Trigger Warning

WARNING: This post isn’t my usual that’s laced with sparkles and sunshine . It’s pretty sad. It’s raw, it’s emotional, but I wanted to share it because I like letting my readers know I’m human and there’s more to me than clothes, Disneyland, and geeky things.

There are two things that happened yesterday.

  1. I started reading Neil Gaiman’s collection of short stories titled Trigger Warning.
  2. I watched When Harry Met Sally for the very first time.

When Harry Met Sally is a movie I had been avoiding like the plague. When my very first boyfriend broke up with me he kept saying, “Remember. When Harry Met Sally. That’ll be us.” He wanted us to be like the titular characters of a movie I had never seen, so I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I was 21 when this happened. Seven years later, another boy would quote Harold & Maude as we broke up by telling me to “love some more” or something like that. Do all guys make movie references when they breakup with someone, or is it just me specifically?

To the next guy I date, I swear to the old gods and the new, if you quote a film or any other piece of pop culture while you break up with me (you’re an imbecile if you do such a thing by the way because I’m fantastic), I will jab you in the throat so hard that your Adam’s Apple will cease to exist. You have been warned.

But I digress.

I was somewhat familiar with the film, but I was hazy on the details of its premise. I told my late friend Jim about it and he said that my ex wanting us to be like Harry and Sally was complete bullshit, and incredibly horrible. He explained how the movie is about a guy and girl who are perfect for each other, but remain best friends and watch each other fall in and out of love with other people only to ultimately and predictably fall in love with each other in the end – 12 years after the fact (12 years, 3 months as they said in the movie). He said if you want to be with someone now, be with them now, obstacles be damned. Do not wait 12 years (and 3 months) to do so.

I didn’t care that When Harry Met Sally was hailed as a classic or one of the best romantic comedies of all time, or that I had friends who loved it and recommended it highly, or that it had Meg Ryan in it, who is always at her absolute best in romantic comedies (right?!). The film had been plagued by a stupid ginger that broke my heart and I wanted to have nothing to do with it.

Fast forward 8 years later, my friend Caitlin picked up a used copy of When Harry Met Sally during a random visit to Rasputin. She told, or rather re-introduced, me about how it’s such a beautiful film and what it’s about – a man and a woman who meet and hate each other at first, but ultimately become best friends and later on fall in love — and I still wasn’t intrigued. Not because of the asshole ginger who broke my heart 8 years prior, but because of a different asshole who ripped it out and crushed it to dust a year ago.

In the introduction of Gaiman’s Trigger Warning, he writes:

 And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead. There are things that wait for us, patiently, in the dark corridors of our lives. We think we have moved on, put them out of mind, left them to desiccate and shrivel and blow away; but we are wrong. They have been waiting there in the darkness, working out, practicing their most vicious blows, their sharp hard thoughtless punches into the gut, killing time until we came back that way.

The vehement feelings I have towards my former love haven’t been as intense as they were a year ago. In fact, they’ve been fading away with every passing day. There are finally moments in my day where he fails to cross my mind. I have no interest in hating him the way I did before, because to hate means that you still care, and I wish to not feel anything for him at all anymore. I don’t yearn for him, I don’t mourn over what we once had, I’ve accepted the fact that he and I will probably never be able to be friends again, and I certainly haven’t shed a tear over him in months.

Or at least I hadn’t until yesterday, after watching When Harry Met Sally.

After Caitlin first bought the DVD, she told me I probably shouldn’t watch it because it would make me sad. Especially since it was around the holidays, which was the time he and I had broken up. But as time soldiered on, I did too. I felt myself become emotionally stronger and regain comfort in my status of being single once more. I was feeling better about myself in general, so when the movie was brought up again in conversation recently I said I was ready to watch it. I was in a good place. What harm could this film do?

I was completely fine watching the parts with the adorable elderly couples telling the tales of how they had first met each other and how they’ve been married for some odd years since. I was completely fine even during parts of the movie where Harry and Sally were just off wandering around museums, having lunch, singing karaoke in public – things that my ex and I did when we were still just best friends and also when we dated… sans the karaoke part. But he was the only person I ever felt comfortable singing in front of. Again, I digress.

The part when Sally calls Harry after she finds out her ex boyfriend Joe was getting married to someone he hadn’t even been with for a very long time, that’s when I felt my chest cave in. I watched Harry rush over to her apartment and comfort her as she asks why didn’t Joe want her? Why didn’t he want to marry her when they were still together? She said multiple times throughout the movie that she was over him, but this new woman was supposed to be a transitional thing, not the one. And Harry embraced Sally, enveloped her in his arms good and tight like a best friend should. That’s where I lost it. Behemoth tears of acid flooded down my cheeks and left them burning. I felt my face contort into what we call an “ugly cry” as ugly sobs emitted past my lips.

I missed that. I missed what I was seeing on screen. I missed having my best friend, the one who’d go on adventures with me, and sing songs with me, and be my shoulder to cry on and reassure me that I’m a good person and that anyone who couldn’t see that was an idiot. I had that before, but it’s gone and I don’t think I will ever find that level of intimacy with another man (because trust issues).

My tears were sad and angry. They were sad because they made me miss my ex and not just the romantic love that we once had, but the strong bond we had as friends. And they were angry because Joe found love so fast, just like my ex. He started seeing someone barely a month after we broke up. Never have I ever felt like complete waste to someone. It’s like I didn’t even matter. I understood the reasons of why we were breaking up, but it still took time for it all to sink in and fully understand why. For him to start something new so soon after we broke up was not just a complete metaphorical slap to my face, but my entire being. The day after I learned that bit of information was when everything started to make sense, and when any love I had left for him quickly turned to hate.

The past is very much alive. Even when you stop thinking about it, it will always be there. I knew what I was getting into when I put When Harry Met Sally into the DVD player and hit play. I was aware of the plot, the reason I had to never wanting to watch it in the first place, and that the possibility of it making me sad was there. I had been warned. I had been warned multiple times. But I pulled the trigger (or the play button on the remote), and discovered what Neil said was true. The past is not dead. It’s always there, waiting.

cheers

PS: I’ll be back with a lighter post about Iron Man waffles, I promise.

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12 Comments

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  • This post hit so close to home for me. Not only have I been experiencing the same feelings of missing that certain someone to share adventures and inside jokes with, but also that my ex moved on immediately after we broke up too and it’s been over a year since. I don’t know if you’re like me in the same way, but I get flashes of places and things completely unromantic that my ex and I shared. I have so many other good memories without him that I wonder why my mind continues to flex over these triggers.
    You’re not the only one who gets broken up with by using movie quotes. My first ex used some movie quote to explain why we should break up, and the big EX I mentioned before wrote a quote from The Fault In Our Stars down on a piece of paper and gave it to me the last time we saw each other. “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you” and then he added, “I hope you like your choices as do I.” It very nearly ruined the whole thing for me. How dare they take pop culture and use it to try and make breakups easier on themselves? Don’t they know that’s a surefire way to make us hate the thing?!
    That quote from Trigger Warning sums it up perfectly though, doesn’t it? It really just fits the bill when it comes to our past coming back to punch us right in the face with feels. It fits fairly well with John Green’s quote in TFIOS. “Pain demands to be felt.” Even if we think there isn’t enough left to be felt, it will somehow find a way to the surface. I’ve cried in front of strangers because they asked me a simple question that somehow required a long-winded answer about my past. It’s never truly over until it’s over, and depending on how much that person meant to you it could take a long time.
    Thank you for sharing this, Nina! And darn right you are FANTASTIC!!! 🙂

    • Aww, Kelsey. I’m sending you a big fat virtual bear hug! I’m so sorry that you’re experiencing the same thing. I get those unromantic flashbacks too. And sometimes my ex comes up in conversation, not in a negative way, but because whatever the conversation happens to be about it always brings up a memory of something that we did that relates to subject. It’s really annoying! WTF is wrong with these guys?! How dare your big ex quote TFIOS when breaking up with you, that is all shades of fucked up. D:< If you find yourself feeling down about this, don't hesitate to message me. ♡

  • Aww Nina! Don’t think you’re destined to never find someone to love and trust again! Take it from me, you will (and if you don’t? Who cares? As long as you’re happy!). I had a really bad breakup with my ex, in that I have to get a restraining order against him as he was emotionally and verbally abusive throughout and after the relationship. He told me all the time all men were cheaters by nature and so women had to look/act a certain way to stop them from straying, which I ended up believing.
    But then I found Ben who proved that the “all men cheat” thing was an absurd myth and that it didn’t matter how I looked because he loved me for more than my physical looks.
    I still feel a lot of rage and hatred for my ex who ruined my self-esteem and still tries to taunt me after the restraining order has run out by adding me and my friends on social media (we just keep blocking him and the new accounts he creates) but it doesn’t consume me any more, in fact I hardly even rant about him these days!
    Sending you lots of love 🙂

    • Thank you for sharing your story with me about your horrible ex, Cara. To say he sounds like a real piece of work seems like it would be an understatement. I mean… you had to get a restraining order for fuck’s sake! That is frightening. >_< But I'm so happy to hear that you found someone that treats you like an actual human being and appreciates you <3 Thanks again for sharing your story and for sending all the love 😀

  • Celina

    Oh, Nina! This may sound a little weird, but thank you for writing this post. I cried… I cried for you, I cried for myself, and I cried for every single woman who has felt hurt by a best friend/ex boyfriend. The thing is that it felt good to let it all out.
    I fell in love with my best friend years ago. I watched him get married, have a child, and get a divorce. It was at this point in time that we had a chance to be together. Unfortunately, our relationship was not meant to be and we broke up. We stayed best friends though and did every thing together. We were basically a couple but without the title. Months passed and we decided to become a couple again. At this point, I knew he was the one; I didn’t want any one else. He told me he felt the same way. We talked about our wedding day; I picked my dream dress; we went ring shopping and we named our future children.
    It was not in the stars. He broke up with me when he moved to a new city for his graduate degree. He said not to worry thought because we would always be best friends. I was heartbroken. I didn’t think I would ever be able to love again. But in a few months, I felt stronger, and I knew that I was on the road to healing my heart. Within a year, I thought about him from time to time but not on a daily basis, and usually when I passed by one of our places or heard one of our songs. I was happy, or I thought I was happy.
    I crossed paths with his mother one day and that was it. She told me that a month or so after he had moved he had become serious with a young woman who was studying to be a teacher (like me), was short and brunette (like me), and made him happy. Apparently I couldn’t make him happy. I left the store without purchasing anything and cried in my car for about an hour or so. At this point I did what a strong, sensible woman would never do… I checked out his Facebook. I then cried for another hour or so because I found out they had gotten married! I saw myself in this woman, and it broke my heart all over again! She wore a dress crazy similar to the one I had picked out, she wore the ring that I had tried on, and she married the man that had been my best friend and lover for so many years (ten years). I cried and cried there in my car.
    A year has passed since the day I found out he was married, and I still cry for him at times. Not for him exactly, but mostly I cry because I can’t believe that someone I had been so close to would treat our relationship as a blip on a radar. I felt like I had never mattered to him. I guess Gaiman is right, the past is very much alive… alive and waiting. But you know what, I am happy to know that I am not truly alone. And the next time my past tries knocking on my door, I will make sure to let him know that I don’t need any of his BS that day! You are a fantastic individual, and thank you again for this cathartic post!

    • OMG, Celina! I’m sorry my post made you cry — if it makes you feel any better, your story made me cry too (now we’re even). And I’m so sorry that what you experienced is a thousand times worse than my falling-love-with-your-best-friend experience. I can’t even imagine going through that, 10 years of friendship and he marries someone that is basically your clone? :'( I am so sorry that you went through that and that he made you feel like you and your 10 years of friendship didn’t matter. Even though I don’t know you personally, you DO matter! I am sending you a huge virtual bear hug right now <3

  • I read this post over the weekend and I’ve been meaning to leave a comment since then just to say how amazing you seem and that I admire you for opening up about it<3 Relationships can be really tough and it sucks that TWO guys used movie quotes in breakups. Like, what the heck? Clearly, you're better off without them and someday your Prince will come!

    • Thanks so much, Kristin. <3 Relationships are sooo hard! It really takes the right kind of people in the right kind of mindset, at the right time to make one work, I think.

      I would prefer a scruffy looking nerf herder to come my way over a prince though 😀

  • Oh Nina, I just want to wrap you up in the hugest hug. Breakups are painful always, and when your ex moves on quickly it’s even worse. I can definitely relate to you missing the comfort and companionship of a relationship. When my ex broke up with me two years ago I was beside myself. And the thing I mourned for the longest period of time was our friendship. I missed our little in-jokes and rituals, I missed having him hold me when I’d had a shitty day, I missed that closeness much more than I missed the romance.

    And now I’m going to say the thing that everyone says. But they say it because it’s true (I promise, I know what I’m talking about). It really does get easier with time. It totally sucks and there’s no way to avoid the pain, you just have to feel it and watch it grow less with time. I wish I could take it away, because I know how much you’re hurting. If you ever want to vent, I’m just an email or a Skype call away. I’d be happy to lend an ear.

    Oh, and just so you know, I’ve also had dudes quote movies while breaking up with me. The last guy I dated used a line from Dr Who in his break-up speech. I was livid. If you want to break up with me, fine, but Do Not Use The Doctor’s Words To Break My Heart! Jerkoff.

    • Thank you, Vanessa! I’m actually doing/feeling a lot better. And I have been for quite some time. There are still some days when I feel a bit sad over it, but it’s always brief, and those days are far and few in between. I think this movie kind of made me release any bottled up emotions I may have had, and then this post was written in a therapeutic manner. I appreciate your concern very much <3

      And how dare that guy quote Doctor Who! How dare any man use any quotes from pop culture to break up with someone! If you're gonna break someone's heart, then fucking use your own words and not someone else's. UGH. >__<

  • Thank you for sharing! I have heard about this book before. I think it is one I need to check out 🙂

    • Uh… you’re welcome, even though I only mentioned one quote from the book and didn’t really talk about it at all. Did you even actually read this post?