I was a late bloomer as it pertains to the world of love and dating. I was a loner in high school. I was overweight with long, greasy hair and I was quiet. I had no social skills. Talking to anyone outside of a certain small group of people gave me anxiety and embarrassed me to no end. But even then they didn’t care for me. I was so far removed from the social food chain, I was ostracized by the nerdy kids. I was below the ground on the totem poll.
(Me killing it in high school)
Seeing as I was overweight (two hundred sixty pounds at my heaviest), greasy, awkward with no friends, the idea of a romantic relationship was certainly out of the question. I hated my high school experience and, by proxy, my home town. Before I left for college, I wanted to make sure that there would be a new Tyler walking onto the campus of the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). The year before I left home, I dropped about forty pounds, and after entering UNCW, my weight has fluctuated between one hundred eighty to two hundred ten pounds.
During the second semester of my freshman year, I did stand-up for the first time at an open mic put on by the school. I was so nervous I actually got tunnel vision. I felt ill. But it was the best experience of my life, and I fell in love with performing. I performed every chance I got, squashing a good bit of the social anxiety I retained from high school. Don’t get me wrong, meeting new people can still be nerve racking from time to time, but it’s much better than it was.
I grew as a performer and worked on my comedy, and I grew as a person, developing a somewhat sociable personality, but there was always a glaring, gaping hole in my life— I had never had a girlfriend. I fell into the abysmal hole created by society that every young boy in America has felt at one time or another. “I’ve got to get a girlfriend or they’ll think there’s something wrong me.” I thought this quite a bit, I was afraid to be labeled as broken when I had not even had the chance to be “not broken.” On top of that, I was just plain lonely. I wanted someone that made me as happy as my parents made each other. Someone to hold hands with, someone to be happy with. I found that person at the beginning of my third and final year at UNCW.
A beautiful young woman walked into the UNCW Comedy Arts Performance Club in late August of 2014. It took me weeks to work up the courage to ask her out. Beyond the fear of anything else— my fear of heights, my fear of spiders, my fear of ghosts— was the fear of rejection. I would rather walk a haunted tight rope crawling with black widows than for someone to tell me they didn’t want to give me the smallest chance. I eventually worked up the courage to ask her. She said yes. We went on a date. Then another. Then another. Then one Wednesday in early October I asked her if it was alright if I called her my girlfriend. (As old fashioned and cheesy as that seems, I wanted very much to take it slow.) She said yes. That night we had our first kiss. I told her “I want this moment to last forever.” I meant it. As much of a cliche as that sounds, I actually said and meant that. For six months she made me the happiest person in the world. We said we loved each other. I meant it. I think she did too. This relationship was the closest I had ever been with another person. It was the first time I had ever loved someone in a romantic way.
Then, suddenly in March, something started to change. She skipped out on a date and stopped texting me as much while she was away for Spring Break. I invited her over to talk when she got back. It was a very one sided talk.
I began “there’s been some tension between us lately.”
She agreed “yeah, and I’ve been doing some thinking… I think we should break up.” I was shocked. This idea had crossed my mind, but as a worst worst case scenario. I didn’t get it. We had said we loved each other. I was willing to do some much for her and she didn’t want to work on it at all. She thought about it for a week, made up her mind and -boom- that’s it.
I quickly agree and blurted out “yeah, I kinda saw it coming.” In reality, I didn’t know anything was really wrong. She had never said anything was bothering her. I quickly ushered her out of my apartment so she wouldn’t see me cry.
And cry I did. Every day for nearly a week and half. I was physically ill. I couldn’t sleep. Everything was terrible. I was blindsided. It felt like my soul was punched in the dick. We had a talk not long after we broke up with tensions still running high. She had a long list of reasons for why it wouldn’t work, including but not limited to: I was graduating (albeit a year early) and she had just finished her first year, I needed to move away for my comedy and staying in town for her was a bad idea, she was traveling abroad for the summer and long distance things never work out, she just wasn’t feeling it anymore, she was burnt out, and I was too negative all the time. I was heartbroken and confused. Was it really all of those? Was it just some? Was it my negativity? Had I really, unknowingly been such a fuddy duddy that it ruined my relationship? Fuck, I still don’t know.
About a week into questioning everything that I should and could have done, I was watching Netflix with a friend of mine to try to take my mind off my first heartbreak. As a comedian and comedy fan, I watch a lot of comedy. Just before the break up I had started the first season of Maron. Marc Maron is a 25 year stand-up veteran. A pioneer of “alt-comedy,” he is someone that a lot of comics, young and old enjoy and look up to. Before watching his show, I didn’t know a lot about him or his comedy. I thought the show would be similar to Louie, the show produced, directed, written, edited, and starring Louis CK. It was far from the case. The show is true to Marc’s own life. It has a unique voice and is a dark, fun show.
Part way through the first season Marc begins dating a female fan turned stalker, Jen. (Spoilers) It doesn’t work out. They have a toxic relationship. They argue constantly. There is an age gap. He’s a cynical fuck and she’s a spry, happy young woman. While my relationship didn’t have the major red flags that Marc and Jen’s relationship did, the parallels in personalities are apparent in retrospect. In the third episode of the second season, the relationship finally implodes and Jen leaves. Marc’s closing podcast monologue has him reflecting on how shitty the whole deal is. He wishes that it could have worked out. I was sitting on the other side of the screen, tears in my eyes, wishing Marc’s relationship could have worked out. Wishing my relationship could have worked out. Wishing everyone could be happy forever because the pain I was feeling was the worst pain I’d ever felt.
Two episodes later, in episode five, Marc is still working through the break-up. Some friends come by to get Jen’s things. Marc is slightly recovered from his break-up, but the pain’s still there. To add to his misery, his cat Boomer goes missing. Marc is having a shit time. I was having a shit time. My girlfriend dumped me, I felt creatively stagnant, my easy ride through college was quickly coming to an end. When it rains, it pours. Marc’s closing monologue from this episode hit me hard. I was less than a week removed from my break up. I still had her number in my phone. (You know, just in case. Just in case it wasn’t really over. Just in case she realized she made a mistake. Just in case I could say just the right thing to make her come back. Just in case. Just in case.) Marc’s monologue revolves around the idea of loss.
“I lost a cat and a girl. It’s heartbreaking. Shit happens in life that just sucks. I mean, I’m a sensitive guy. I lost my cat. I loved that guy. Okay, I didn’t lose a child or a limb, but I lost a cat and it’s sad, and there’s nothing I can do to change that. I lost a girl, maybe I could do something about that, but it would probably be pathetic, desperate.”
There’s a pause.
“Should I call her?”
It’s a thought that had been swirling around my head every waking hour since I got shit canned. Somebody else is having the same exact thought as they’re going through the same thing I’m going through.
The monologue continues
“… You can’t avoid pain in life. I mean it’s how you handle pain that defines you. Are you gonna be bitter or are you gonna be wise? I mean the jury is still out on me, clearly. You can’t avoid letting other people down. You can’t avoid heartbreak. You can’t avoid loss. You can’t avoid disappointment. you can try to avoid those things, but your life would become very small. You would literally become a person that can’t have a relationship with another person, you can’t have a pet, you can’t have a job, you can’t try. You can’t have any attachments.”
Marc pauses again.
“Should I call her?”
Marc is so sad and lonely. I’m feeling the same thing. Marc is trying to get his mind off the break up, he’s trying to think about anything and everything else, but every thought just circles back to her. I’m going through the same exact thing.
These episodes reflected what I was going through at that exact moment so perfectly was almost surreal. Marc is a pessimistic, grouchy guy dating a chipper woman with a cheerful disposition. His negativity drives a wedge between them, leading to her breaking it off. On top of that, it gave someone new to the world of heartbreak a knowledge that every single futile, irrational thought I was having was one shared by everyone that has ever gone through the same thing.
I didn’t have my first girlfriend/ first heartbreak until I was twenty years old. Some may find that sad, but it’s the truth. I’m not emotionally or socially stunted, that’s just how it worked out. That first relationship, no matter what the age, is a punch in the gut, but I did learn some things.
I learned that I need to take a look at myself and really take inventory of my emotions. Is my negativity something that hinders me on a social and romantic level, or is it just who I am? I think it’s a part of me, but maybe it shouldn’t be as far out of the cage as it was.
I also learned that even though I’m lonely, I’m not alone. This breakup has brought me a lot closer to not only my friends, but also my family. For the first time, I was able to talk on the phone to my mom about something other than her local church gossip. She told me about how she broke up with my dad, and how their relationship has grown over the years. A friend of mine that recently went through a divorce coached me through the sad first days after the break up. He told me, it’s always going to kinda suck. Another friend who battled depression helped me through that stage of mourning/loss. Being around my friends has helped more than anything.
In conclusion, you could read this and think “wow, this is a whiney, entitled fuck,” and I probably am, but if this connects with anybody I feel like it was worth the time to type.
Also, watch Maron on IFC and Netflix. It’s a good fucking show.
Follow Tyler Wood on Twitter.