Tuesday, 27 October 2009

London loves.....break ups

Some might say this opening topic of London Loves is not entirely Londo-centric. I would have to agree. But I've never been one to be swayed by what some people might say. It is true that the whole world, not just London, loves break ups (other people’s I hasten to add, not their own). There is, however, something peculiarly Londonite about the zeal with which relationship malfunctions grip and excite Londoners. It’s almost perverse.

For beginning this blog with a topic many might see as dour I lay the blame bi-directionally. Firstly, the eponymous Blur song after which this blog is named offers two important hints at the romantic sadism of Londoners in it’s lyricism. ‘London loves the way people just fall apart’ and ‘London loves the misery of a speeding heart’. Secondly, somebody, let’s say for argument’s sake…me, has just undergone a break-up. So, it's topical.....for me.....sue me.

To take the Blur lyrics as my starting point. While the song itself may be seen as glib, trite or throwaway, there is actually an important take-home message. If we’re being honest for just one second; everybody upon hearing that somebody they know has broken up with their erstwhile lover, feels a certain sense of pleasure. This may seem controversial. It’s not. It’s true. I don’t mean in 100% of these cases, occasionally we hear of a break-up and are genuinely sorry, empathetic and disappointed. But 9 out of 10 times we take satisfaction in it. It’s human nature. There are many things about somebody else’s break-up that we love:

1. The fact that it’s not our break-up it’s somebody else’s (aka: smugness).

2. The fact that the news of a break-up allows us to indulge in a certain sense of self-satisfaction. This may manifest itself in ‘well I always knew they weren’t right for each other’ (trans. 'I'm a genius at predicting human folly') or in the fact that you now have a sense of one-upmanship over your acquaintance (your relationship is stable and fine, theirs is fucked…you must be a better person then they are) or worse still, your acquaintance has now been de-throned from their prestigious position and is now down wallowing amongst the love detritus with you and all the rest of the singles (the classic fall from grace anticipation finally coming to fruition).

3. It suddenly and immediately allows us to vent the true feelings we’d been masking all along. Usually feelings about the person your acquaintance has broken up with. This takes two forms, both of which are virtually identical. a) If it is your friend who has dumped their former lover; that’s your cue to slag off the former lover (who you never really liked anyway) in a litany of unedifying personal abuse. b) If on the other hand it’s your friend who has been dumped by their former lover…..that’s your cue to slag off the former lover (who you never really liked anyway) in a litany of unedifying personal abuse.

4. It’s our chance (seldom experienced so make the most of it) to play the agony aunt role you always knew you were cut out for. This is particularly unsavoury because of the fact that we, as a general population, are rubbish agony aunts. No, seriously. In my entire life I have only ever experienced one good agony aunt. The person I refer to being almost psychic in her ability to read, analyse and advise upon a situation. She could have made some serious cash off of her talents by now. She chooses not to. But I for one am indebted to her wisdom and salience... The rest of us are shit and shouldn’t even bother. ‘You’re better off without her’, ‘this is probably the best thing that could have happened’ or ‘plenty more fish in the sea’ are not lines that people will take to their graves revelling in awe at the eternal consoling wisdom of your heart-felt though impotent utterances. We all do it though. At least we're trying to display sympathy. That's better than nothing.

5. It’s an excuse to take your recently-heartbroken mate out and get very, very pissed.

It’s the fifth point, above all, that makes this particular London Love so quintessentially Londonish. It’s difficult to imagine a city that likes getting pissed more than London. We rarely need an excuse. So when there actually is a genuine excuse, like a break-up, to bemoan/celebrate, we do not hold back.

All of the above may tend to paint Londoners in a schadenfreude-esque bad light. I should probably take the time to point out that we Londoners are not entirely heartless. We are just quite heartless. To quote the song again, we actually do love the way people fall apart. It gives us something to laugh about.

Worse still, occasionally, it’s not even deliberate, angst-induced, superiority-driven guilty pleasure-taking that motivates our reactions. Sometimes, we just don’t give a fuck. (Another Londonite trait is the fact that we simply do not have time to give a fuck, we‘re soooo busy). I’ll leave you with a hilarious example. When I recently texted my older brother (he was in Ireland on holiday at the time) to tell him of the demise of my latest relationship, which had lasted almost 2 years. His response, by text, was this: “Why did you break? Your choice or hers? Whens the Brazilian grand prix on today (sic) Button is losing the plot due 2 pressure. He has been for the past 6 to 8 races.” Ah, the compassion. Oh, the humanity. I was deeply, deeply touched. In all seriousness though, it was a London response. To be perfectly honest, it was the best response I could have heard at that time. Deeply nonchalant. Deeply cynical. Deeply I-care-more-about-the-fate-of-the-formula-one-championship-than-your meaningless-difficult-and-quite-frankly-tedious-relationship. More to the point, it made me wet myself laughing. Thanks brother, I appreciate it.


  1. I would like soft carpet throughout my apartment, so when I will fall for someone else and will want to break up with my existing boyfriend, there won't be much shattered body parts and pieces

  2. oh christ, what have i started...
    but seriously, on the one hand Anonymous raises an important point and offers up some good advice there: violence is never pretty in a break-up situation and should be avoided. on the other hand, how the hell would you get the stains out of the soft carpet??

  3. Can I add a discussion point to this, if I may be so bold. I strongly believe that in some cases people are jealous of their friends who go through a break-up. Aside from all the obvious, and not to be understated, pains of breaking up, there is a certain pleasure. I believe that pleasure is that a lot of the time break-ups can give you an impetus to do things you put off doing because you were in a relationship for example. Like a blog perhaps.....or reminding yourself how much you love London (even though it is lovely, and imperative, to travel).

  4. rough towel advocate28 October 2009 at 16:04

    as a fan of breakups, you might be interested in this:


  5. If you've been binned, always (and I mean always) delete your ex's number from your phone. No good can come from keeping it. Only bad.

  6. Like it Joshua - pithy and intelligent - keep at it....