I still cringe when I think about how I reacted when dumped by a boyfriend nearly two decades ago. After several weeks of dignified silence — he texted, I did not engage — I decided the time was right to attend a gig I knew he’d be at. Hair done, new top bought, I was looking well and all set to show that I was fine. No, better than fine, I was out living my best life. Next please.
But then I had a few more drinks than I ought to, saw him and it all went belly up. I remember drunkenly asking some poor chap to ‘kiss me and make me feel better about myself’ (his polite refusal adding further insult to my already injured ego) and then came the tears, recriminations and embarrassing attempts at reconciliation. The requests for explanations. For years after it was known among my friends simply as The Night of Doom.
I had of course broken the first rule of break-ups by being messy. Heartache from the end of a relationship is normal, acceptable, even encouraged, but there’s a limit to how much pain is appropriate to share and I, wailing on a pavement with mascara running down my face, had very much over-stepped the line.
Ah if only I’d had the skill and presence of mind to channel my pain into an exquisite album of potential hits like Adele who gave a master-class in appropriate break-up chat this week with Oprah — there’s love, they’re just not ‘in love’ — and yet still confessed to feeling embarrassed about the split.
At the distinctly ‘messier’ end of the scale was Taylor Swift, who has managed Adele’s knack of parlaying heartache into hits, but took it to a whole new level with her 10-minute performance on the latest Saturday Night Live, showcasing an updated version of ‘All Too Well’ — a ditty universally agreed to be about her break-up with actor Jake Gyllenhaal some 10 years ago. The ballad was accompanied by a schadenfreudian short film featuring a male lead with a striking resemblance to the Donnie Darko star.
When the pair dated in 2010, Gyllenhaal was 30 and Swift on the cusp of 21, and the words to ‘All Too Well’ suggested not only that he skipped her landmark birthday but also that he called off their relationship because of the age difference.
Freshly added lyrics pack a punch: “I’ll get older but your lovers stay my age” crooned Swift pointedly — Gyllenhaal (now 40) is dating 25-year-old model Jeanne Cadieu.
The singer’s treatment of her ex was promptly labelled ‘brutal’ with a host of cries from around the internet for her to ‘get over it’.
‘Don’t air your dirty laundry in public’ has been a common theme too in the response to actress Alice Evans, who in recent weeks has been publicly decrying the intimate details of her break-up from husband Ioan Gruffudd.
Her decision to expose her husband’s behaviour, telling her thousands of Twitter followers that Gruffudd spent two years telling her she was a “bad person and I’m not exciting and he no longer wants to have sex with me” before leaving her for another woman, was deemed by many to be bad break-up etiquette and even unfeminist in her approach to Gruffudd’s new partner.
I know we live in a world where we love to tell women what they can and can’t do, but seriously, why are we so ill at ease with a woman refusing to just move on when a break-up has clearly caused pain?
Why are we okay with the revenge narrative when a relationship ends — get a ‘revenge’ dress like Princess Di or a ‘revenge body’ like Khloe Kardashian — but not able to deal with the social awkwardness when a woman, particularly one with a public platform, says ‘actually not okay. I’m hurt, I’m angry and I’m sad about this’.
It might not sound as pleasant to the ear as some post-relationship output but they are voices that need to be heard so that the broken-hearted, mascara stained folk know they’re not alone.
I remember being at a friend’s wedding many years ago where there was a lot of whispered rage being directed at another female guest who had opted to wear white to our pal’s big day.
‘Why on earth would anyone do that?’ we muttered, every one of us giving serious side-eyes emoji vibes over our glasses of prosecco. We were incredulous that there could be any acceptable motivation for such an audacious outfit choice. Wearing white is the ultimate insult in wedding guest protocol.
Or so I thought. Then I saw what Kendall Jenner had chosen to wear (or not wear) to her best friend’s nuptials.
I don’t imagine growing up in the Kardashian clan is the best foundation for realising that the world does not revolve around you but even so, surely even the most self-obsessed person must know that you’re not supposed to pull focus from the bride on her big day?
Aside from the obvious practicalities posed by the dress — how on earth do you get down to Oops Upside Your Head when a nipple may escape with every move? — is it really worth potentially damaging a friendship for a few moments of attention?
By and large I’m of the mind that we shouldn’t judge women on what they wear, but when it comes to wedding attire then I’m sorry, there are rules. Wear what you like on any day of the year but when it comes to celebrating someone else’s wedding you don’t need to be the star of the show, you just need to be a friend.
Portugal has made it illegal to contact employees out of work hours as part of new laws dubbed the ‘right to rest’. Which sounds great except what are work hours? Many of us are trying to be more flexible, juggle childcare with employment, so many of the work-related texts and emails I send are ‘out of hours’ when the kids are asleep and I have a moment of peace. The old nine-to-five is dead and I don’t see the point in trying to curtail text correspondence at a time when we’re trying to work with more freedom.