She Said He Said – Break ups

This column first appeared in The Times on 16th October 2017. 


SHE SAYS – Paige Nick

There was a guy crying outside my bedroom window at three am last Sunday morning.
He was a six days a week at the gym, never leaves out arms day, kind of guy, sobbing real, big muscle-guy tears.

Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t crying for me. He was the Air BnB tenant at my hideous neighbour’s house, crying into his cell phone, after far too many spoek and diesels (Brandy and Cokes). Howling at a woman on the other end of the line. Begging and pleading with her in slurred Afrikaans, telling her he wished she had been a better girlfriend. He said he wanted someone to go out with, have dinner with, he wanted a real girlfriend. It must have been important to him, because he repeated the term ‘real girlfriend’ a dozen times between 2:47 and 3:06am.

I’ve always believed that men and women deal with breakups in the exact same way, except they do it on a different timeline. Women grieve immediately, with an inpouring of alcohol and an outpouring of tears, serotonin and self-pity. Cycling through all the stages of bargaining, anger and alcoholism in quick succession, from a bed of tissues on a friend’s couch. We cry, talk it through endlessly and bore the crap out of anyone stupid enough to ask us how we’re doing, until we’re finally ready to pick ourselves up and shag again.

Men go through similar emotions, only on a different schedule. Most of them will start with the shagging, and only months, sometimes years later, when they’ve processed it all, or more likely simply realised what they’ve lost, in relation to what’s available out there, then find themselves on the phone in the middle of the night, crying real tears, begging us to be their real girlfriend again.

Which route out of a break up is preferable? I don’t know, both hurt, both wet a friend’s shoulder, both come with regrets, and both wake up the neighbour at 3am, after one too many.

HE SAYS – by Jason Mykl Snyman (check out his amazing work here)

Relationships can be tricky these days. Conversations become texts. Feelings become status updates. Before you know it, the whole thing turns into an Adele album and you’ve parted ways.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been through one break up or a dozen – they never seem to get easier. Depending on how you handle things, either your liver or your heart is going to feel it.

Initiating the break up itself is difficult to do. It’s easier to commit a crime and just go to prison for a while.

At worst, you end up as a depressed alcoholic with an eating disorder. You adopt a stray cat. You only read novels about the existential dread of the human condition.

At best, things remain amicable and you go your separate ways. Maybe you communicate for a few months via passive-aggressive Taylor Swift lyrics as your Facebook status.

Going through a break up, as a man, is not well documented. The internet is awash with advice for women who are having a hard time, but for the most part, men are left to figure it all out for themselves. The general consensus is – the best way to get over somebody is to get under somebody else.

That’s where the trouble begins. You see, most men never truly recover from hard breakups. Not the way women do. We don’t reinvent ourselves or get a new hair-do or change our profile pic back to that ‘I need attention’ photo. We’re no phoenix. And we know in our hearts that we’re probably never getting our favourite hoodies back. That stings.

We simply numb it, bottle it, think about something else and carry on with our lives. In short, our first instinct is self-destruction. So, what’s a lovelorn man to do?

Exercise helps, it keeps the blood flowing. So does getting back into any hobbies you may have lost touch with. You won’t find the ‘old you’ at the bottom of a bottle. But you will, in time, find him in the other things you used to love.

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