I don’t know if you’ve heard treasured friend/sex sage/wife-of-Joe-Tower Molly Prather’s theory of the “Super Ex,” but I’ll do my best to sum it up:
Your Super Ex is the ex that stands out in your memory above all the others. And not necessarily because that person was the love of your life, but because the breakup itself, and what it represents, somehow takes on a life of its own.
So my Super Ex is Chuck. Chuck is a charming, uber-confident, Yale-educated bro. He plays golf and knows about world events and abuses prescription pills. He has big calves. He’s everything I’m not! And did I mention he went to Yale? Because if I didn’t he’ll gladly remind you.
When Chuck fixes his gaze on you, it’s the light of the sun. You’re chosen, you’re beautiful, your void has been filled – literally! (Actually, I guess technically his void was filled, if you know what I mean, but ANYWAY.)
Chuck lives in Buster Keaton’s old house. Rent-free. Because people like to give things to Chuck. The vibe of the house is cheerful but haunted. One day Chuck and I are making dinner for friends, and I’m coming over before he gets home to get started. He says not to worry about getting in: he generally leaves the door unlocked. Because he doesn’t own the place. And because, you know… keys.
As I timidly navigate the kitchen, alone, I can feel the ghost of Buster watching me. Judging me. Wondering what Chuck is doing with this 29-year-old personal assistant who looks like a lesbian AND doesn’t even play golf. Then I hear a faint chime coming from the living room. Followed by the distinct bellow of a man’s voice: “WHAT.” I freeze. I panic. But I convince myself it’s just a glitch from the TV or the radio or something. I go back to the kitchen. And after a couple minutes of silence, another quiet bell, followed by another angry “WHAT.” I run out of the house, into the street, crying hysterically, calling Chuck from my cell phone. “I heard Buster’s voice and he does NOT want me here!” Chuck calmly explains the jingling I heard is the landline, with the ringer turned way down. And the “WHAT” is the outgoing message on the machine. A tongue-in-cheek greeting for anyone who’s got the balls to call a landline in 2009. As I try to laugh it off, I have the distinct feeling Chuck does not find this incident to be adorable.
And just like Chuck’s affection feels like the ultimate validation, when Chuck grows tired of you? And looks away? You’re in the dark, you’re worthless, you’re skinnyfat, and no wonder you were given up for adoption at birth. You can’t even keep a good man, homey.
A few months later, he dumps me. I come unglued. I say, “Of course you’re doing this. You have to be stimulated at all times. You’ll jump for the next shiny thing that comes your way.” And I go barreling toward rock bottom. Not one rock bottom moment, but rather a series of them, like a skipping stone, bouncing along the surface with each embarrassment. There’s me waking up on my own welcome mat. There’s me puking in Bryan Singer’s bushes. There’s me rolling in the dirt at Coachella, talking to a light sculpture I named Shannon.
And finally, there’s this:
I gather every shred of evidence from our relationship – movie tickets, photo booth pictures, signs we made for a Prop 8 rally – and I put it all into a big Macy’s bag and drive to his house. He’s not home, so I drop it on the front porch and march back to my car, flying high on justice. He’s gonna come home, look at that stuff, and be like, “Wait… A pair of my underwear Matt borrowed that I actually wanted back? WHAT HAVE I DONE?” This is my Waiting to Exhale revenge. I may not have set his car on fire, but I sure did leave a paper bag on the porch like a bad bitch!
And just as I’m starting to drive away, I remember: he doesn’t lock the door. I get back out of the car. I walk back to the porch. And I let myself in.
Do you remember that Alanis Morissette song that goes: “I went to your house, I walked up the stairs…” You know the one. The anthem of the jilted woman turned full-blown psychopath. Basically: me.
I walk through the living room, and once again, I feel Buster’s spirit watching me. But I forge ahead, down the hall, into Chuck’s room, where I find all the trappings of a recent masturbation session: boxer shorts kicked onto the floor, a large uncapped bottle of lotion on the nightstand, and… a half-open laptop. I take a quick emotional inventory and confirm that, yep, my dignity is tapped out. So I open that laptop to see what’s doin’.
The first thing I see is a photo of a naked, skinny, tweaker guy. Maybe a beatdown pornstar? Or a craigslist rent boy? Whoever it is, it ain’t me. Is this who Chuck really wants? Because if so, maybe my problem is simply that I’m too good looking. And if that’s my cross to bear, I’m okay with it.
Then I find an open Word doc where he started some kind of journal entry. It says: “You have to be stimulated at all times. You’ll jump for the next shiny thing that comes your way.” My final words! Now this means something. This feels like proof. Proof that our relationship happened? Proof that I should be under medical supervision? Who’s to say. All I know is, I feel satisfied. Somehow, this was a win. I slam the laptop shut and head out, stomping through the living room defiantly, looking around for Buster, daring him to come at me. WHAT. WHAT?!
That night I get blackout drunk and sleep with a stranger. In the morning, I stumble home… and surprise myself when I pull out my guitar. No big deal, you guys, but I know five chords. And I write my first ever song. A painfully earnest ballad about Chuck, and the passing of the seasons, and how with each new season, I try to “drink him down, and find myself kissing someone else.” I call it “Climate Change.” And yes, I know how horrifying this sounds. I am someone with strong aversions to sincerity and music by white people. But that day in my hungover haze, I think I sound pretty fucking great. So, do I throw that video up on YouTube, and email it to Chuck with the subject line “This is for you”? Yeah. I sure do.
When you’re headed toward rock bottom, you can hustle and try to swim the other way. But then you realize there’s only one direction for you to go. So when you think about it, hitting rock bottom is actually pretty relaxing. So enjoy it. Kick off your shoes. Do some binge drinking and let your life fall apart. Break into your Super Ex’s house. Write a humiliating song and put it on YouTube. Go ahead! It’s all good. Because it might get better. It might not. But it literally cannot get any worse.
MATT MCCONKEY has created and performed in several shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade and Comedy Central Stage. TV credits include COMEDY BANG! BANG!, HAPPY ENDINGS, and the writing staffs of MARRY ME and the upcoming NBC/Seeso series BAJILLION DOLLAR PROPERTIE$. Matt is an NYU alum and noted Jennifer Aniston fan.