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Breaking-Up And Brexit

The personal becomes political when my ex and I feel Bregret.


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A map of England in the stormy Florida sky.

Gillian Kendall

The news of the departure of the UK from the European Union came as a surprise distraction amid my own personal dissolving union. In the final weeks that the Brits were agonising over their decision to stay or go, my girlfriend and I were in last-stage negotiations with each other (along with our long-suffering couples’ counselor). The arguments for leaving (her, leaving me) were cogent and clear, if misguided. The arguments for staying (us, staying together) were vague, insubstantial, and ultimately futile. No one, except maybe our counselor, thought it was a good idea for us to continue the struggle for mutual satisfaction in trade, labor, and cultural unity. It was time for us to re-assert independent identities.

Still, Britain will hang around for years trying to stay cozy with the good parts of Europe, clinging onto what worked, afraid of being alone. In the same way, my (ex-)partner and I have barely let a day go by in which we’ve not texted, emailed, called, or seen each other. Rules and regulations for Texting the Ex, or “exting,” will come under scrutiny in future negotiations, but meanwhile, neither party has upheld the communications embargo we sort-of agreed on. I had proposed that we have no contact for a two-week period, but she countered, “That’s like an hour,” which I gathered meant she needed more time. So I proffered goodwill and said that whenever she was ready I hoped we could be friends.

The disengagement agreement sounded promising in theory, but in fact we got together repeatedly that week, not as friends or lovers, but more like stateless persons trying to understand border regulations. A number of those get-togethers, ostensibly to exchange books or information, turned into the same old quarrels.

On solstice, I went to the beach near my house and saw her car there: I admit to dilly-dallying quite a while after sunset in order to “run into her” when she returned to her vehicle and ask her to meditate on the beach with me. Silence seemed like a better option than talking, since all our exchanges were ending in tears (mostly hers), harsh words (mostly mine) and recriminations (mutual). For a few quiet moments, I felt my heart open to her again.

What the future holds for the intercourse between these two great bodies is not clear. A number of important contracts and weighty decisions remain in suspension. Already however, like the people in the UK who voted to leave Europe without really giving it much thought, my ex and I are already feeling Bregret. What’s next? I hope not Britterness.

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