Thursday, 13 October 2011

Every question can be answered by alcohol, a good mate and fortune cookies

Midway through a week where nothing seemed to be going quite wrong, in the same way that nothing seemed to be going quite right, I found myself in a restaurant opposite my good friend PIB (or, Partner in Breakup).

And there, under the watchful gaze of a sizable London landmark, two single girls discussed love - or rather, our bad luck with it.

Because in the last few months, two things have become apparent. 

Number one, since my own, otherwise healthy, progressing relationship crashed and burned, there's been an unspoken cynicism simmering inside me towards anyone professing their undying love for another. 

While I can be happy for the person with that loved up sparkle in their eyes, I find I can never quite fully subscribe to their belief that it'll all end with smiles and roses. Because heartbreak, ladies and gentlemen, makes you a bit of a cynical bastard. 

This is mostly fuelled by another revelation: 

That there are people out there - friends of mine, colleagues of yours, ex boyfriends who hurt us before becoming happily betrothed to another - who have never, ever experienced good ol' head shattering heartbreak. 

So with this in mind and Prosecco in hand, I posed a question:

"Why is it always us though? Why is it I have friends who have never been heartbroken, who met a wonderful boy, who moved in, got married, and never had that crashing moment when it's all about to go horribly wrong? Why do we get it, and they don't?"

Her reply was short and to the point. "Because they settle."

The idea being, I guess, that while we work late on careers where trips to Cannes and Australia are par for the course (her), or whip off round the world with backpacks (me), or save money at home with the parents (her) or live in central London with housemates (me), kiss boys on the Kings Road (her) and tell their boyfriends where to go when they start to hinder this independent streak (both of us)... others, perhaps, don't. 

And then they don't get heartbroken. They get engaged. They get married. And they follow the rules.

Maybe, maybe we just don't. Who knows?

Anyway, the chat drifted by over Dim Sum, my question hanging half pondered, half answered in the air. We asked for the bill. And when it arrived, so did two fortune cookies.

"Mine's rubbish." she declared. "It was last time I was here, but then the person I was with got one that was scarily accurate."

I looked down.

And that, as they say, answered that. 


Blonde said...


I find that horoscopes are, without exception, bollocks. However, when thelondonpaper (RIP) was around, theirs were spookily on the money. Every time.

Heartbreak does make you cynical, definitely. Whilst I currently fall firmly into the loved-up camp, previous experience tells me it could quite easily be the most painful thing I've ever done. I'm permanently terrified - and not because I don't trust him: I'm just going on what I know.

Helen said...

You said it better than I ever could. People do settle. And I never will. So maybe I'll get married and be loved up, maybe I won't. But I won't be settling any time soon.

j said...

Great post. I think they do settle or that they are just sticking their head in the sand and ignoring signs that will lead them down the path to divorce or an unhappy marriage.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Blonde - YES. The LondonPaper was absolutely bang on every time. I don't know who their Mystic Meg was, but I need that person back in my life. I've got many a londonpaper horoscope torn out and stuck in diaries.

And I don't blame you for being terrified. If I'm cynical now, next time I find a bloke I'll be positively bricking it.

Helen - That's the conclusion we came to. The difference between us and everyone else who is married and engaged, is that they go home when their other halves are ill... and we go out. *shrug*

j - That's not to say everyone coupled up is heading towards doom and gloom. But marriage is such hard work and compromising of a big part of yourself, that I wouldn't want to get started on it any sooner than I have to.

Katie Khan said...

I'm happily ensconced in a relationship - well, I am until he notices I've just said 'ensconced' - but like Blonde I am absolutely terrified. Not because I don't trust him. Not because there are signs that it might crack and break - there aren't. But because I know, underneath it all, that most relationships don't work out.

Maybe that's why some do, and some of ours will - with no 'he's my one' or 'she's my soulmate' declarations, everyone who's ever felt a little fear is that little more cautious, and appreciates true happiness that comes from one relationship being a little easier than the others.

Cat said...

I've been through many a heartbreak in my time, and am now in a wonderful relationship where, in terms of a "list", maybe I've settled, a tiny bit. Not every box on my wishlist would be ticked off, but the fundamentals would - good, kind, clever, funny, great in bed, and supportive and understanding. I've had to compromise on some things, but I think everyone does to some degree. Despite my admitting to compromising, I to am permanently terrified of it all going wrong - above all else, he's my best friend, and the thought of not having him in my life scares me absolutely senseless.

Cat said...

PS. Just to clarify, the things I've compromised on are stuff like not loving dogs or reality TV as opposed to anything really meaningful. I actually wrote a blog post about the TV side of it the other week.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Katie - Like you and blonde, I shudder to think what horrors lie ahead in terms of how my brain will react the next time I'm in a relationship. Seriously. It's not going to be easy. That's why I find it so strange that there's people who haven't ever had need to feel The Fear. I think those of us who have felt it know a) that it's lovely to not have any Fear and b) that if and when it does happen, we'll get through it and move on. I can't imagine getting to 27 and not knowing that.

Cat - I suppose by "settling" I don't necessarily mean settling for the man who doesn't quite meet the standard of Prince Charming, more that people settle for the relationship itself. Like, they'll take back a cheating boy, cancel and stay in if their other half gets ill, arrange social occasions that you can both go to - that kind of settling. Settling for being part of a pair, when, in your 20s at least, there's a whole world and life to be explored.

Some people settle for engagement, marriage, kids because it's the done thing, and maybe one day will look back when it gets hard and difficult and they've been working at it all for 20 years and think "Man, I wish I'd drawn that single lark out a bit and suffered a few more heartbreaks"

Cat said...

I just had to come back and correct that typo. I meant "too", not "to". Obviously. One eye on TV. Good job my students don't read blogs or they would ridicule me - I am permanently on the hunt for missed apostrophes and the like.

Blonde said...

"The thought of not having him in my life scares me absolutely senseless" - Cat, spot on. It's a bit of a 'feel the fear, do it anyway' scenario, otherwise you're never going to get the most out of life.

smidge said...

No, I don't feel like I have settled. It has been a long hard roadof heartbreak (including with B) to get where I am now.

In fact before I met B I had I broken off a 7 year relationship as I felt I had settled!

B means the world to me and like Cat said "The thought of not having him in my life scares me absolutely senseless" too.

Loki Mars said...

"We have this idea that love is supposed to last forever. But love isn't like that. It's a free-flowing energy that comes and goes when it pleases. Sometimes it says for life; other times it stays for a second, a day, a month, a year. So don't fear love when it comes simply because it makes you vulnerable. But don't be surprised when it leaves either. Just be glad you had the oppertunity to experience it."

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Cor, we're a well rounded lot aren't we?

I think this kind of proves that a bit of heartbreak is probably a good thing, in the end. Like, it's horrible, but once you've stopped weeping to Adele on each and every train journey you take, gazing out of bus windows and the hole in your stomach fills in a bit - you get a bit of appreciation and strength out of it.

So the settlers (i.e., those who avoid heartbreak and go straight to jail...I mean, marriage and babies) get the nod from society, but not the KNOWLEDGE. Or something.

miss*H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
miss*H said...

I'm married and I still don't feel settled and I still have the a slight fear that it could go wrong because sadly I don't believe in ever after. I only believe in what feels right, right now and as with all things, feelings fade, people change and hopes and dreams change with time.

If we can learn to accept that we can learn to accept that relationships are never a fairytale and then what may or may not be around the corner isn't so scary or forefront and we can learn to live in the moment without fear.

It’s when we believe in ever after that we set unrealistic goals and ultimately end up broken because of it.

Anonymous said...

Dyou think maybe a member of the waiting staff was eavesdropping on your chat and knew which cookies contained which messages? I'd like to imagine a waiter/ress that thoughtful. Nice post anyway. Scribbled something similar on settling a couple of days ago.

Leigh said...

I've always been cynical having seen so many relationships crash and burn around me but like you, I've gotten even worse since getting my heart squished and I do worry that it's going to keep me from letting someone in again.

When the ex's sister got married she joked about them getting divorced and I wondered if she really was just joking or if she truly expected that they will eventually get divorced. Because I do.

I've rarely thought any of my relationships has had any potential longevity and even when I did I could still see the potential pitfalls that would make us split up. I would have married the Ex but never said I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him because I just couldn't see it happening, no matter how much I loved him then. It's reassuring to see all the comments from happily coupled people who don't see it all as sunshine and roses, believing they've found their "soulmate".

I hate the concept of a soulmate because it makes people expect relationships to be effortless and they're not. As you said, "marriage is such hard work and compromising of a big part of yourself". Though I do still like to think I'll find someone I don't need to compromise myself for. Compromise on things, yes but who I am, no way!

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Miss H - That's the thing, everything fades after a while. Once the wedding has happened, the kids have been made, it's just hard graft. We're fed such an unrealistic sense of what marriage and being coupled actually is, it amazes me the same importance isn't put on being single and trying every road you want to.

Swashbuckled - Ha! If they did do that, I should have tipped more than I did. And it probably means I ingested some superglue when they put it back together. Now you mention it...(will check out your post)

Leigh - That's my cynical thing. So many friends are getting engaged at the moment, swept along on this idea that it's the Done Thing, by parents nudging them towards it because they want grandkids, or friends going "when are you going to pop the question then, mate?". And all I see are raging divorce rates and cheating spouses. *shrug* It's not all cynicism, it's reality.

pinkjellybaby said...

I'm with Blonde in the 'terrified' camp. So much so that I back away from people who seem to like me.

I'm also with Helen on the not wanting to settle. I want fireworks and crazy, stupid love.... But I'm getting to the point after two years without it where I'm thinking either a) I'm too picky and expect way too much b) it's just not going to ever happen for me.

Either way, i've had my heart broken and I'm scared but I'm also lonely and cynical... None of which will ever get me anywhere.

em said...

Oh, wow. You said it so well.
I guess I totally settled with my ex, and for ages. He was a cheat, and abusive, and generally not a nice person, but eventually I saw the light and moved on. And now the boy knows exactly what I will not ‘settle’ for and accept – I don’t think it makes my life easier, but I feel happier in myself about the relationship. And having spoken to the ex he seems to be a more rounded person too – he now know what she shouldn’t do if he wants to keep his current beau {god knows why he thought his behaviour before was acceptable, but hey ho.)
I think we need a little heartbreak too – as shit as they are at the time, those days of totally relating to every heartbroken heroine in a chick-flick are something we all need to experience, if only so we can laugh about it later.

Brennig said...

I don't know *what* heartbreak does to a person. I just know I've been through enough of it in the last couple of weeks. I don't think I'm cynical. I think I'm appreciative of what I had. What I thought I had. I'm impressed by the capacity of others to be lying, scheming, duplicitous, totally believable shitbags. Or perhaps I'm just impressed by my own gullibility.

But for the first time in my life I'm looking every day square in the eye and saying to it, loud and proud, 'Nah. I *want* to be by myself now'.

Lpeg said...

Heartbreak sucks. But I'd take that any day over settling.

I've now gone and done it again, falling for someone who is going to leave. I can only hope he comes back :/

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

PJB - I want some fireworks too. But it's always good to enjoy being single while it lasts, you might look back one day and think "god, what was I worrying about?"

em - That's it, being able to look back and get something out of it is a plus point (probably the only one, but hey). And it does mean that you're more likely to lay down the law with the next one, too.

Brennig - In a tiny way, it's quite refreshing to get to that point where you say "right, enough!". Being with someone else is nice, but only if it's someone with your best interests at heart. Which, as we know, maybe wasn't the case with you.

Lpeg - A good attitude to have. And don't worry, these things always have a way of working out.

modelofamodernmajorgeneral said...

I think that what will happen will happen, regardless of your prior thoughts on the issue.

Secondly, compromise is no bad thing - after some years of being a 'proper' sailor (nutty will testify to my habits in that period), I can look back and acknowledge that life as a single man is far worse than being married. Did I need that time of being single to help me appreciate what I've got? Probably, but I certainly wouldn't say that period can only be confined to a certain age bracket, or that relying on a given birthday you'll be magically ready to settle down.

Having spent 1273* days away from home in the last 5 1/2 years, I suspect that a lot of my experience of being a married man is different to the norm, so I may have some slightly different views about this all.

Anyway, more to the point, was the food good?

*The Navy's kind enough to count these things for me

Ellie said...

I imagine the 'settlers' have their own brand of heartache that you're just not privy to. It might even be worse because they might feel they can't talk about it.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

model - The food was lovely! I think you're right, especially about your single time not being confined to a certain age. Now can you explain that to my friends?!

Ellie - Sometimes, I have the same inkling. I know because I've felt it when with people before.


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