The most interesting thing about relationship break-ups is not so much what is said but what is not said.
For example, last week I parted from my boyfriend of eight months and the thing I really wanted to say was not ‘why has it come to this?’ or ‘how dare you call me co-dependent’. No, the thing I desperately longed to say was, ‘I want my brown trousers back.’
I don’t know why break-ups bring out the territorial in people. There is no natural or primeval reason why human beings should argue over record collections when their hearts are broken. Did Neanderthal men and women fight over who got to keep the extra large stone with the sharp, pointy bit? Do dung beetles ransack the dung heap when their beetle partners inform them they are moving out? I don’t think so.
Why, therefore, am I reacting to a terribly sad break-up by lying awake at night palpitating with fear and loathing over the pair of brown tweed trousers I left hanging on the outside of my ex-boyfriend’s wardrobe door?
Perhaps it is because they were only two weeks old and a size zero. Losing the love of one’s life is all very upsetting. But trying to find proper size-zero trousers in Britain is on quite another level of insurmountability. It made me vibrate with terror that I might never see them again until I received a text to say that arrangements would be made imminently for their safe return.
This leaves me to concentrate on other festering sores, such as the pair of chocolate-coloured Ugg boots he persuaded me to buy. We were ambling in an impulsive, loved-up fashion around Leamington Spa when he spotted them, said he wanted me to have them and invited me to buy them for myself. Now, personally, I can’t help but long nostalgically for the apocryphal time, of which I have heard tell, when a man would spot something he wanted his girlfriend to have in the window of a shop in Leamington Spa and without further ado simply buy it for her. However, I’ve read A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and have come reluctantly to the conclusion that I am, on balance, lucky to be living in egalitarian times. Faced with the choice of suffrage or having shoewear bought for me during a trip to the Midlands, I will grudgingly opt for voting rights. So let us put that issue aside. The truly painful thing is that the darn things don’t fit. I bought them in such a co-dependent rush to please I failed to notice that they were too big.
After the split, I put them under the stairs, thinking they couldn’t hurt me if they were hidden behind the vacuum cleaner, but they can. I can feel the horrible, sloppy things gaping at me from behind the door whenever I pass it. There are clever people who will say that the boots are merely a symbol of the bad fit of the relationship, a reminder of the baggy emptiness of my life now that I am single again. I, on the other hand, know that having a £170 pair of defunct Ugg boots festering in your understairs cupboard is easily more annoying than losing the partner you had envisaged spending the rest of your life with.
While the relationship thing is tragic, there is something utterly paralysing about the boots fiasco. I have repeatedly woken in a sweat in the middle of the night rambling incoherently about it: ‘Too big! Too big!’ As a result I can’t get anything out from under the stairs, such as the cat travel boxes, for fear of catching sight of them. This means I cannot take Louis to the vets to get his teeth cleaned. The boots have brought my life to a standstill.
I would shut my eyes, reach into the cupboard, pull them out and fling them into the wheelie bin. But that would only get me fined by the council for callously putting items in the food rubbish which might clothe a sub-Saharan orphan if I took them to the appropriate state-sponsored unwanted shoe-dumping facility. I don’t suppose the bin-surveillance unit at the town hall would be interested in hearing that I failed to comply with recycling edict number 117 because I am freshly emotionally bereaved and co-dependent.
I may have to auction them on eBay: ‘One pair of Ugg boots, wrong size, purchased in a hurry to placate (ex-)boyfriend, now causing owner complete mental breakdown. Please pay full price or will only have to resent you for years as well.’
Actually, now I think about it, I’m not co-dependent. I’m a people-pleasing enabler with exploding doormat tendencies. There is a difference.