DEAR SUGAR, The Rumpus Advice Column #35: Waiting By the Phone


Dear Sugar,

In this age of Facebook and Twitter, how are we supposed to get over our exes (who we’re trying to be friends with) while being slammed with status updates and tweets (or, as I like to call them, lil’ 140 characters of pain)?

To sum it up with a painting I found online:

Constantly Hitting Refresh


Dear Constantly Hitting Refresh,

We aren’t supposed to get over our exes by tracking their every move on Facebook and Twitter, sweetie. Facebook and Twitter are heartbreak torture machines. Back in Sugar’s youth the god damn telephone was torture enough. Here’s how it went:

Would it ring? It would not ring.

Should you call? You should not call.

But you always called. You couldn’t help but call because your heart was crushed and you thought maybe if you talked it out one more time the person who crushed your heart would change his/her mind and uncrush it.

So you’d sit for a while with the phone in your hand and it would feel like the phone was literally on fire with your pain and longing and finally you’d dial and it would ring and ring, until at last the answering machine picked up and there would be his/her voice—so cheerful! so flip! so excruciatingly out of reach!—and the beep would beep and you’d start speaking into the silence, sounding remotely like the cool, strong, reasonably detached person you used to be before the beloved owner of the answering machine crushed your heart, but within about four seconds your voice would go all high and shaky and desperate and you’d stammer something out about how you just wanted to call to say hi because you missed him/her so much and because, after all, you were still friends and because, well, you just wanted to talk even though there was really nothing more to say and you’d finally shut up and hang up and a millisecond later you’d burst into gasping sobs.

Then you’d sob and sob and sob so hard you couldn’t stand up until finally you’d go quiet and your head would weigh seven hundred pounds and you’d lift it from your hands and rise to walk into the bathroom to look at yourself solemnly in the mirror and you’d know for sure that you were dead. Living but dead. And all because this person didn’t love you anymore or even if he/she loved you he/she didn’t want you and what kind of life was that? It was no life. There would be no life anymore. There would only be one unbearable minute after another and during each and every one of those minutes this person you wanted would not want you and so you would begin to cry again and you’d watch yourself cry pathetically in the mirror until you couldn’t cry anymore, so you’d stop.

You’d wash your face and brush your hair and apply lip balm even though you now looked like a tropical blowfish and you’d float out to your car in the jeans that were suddenly two sizes too big because your heart was so positively crushed that you hadn’t eaten in a week. (No worries—those same jeans will soon be two sizes too small, once you hit the binge era of your broken heart.) You’d get in your car and you’d turn the ignition and begin to drive and as you drove you’d think I have no idea where I’m even going!

But of course you’d know. You always knew. You’d drive past his/her house just to see.

And there he/she would be, visible through the front window; lit by the lamp you once switched off and on with a casual and familiar ease. You’d see him/her for only a fleeting moment, but that image would sear itself into your brain. He/she would be laughing a little, obviously in conversation with someone maddeningly out of view. And you’d want to stop, to investigate, to watch, but you couldn’t stop because what if he/she looked out and saw you?

So you’d drive home and sit in the dark near the phone.

You would not hit refresh. You would not read that the man/woman who crushed your heart is now “friends” with anyone who has an incredibly hot-sounding name (Monique/Jack). You would not view photographs of your ex standing disturbingly and drunkenly close to strange, good-looking men/women at parties or read veiled references to anything that might possibly be a blowjob. There would be no exposure to declarations about what sort of fun was recently had or about to be had or agitating lamentations about the single life. There would be no LOLs or TMIs or ROTFLMFAOs or sassily winking symbols composed of a period and a semi-colon from people named Jack or Monique.

There would be nothing. There would be only you in the dark near the phone that won’t ever ring and the dawning realization that you have to move on.

In order to get over your ex you have to move on, Constantly Hitting Refresh. And at least temporarily unfriending and unfollowing him/her will help you do so. Being friends with someone who once broke your heart is fine and dandy, but it’s almost always a good idea to take a breather between this and that. I strongly encourage you to resist the temptation of devouring your ex’s every musing, darling. Shutting off that cyber feedbag will feel like hell those first few days, but I’m certain you’ll soon realize how much better you can breathe when you’re not constantly breathing in the fumes of your ex’s life without you.