Recently, I met a guy who I thought was great. We were introduced by a mutual friend. He was handsome, gave me money for the jukebox and he made me laugh. We hit it off and hung out a few times. There was chemistry. We had an official date scheduled, and THEN ... he had a "work conflict." This was communicated via text. I texted back, and then ... I never heard from him again.
First, I shrugged it off. "Whatever/not meant to be/guess he couldn't keep up with me/I'm too busy and didn't need him, anyway." My female friends confirmed all these thoughts. I felt okay with it. There is that side that argues that maybe the guy has fallen into a coma/moved to Alaska/his uncle died and he's away at his funeral ... there could be TONS of "good" reasons why he didn't call ... but even the most logical and confident of us can spiral downward and turn it against ourselves.
By the time I've hung out casually with someone a few times and they've asked me out on a date, I've already imagined the next few months of our yet-to-be-materialized relationship. I've analyzed my potential suitor to death with my best friends and propped him up on some pedestal that I know I shouldn't put him on. But this is just the way I'm wired.
As women, we've been trained to want romance since we were little girls. However you feel about Sex and the City, it's hard not to identify with Charlotte when she declares: "I've been dating since I was 15! I'm exhausted! Where is he?" We have read all of the generic pre-dating, dating, breakup/rejection dating advice. But do we ever stop and laugh at what we put ourselves through? I've started doing it -- looking back on the mess I can sometimes let myself become -- and I have to say, it helps me feel a lot better about the whole ordeal.
With that in mind, here are some classic breakup defense mechanisms women -- or at least I, with the support and company of my dearest friends -- employ from time to time.
PHOTOS: The Four Phases of Breaking Up:
This stage usually comes right after a man you have legitimately dated blows you off. It involves your single girlfriends and a night out (maybe dancing on tables) and taking pictures you don't ever want to see again. This is when you prove to yourself that you are still hot and desirable. You are single and ready to mingle. You may flirt a little more than you should, stay out longer than you should, etc. This requires your hottest outfit, favorite cocktails and money for a cab. This is also the stage where singing Beyonce and Ke$ha in public sounds like a brilliant idea, and your qualifications to be one of their backup dancers seem obvious.
This is a momentarily fun stage that's more fun to chaperone a friend through than actually experience. Ill-placed tattoo of Tinkerbell/flower vine/shooting star? Regrettable piercing? Drastic job change? Hair-chopping or dying? Yup. Retail therapy? Perfect. Making eyes at your ex's best friend? You bet! These are the tamest of the lamest of things we might do to let a bad feeling out. Its about spontaneity and making memories, momentary pain and the story you get out of it.
This is your classic "it's not him, its me" stage. Symptoms include wearing sweatpants and wandering through Barnes and Nobles late at night, compulsively buying books with titles like Men Are From Mars, etc. etc. and reading them while drinking wine in the bathtub. You may also view "Bridget Jones' Diary" for good measure. There may be some soul-searching and some tears. We can become desperate for psychological answers and reading therapy that explain why he ___________ us. We must have said something too much, been too much, and driven him to _______________. We look for answers, but usually aren't satisfied.
A natural result of all that time in Self-Help, this is when you decide that you are going to focus on yourself -- forget dating, this is about becoming a better you (and if you happen to meet some amazing man in trapeze class, so be it). This phase might include learning a new language (hence the purchase of French language CDs that have been in the console of my car since 2009) or learning how to play tennis/bartend/spelunk. This is also the time to buy books on historical or current events, begin watching the BBC or hire a therapist to work you through something.
I'm not sure why, but going through all of these admittedly inane phases helps you work through it. And when you surface on other side, perhaps with a tattoo but otherwise unmarred, you tend to remember your own awesomeness. Friends, of course, help with this. Mine remind me that I definitely don't need him, that he clearly wasn't THE ONE. And until my one shows up ... well, I've got plenty of things to do, places to go and people to meet. Mr. Right can come find me right where I am.
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