The Hook Up: Life Happened


Hey Anna,

Just wanted to thank you for the great advice you offered “First Timer.” It helped me grow in my own convictions about my breakup with my first girlfriend about a year and a half ago now. It took me about five years to learn to get and stay off that nail in between two degrees. It was a bit of a classic case: best friends for four years until we realized we were in love with each other. She and I were scared to come out to our family and friends, so we were in a relationship on and off for five years during which we tried seeing other people. Life happened and we kept finding our way back to one another.

She said she couldn’t see a future with me because she just couldn’t envision the wedding or starting a family. Finally, I got the courage to break my own heart and really let her go by moving to another city for grad school. I’m slowly learning how to depend on myself and lean on others sometimes. After the grandmother I grew up with had three strokes over Christmas break following the breakup, I just couldn’t keep it all in, so I told some of my closest friends about being in a relationship with my ex-girlfriend. They all just wished I could have been honest sooner so I wouldn’t have had to go through everything alone.

I’ve moved back to Toronto now, but I haven’t come out to my family, partly because I’m just not sure about what I would even tell them since I’m not comfortable labelling myself (yet?). I feel uneasy about dating again or trying out the scene here (which I know I’m lucky enough to even have as an option), maybe because I’m having difficulty distinguishing my feelings about being comfortable with myself and just getting over my ex still. I usually just say that life will work itself out and eventually maybe I’ll meet someone in between working and my other responsibilities, but I’m not sure if that will actually help me to confront my anxieties? Should I just give it more time, do my own thing, and let the universe sort it out? Ease into it and bum around coffee houses in the village? Or just rip the band-aid off and head to the bar with liquid courage? — Resettling


Dear Resettling,

I know that the typical break-up convention is to just get on with it already—“In order to get over someone, get under someone” as the idiom goes—but well, as any moron will tell you, you can’t spell idiom without idiot. Meaning that just because you think you should do something, doesn’t mean it’s actually right for you.

The last time I got my heart broken, I was gearing up to do my usual post-breakup routine: a lot of drunk OkCupiding, followed by some glorious making out at bus stops. But no matter how much $4 merlot I imbibed, I couldn’t bring myself to actually hook up with near strangers this time around. I don’t know if it was the rawness, that I wasn’t ready, or if I was, despite most evidence to the contrary, simply growing up, but the realization that I didn’t have to do something I didn’t want to do was nothing short of revelatory.

I encourage you to cultivate your own such revelations, Resettling. It sounds to me like you’re not wild about getting back in the dating saddle. I know this because of my wise and mildly psychic prowess. And because you wrote, “I feel uneasy about dating again.”

Of course, there are times when “unease” can turn into paralysis, and that is something to be concerned about down the line, but as it is now, you’ve recently moved cities, and you’re still figuring out your sexual identity, so what’s the rush? There has literally never been a better time than now to fine-tune the art of YOU. Major life changes allow us a clean slate, a chance to engage with wild possibilities and secret dreams. A chance to gaze at yourself and wonder: Who is that girl and what does she want?  

Your fierce sense of self-resilience is an admirable attribute, but I’m glad to read that you are also learning how to reach out and ask for help from others. Friends are probably the most important factor in getting over a long-term, not-good-for-you relationship. Lean on them. Rely on them. Let them take you out, and, when you feel up to it, learn to say “yes” to some new experiences, whether that be approaching a cute stranger at a bar, bumming around coffee houses, or whatever else you deem exciting in that great Canadian metropolis.

In the meantime, remember that the only authority worth listening to in regard to your life and your dating choices is you.