• Tue, Apr 19 2011

Do You Compare Yourself To Your Ex?

TheFrisky has a great essay up right now about a woman who continually compared herself to her ex. She notes “he had just written a bestselling novel, was living with his girlfriend, and bought a house.” Meanwhile, she was hanging out in a 250 sq. foot apartment and struggling as a writer. And she was spending a lot of her free time twitter stalking him.

Is this something we all do? Not the twitter stalking – I just assume we’re all doing that – but the constant life comparisons? And if we do, to what extent?

I don’t compare myself to my exes from a career standpoint, not because I wouldn’t, just because 95% of the time I can’t. As a general rule I don’t date people who work in media. That’s because they’re all losers. No! It’s just because the social circles are small, and I think it’s risky to date anyone you’ll be seeing at a party once a month for the next ten years. AND because I don’t want to constantly be comparing myself to them. So from a work standpoint, my ex’s goals and mine aren’t generally (ever) comparable. Normally, when I get updates from the exes, my thought process runs along the lines of, “my ex took his company public? Wow! Rad! His company… it was… green energy related? Maybe he sold trees? I have no idea. I’ll send him a book with a tree on the cover! No! I’ll send him a tiny Christmas tree in March! He’ll totally get it!” Not being envious of their professional success makes it a lot easier to go chop down a tree in Central Park be happy for them.

If I was in the same position as the article writer, I’d want to challenge my ex to a duel to the death. Which I’d lose. Because wow, he sounds super awesome. I bet he’s great at duelling.

But even without the career stuff, I still have moments, especially after a bad break-up, where I envision myself cruising down the street in a Jaguar Roadster 10 years in the future. I catch sight of my (shabbily dressed) ex just as it starts to rain and he desperately tries to cover his head with a newspaper – to no avail! And then I politely offer him a ride, which he takes, shamefaced, because I guess he’s real inept, now, huh? Didn’t even bring an umbrella!

I have had this fantasy multiple times, and I realize that it is really, really stupid, and seems to indicate that my only qualification for success is someone always remembering an umbrella. But I like it all the same.

But really, that fantasy is less about wanting to surpass my ex as it is about getting to imagine myself in a position where I have the power. It reminds me of Albert Brooks’s line in the end of Broadcast News - which is really one of the most withering responses to a break-up ever – “Six years from now, I’ll be back here with my wife and two kids. And I’ll see you, and one of my kids will say, “Daddy, who is that?” And I’ll say “no, no, it’s not nice to point at single, fat women.”"

Wow, Albert Brooks is just cold in that scene, isn’t he?

But maybe we’re all a little Albert Brooks-ish from time to time. Or maybe some of us are incredibly healthy and well adjusted and don’t go around fantasizing about beating their ex at this whimsical game called life. If so, you’re sort of a jerk and I’m not going to send you a Christmas Tree when your company takes off.

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  • Liz

    Oooh, I feel this. My most tragic ex is a fellow actor (who left me for another actress). Even though he strongly resembles a monster, and I’m lucky to have gotten out when I did, I find myself weirdly enraged whenever he gets a decent review or books an interesting job. Well, at least I still have a full head of hair. BOOM.

  • Allison

    I’m completely against dating someone in my industry, ever. This goes way back. When my husband and I were dating, he was looking at getting a job where I was working. It was just a coffee shop, but I was completely against the idea. Not because we might break up and be stuck making lattes for hours together, but it really would have bugged me if his foam was nicer than mine or his tips better. I’m petty.

    I have no idea where any of my exes are even employed, except the one who’s been working at the Macaroni Grill for four years. Maybe I could take a cue from you, Jennifer. I’ll send him a pasta noodle.

  • M

    I wrote out an overly lengthy spiel but realized it can be easily shortened to: no I don’t. We’re too different from each other to make worthwhile comparisons. However: I am content with the direction my life is going, and most of them feel the same way, so if you were to try to compare we’re probably mostly tied and also not bitter about it. Wins all around?

    Also I really enjoyed this article. And it makes me extra-glad I still get along with all the guys I used to date; it seems like a much easier way to live.

  • August S.

    In college I dated someone who worked in the same restaurant as I did, and after the break up I fell back on two elaborate fantasies:

    1)A few years later I’d accidentally book a party in a restaurant where The Ex just started working, and my handsome billionaire prince boyfriend would chose that moment to propose to me. H.B.P and I would leave the ex a huge tip, of course, because we’d be in love, and generous and perfect and not petty at all.

    2) He’d be at “his” same stupid bar, hanging out with his same stupid friends and BAM, I’d crash through the window followed by two big russian guys. After landing on a pool table I’d, like, flip myself up and take one of the brawlers out with karate and/or a pool cue, the continue the fight on the bar and basically use all my awesome martial arts skills to totally beat that guy up too–and then, hearing police sirens, I’d calmly pour myself a shot of Johnny Walker Black Label, throw it back without grimacing, and walk out of the bar. The best part of this fantasy was that I’d never look at my ex. I’d never even acknowledge him. He’d just be left with the knowledge that I had become an incredible badass with a crazy awesome dramatic life. Possibly a criminal. Possibly a spy. Definitely cooler than he’d could ever hope to be.

    Neither of those things have happened, and honestly I never expected them to (for one thing, karate is best left to those gifted with hand-eye coordination), but at the time both scenarios were oddly soothing. Maybe the trick is to just come up with really, really ridiculously exaggerated fantasies so you won’t be disappointed in yourself when they don’t come true.

    Or just shun your ex like a disobedient Amish child. That works too.

  • teenie

    i don’t make career comparisons, but i definitely make success comparisons. maybe this is because he was a teeensy bit obsessed with convincing me i was a loser the entire time (10 years) we were together, coupled with his tiger-like wrangling over the hot mess our finances were in at the end of our marriage which left me in the poor house. it varies day to day, but there is often nothing that would satisfy me more than seeing him fail. dramatically.