I've always been one of those guys who don't know how to let go. I think a sociologist would call me a clinger.
One of the worst breakups I experienced was when I was 18 years old. As a way of escaping the constant reminders of this girl, I retreated to my uncle's place in Bella Coola, British Columbia, a serene valley town a few hundred miles north of Vancouver. I stayed with him for two months, and by the time I left I could barely remember the girl's name. My uncle saved me from myself and gave me a glimpse of paradise. Life would inevitably move on, he taught me.
Fast-forward to July 2004, exactly 10 years to the day since I was in Bella Coola. I'm living with my girlfriend of four years and have reached a maturity I can be proud of. I no longer harbour insecurities about the opposite sex. I feel confident. My relationship is beautiful, full of affection, endearments and romantic whispering between the covers. Life couldn't get any better. My girlfriend is a florist, so the apartment always has nice flowers on the table and our bedroom smells like lavender. Life is good.
That is, of course, until my loyal, sweet, hard-working girlfriend decides to leave me and shack up with my uncle - the same uncle who took me in 10 years earlier and helped me cope with what now seems like a minor broken heart.
No, I've not thought about the American talk-show tour possibilities, but I have wondered why life is so painfully ironic that a former clinger has to be tested by the universe in such a horrendous manner.
"I don't even know what to say" was the most common response when I confided the details to my friends. "That's just fucked, dude" was another, less sensitive response.
If this had happened back in my clinger days, I would have been institutionalized. Now, I have good days and bad days.
She's 28, he's 50. I know, I know, we're living in a world where age is just a number, where love is just a word, and apparently where "uncle" is just a title for my father's brother who believes his nephew's girlfriend is fair game. I've been asking myself one question over the last seven weeks: What's the final thought, Jerry?
To hell with Springer, this final thought belongs to the clinger.
So here's what I've learned. Even though this is the worst thing that has ever, ever happened to me, I have been blessed with the knowledge that (for once) I wasn't the one who fucked up. I never whined and pouted. I never asked her a million questions about where she was when she was out with whoever. I never bitched about her mood swings or rolled my eyes when she did that thing some girls do when they cry for no reason whatsoever. I cooked for her every day. I told her I wanted to grow old with her. She always reciprocated.
When you spend your life trying to improve, trying to be one of those guys who actually evolve after high school, and your girlfriend sleeps with your father's brother whom you've always admired even more than your own father, it would be easy for a clinger to simply throw in the towel and begin a nice long ride into misogyny. Don't do it.
Count your losses instead and you'll realize, as I have, that losing a girl and an uncle in one shot means absolutely nothing. All the assholes in the world belong to somebody's family, so it might as well be yours. As in a classic Seinfeld episode, I've found that doing the opposite of what I'm tempted to do has helped me grow and learn.
Sure, sometimes I wake up screaming and weeping in the fetal position while I fantasize about torturing my uncle and ex-girlfriend, but who doesn't?
Take it from me, life gets better.
Of course, this is coming from a guy whose life can't possibly get any worse, but if you're a clinger or even a former clinger, you should know that by forcing yourself to see the good things you will eventually not be able to see anything else.
Oh, and if somebody starts bitching about their three-month relationship ending because of some stupid one-night stand, just remind them that there's always someone with a more horrendous tale, even worse than mine.
Damon Trams is a pseudonym