Thoughts from my study of Horror, Media, and Narrrative

Dancing Dirty and Having the Time of My Life

I’m not quite sure who created the breakup routine, but the post-relationship dance inevitably includes a number called “Show Your Ex How Much Better You Are without Him or Her.” Often, there are no choreographers, flashy lights, or even costumes, but a careful audience will spy both parties concentrating intently on their next steps. Even before the dust settles, we feel the urge to go out of our way to show the one we once loved how we’ve moved on, how he or she meant nothing to us, and how hot we (and our current fling) are. We tell ourselves that we are fortunate for having gotten out of the relationship when we did.

But what happens when you’re not better off after all is said and done?

Recently, I had the chance to visit an ex and I went into the situation not expecting much—this would be the first time that we would have seen each other in three years—but a little part of me couldn’t help but be curious to see how my ex’s life had turned out.

So I sat there, in a place that was at once familiar and distant, thinking about how far we both had come. In the dim light of the room, I could close my eyes and feel things that were once mine; now, I couldn’t even bring myself to reach out to touch them. As a sigh escaped from my lips, punctuating the silence and filling the void, I suddenly realized that if we were competing I would have lost.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly satisfied where my life is right now, but I can admit when I’ve been bested. Looking around, I felt something that I never expected to; I felt incredibly proud. Later, as I drove away from the house and back toward my life, I struggled to define my emotions but I couldn’t describe what I was feeling in any other way. In many senses, the things that I had seen demonstrated that my ex was happy, successful, and achieving what I had always secretly hoped for.

Cracks in the pavement created a steady hum beneath my car and I found clarity in the cold night air. I began to realize that, for us, the dust had indeed settled for we were both going about our own lives and all that was left was all that there ever was—not anger, jealousy, or unease—but simply love.

This past weekend made me realize that a large portion of my knowledge in the area of sexual health comes from my experiences. For many, information is helpful, but isn’t enough on its own—at some point you have to try things for yourself. Learning to negotiate situations, to feel empowered, to ask for what I want, and to plan ahead are all things that have been forged in heated and pressured situations. How do you react to a partner who wants you to have unsafe sex? What if you’re really into him or her? What if drugs get thrown into the mix? How do you learn to identify the indicators of rape so that you don’t become trapped? These are tests that you study for, hoping you’ll never have to find out if you pass or fail.

And, for the record, faltering every now and then isn’t the end of the world; making mistakes is also a valuable part of the learning process. The trick is to minimize the consequences and make sure that you learn from what you did wrong the first time.

So I guess it turns out that I am better off now, but not for the reasons that I originally thought. I wasn’t fortunate to have the relationship end, but to have been in the relationship in the first place. The relationship provided a safe space for me to grow into my own and I really couldn’t have asked for more.

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