You are most certainly going to win this. This battle is for people like you everywhere. The winner will relish in glory. The victor will be admired and exalted. The loser, on the other hand, will cower into the blackness of his heart, only emerging to suffer more shame and embarrassment.
The thing is, your opponent may not even know he is at war. And he may never formally admit defeat. But that’s okay. You’re going to conquer him just the same in a few easy steps.
First move: Delete him from all social media.
This may seem counterintuitive but it provides the clear message: You don’t care to know anything about his life. Even if that’s all you want to know, you must take this essential course of action to assert critical cyber-dominance.
The next play: Post delightful Facebook statuses, Snapchat stories, and Instagram pics. He won’t see them (review step one), but his friends and family will. They will either silently pity him or, better yet, report to him directly on the glorious life you’re living.
Strike now: Get really hot. Post a new profile picture. Depression is the best diet ever. Crying instead of eating will only improve your physique and heighten your desirability. Get your hair done, pose at a bar with friends, smile with your mouth half open, as if you were caught in the middle of a laugh. Appear that you are having such a good time you can’t even stop giggling long enough to take this damn photo. Deleted or not, he sure as hell can still see that profile picture.
Keep having fun. Even if you're not having fun, because all this rivalry is exhausting. Conceal those bags under your eyes, get a guy to order you another drink, laugh even louder because you’re winning. And the only thing that matters in this competition is that you are winning, even if you’re not sure he knows it. Your friends say you already won by “moving on” but you know that’s bullshit.
The real warfare is now.
Counterstrike. He posts a new profile picture.
They kind of look cute together.
Son of a bitch.
Strike again: Get a hot new guy. Replace the former’s six-pack of Coors for six-pack abs. Date up in tax bracket and lower in age bracket. Post a picture on social media with said hot guy. A candid one, so even though you are obviously admired by many attractive men, this one’s devotion seems downright organic.
Keep posting. Keep posting.
Keep smiling with those big white teeth and that mouth wide open because you’re hungry, you’re hungry, you’re hungry for affection, for redemption, for pride, for love that was revoked. Because you feel like you’re always the one that gets left behind, that love is like a shadow you can never catch up with. That this empty, empty feeling in your belly, that seething of hot acid that wrings like a washcloth, it will never go away. But it can. It can go away.
If you just . . .
Attack: Call hot guy your boyfriend. Change your relationship status. Make sure he’s taller than she is trim and hotter than she is pretty. Take pictures together everywhere. The coffee shop, the park, the DMV. Post all that new relationship happiness online like you’ve met a goddamn archangel.
Soon you’ll feel better. Soon you’ll have triumphed.
This is what a winner feels like.
Mattea Heller is a high school English teacher and an M.F.A. student at Western Connecticut State University. In addition, she attended the Oxford University Creative Writing Summer School through a fellowship awarded by the English Speaking Union.
Cover photo by Jonathon La Rocca on jonathonlarocca.com