If breaking up wasn’t bad enough, being called a “crazy ex-girlfriend” makes it that much worse.
Junior year of high school, I had my first high school version of a long-term relationship. He was in four of my classes, and I took that as a sign that the universe was pulling us together.
Let’s just say I don’t ask for the universe’s opinion anymore.
I came up with a grand scheme to win him over. Within weeks, he was my boyfriend. Pretty great scheming on my part, huh?
We celebrated the holidays together. We went on dorky dates. I even taught him how to ice skate, despite the logistical challenges of balancing a guy who’s 6’3”.
Three weeks before I was supposed to have my first real date to a high school dance — prom, no less — he decided it was over.
I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. My stomach was in knots, and I couldn’t find a way to straighten them out.
He gave the age-old, cowardly justification that “this is high school, and things change.” I knew it was more than that, but for some reason, he didn’t find me deserving of a better excuse.
He pretended I didn’t exist for the rest of high school. I suppose that this way, he could keep the guilt at bay. He could forget the girl he had demolished with just a couple of words.
Being ignored and avoided by the person I once cared about most tore me up inside. The tears were frequent. Somehow that made me unhinged. Somehow it made me “crazy.”
Letting go was hard, but people didn’t seem to understand this even if they’d been through it themselves. They expected you to keep it together on the surface, even if you hadn’t moved on internally. Don’t make a scene. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t be that girl.
Unfortunately for them, I wasn’t maintaining any of those standards.
It was a crime to be a mess after a breakup. It was a crime to be vulnerable. It was distasteful to still be attached, to still care. It was frowned upon to be mad, to hold a grudge. These little, human traits earned me the title of a “crazy ex-girlfriend.”
But the truth is, it’s all normal.
Caring is normal. Being attached is normal. Staying mad is normal. Checking to see what your ex is doing and wondering how they’re feeling is normal. None of these things make you “crazy.” Feelings don’t just disappear after a breakup, and there shouldn’t be a time limit on their acceptability.
It’s when people are pressured to swallow these feelings that they end up manifesting in ugly ways. People act out, whether it’s publicly embarrassing or blackmailing their ex, or taking a “Louisville slugger” to someone’s car, as Carrie Underwood once said best.
This is because they never had an acceptable emotional outlet. Thankfully, none of my ugly thoughts culminated in those kinds of actions, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t consider them.
After some time passed and I learned how to cope, things got better. Seeing him in class became less and less difficult. I was pulling through. But being called a “crazy ex-girlfriend” left a bad taste in my mouth.
So I decided to do something about it.
For Halloween senior year, I took a different approach to my costume. I decided to embrace the “crazy ex-girlfriend” label. I made it funny, topping the costume off with running mascara and smudged lipstick.
The front of my shirt read “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” with nail polish around the collar and lipstick markings all over. The back was my favorite part. It read: “Seeking revenge, seeking retaliation, and coming soon to ruin a relationship near you.”
If this was how people saw me, I was going to take it all in good fun on the one day of the year when it was appropriate.
It felt empowering, and it unsettled my ex. That was just a bonus — for once he couldn’t pretend I was invisible. Suddenly, being a crazy ex-girlfriend didn’t seem so bad.
I was owning my feelings. I was normalizing what tons of other people had surely felt. It didn’t make me crazy. I was just being the authentic mess of a person that we all are at some point or another.
From then on, I refused to swallow those hard feelings. I felt them profusely, publicly, out loud and unashamed. Everyone else going through a breakup or just having a hard time should have the same opportunity, without the risk of being called crazy.