.

Next, build you and they will come.

Third, accumulate friends like the one who bought me Bittergirl: Getting Over Getting Dumped by Annabel Griffiths, Alison Lawrence and Mary Francis Moore. Even though I was the dumper, it’s easy to feel dumped on. But there you go. The cutesy guide helped me see that “yesterday’s heartache is tomorrow’s one-liner.”

My favourite being New York City columnist Cynthia Heimel’s.

When your phone doesn’t ring, it’ll be me.

File the Ex, already.

– Sylvie Hill