Why We Need To Get Better Break Up Rituals
The Debrief: Why aren't the streets of Brighton and Newcastle awash with women in Got Out Of That One sashes?
Illustration by Hannah Warren
That red heart on Facebook. The ‘is now single’ status. Is that the best we’ve got? A sub-emoji dissected by a jaunty little zig zag? That’s our best way to show that we’re currently going through one of the most emotionally significant processes known to the human heart? That’s the beacon shone out to friends and loved ones to show that we need their support? Surely we can do better than this guys. A bleeding pig’s kidney on a stick would be better than this.
You see, we’re quite good at marking certain moments in relationships. We throw housewarming parties; we exchange jewellery; we send cards, write poems, have special holidays and invite people to witness our promises. We celebrate love publicly and with gusto.
But a break up is a strangely silent affair. Something to be marked privately, alone, with no holiday, no cards, no party. At best, you get a small audience of concerned friends. At worst it’s treated like a fart in a lift – to be stoically ignored until the whole sorry thing has dissipated and we can all breathe easily again. This is wrong; the opposite of right. When you’re lovelorn, lonely and leaking out of your eyes what you really need is a public show of affection – from your friends, family and colleagues.
There are divorce parties, of course. But for many years these seemed the sole preserve of the rich and famous. Sure, Karen Elson and Jack White threw a divorce party but most of us don’t feel like Karen Elson. Or Jack White. And yet, they seem to be increasingly big business in America. You can order a divorce cake, go sky-diving or go on an adventure weekend with your old stags and hens. We need to make our own British version. We need the streets of Brighton and Newcastle to be awash wish women wearing Got Out Of That One sashes, carrying handbags full of condoms and showing off their new break up hair. You can’t even buy a Newly Single badge at the pound shop, yet.
For former-brides there’s the tricky question of what do to with the dress. This, surely, could become ritualised. I don’t necessarily mean hiring out a firing range and shooting holes in your wedding dress like they do in Vegas, but it would be nice to do something significant. The journalist Fleet Street Fox writes in her book about giving her dress a Viking funeral – tying it to her wedding album, covering it in lighter fluid and sending it out on the Thames in a ball of flames. This isn’t encouraged by ecologists or the river police, of course, but scattering the ashes of your wedding robe does have a certain appeal. Although, of course, it’s probably more ethical simply to recycle it – give it away to someone who needs it or repurpose it for another time.
There’s also the knotty little problem of how to tell your friends. Imagine if, instead of taking to Facebook, we could send out cards? A call for break up presents like a wedding list or a universal code you could text your friends?
Of course, going through a break up doesn’t make you special. It makes you the opposite of special – it is your entry into one of the oldest and biggest groups of women there is; those who have loved and lost. So isn’t it time we started to mark it as such? Brought it into the light? Give it some rituals? Take on our collective responsibility and started marking it as regularly and as universally as we do birthdays? Or babies?
After all, heartbreak isn’t going to disappear just because we ignore it.
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Illustration by Hannah Warren
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