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What if your ex started dating Lady Gaga?
Caught in a bad ex-romance
When it comes to exes, I strongly prefer to live in Ignorancetown, population 1. I don’t look ’em up, I don’t care to, and my life is better for it. But what if I couldn’t seclude myself in KnowNothingsville? What if my ex started dating someone famous or, worse, someone famous whom I adore?
Last week, New York Times editor Lindsay Crouse discovered that her ex-boyfriend was now dating Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga posted a picture of her sitting in his lap on a yacht. Three million people liked it. Two million people liked this hazy selfie, and more than one million liked this sunset pic. I liked all of those photos, just as I like most everything Gaga posts.
Crouse wrote an opinion piece that grapples with the discovery that her normie ex, someone she loved for seven years, is now dating one of the most famous and successful women in the world. She shares her progression through the predictable process of comparing herself not just to an ex’s new significant other, but Lady F*cking Gaga. But she eventually finds it a humanizing and empowering exercise.
The dress was too expensive, but I bought it anyway. Why should I accept less than Lady Gaga?
I went to a coffee shop. Did I want a large? Yes. For the event: Did I want my makeup done? I never had, but yes. And yes, I’ll get the lashes too. When I was emailed praise, did I forward it to my boss? Yes. Did I agree to do the work presentation I was anxious about? Yes. Yes, yes, yes.
(I haven’t figured out how to start a multimillion-dollar entertainment empire yet, or a major advocacy campaign, but yes to that, too.)
The point is, Lady Gaga is living the ambitious life that we keep saying women should embrace. A quote I remember reading from her, probably on Instagram, says, “Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.” It’s so easy as you get older to find the best in who you’ve become, to make the most of it — and maybe even to get a little complacent about it. But if Lady Gaga can do what she wants, and even expand on what she wants, why not me, too? Why not let being “exactly who I am” mean trying to be the best I could be? Lady Gaga continues to challenge herself, to try new things, to thrive.
I’ve thought about what a curse it would be to date a true celebrity before. If you had a fun time with Brad Pitt for a night or even a few months, sure, that could be a fun story to tell for years to come. But if you loved and lost Brad Pitt, then had to see his face many (most?) days—on television screens, on supermarket magazine covers, in Instagram photos, in movie previews—for the rest of your life? I can guess that would be quite painful. After dating someone hyperfamous, you might want to move on and put the past behind you, but the past, along with its killer publicist, would never quite let you.
An ex-boyfriend of mine, Tom*, shared his own experience with celebrity-adjacent dating with me. His ex-girlfriend had once slept with a famous NBA player, and had told Tom so after a few glasses of wine. This knowledge began to drill itself into Tom’s brain, causing more and more pain, like a beetle slowly making its way deeper into your ear canal. Someone richer, taller and more successful than Tom had slept with his girlfriend before he did. His jealousy and insecurity messed with his head, disrupted their sex life, and caused him to treat her with disrespect she didn’t deserve.
One day, Tom was out at a bachelor party with friends, riding along in a limo, when someone mentioned this NBA player’s name. Tom finally lost his mind.
“[NBA player’s name!] [NBA player’s name!] Why does everything have to be about [NBA PLAYER’S NAME]?!” he drunkenly screamed.
Years later, I now know that jealousy is fear in a dress. Tom was afraid he wasn’t good enough, couldn’t possibly measure up to this famous person who checked many of the boxes of our society’s most shallow markers of value. We’ve all been there. It takes a lot of work to fully claim your self-worth and rise above comparison culture, and it’s a lifelong battle.
But back to Lady Gaga.
I first heard “Poker Face” at a bar in Thailand when I was 20 years old. I learned all of the “Bad Romance” choreography and saw my first Gaga concert in San Diego my senior year of college—I’ve seen her perform six more times since, most recently this past summer in Las Vegas. I’ve dressed up as Gaga many times. I genuinely love to see Lady Gaga happy—she’s been through sexual trauma, severe physical pain, and several very public breakups (two of them broken engagements), and she’s still fought for and achieved so many of her greatest dreams. (You can hear her talk to Oprah about her mental health struggles and how she fights shame here.) She’s inspired me for years, and I want her to succeed, find love, and be happy—just as I want those same things for myself.
But how would I feel if someone I once deeply cared for started dating her? Honestly, I hope I never have to find out.
*Name has been changed to protect the sort-of innocent.
I’m also reading
The end of an era, the beginning of another, ad infinitum by Haley Nahman at Man Repeller
Replaying my shame by Emily Gould at the Cut
Where can I pick up a copy?
I’m listening to:
Podcast episodes on the benefits and challenges of sobriety
Sober Company Podcast with guest A.J. Daulerio
A.J. speaks about creating the recovery newsletter The Small Bow after having served as editor of Dead Spin and Gawker and experiencing early sobriety as a defendant in the Hulk Hogan sex tape trial.
The Life Coach Podcast: Stop Tolerating
What are you “buffering” with—alcohol, food, other distractions—to better tolerate the things you dislike in your life, and avoid changing them?
Questionable self-care advice
Support I got that you might need to hear
This cheered me up
I watched this 100 times.
Anthem of the week
Have we all marked our calendars for the April 10 album release? Bring spring with you, Chromatica!
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Thanks so much to Tiffany Philippou for naming Cruel Summer Book Club as one of the three things she’s into in her newsletter The Tiff Weekly:
Two hearts-a-healing in Cruel Summer Bookclub by Jillian Anthony: Speaking of uncertainty, Jillian tells a heartwarming story about two friends, who are rebuilding their lives, coming together on Valentine’s Day. “Change will be our constant companion, as human companions fade in and out, as the unplanned descends upon us and priorities suddenly change, over and over.” Exactly what I needed to read right now.