Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Living in a Love Stain

When my ex and I broke up in 2011, he was expecting me to put up a fight for which of us was going to have to move out, and which one of us would stay in the house we owned together. I remember thinking at the time, are you out of your fucking mind, I would never stay in a house I shared with your dumb ass, and I also remember other people thinking it was really bizarre that I just wanted to wipe my hands of it, get my name off of the mortgage, and walk away. I didn't ask for any money, didn't try to make him move or sell, I just wanted to be done with it. But I could never really find the right way to explain it to anyone else either. I wanted to be done, gone, out. That was all.

My best friend and her boyfriend broke up a couple weeks ago, after living together for quite some time. He stayed in their place, and she moved. And it was the same thing - who wants to live somewhere that you used to share with someone else? At least for me, it has nothing to do with who can or cannot afford the rent, or with who owns what, or with who's life would be the most inconvenienced by having to move; for me, it's a I wanna get the fuck out of here feeling. I don't want to sleep in a bedroom I shared with someone I am no longer sharing a home with. I don't want to cook in the same kitchen where we used to eat together, or shower in the same bathroom we used to brush our teeth in together before bed. I guess for me, part of a break up is a fresh start. A chance to make a new apartment into a home of my own, to shop for girly decor and to hang my flowery paintings wherever I want. Part of breaking up, is saying goodbye to every part of that relationship, including the place we lived together. Continuing to live somewhere after a break up - and I imagine especially after a bad one - is like trying to fall asleep night after night in a love stain; an awkward and uncomfortable mess that makes you feel just a little bit gross.

Of course, there are times that it can't simply be a clean getaway. Maybe you're the only one on the lease, maybe she just lived there briefly and it's actually your apartment. Maybe you manage an apartment complex and you have to continue to receive that rent discount in order to continue to live comfortably. Moving out and away is not always a feasible option. And in those circumstances, there will be things that remind you of your break up, things in your house that make you think, reminisce, possibly regret a little. For one of my closest friends, who also broke up with someone not too long ago, that reminder was a partially painted accent wall. There is something about staring at something every day, something about it being the last thing you see on your way to bed at night, that has got to make you a little bit crazy. I painted a purple accent wall in my bathroom when the ex and I were living together, and I saw something on Facebook through a mutual friend just this year that said he had finally painted over it and was so glad to be done looking at it. Well yea, of course you don't want to look at a reminder of me - you never would have picked color crayon purple, only I would have.

My friend finally made the time to paint over his love stain last night. With a bottle of wine and a paintbrush (followed by some drunk chat and a shirtless selfie), he painted the wall the right way. It no longer looks like a child should be standing in front of it with a pointer finger going RED RUM, RED RUM; it looks like a well-done, freshly painted accent wall. It now looks like a room he'll want to be in, a room he'll gladly retreat to when his roommates get a little crazy in the living room, a room he'll be able to close his eyes in and not just be staring at regret all night long.

There are always emotional connections that stay with you a while after a breakup, whether the breakup was amicable or terrible. We refer to these emotional connections as baggage. However, when you are living in an apartment that you used to share with someone you were dating, baggage can be just as easily a visual connection. Painting over a love stain is a means of moving on, a way of eliminating a visual connecting, a way of reclaiming your home as your own after someone else leaves it. When I got my first apartment after my break up, I did everything I could to make it really soft and feminine, because my ex never let me do anything colorful or bright. When my best friend moved into her apartment last week, she was sure to buy new sheets and decorate in a way that looked nothing like her previous apartment. And when my friend was ready, he painted away part of what he shared with his ex. Those are the things you do when you're done, when you're healed, when you're ready. It's how you let it go and move on.

Baggage is a bitch, but the good news is, love stains aren't permanent.