Never Getting Over the Fantasy of You Is Going Okay an edited extract from SO SAD TODAY by Melissa Broder (Scribe, $27.99)
Is fake love better than real love? Real love is responsibility, compromise, selflessness, being present, and all that shit. Fake love is magic, excitement, false hope, infatuation, and getting high of the potential that another person is going to save you from yourself.
Of course, nobody can save you from yourself. But it’s easy to ignore that reality. Simply project your own romantic ideation, childhood wounding, and overactive fantasy life onto another human being. Even better if the person possesses fewer inner resources than you. Like, the less basic coping skills possessed by the object of your obsession, the better the fake love. One form of romantic obsession is to become infatuated with someone who actually exists. With this type of romantic obsession, you project your entire fantasy narrative onto a person in your life and attempt to get them to comply.
You take a living, breathing human being and try to stuff them into the insatiable holes inside you. These holes are in no way shaped like that person (or any person). But you believe that this fantasy person will fill you, because he or she possesses all the imaginary qualities you seek in a lover. And how do you know that he or she possesses all of these qualities? You put them there.
Another form of romantic obsession is to fall in fake love with a person who doesn’t exist at all. With this type of romantic obsession, you fall in love with a magic hologram of a person you create based on a distant image. This image may be of a dead person, an online-only person, a famous person, or a cartoon. But he or she cannot be a flesh person whom you actually encounter in waking life. In this version of romantic obsession, the hope is that if a magic hologram falls in love with you, then you are magic too. The longing is hope. It keeps you alive.
I once had a hot affair with a Twitter avatar for over two years. The avatar was shadowy and brooding — a total omega male. His tweets were those of an enfant terrible: words of disdain for the contemporary electronic music scene juxtaposed with nihilist philosophy, and also, his dick. I wanted to be mysterious and ghostly like him. I wanted a mysterious and ghostly dick. If I couldn’t physically have my own dick, I would claim the dick of the avatar. If I could not be the terrible boy, I would be the ingénue, the good witch with shadow dick in hand.
I began subtweeting spells. I conjured a narrative wherein I, with my magic tweets (and pussy), was the only one who could penetrate the darkness of the avatar. Soon the avatar followed me back and I convinced myself that he was in love with me. Now, every time he tweeted, I was sure that he was definitely tweeting to me. Something about Coachella and his dick. Me. Something vaguely Nietzschean and his dick. Me. When the avatar faved one of my tweets, I contacted a psychic for advice. Was it a love match? She recommended a therapist.
When the avatar faved two of my tweets in a row, it felt like fucking. Eventually the person behind the avatar came to New York City, where I was living, to play music. During his set I watched his hands on the turntables, hypnotized. The club was dark and I was so turned on. These were my avatar’s hands!
But after the show, I discovered that the man behind the avatar was just a regular person. He was blond, not shadowy, and very Midwestern. I sat at the bar with the man behind the avatar. We talked about Twitter and I watched him get sloppy drunk. He ate a pound of pork fried rice. I thought the spell was broken. The next day, back on Twitter, the avatar began speaking to me again in its sexy way. My dick my dick fuck everything my dick. The real man behind the avatar may have just been a man, but I wanted the avatar more than ever. And I wanted to know if the avatar wanted me.
Impulsively, I sent a text message to the person behind the avatar. Specifically, I said, SEND ME A LOCK OF YOUR HAIR. The person behind the avatar was confused. Communication ceased. Tweets were no longer faved. No lock of hair was sent. I found out he had a girlfriend. Now, the fantasy was no longer a safe place for me to “hang out” in my head. It was a painful place. I’m not sure what makes us willing to try to let go of a fantasy person, other than finally being in enough pain and just being like, Okay. I want to surrender the ghost. But getting over the fantasy of a person (especially the fantasy of a fantasy person) is hard.
I’ve been romantically obsessed with so many people that I’ve kind of become a getting-over-the-fantasy-of-people athlete. Here are some of the tactics I’ve incorporated into my training, the ones that worked and the ones that didn’t:
1. Conducting “research” by checking the person’s Twitter, FB, Tumblr, and Instagram every second, all the while feeling proud that at least you aren’t “liking” and faving their shit anymore.
What are you doing? Stop doing this. Close all the tabs right now. If you feel like you absolutely can’t stop, try abstaining for thirty days. Or seven. Count the days. Once you abstain from checking their social media, you will enter a short period of withdrawal. This is because you aren’t getting that hit of dopamine from seeing the person’s face pop up — or that shot of adrenaline from the sudden appearance of a mystery person in their selfies. You’re eliminating what may feel like your last connection to them. But what you’re also getting is a reprieve from that emotional hangover every time they tweet something good (note: the tweets are never that good, you just want them to be).
Soon you are going to feel really free. If you really love yourself, you will block and unfollow the person on all social media. But if you really love yourself you probably aren’t reading this essay. So let’s take it slow.
2. Giving the person a new nickname amongst your friends, like “heroin” or “pancake ass” or “teletubby”, and only referring to the person with this nickname.
Yes. This is one of the best ways to “reframe” the image of a person in your mind. Sometimes we don’t want to give up our idea of a person, because it provides us with a beautiful place to go in our heads — even when that beauty is painful. Well, laughter is beautiful too. I fully encourage you to impale that vampire on the cross of his tiny penis, simply by giving the tiny penis a name.
3. Writing down the person’s name on a piece of paper and throwing it into a fire, or any other type of “magic goodbye surrendering ritual”.
Eh. This can be freeing for, like, ten seconds. It’s exciting when a thirty-dollar candle promises to eliminate the memory of a person forever. But it’s unrealistic to suspect that you’ll surrender the entire fantasy of a person and never go there mentally again. And if the candle doesn’t work, you might stop believing in magic. I think it’s important to never stop believing in magic.
4. Having sex with them again “one last time”.
There is no last time.
5. Having sex with someone else (or multiple people) immediately after having sex with the fantasy person to avoid the “come-down” off of sex with the fantasy person but sort of sustain the emotional high.
This can be powerful, in a fake way, like being the militaristic dictator of your own sex nation. But you’re probably going to end up comparing the second person to your fantasy person. Usually, the second person won’t be able to live up to the fantasy person and it’ll just be sad. It should be noted that this tactic can work really well on the rare occasion that the second person is as hot and amazing as the fantasy person (or at least, you perceive them to be). But be warned: This tactic can backfire if you end up getting hooked on the second person too.
There’s nothing worse than waiting for texts from two (or even three) fantasy people and not hearing from any of them.
6. Getting into a relationship with someone else who you don’t even like and pretending that new person is the fantasy person while you are having sex with them.
Relationship experts say that fantasizing about one person while fucking another person is natural and normal. But it’s one thing to fantasize about someone you’ve never had feelings for, and it’s another to be reenacting Wuthering Heights in your head with an old lover while fucking a totally new lover. For me this has only resulted in crying during sex. And not in a good way.
7. Trying to “stay friends”.
You have enough friends. Do you really want to just be friends? There is nothing worse than just being friends with someone you’re in love with who isn’t in love with you. Actually, being friends with benefits with someone you’re in love with who isn’t in love with you is worse. But friendship with no benefits is bad too.
You’ll know when (if ever) it’s finally time to be friends with the fantasy person if they text you and it’s just boring and annoying, rather than intoxicating. Like your real friends.
8. Changing the person’s name in your phone to DO NOT CONTACT or STOP or the toilet emoji. I’m a very slow learner and I don’t like being told what to do — not even by me. The little warnings I leave for myself on my phone never seem to deter me in the moment of bad decision making. I’ve sexted with the word STOP for hours. I’ve declared my love for a toilet emoji. But this method will probably work for some of you, and I encourage you to try it. Maybe try using the cop car emoji.
9. Reading the other person’s horoscope to see what’s going on in his life and if he is ever coming back to you.
No. Stop doing this. Also, let’s take a break from reading the love section of your horoscope. Also, let’s stop googling “how to seduce Aries” and “how to make Aries man fall in love with you”. For the record, I think Aries men should just be avoided entirely. Aries women are fine though.
10. Going to a psychic.
Depends on the psychic and depends on what they say. If they say that the fantasy person is your “soul mate”, you’re fucked.
11. Talking to your craziest friends about their love problems.
Yes! Pick your craziest friend. Ask her about some douchebag she is obsessed with. Watch her try to turn the douchebag into a knight. Observe her inability to see that person as he really is, because if she did, she’d have nothing to obsess about. Be grateful. You may be in a shitty place, but you aren’t as crazy as her. Remember that you have the potential to be that crazy if you don’t let go of the fantasy person.
12. Get a mantra.
Mantras have saved my ass so many times. If you have an overactive mind like mine, it’s very hard to continually defect your thoughts away from the fantasy person if you don’t immediately have a replacement thought on deck. Definitely get a mantra. As soon as you catch yourself thinking about the person (even if it’s hours in), go to the mantra. Different mantras work for different people. Some people like doing positive affirmations, but those just make me feel like a loser. Instead, I prefer weirder, trippier, psychedelic mantras and prayer mantras so I feel more like a space cowgirl than someone who is trying to tell herself she is worthy, whole, and loved.
I feel like therapy doesn’t really work, but that’s only because I’ve been in therapy my whole life and I’m not perfect or “fixed”, so I’m always like, Therapy is stupid. That being said, I can’t imagine not being in therapy. I may never become a completely whole person, but I might have a shot at becoming three-fourths of a person. Tree-fourths of a person isn’t bad.
Final assessment: Therapy is stupid and annoying, but it works just well enough that you should still do it. Defnitely get help.
14. Become totally obsessed with the fantasy of someone else.
Don’t do this. But obviously, you’re going to do this and so am I.
This is an edited extract from SO SAD TODAY by Melissa Broder (Scribe, $27.99).