“I don’t know HOW she could possibly move on from me THAT quickly!” I once blubbered to a friend, fat, salty tears sliding down my swollen face. My first serious, committed relationship had just come to a screeching halt, and I’d found out that in the same moment that I’d been nursing my broken heart by weeping into a bowl of macaroni and cheese, my ex had been on her third date with someone new.
“Oh, come on, Zara! She’s totally a rebound,” my friend rolled her eyes so hard she looked like she was being exorcised by a priest.
“You think?” I whispered. I felt my spirit spring up, like a baby meerkat; incredulous and hopeful.
“Zara are you stupid? She’s not even her type.” She filled up her glass of wine to the tippy top. “This bullshit won’t last a month.”
“You’re right.” I felt a sudden wave of relief wash over me. It was as if I’d just popped a Xanax! This new little bitch my ex was carousing around town with? Well, she meant absolutely nothing. She was a rebound. A glaringly obvious rebound at that. A smug smile made its way across my distraught, dehydrated face. “Poor girl,” I purred flashing my bleached teeth.
We’ve ALL had experiences with rebounds, right? The rebound is a natural part of the love food-chain. We silently shake our heads when our friends claim to be in “love” with some floozy they started dating days after their breakup. We wake up in horror, overcome with a mean case of sudden repulsion syndrome when we realize the person sleeping next to us — the one we thought might be the next great love of our lives — was nothing but a rebound. We judge our exes for their rebounds and gab to our friends about how much better we are and what a downgrade she is and how embarrassing for everyone involved!
But what about the awful, degrading realization of *being* the rebound? Of having that revelation that *you* were the temporary floozy? Of being hit with the dark epiphany that you were nothing but a fleeting distraction, a pretty pink band-aid patching up a cracked heart?
It was a humid, rainy summer in Florida when it happened to me. While it might’ve poured so hard every single day that the palm trees grew cartoonishly big and plump, I was experiencing a drought as dire as Texas in 2011. Dating apps were new and while I swiped so hard I developed carpel tunnel in my right hand, I never seemed to match with anyone date-worthy.
Until I matched with a short-haired editor named Georgina. Georgina and I met up at a cozy Italian bistro and I liked her right away. We had one of those first dates that feels magical — like you’re about to embark on something new and glittery and exciting. We wasted no time suffering through the usual robotic small talk. We dove into the deep end of the pool right away. We discussed our childhoods, our career ambitions, our teenage traumas. We looked into each other’s eyes like we’d known each other for lifetimes. She drove me home and we passionately made out in the driveway, like two sex-starved gay teens having their first taste of their own gender. Before she peeled out of my driveway I received a text message. “I had such AN AMAZING TIME WITH YOU! Can we meet up again SOON!?” she messaged, thirstily.
I forced myself to wait ten minutes to respond.
“Me too. Let’s meet up!”
The next two weeks were a whirlwind of soul-baring dinner dates, libidinous sex sessions, ardent late-night phone calls and poetic text exchanges.
“Isn’t this a little fast?” my friends said all at once, a lesbian greek chorus clad in dr. marten boots and flannel shirts.
“Maybe,” I admitted as I guzzled down my wine.
“Didn’t she just get out of a relationship?” the lesbian greek chorus dutifully sang. I hadn’t told them she had, but gays somehow know all the tea on other gays, regardless of where they live or where they’re from or what social sorority they pledge to.
“Yes,” I smirked. “She’s assured me that the fire in her last relationship burned out a LONG time ago.” I smoothed my hair down like a true Republican lady and ignored their worried glances. What did they know about instantaneous love? (A lot because they’d all U-Hauled, but that’s beside the point).
One night, as I was getting ready for a date I felt a strange twinge in my stomach. Do you know that feeling you get right before someone breaks up with you? It sort of feels like you’ve been hit with an arrow straight in the gut? I felt that. “Don’t be ridiculous, Zara.” I said to myself. “After all, she’s the one who is more into YOU. She’s been pursuing the shit out of you. This is SO typical. You don’t, deep down, believe that you are deserving of nice things. Well, I have news for you! You are, babe,” I hyped myself loud enough to drown out the lingering doubt tickling the inside of my ear with its breathy whisper.
I arrived early and ordered champagne. I was wearing an amazing dress, a dark gray “fit and flair” that had an actual wire at the hem, which made it flute out at the bottom, like a bell. My hair was long and loose and my eyes were smokier than an Eastern European nightclub. My lips were fire-engine red. My nails were fire-engine red. I felt like a Real Housewife of New Jersey mixed with a chic London socialite. I twisted a faux ruby around my finger, sipped my champagne and tried to quell the gnawing feeling holding court in my chest.
My lover of two fervent weeks finally arrived. She ordered canned beer, the least festive drink on the planet. The moment it was plopped down in front of her distant eyes, she cleared her throat, dramatically, like she was a politician about to deliver a speech to the people. “Zara. Look, I’ve had an amazing time with you.”
I looked at my hopeful glass of champagne and felt instantly depressed.
“But I think I rushed things a bit. I’m so sorry. I just got out of a really big relationship and I haven’t dealt with it yet. I’m not…”
“Ready. You’re not ready,” I cut in, finishing her sentence.
“Yeah. How did you know I was going to say that?” Her eyes looked a little paranoid like she was afraid I was reading her mind. I could’ve. But I didn’t. (It’s not classy to abuse your psychic gifts on a date).
“Because I’ve given this exact speech before,” I quipped. “To rebounds.“
“You’re not a rebound!” she raised her eyebrows defensively. “I’m just not ready.”
“Yes. But the next girl you date you’ll be ready for. Make sure she sends me flowers and a thank you card,” I grumbled, sliding out of my seat.
I did what I always do when my feelings are crushed. I went out. I met up with some friends at our favorite bar downtown.
“Can you believe it?! SHE ENDED THINGS. WITH ME,” I shouted to my best friend Eduardo.
“That sucks,” he said with dead eyes. “Let’s do a shot?”
“I don’t think you quite understand! I was her rebound. She used me!” I felt dirty, like that old rag you use to wipe down your kitchen and the windows.
“I get it. But it happens to everyone,” Eduardo paid for a round of shots. “It’s just the way life goes.” He passed me a little glass filled with clear liquid.
We tapped glasses, threw our heads back and inhaled straight tequila. My eyes burned so badly from the severity of the alcohol I felt like someone poured peroxide in them. “Am I f*cking rebound girl now? Am I that girl you project a fantasy onto because you’re heartbroken and need a warm body to make you feel whole again?” I shivered. I looked at my red nails. Hours ago they looked shiny and vibrant, now they looked desperate. My nails have no chill. My dress has no chill. I have no chill. My thoughts spiraled out onto the street.
“It has nothing to do with you. You know that. You’ve had rebounds. We all know you don’t even see a rebound. You plaster your own ideas onto their faces. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, Z. Get over it.” His eyes were no longer dead. They were young and alive.
Suddenly I felt my feet rooted into the bar floor. Eduardo was right. While it’s a blow to the ole’ ego to be a rebound, it’s not the end of the world. And maybe it’s good for us to be a rebound. After all, isn’t their a famous Sufi saying about how “When the ego weeps for what it has lost, the spirit rejoices for what it has gained,”? I’ll do anything to strengthen my spirit! Because I know that bitch will long outlive my frail-ass ego.
So if you’ve just realized you are a rebound, I want you to release your pain into the ether. Because you haven’t really lost anything worth having.