In Lieu of Happily Ever After

“There are times when two people need to step apart from one another. That doesn’t mean they have to turn and fire.”

by Cherri Ellis

Like Neil Sedaka croons every time he finds a live mic, breaking up is hard to do. I am hoping that this year will be better, but last year certainly had its share of celebrity divorces. Although it didn’t have the salacious details of the Tiger and Elin Woods story, one of the most surprising endings was when Al and Tipper Gore called it quits after forty years of marriage. I guess one day he was droning on about composting or recycling and Tipper said to herself “Know what my environment needs? Less of him.” Not quite as shocking was the news that Charlie Sheen and his wife of two years split. Sad, but we are talking about Charlie Sheen. By the time this column goes to press he may have already married and divorced again. Larry King was looking at split number 8 after being accused of sleeping with his wife’s younger sister, and Sandra Bullock traded in Jesse James for the unconditional love of an adopted baby boy. No matter who you are and what your station in life, unhooking is hard.
After a break up, here is what a week can hold:
•7 times sobbing so hard that you can’t get your breath
•14 times of misting up but not losing it completely
•97 times of starting to email, call, or text the other person
•At least one time of hitting “send” with what you think is a breezy message
•600 times of manically re–reading it and realizing it didn’t sound breezy at all
•2 times actually being nervous that there is something wrong with you and you need to call a doctor because you think you are losing your mind
•750 times you can’t look at something you previously enjoyed because it reminds you of the other person
•12 times of getting lost in a fantasy of your eventual reunion
•and at least once of hoping that they are miserable to the point  that they have explosive diarrhea and eyes so swollen from crying that they experience permanent loss of facial elasticity.
But then one day you are just too tired to cry about it. The effort of the process just wears you out. Crying is actually a pretty aerobic activity, and eventually you start feeling guilty about people whose legs were sheared off in an accident or who lost a child or any number of situations worse than what you’ve been blubbering over. You don’t have to stay mad. It took two to tango. Allow yourself to be grateful for what you had even though you don’t have it anymore. At some point, happiness is a choice.
This is the month of Valentine’s Day, a tradition thought of by many as a hopped- up Hallmark excuse to spend money on romantic frivolity. People take a screwed up Valentine’s Day pretty hard. I know a woman whose husband was supposed to take her out for dinner that night but he got so drunk with his buddies on the golf course that day that he came home and passed out. Unable to wake him, she instead shaved his legs and then took polaroids. (I will take “Signs Your Marriage is About to End” for 200, Alex…”)
The origin of Valentines Day actually harkens back to Ancient Rome.  It seems that February 14th was the day when Juno,  Queen of the Gods and Goddesses, was honored before the Feast of Lupercalia. This feast was wildly popular. It kicked off with the sacrifice of two goats and a dog, and culminated with young patrician men running naked through the streets, using strips of hide taken from the sacrifice to slap the outstretched hands of all the girls. The girls reportedly loved this, as they believed it brought them fertility and ease of childbirth. Now we have Clomid and Epidurals and nobody needs to throw a good feast anymore.
There was also a real live Saint Valentine. It seems that Emperor Claudius II of Rome was having trouble recruiting men as soldiers. He believed that it was because they didn’t want to leave their sweethearts, so he made all engagements and marriages a punishable crime. Saint Valentine was a priest at the time who secretly married couples in the Christian church. I would imagine that the clandestine nature of the occasion and the huge risk involved made the nuptials as romantic as all get out, until the day the priest was caught, arrested, condemned, beaten to death and beheaded. So…Happy Valentines Day! Don’t forget to make some dinner reservations.
This February 14, if you have recently suffered a break up, don’t sweat it. Remember how lucky you are to have had something that made saying goodbye so hard, and don’t fall prey to the arrogance that makes you think you can predict the future. Cut yourself a break and cut the other person a break. Unhooking is hard, but there are ways to cross the frigid sea of separation other than in a big boat of anger. Like Robert Brault so aptly put it, “There are times when two people need to step apart from one another. That doesn’t mean they have to turn and fire.”

Cherri Ellis

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