In the Handbook of Life (if it existed) (if it does and no one’s told me this whole time then I cannot be blamed for not having my shit together) (I can), I imagine there is a chapter dedicated to “Moments When You Will Feel Like All The Air Has Been Sucked Out Of You And You Don’t Know When You’ll Be Able To Breathe Again” (a cumbersome title, but hey, I didn’t write the book). In that chapter are no doubt a mixture of happy moments, like seeing your child for the first time (unless, like me, you were flying high on post-surgery drugs), or having the person you love propose to you (obviously hypothetical, but I’ve heard good things), and very awful moments, like goodbyes that might mean forever.
Not to make light of any of those very serious scenarios, but there is one moment that will blindside you every single time it hits you, and it is best illustrated with a quote from the cinematic masterpiece of our time: Mean Girls. Sometimes, you will feel as though your “stomach is going to fall out [your] butt”. I’m talking about the moment you have, for the first time since a breakup, any indication that your ex has moved on. Whether it comes in the form of a passing comment from a mutual friend, a loved up Instagram post, or (fucking hell) an actual real life encounter, and regardless of whether or not you harbour any residual feelings, there is a brief moment where you don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or throw up. Now, don’t get me wrong, this has only happened to me a couple of times in my life; I don’t have palpitations if I see someone I went on a few dates with out with someone else, I’m not a maniac. However, on the rare occasion it does happen, I don’t see it coming, and I have to check that my stomach is still where it should be.
I don’t know where this reaction comes from, and why it’s reserved for certain people and not others. Maybe it’s innate anxiety about being confronted with someone who is all the things I couldn’t be. Maybe it’s just a pathological hatred of small talk, made worse by intrusive thoughts like ‘I’ve seen you naked’, and ‘You like your own Facebook statuses’. Whatever it is, it’s fleeting, and it serves its purpose because sometimes, you know, you need a really good reason to quote Mean Girls.