The Ex Factor

Posted by Dan | Posted in Blog, Rants, Writing | Posted on 14-02-2011

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If there’s one rule in the dating game I think we all agree should be abolished, it would have to be the concept of ‘the ex’.

Be it your high school sweetheart, the ‘someone’ you met at a club and grabbed a few drinks with, or just that obligatory best friend who at some point became ‘more than that’ – the one common ground in all romantic romps is the swift and unpleasant outcome of their conclusion: an ex.  Someone who, this rule commands, you must spend anything from a month to eternity cursing, berating and avoiding; all in the name of love.  This former romantic interest is stripped of any essence of humanity, and referred to evermore as ‘my ex’.  Contact, when unavoidable, is limited to brief, awkward conversations about work, the weather – anything but their current relationship status (in case it looks like you care which, strangely, you do).  It’s probably just as well, because residual jealousy will forever rule your judgement of an ex: branding them a ‘slut’ the minute you catch them smiling at someone new; and twisting your perspective of them until you utter those oh-so-predictable words, ‘I can’t believe I ever went out with…’

I think it was Jesus who said, ‘It is better to have loved then lost, than never to have loved at all’ but, given my track record, I’m not too sure I agree with Him.  I’m all for making someone happy for a few months, but if it’s followed by a potential lifetime of belittling every detail about their post-you lives, and diving under tables whenever they enter the room, I’m just not convinced it’s worth it.  And all you need do is mutter ‘my ex’ from under the table and everyone understands – so I can’t be the only one.

Personally, I’m a firm believer in the ‘love is a roller coaster’ analogy: it has its ups and it has its downs, but ultimately the whole experience leaves you terrified, nauseated and clinging desperately to anything in reach for survival.  But it has always fascinated me how a couple can go, almost overnight, from sharing their most intimate thoughts and moments to downright vilifying one another.  I suppose that intimacy is the reason: they know too much about you, and if you don’t seek to demolish their credibility – at least among your friends – there is no telling what power they could wield with that information.

Of course, you do occasionally hear rumours of exes becoming the best of friends after the initial apartheid, and obviously there are exceptions to the ‘you will hate each other’ rule: some people orchestrate the break-up with such an air of decorum that all it amounts to is a few awkward feelings for a week.  But let’s be fair – these friendships are forever marred with whispers of ‘Are they getting back together?’, because exes are never ‘just friends’.  If you don’t believe me, try telling your current partner you’re meeting your ex for a drink and a movie (be sure to note their reaction, as you may not see them again).

I always used to see the line ‘I value our friendship too much’ as a clichéd excuse, but looking back, I’d call them the wizened words of romance veterans.  I’d say it’s the fear of ‘the ex’ – more than the waiting for ‘the one’ – that makes people cautious in making that fatal jump into a relationship.  We all crave; it’s natural.  But an ex serves as a constant, lurking reminder that it’s not a good idea to date every person you feel a slight attraction to, as chances are all you’ll reduce the friendship to is an eventual state of avoidance, glares and drunk confusion in those brief moments of ‘I miss you’.

Not meaning to put a damper on anyone’s relationships or anything – I’m sure they’re all breathtaking – but for now I’m staying single, until I find someone I’m at least fairly sure I’ll marry.  Not because I’m afraid of commitment or rejection; but because I’m petrified of my future ex-girlfriend.

Penknives & Poetry

Posted by Dan | Posted in Blog, Mental Health, Writing | Posted on 27-01-2011

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Penknives & Poetry

“It must be exhausting having your mind.”

– The only person to ever describe me accurately.

Elliott Smith – King’s Crossing
(essential listening while reading this)

When Elliott Smith’s girlfriend found him standing in their house with a kitchen knife in his chest, making no attempt to save himself and leaving no explanation but a Post-It note begging God’s forgiveness, people were quick to accuse her of murder.  They’d had an argument, she’d left the room, he’d committed hara-kiri – this didn’t seem a plausible or rational explanation for plunging a knife into your chest.  Twice.  A record producer ‘confirmed’ these suspicions by saying that Smith had contacted him only a week before, asking him to mix his new album.  It seemed illogical (nay, unbelievable) that someone who was making plans – who had aspirations, intentions and good reason to live – could have committed suicide.

This is how most people see sadness: they rationalise it, and in so doing show that they are undeniably strangers to it.  They look at taking your life as if it were some pencilled-in event up on the wall alongside the next PTA meeting – a fate reserved solely for bankrupt, divorced drug-addicts.  They can’t fathom the idea that at any given moment a person with a perfectly happy life would just drop everything to close their eyes forever.  They look always for meaning and never at feeling; never accepting that maybe the deceased acted on impulse, or were just tired.  They think about what these people were feeling, but don’t feel it.  I mean, sure: they know heartbreak, grievance, disappointment and loss – everyone does – but the people who ask these questions haven’t danced with depression; haven’t been consumed and scarred by it and emerged the other end – heart pounding and eyes wider than they’ve ever been.  Aren’t even familiar with the concept.  Most aren’t.  Most don’t know what it’s like to be in control of your life one minute, coping as best you can through whatever means necessary (cigarettes, words, people, pills) and then, often for no more reason than a stray comment, thought or fleeting feeling, feel the emotional balance inside yourself tip; the axis of your mind upturn, and suddenly find yourself staring into nothing but your own insanity.  To know what it’s like to have two, warring sides to your mind and to finally give in to the wrong one.  You’d have to be insane to understand it.

*

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I AM WINNING!

Posted by Dan | Posted in Blog, Writing | Posted on 01-11-2010

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Check out my word count, biatches:

http://www.nanowrimo.org//eng/user/681429

And yes, it is a damn good word.

I suspect the other 49,999 will just fall into place.

Confessions of a Proofreader

Posted by Dan | Posted in Mental Health, Pedantry, Rants, Writing | Posted on 31-10-2010

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The manager squinted in my direction.

“So… what exactly is the problem, sir?”

“The apostrophe button,” I repeated, more firmly this time.

“It’s broken?” he enquired.

“It isn’t there.”

He stared intently at the telephone, a baffled expression crawling across his face.  After a few moments of careful scrutiny his eyes returned to me, nervously.

“Just to confirm, sir, when you say apostrophe you mean…?”

I sighed a little and raised my hand.

“The little flying comma thing,” I elaborated, tracing its outline in the air with my index finger. The manager relaxed a little, foolishly thinking we were now on the same wavelength.

“Ohh, you don’t need to worry about those anymore; this is the new model.  Much easier to use. Just click on ‘symbols’ and it brings up a list of all the different faces…”

He’d lost me completely.

“Faces?”

“Yeah, you know… ‘emoticons’.”

As he said the last word, his thumb and outer fingers balled up while the remaining digits formed those cringe-worthy animated quotation marks, and I wondered if my earlier display had made him think all punctuation had to be acted out for greater emphasis.

He held the phone up to demonstrate. The screen contained a disjointed amalgam of brackets, commas and hyphens which – if you craned your head in the right direction and closed at least one eye – faintly resembled a set of faces.

“So you see,” he continued confidently, “there’s nothing wrong with it; they’ve just phased out the apostrophe key because the faces now come pre-assembled. You can have animated faces, audio and picture messaging–”

“Do you mean to tell me that the only way to type an apostrophe on this phone is to insert a smiley face and then delete its mouth and eyes?”

“Well,” answered the man, puzzled as to why I was so insistent about this matter, “or nose and mouth. Depends if he’s winking.”

There was a long silence.

“I’m afraid I need a phone that will let me use apostrophes for more than drawing smiley faces.”

“But…”

I gritted my teeth and dreaded the words I somehow knew were coming.

“…why else would you need one?”

*

So this is me: emissary of the downtrodden apostrophe; Grammar Nazi; pedantic prick. I’m that guy who holds you up in the queue because he feels the need to tell the checkout girl that, technically, the sign on the express lane should read ‘Ten items or fewer’. The precocious little sod who berates you for saying ‘could of’ instead of ‘could have’ or who just can’t keep it to himself when he spots a lowercase ‘i’ or a hyphen where there should clearly be a dash. My ideal job would involve travelling across continents with a red marker pen, thwarting linguistic injustice wherever it lurks, be it billboard or subtitle. I place linguistic ability above every other quality I look for in my companions, and could not even consider dating a girl who doesn’t read or can’t spell properly. And while it may seem so, it is never a masochistic decision to become hated by those around me; it’s a compulsion that has gripped me since the day I learnt to read, and has shown no sign of relinquishing its grasp ever since.

Let me tell you how it started.

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