My First Heartbreak: How Feminism Got Me Through It
This past week my boyfriend dumped me. Now, under normal circumstances, recovery would have been simple. At first, I'd turn the radio randomly to any given pop song where a lyric about "looking into each other's eyes" would inevitably transition into me sobbing, "WE USED TO LOOK INTO EACH OTHER'S EYES. THIS SONG WAS TOTALLY WRITTEN ABOUT ME AND MY PAIN" followed by dramatic, angsty teen tears. Then, there would be a bitch session with my friends as they confirmed that he was in fact always a douchebag and even though he kind of looked like John Mayer that also kind of added to the doucheyness. Knowing my friends, and our love of festively celebrating the fall season, his picture attached to a pumpkin would probably be presented along with a bat. I can actually attest to the fact that pumpkin smashing really is an effective form of therapy for those who haven't tried it. Candy would be involved, and possibly even a crappy romantic comedy (they are good for approximately NO other purpose). And then, I'd move on with my 17-year-old life.
However. This was not a normal break up. A girl that I considered to be a close friend sent my boyfriend - who was also one of my best friends - a letter declaring her undying love for him while we were still together (for those of you not up on the Unofficial Girl Code, this is Violation #1). Not to mention she was still with her boyfriend at the time. My boyfriend and friend conferred, apparently decided that their feelings for each other were similar in nature to those felt by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic / Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca / Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in the The Notebook and broke up with their significant others to begin their lifelong love affair that film and literature could possibly try to capture in the future, but would pale in comparison to their other-worldy glow of true love.
So, left with the eloquent break up of, "This has been fun but I have feelings for one of your good friends and am dumping you for her," delivered to me at school, I was suddenly without two of the people that I had cared about and trusted the most. As a person who doesn't let others into her life easily and carefully considers every person who she gives her heart to in any way, I had chosen these two people with confidence. So on top of feeling betrayed I just felt plain stupid when I realized that they found that getting rid of me was so easy.
Now, I know this sounds like a lot of teen drama. Get over yourself, you're probably thinking. This happens all the time and besides, kids are starving, dictators are oppressing people. SHUT UP JULIE. And in reality I am able to see that the fact that they had feelings for each other doesn't make them evil, and getting me out of the way may be the best thing for all of us in the long run (despite how carelessly they handled the whole thing).
So I'm going to stop throwing myself a pity party (friends/boyfriends come and go) and instead try to use this situation to help the FBomb community. I didn't have a guide to dealing with this situation - certainly not a feminist guide. Thus I ended up feeling pretty anti-feminist as I remained on the couch in my sweats crying for close to 24 hours and unable to eat for a few days. So. I'm going to explain how my feminist identity helped me through what was (though something trivial in the large scheme of things) the worst emotional experience of my young life. Because maybe (God/Mother Goddess/Extra-Terrestrial Serpent Lord forbid) if you, dear FBomber, are in this situation, with the help of this guide you'll just skip to the empowerment part.
How To Get Through the Feeling Betrayed / Feeling Sorry for Yourself / "My Life Sucks And Nobody Has Ever Been In As Much Pain As I Have" Phase:
In this garbage dump of a situation, I realized I have an AMAZING group of friends. They brought me every type of candy they could think of. One baked me a massive cupcake (can you possibly think of anything better?). They listened to endless hours of my sobbing and made sure I knew that I was loved when I felt like I had just been shown I clearly wasn't worthy of love. They drove to Speedway (the best gas station chain in America, I must say) to bring me the mixture of Diet Coke and Dr. Pepper that disgusts them but that I'm addicted too. They made me laugh, they let me cry. Which made me realize how important the feminist value of sisterhood is. My female relationships in this situation made all the difference. And while through this ordeal I found that sometimes such (perceived) relationships can fail a girl, as one of mine did (the fact that we exist in this girl on girl crime culture where we are constantly competing with each other, often having to do with boyfriends also didn't help) it's so important to have a close group of girl friends that will get you through to the other end and keep you on track no matter how trivial the problem you're dealing with seems in the scheme of things.
My Relationship with my Mom/Other Female Role Model
I have always had a strong relationship with my Mom, and this relationship has always been integral to defining myself as a feminist. Strong women breed strong women, and my mom is no exception. She is the one who taught me to have integrity even when the world is beating down on you. She is the one who taught me how to treat everybody else the way I'd want to be treated (AHEM). She is the one who taught me to be strong and ambitious in life but giving and compassionate in relationships and friendships. She also helped get me through this by constantly reminding me that I could not let other people's dumbass moves define me. "You've got so many more important things to deal with in your life than those idiots. Don't let them have such power over you," she said. And that's when I remembered, "Oh right, I'm better than this." Strong women role models - in this case, my Mommy - helped me (and can help you) remember that even when other people act in ways that are pretty low, you can still hold yourself to a higher standard and rise above them.
How To Move On To Empowerment
Set Yourself Aside and Focus on Other People
After a few days, I woke up and stopped getting sad and started getting mad. I was mad that they made me / I let myself wallow (I'm a feminist damn it!). I was also mad that I wasn't the only person they hurt. They put one of my best friends in the middle of this crappy situation not to mention my ex-friend broke the heart of her boyfriend. I wanted to make sure that he was okay (we were in kind of parallel situations after all). Not that I could really do anything, but having people I didn't even really know reach out to me to tell me what jerks my former friend / boyfriend were (which a surprisingly large number of people did) had made me feel supported: it was the least I could do for him. However, to do this, I found myself face to face with two girls (his best friends) who I had had a falling out with in freshman year. Which leads me to Empowerment Point #2...
Settle Your Karmic Score
I realized that while I was hurting, I had hurt other people. Without going into it, freshman year my two best friends and I had a huge fight. Stupid freshman that I was I walked away thinking that I was the only one who had been hurt. It took nearly 3 years and some heartbreak to figure out I may have hurt them, too. I began to realize the people I had designated "good" and the people I had designated "bad" were turning out to all be in the wrong categories and set out to fix it. I reached out to them on behalf of their friend (broken-hearted boyfriend) and apologized to them for ever having hurt them in the way my friends had just hurt me. Not only have I gained two people back in my life who are truly quality individuals from this experience, but it gives me hope that maybe my ex-friend and ex-boyfriend might realize what they did and apologize to me one day. Not that I'm crossing my fingers.
Now. Maybe I didn't react to this experience in the most feminist way. Maybe instead of focusing so much on this one incident I should have channeled that energy into rallying for a more important cause. Instead of curling up in the fetal position, I probably should have volunteered for Planned Parenthood or something. And maybe this advice isn't even the most feminist guide ever. But sometimes life, emotions and just being a freakin' teenager interfere with perfect feminist theory. And when that happens, this is what I have learned: be a kind human being. Treat others the way you want to be treated. When you slip up and do something bad to somebody else, own up to it and make it right. When somebody does something bad to you, try to maintain your integrity and look inwards toward your own strength and outwards towards a future where you are a stronger person for the pain. Because in the end, that's essentially what feminism is.
And that is my long-winded way of describing how I, as a feminist trying to employ her feminist morals, survived heartbreak, and how I hope you will, too.
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