You got dumped. Was it all your fault?

In this extract from her debut memoir ‘Notes on Heartbreak’, the ‘Vogue’ columnist and ‘Independent’ alumna Annie Lord struggles through the immediate aftermath of a break-up, and the dizzying mysteries left in its wake

Monday 04 July 2022 09:31 BST
Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods in full, post-relationship crisis in ‘Legally Blonde’
Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods in full, post-relationship crisis in ‘Legally Blonde’ (MGM)

To fall in love with someone is to take leave of your senses. Words crash and tumble out of your mouth, your head feels as if it’s been bopped like a cartoon character, and even the smallest of encounters become ripe with meaning. The best relationship writers can shape those feelings of heartsick nonsense into profundity. The writer, Vogue columnist and The Independent alumna Annie Lord is a master at it.

In her new book, Notes on Heartbreak, Lord recalls the aftermath of a break-up she didn’t see coming. The memoir is a funny, candid and often uncompromising read, with Lord digging into the five years she spent with her first love and the freefall that occurred once it ended.

In this extract, Lord takes her first hesitant steps into singledom once again, returning to a world of sexual distraction and ambiguous text messages. All the while her mind turns over her ex – did she miss something obvious? Did she not know him like she thought she did? And, most importantly, where does she go from here?

Notes on Heartbreak

They say it takes half the length of a relationship to get over its ending. Has anyone managed to get over it in a night? I want to wake up out of a coma two and a half years from now having missed the entire thing. A doctor shining one of those tiny torches in my eyes.

“Morning, it’s 2022 and you’ve forgotten all about him and you have a new boyfriend and great hair.”

I text Josh, a guy from back home that I worked in a pub with. Joe didn’t want me to be friends with him because he knew there was something between us. It makes me feel giddy, as though what I’m doing is against the rules. I’m allowed to do whatever I want now. Josh responds with a voice note:

“Now then, Annie Lord, tell me you’re out tonight?”

There’s something so hot about someone referring to you by your full name. It reminds me of being told off by a teacher. I listen to it again. I like how his thick Yorkshire accent curls over the Ts until they disappear, smooth as a beach pebble. Josh sends a photo from where he sits in the pub, gums shining pink through his smile, beer froth bubbles popping on his top lip. I message other nearly sort-of-but-not-quite men and try to build some kind of scaffolding of attention that will prevent me from ever hitting the ground.

Relationship writer Annie Lord (Issey Gladston)

“What’s he said?” asks Moll, but Josh has stopped replying. I wonder if I should ring my parents, but then I remember the way Dad held onto Joe’s shoulders after dinner. “You’re a good lad, aren’t you?” he said and then slapped him hard on the back in that way men do when they don’t want shows of affection to seem affectionate. I want Dad to preserve Joe in his mind that way because what if Joe changes his mind and I’ve already told my parents? It would be tense next time he comes over for dinner.

There’s all this adrenaline in me; it sparks in my stomach like electricity, it heaves through my lungs. I suppose I’m anxious, but it feels more like excitement, anticipation, as though I’m off to a house party later or going on holiday in the morning. I remind myself of what has happened, but I can’t yet feel the solidity of understanding close down around me. All my wires are tangled up.

What was it that made Joe end it? Stopping and turning around under the shadow of a big glass office building, so nervous he was scraping the sole of one Reebok against the other.

“I think I just need to be on my own.”

Was it my bloated too-much-plastic-cheese stomach? Or when I made him list the Kardashians in order of hotness and then screamed that he was wrong when he placed Kourtney so far down? Or perhaps I was so perfect that it made him think it was time to cut me out before he hurt me more than was necessary.

Annie Lord’s ‘Notes on Heartbreak’ (Trapeze)

Not that any of this seems necessary.

He must have been planning it for a while; no one breaks up with someone after five years on a whim. Knowing that he was keeping all this private knowledge from me is hurtful. I thought I knew everything he was thinking, which friends he was annoyed with, the consistency he liked his porridge. I should have known he was about to break up with me. We always made decisions as a team. Maybe that’s why he did it, because he wanted to start making decisions all on his own.

I wonder if I am focusing on the idea that he kept this secret because the reality of him actually leaving is too big to comprehend. I can’t picture what that would look like. I can see a house without his belongings, I can see me cooking for one, but he’s always there, getting jealous, bumping into me at parties; he always comes back.

I’m so stoned my head dissipates into this murky puddle. I breathe and then I look over at Moll and wonder if the last breath I took was weird. I nearly say something about one of the characters’ outfits, but then I decide it’s too much effort to complete the thought, so just say “as if” instead. The film ends and Moll gathers up her laptop and the blankets she brought down from the room she shares with Danny. Just before going up to bed, she turns around and says: “You can’t take him back, you know.” I nod at her but I’m not even sure I know what “back” would look like.

‘Notes on Heartbreak’ by Annie Lord is published by Trapeze and available now in hardback, ebook and audio for £16.99

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