The Awful Truth

Kick n' Tell


Cintra Wilson
March 11, 1997 4:18PM (UTC)

omething about getting older makes it easier to break up with people, even ones you still like.

"I deserve better," I said, surprised as hell to hear that come out of my mouth, especially since what was going on was pretty good. In all of the other relationships I'd ever had, I always assumed that I was some frightful harpy who had utterly destroyed any possibility of happiness between me and the other person by being emotionally erratic and demanding and crazy. Now I've decided that it's perfectly dignified to be crazed and demanding and emotionally erratic, and it is the JOB of my Significant Other to understand and cope with it.

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"Yes, you do deserve better, you really do," he said, dearly, with tears in his eyes. It was amazing to be on the empowered side of the ax, for once. It was great to be the executioner, and what was even better was being gracious and humane about it.

"Aah, it's not your fault. You're a lovely person." I felt like James fucking Bond, in a pair of shiny eelskin zipper boots with a brandy snifter, reclining in a big leather chair on top of a jaguar rug with photogenic eyes full of compassion and sincerity. "Perhaps we can get together casually in the future. I'd just like some TIME."

Having been on the other end of that discussion more times than I'd care to remember, this was like finally getting the heavyweight crown back after 15 years of getting TKO'd in the third round, a slobbering bum with a broken face and a glass heart finally crawling back into self-respect, wrapped in a bloody flag.

I guess there is something you go through in your 20s, before you learn to navigate your own insecurities, where you need to cling with all of your life's tenacity to a relationship because it seems like your only hope for redemption in a Godless universe, and the idea of not being around the person who is making you miserable seems as absurd as taking your own eye out with a spoon.

I used to favor the emotional equivalent of those addictive Mexican soap opera-cum-Ryan-and-Farrah relationships, the kind in which a nice frisbee game can boil and devolve into a dirty fistfight in front of all your famous friends quicker than you can say "codependent," but neither party in the relationship is willing to cut their losses and let go. I am now happily perplexed by such situations.

"It's better to be alone than in a bad relationship," said my Mother. I feel it my duty to point out that she is handing down these pearls of wisdom from the passenger seat of her 30-year marriage to my father, a hayride that has been crashing and bursting into flames regularly since the early '70s. But I now believe her: One CAN reach a point in one's life where one not only believes that this is true, but can act on it. "Well, I wasn't getting what I needed, so I fired him," I told her. She sighed. "Well, he got his turn on the merry-go-round," she said. I was insulted that my mother would regard my affections as being akin to some kind of heavily populated, spinning carnival ride filled with bobbing woodchucks and caramel-spattered ponies and the like.

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Some people are emotional sperm whales, others are hammerheads, others are sand worms and guppies, and mismatched pairs should never sleep together in the same tank for more than a few months. Those for whom life has been Huge and Treacherous and Operatic will never find solace with those who have been supported by their parents well into adulthood, because emotional strain and the galvanizing of the soul that comes of it simply makes one a Larger Emotional Creature. Those whose lives have been blessed with Simplicity and Ease may chronically misunderstand those who have not. In cases such as these, the word "needy" seems to get a lot of airplay. I've known many souls who liked excessive amounts of constant affection to be saddled with this heinous libel. The Excessively Demonstrative will always have problems with the Inherently Repressed. This is the fault of neither party.

The other variable, as always, is the plummet into the jaws of the Unknown:
the idea, or faith really, that life will provide you with a better thing if you chuck out the undesirable thing and create a sufficient vacuum of space that a new thing might occupy.

I was recently inspired by a girlfriend of mine who slogged through a difficult and abusive relationship for years. When she finally mustered the aggressive energy to throw the Kill switch, she felt great happiness and relief almost immediately, then ended up finding another Thing, far quicker than she had ever expected or hoped -- one far more peacefully suited to her desires and temperament.

Other friends of mine have endured through every kind of disaster that can befall a relationship, and have decided, after blistering hiatuses and savage ego-deaths, that their partners are the only ones who truly understand them, and it's worth suffering and fighting for. And sometimes that works too.
Sometimes, people do change.

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Who knows which is the right way of doing anything? But there is something about being truthful and ruthless that eliminates any trace of fear.


Cintra Wilson

Cintra Wilson is a culture critic and author whose books include "A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease" and "Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny." Her new book, "Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling America's Fashion Destiny," will be published by WW Norton.

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