So on the rare occasions something really significant – huge, life-changing, terrible – happens on one of these special days, you will lose it. You will make no attempt to contain yourself; you will flail, and thrash about, and rend your garments, and wail that life is not fair. You’re sad, but above all, you feel that life has ruled unjustly. Not on Christmas, you think, blackly. Not today.
This is my rather grand way of justifying the evening on which I sat in my kitchen, a bottle of vodka in one hand and a bowl of pasta in the other, weeping fat eyeliner tears, and thanking my friend’s boyfriend for “making me this ravioli”. I thanked him every few minutes, exhibiting the exasperating short-term memory of the about-to-be-blackout drunk. It was late on February 14th 2014, and I’d just been dumped by my boyfriend of three-and-a-half years.
Two years later, I thrill in telling this story; it tends to trump most V Day anecdotes. My boyfriend dumped me in my bedroom on Valentine’s Day, so I’ll always win. And I can tell you: one-upmanship really sustains you through hard times, especially once you’ve honed your delivery (pause, and then explain slowly, casually, delivering juicy details coldly and offhandedly).
It started as no good Valentine’s Day ever has: at a bowling alley in north London with 14 other people. It was my housemate’s birthday and he’d suggested bowling. The group included couples and single people. My boyfriend and I had not discussed our non-romantic Valentine’s, except implicitly, by agreeing we’d join the bowling. We met at Finsbury Park Tube station and walked there together, and then I threw myself into the real fun: getting smashed with my mates.
Romance need not wither after three and a half years, though in our case it had; we had colluded, silently, to avoid being alone.
I swigged Prosecco from the bottle and mine-sweeped curly fries from stranger’s plates; I got a strike; I fell over. I smoked hundreds of cigarettes; I hauled people onto the dance floor (a grand term for a corner of the second floor of lanes) and screamed every basic’s favourite refrain: “I LOVE THIS SONG!!!!” I was clearly being violently obnoxious, and seeing that he wasn’t joining in the fun seemed only to galvanise me. At some point, someone (probably me) suggested an after-party back at ours just up the road, and I remembered he existed, and volunteered us both as the early party who’d pick up booze on the way home.
On this walk he was silent, and I needled him. Why wasn’t he having fun? Why wasn’t he making an effort? Why was he being such a downer? Should we get vodka or gin? I bought both while he stayed silent.
By the time we got to my door, we were having one of those arguments that is careering madly, terrifyingly, out of control.
We yelled; my ears roared and buzzed. And finally, charged on alcohol – I doubt I would have been so direct otherwise – I demanded, “Are you breaking up with me?” He said yes and then he left. Now, when I want to garnish my anecdote with real tragedy, I comment that my boyfriend broke up with me after I tossed a line from Legally Blonde at him (YouTube it). In the right circles, this really gets the laughs.
Everyone came back to the house, and I cried, of course. I threw myself at my mates and swigged vodka and someone decided I should have carbs so my mate’s boyfriend made me that ravioli. I texted my boyfriend – “my ex-boyfriend!!!!”, I wailed, smashing my paw at the touchscreen – and carried the vodka around the house. My undignified antics overshadowed my poor housemate’s birthday. I passed out in bed, woke up, and heralded the beginning of an extended, self-indulgent period of mourning by watching the Disney tear-jerker Up, until a housemate came and took my MacBook away and coined the phrase, “emotional self-harm”.
Of course, we were far happier, eventually. Not right away: neither of us were, not for a long time. But evidently there were fractures and we were losing ground to them: every time we plastered one, another deep one formed. That was no one's fault, and I really, sincerely, don't mind now. On the other hand, I do use the anecdote competitively...
Lovers, beware: this February 14th, like last, I will install myself in the middle of your tête-à-têtes and deal, expansively, and with relish, in my tale of hearts broken and the futility of love.