By Mary Stathos
I think that when you look back on a picture of a happy day with a person that doesn’t make you happy anymore, then the picture ends up feeling sad even though it used to make you happy. I don’t think this means that I am still hung up on any of my ex-boyfriends. I think it just means that photos from my past relationships make me really unhappy to look at. Why would you want to look at a picture of a person who dumped you in Iceland?
When you can just look at a picture of yourself in Iceland.
I was so happy when this picture was taken. I had just gone to the Blue Lagoon and had seen the northern lights the day before. I planned the entire trip and I still look back at a lot of the scenery photos and remember how great of a time I had. But when I look back on the pictures of the two of us, I remember the months and months of our drawn out breakup, even though those emotions weren’t there (until several hours later, I really did get dumped in Iceland).
Sometimes there are pictures from the day that you dumped someone, too. Right after you got back from a Halloween party. While you were living together. While your life was extremely unstable and things were all around pretty terrible. What do you call a couples costume three years later when you aren’t a couple anymore and you haven’t talked in over a year?
I don’t really think there’s a punchline to that, or any good answer to be honest. But just because it was time for a Hillbilly Moment in 2017 doesn’t mean that you ever really think about that Halloween party in the context of that person anymore and I don’t think I want to think about that Halloween party in the context of that person anymore, either.
It’s like in movies when someone time travels and accidentally makes it so that someone wasn’t born. Except they were born. And they treated you like garbage. So when you show people your prom photos (which I will be honest has maybe come up twice in my life since I graduated high school but alas we must be prepared for all things), you really don’t want to show someone a picture of you with a piece of trash.
So instead you can show them this picture of you in the dress that you ordered off of one of those sketchy direct from China websites for $100 that was miraculously not total garbage, even though your hair and makeup, which was done by your cousin who thought she was a make-up artist, was, just like the boy who dumped you in Iceland years later, pretty atrocious.
We got in a fight right after we took this picture because I wanted to us to spend time with my family and he wanted to play video games with his friends but like all you gotta do is just rebuild your jacket and suddenly, you can just look back on the day that you finally washed your dead cat’s urine out of a jacket and wore it to meet Santa at the Pine Banks Holiday Party with your 6 year old foster sister without being met with the same anger you felt in 2018.
There are also some memories that aren’t necessarily bad to have and some people that you still care deeply about even years later, and at the same time, do you really want to be reminded that the day that you dyed your hair blonde was during one of the worst weeks of your life where you did a lot of fucking up and you ended up moving in with your boyfriend and his roommates and their cat with your two cats and three guinea pigs?
I don’t think I will ever think about this time in my life without thinking of all the fucking up that happened but I do like my hair and I like my party cat pajamas and my whale phone case. I just sometimes want to pretend like this wasn’t a tiny bathroom at the end of the hall under the stairs in a house that I really never want to go back to ever again.
So instead, I can make this photo mine. Because I can (and because I have perfected the use of the clone stamp in photoshop).
I think relationships are really so weird in a way. You are so close to someone, like literally so physically close to someone, for so long and then they leave your life and it is like they don’t exist at all. When I used to get sad, I used to wish that I didn’t exist to people anymore. I used to wish that people who hurt me didn’t exist to me. I wanted to forget them but it felt like I never would and it is funny because all of these photos are years old and there are lots of days where I don’t think about any of these people at all. They don’t exist to me anymore, and they don’t have to.
Mary Stathos is Talk Vomit’s creative editor, as well as a therapist. She takes a lot of photos of her cats and calls her mom every day.