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The Break-Up Progression (with Helpful Music Videos)

January 16, 2013

There is no failure in skiing. There is only progression. Even if the most a ski instructor manages with a student is getting them to stop by faceplanting before the trees rather than in them, we count that as a success.

So there’s a lot of talk among professional ski instructors–specifically, the Professional Ski Instructors of America–about progressions. There are wedge progressions and parallel progressions in reference to the two types of turns one can make on a slope, and ideally, the two sets of progressions link, unless you’re starting with parallel turns.

I understand if this terminology makes the eyes of my non-ski-instructor readers glaze over. Hell, the technical descriptions make my eyes glaze over. When I’m on the hill with a guest, I watch what they’re doing, and unless they’re Lindsey Vonn or Bode Miller, I offer suggestions based on what specific movements I’m seeing and what their goals are. If they are members of the US Ski Team, I generally thank Helly Hansen for making pants that are waterproof enough not to show how my awestruck bladder emptied its contents and spend the morning stumbling over ways to ask for an autograph.

I mention the idea of progressions because I think most will agree that they don’t just apply to skiing or sports in general. In fact, as you might have already ascertained from the title, I believe you can apply the idea of moving from one phase to the next in terms of life-altering events, as well. And no, I don’t mean the debunked idea of the Five Stages of Grief. Unlike that shit, I accept that, just as in all other areas of life, one can skip from one phase to the next and then find that the next day feels like that Bruce Springsteen song, “One Step Up” (Two Steps Back) (which could, along with the rest of the album, encompass the whole break-up progression in and of itself. Seriously, if you haven’t listened to Tunnel of Love before, do it. Even if you’re happily coupled).

Mostly, however, this is a shameless excuse to share my own post-break-up playlist. I’ve broken it down to two lists, one a must-listen for dumpers, the other for dumpees (and I include those who ended the relationship due to being cheated on in that category. If you weren’t already in an open relationship and aren’t okay with that, your partner forced your hand on that one as far as I’m concerned), and then the follow-up where the two progressions link. Since I recently dealt with being the dumper, that’s the list I’m starting with:

1. Tom Petty, “Free Fallin'”

S/he was such a nice person, and it really sucks that you had to break his/her heart, but dammit, the world is your oyster now! If you’re into slimy bivalve mollusks whose taste and texture resemble frozen mucus.

2. Phil Collins, “Against All Odds”

This song could easily apply to both lists, but since it’s been on repeat for me a few times, it’s going in the list most applicable to my situation. As eighties as the video is, the song still resounds painfully. Once the rush of sudden liberty fades, the feeling of, “Holy shit, what have I done?” floods in to replace it, and you might just find your cheeks getting wet on the nasty 7%-grade approach to the Eisenhower Tunnel where you need all your wits about you as Phil Collins practically bawls, “You’re the only one/ Who really knew me at all,” even if such a sentiment applies more to your first ex-husband than your second one. Just as a purely hypothetical example, of course.

3. Squeeze, “Black Coffee in Bed”

This is when you swing back into the “Free Fallin'” (and free ballin’?) mode of things. “Fuck you, you (insert gender-specific derogatory epithet of choice), I can do what I want with WHOMEVER I WANT, and they WILL be better than you!

…Oh, God, is that Phil Collins on the radio? I’M SO ALONE.”

Sadly, as far as rock and pop music is concerned, that’s about the height of singledom awareness and acceptance, even if you were the one who called it off. If you weren’t, the picture gets arguably grimmer. Here is the break-up musical progression for the passive construction of being dumped or cheated on:

1. U2, “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”

Ah, the initial shock. That moment of, “But–but–but–we were so good together! You and I made beautiful music together! Well, we weren’t Bono and the Edge, so that’s more a figurative statement than a literal one, but–baby, can we still be friends (so we can eventually get back together when you realize what a horrendous mistake you made)?”

2. Adele, “Rolling in the Deep”

There’s a fire starting in my heart, and it’s going to spread to your clothes, you asswipe. No matter what, you tell yourself as you swallow the last of the vodka in your freezer, that piece of shit is going to regret it.

3. Alanis Morissette, “You Oughta Know”

Not only does that aforementioned piece of shit not regret it nearly enough, s/he has moved on. The nerve. The cashier at your local liquor store nods patiently despite having heard all this when you bought your last two cases of Svedka.

To move to the summary phase of our progression, the first few weeks/months/years of a break-up suck, no matter whether you were the cause or the effected. Surely music has some recourse to offer you if you survive that phase without becoming a full-bore nymphomaniac or alcoholic?


Recovery Progression Path # 1: Foreigner, “I Want to Know What Love Is”

“In my life/ There’s been heartache and pain/ And I don’t know/ If I can face it again.” But dammit, in spite of my better judgment, I’m gonna try anyway! Sure didn’t learn from my mistakes the first time around, and sure am ignoring that definition of insanity as doing the same thing but expecting different results!

Was that a brief note of bitterness on my part? If so, it was only because my preferred course of action post-relationship-end doesn’t get a hell of a lot of merit from record producers. Consider…

Recovery Progression Path # 2: Celine Dion, “All by Myself”

Clearly, Celine must’ve blasted “Against All Odds” before coming up with this one. That’s some pretty powerful shit that’ll have you running to the liquor-store cashier if your relapsed drunken phone calls to the One That Got Away result in an “error message” from your ex’s phone company and a subsequent restraining order.

None of this should be a surprise. What form of media doesn’t emphasize the happy pairing as the ultimate end goal for everyone on Earth? We start with Disney’s plastic Prince Charming and move to slightly more facially mobile male rom-com heroes. Even on the macho side of things, Mr. Muscular Hero always winds up with the now nearly nude “heroine.” Where are the role models for those of us who have dipped our toe in the waters, had it bitten off by a shark, and decided not to lose any more body parts?

If anybody has any suggestions on that or any other songs that might fit into these progressions, please let me know. In the meantime, I’ll avoid failure at relationships by avoiding relationships entirely.


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