This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Valentine’s Day is difficult if you’re recently single, particularly if your ex has beaten you in the race to find happiness with someone new. How it haunts you, the thought of them gazing into each other’s eyes at a natural wine bar while you’re in bed staring at your phone; the two of them giggling as they spoon soufflé into each other’s mouths while you’re at a Anti-Valentine’s party that describes itself as "a defiant middle finger against capitalist romance," attempting to convince yourself that your loneliness is politically subversive.
So, you’re sad. You’re hurting. You’re going to yoga to try and make yourself feel better but spend the whole of shavasana ruminating on the fact that your ex’s new boyfriend has a Shoreditch House gym membership and is therefore a better person than you—but what you’re not going to do is let them know that.
This guide isn’t going to help you actually get over it, but it may help you appear to have, which is obviously more important. If you feign indifference for long enough it will turn into the real thing; you’ll be rising from the ashes like a majestically-plumed phoenix in no time at all. You’ll look back on how sad you feel now, throw your head back, and roar with derisive laughter. But if you’re not there yet, you need to fake it. Just think how furious your ex is going to be when they see you enjoying your life!
How Not to Be Abject on Social Media
Performing romantic abjection online is kind of my schtick, so trust me when I say that it doesn’t make you feel better, no matter how self-deprecatingly you frame it. I understand the impulse, though, and sometimes putting your unhappiness out into the world can act as a release. If you want to do this, I’d recommend using a private alt account (or the ‘close friends’ feature on Instagram).
When you create an alt, you need to carefully curate the people you allow to follow you, only choosing people who won’t mockingly screenshot your lowest moments. Imagine waking up from a night of heavy drinking to discover you have posted things like "I’m so bored of being sad... LOL!", "the pain... it’s unendurable... LMAO!", or simply a video of you lip-syncing to Amy Winehouse over a black and white filter. Wouldn’t you rather this was seen by a selection of your closest friends rather than countless strangers, or your employers, or your mom?
Maintaining a modicum of privacy is a form of damage control. If you avoid publicly humiliating yourself, you won’t just look better, you’ll feel better too.
How to Look Like You're Having Fun
To wage an effective post-breakup PR campaign, you want to look as though you’re having a good time without stating so explicitly. Captioning pictures with things like "my ex asked me where I’m moving, I said onto better things" might make you feel like a bad bitch in the moment, but it’s actually damning evidence you still care.
A man I was seeing once broke things off on a Saturday evening, hours before we were due to meet. Tragically, I had just bought a new outfit for the occasion and I was not going to let that go to waste, so I decided to tag along with my roommate to a karaoke bar and drink to alleviate my sadness.
Predictably, I had an awful time. The worst part? The wait-list for the karaoke was so long that I couldn’t do the excoriating rendition of “Irreplaceable” I had planned. The evening was a flop, a wash-out, a total disaster. Still, I decided to post an Instagram story of my friends and I, with me just looking drunk and sad, with the caption ‘profoundly unbothered.’ I don’t know about you, folks, but I feel like doing this might have made me look actually quite bothered.
I realized this the following morning but by then it was too late. The man in question had already seen it, and I was annoyed at myself for pretending to have fun so blatantly. So by all means, head to a glamorous location with your most photogenic friends and take a few photos—but cool it with the sass.
How to Handle Running into Your Ex by Accident
Unfortunately, if you live in the same city, you’ll probably run into your ex at some point. When I ended my last relationship, I told my ex "I just want you to be happy." It was only when he took up with someone else that I realized that this had never been the case: in fact, I wanted to be happy. I wanted him to observe a respectfully long period of mourning. When he failed to do this, I found it frankly a little rude.
My antipathy toward his new boyfriend, then, was completely unwarranted, but I still felt the temptation to be catty. When I did eventually run into them, I ended up getting into an argument in which my ex accused Cardi B of being a bad influence on my behavior while his new boyfriend looked on in horror. It was not an enjoyable evening.
If you bump into your ex and their new partner, being anything less than polite will only make you look bad and feel even worse. If you can’t stretch to kindness, kill them with an uninterested friendliness then get away as quickly as possible.
How to Handle Running into Your Ex on Purpose
Regularly meeting up with someone you still have feelings for is a recipe for disaster. Until recently, I was still going to the pub with a man I had been involved with who, by this stage, had a boyfriend. Whenever we met, he would be flirtatious to an absurd degree ("I bet you’d like me to spit in your mouth right now"—now that’s what I call epic banter between platonic friends!) and I ended up developing stronger feelings for him than I had when we were actually seeing each other. In other words, I played myself.
After a while, this situation became unbearable and I sent him a serene, dignified, and exceedingly lengthy voice message in which I told him that I still had feelings for him, and that I couldn’t see him anymore. Honestly? A part of me was hoping he would reply saying that yes, he felt the same, yes, he’d been waiting for me to say something, yes, his boyfriend was a loser and he couldn’t wait to get rid of him. His actual response was "oh, well I’m sad to be losing a friend/pint buddy."
A friend/pint buddy.
You might be fucking him, sweetie, but I’m his pint buddy.
In that moment, I did not feel thriving. It was a moment of such cartoonish despair that I half expected an anvil to fall on my head. You should avoid ending up in a similar situation at all costs—cutting off an ex is hard but a sharp dose of sadness is better than an indefinite period of yearning. No matter how hard you try, no matter how closely you follow this advice, you’re probably going to fuck it up somehow, causing yourself yet more humiliation and lacerating pain. But you know what? That’s ok :)
Alternatively, you might put on such a convincing display of glowing up that your ex realizes they’ve made a terrible mistake and decides they want you back, in which case you’ll have to wage a whole new campaign just to get rid of them again. In either case, solidarity and good luck.
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