Updated: Jul 16
Phantom pain is a post-amputation phenomenon where amputees experience pain in body parts they no longer have. Doctors once believed this to be a psychological problem but now recognise these feelings for what they truly are - real sensations that originate in the spinal cord and brain. The reason I tell you this is because it is the perfect analogy for the subject of this week's blog, a boy I have decided to call Patrick. Patrick behaved like what happened between us was all in my head, but in reality, he was getting on my fucking nerves.
Patrick and I were very different people. In hindsight, Patrick and I were clearly never compatible, but when we met, when we were both aged 20, I didn’t have a fully developed frontal lobe and his 1000 crunches a day meant he had abs, so I came to the conclusion that we were perfect for each other. However, when Patrick was in my rear view, after he walked out of my life two years later, I think the reason I experienced so much phantom pain, was because at the time, I didn't have a backbone.
Patrick was never the boyfriend type and insisted he didn’t like “unnecessary labels” and I went along with it even though I thought it was a rather baffling and incredibly contradictory opinion for a proud owner of personalised number plates to hold. Patrick was a footballer and wanted to live the life of a more successful one - he believed in taking care of himself, with a balanced diet and a rigorous exercise routine.
Patrick was obsessed with going to the gym, but he never understood my so-called obsession with pop culture - I thought I was very well read but he thought that, instead of saying something real, all I did was constantly bombard him with pop culture references. He believed my constant references and quoting of phrases made me a tad ‘psycho’.
For this reason, and as you have probably picked up on by now, I have decided it is only fitting to call him ‘Patrick’ after Patrick Bateman from ‘American Psycho’. I must confess that I have stolen the title of this blog from Maisie Peters, who, in her latest absolute banger of a tune, describes a boy as “the perfect Patrick Bateman”. In this song she discusses the type of boys who call you ‘psycho’, while simultaneously, being the one still calling you - which, as Maisie astutely observes - actually makes them a bit psycho.
“Hannah, it’s been 5 years since Patrick was in your life, and in that time, countless men have been madly in love with you, why on earth have you suddenly decided to dredge up long forgotten memories about a boy who treated you like shit?” you (and a therapist) might ask.
An excellent question and one I thank you for asking. The reason I have decided to write about Patrick, after all this time, is twofold;
I recently heard from Patrick via instagram dm for the first time since he “dumped” me via Skype, and I have some thoughts about what he had to say
Our “break up” was a defining moment in my life and I was a markedly different person before and after it happened - I think this is an interesting thing to explore
Despite its massive popularity, I’ll be honest, ‘Normal People’ pissed me off endlessly and if the actors weren’t incredibly fit, I doubt I would’ve lasted one episode - in fact, I know I wouldn’t have, as in my imagination they were average looking at best, and I couldn’t even make it through even one chapter of the book. Despite driving me insane with their overwhelming lack of basic communication skills, the incredibly attractive characters were vehicles to drive home an excellent observation. Sally was spot on in her commentary about the defining nature of first love. Before I met Patrick I was disgusting - a hopeless romant, if you will - I LOVED love and quite frankly, for such an attitude, I deserved to be put down. Years later, I still have all the characteristics of a human being but, thankfully, not a single, clear, identifiable emotion - except for hate.
While Sally was right about the scars first love can leave, even her characters Marianne and Connell would have looked at Patrick and I and expressed utter bewilderment at our complete lack of communication skills. Our severe lack of communication is the reason that I am using inverted commas around words like “dumped” and “break-up”. When our “relationship” came to a crashing halt, it became apparent that Patrick and I disagreed about not just most of the events that preceded it, but additionally, and rather significantly - we disagreed about the entire nature of our relationship.
Patrick was my first love, but I wasn’t his. For reasons that will later become apparent, his was a girl who I have decided to name Betty. Breaking up with my first love was one of the most defining moments of my young life, which is strange, given that it never actually happened. It never happened because, according to Patrick, Patrick was never my boyfriend. He was adamant that we didn’t have a real relationship - so when our non-relationship ended and he expressed that “I wasn’t terribly important to him”, I applied my critical thinking skills. I looked to the great philosopher Kate Hudson, who once wisely said to Matthew McConaughey, "you can’t lose something you never had". “Alright, alright, alright” I thought - but I wondered what the hell you are supposed to do, when you find out that you didn’t have them, but you know that they definitely had you.
Since Patrick was adamant that we were never together and since I am a logical gal, I was adamant that this meant we couldn’t break up - you don’t get to refuse to date me AND dump me, that’s just overkill! Also, if you never wanted to be with me, you certainly do not have the right to call yourself my “ex” all these years later. This is why, in my humble opinion, Patrick exhibited an unacceptable level of hubris, and I deemed it necessary for him to become a subject of my blog, when he messaged to congratulate me on my comedy and in doing so, called himself my “ex”. He messaged me, out of the blue, uninvited, to say that he hopes I get really famous - and that he will then be like “Adele’s ex, telling everyone some of the jokes are about him”. He added a thumbs up emoji.
In the interest of full disclosure, I actually have called Patrick my “ex” in my comedy before, but this was on stage and as such I made a deliberate choice to prioritise word economy over accuracy. A lot of what I say on stage is true but some is made up - I am an ~artist and have to prioritise my ~art and although original drafts of my jokes described Patrick as “the first person I ever loved who I was utterly infatuated with, who definitely acted like said feelings were mutual and once slipped up and said “not yet” to his grandma when she asked him if I was his girlfriend, which left both me and her under the impression that even if he wasn’t my boyfriend, he at the very least wanted to be”, I decided that such a description was a bit too wordy.
However, I think I have every right to call him my 'ex' - because, unlike him, I never denied that we were together. I didn’t particularly like the fact that a boy who refused to acknowledge that I ever meant anything to him had now decided to see my success and retrospectively claim to be my ‘ex’. I wasn’t particularly fond of his choice of pop culture reference either - Adele seemed an odd choice since I am not on stage lamenting about how I hope to find someone like him, I am discussing with rooms of strangers how his interactions with his mother would have turned even Freud’s stomach.
I’ve been compared to Adele, but I think I have a much more bitter, cynical sense of humour. I definitely relate to Taylor Swift more - her early work was a little too yee haw for my tastes, but when 1989 came out in 2014, I think she really came into her own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost.
In 2020, she released 'folklore', her most accomplished album yet. Her undisputed masterpieces ‘Cardigan’, ‘August‘, and ‘Betty’, are songs that are so catchy, most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should - because they form a love triangle which explores not just how boys always come crawling back and the importance of the lasting impacts of how poorly they treat girls when they are young, it's also a personal statement about how she’s learned that boys are actually, more often than not, really fucking stupid.
‘August’ is my favourite of the three songs and is about a summer love that was assumed to be more until the girl realised that the boy was never hers to lose. The girl in ‘August’ sings wistfully about how the summer spent in the salt air is now lost in her memory, after spending it twisted in bed sheets and meeting behind the mall.
‘Cardigan’ is from the perspective of Betty who had the boy first, and she recalls how she watched him go off with another girl for the summer and it was assumed that simply because she was young she knew couldn't possibly know anything about love - but she really knew everything - she always knew that the boy would come back to her, like they always do, when the thrill expires.
The song ‘Betty’ is sung to Betty from the perspective of the boy and is undoubtedly the worst of the trio - it is a pathetic attempt at an apology from a boy who tells Betty that while he slept next to the girl from August, he dreamt of her all summer long.
I don’t think this is particularly nice to either girl, and personally I think telling someone you thought of them while sleeping with someone else isn't romantic - it's a bit psycho. Every time I listen to this song I think that I would tell him to go fuck himself and instead go to the garden to hang out with my friends whose intellect he’s just needlessly insulted.
Look, I know it might seem odd for me to be getting so riled up about a fictional character from a Taylor Swift love triangle, and you’re right - such a reaction might actually make me a tad psycho - but that is not what is actually happening here. I am clearly projecting and I am doing so because the 3 sides of the story in Taylor Swift’s fictional love triangle almost perfectly mirror what happened in my so-called 'life' - or as it could more accurately be described, a ridiculous ongoing (and I swear, completely unintentional) cosplay of Taylor Swift songs.
Arguably all these narrators, and all narrators in fact, are unreliable. However, although ‘Betty’, ‘Cardigan’ and ‘August’ are songs all told from 3 entirely different perspectives about the same event - there is one clear and overwhelming theme that I think we can rely on - the boy is an idiot. In another song from ‘folklore’ called ‘the lakes’, Taylor Swift hammers home this point when she seemingly unrelatedly questions “what are [her] words worth”. William Wordsworth has a poem that mentions someone called Betty though, and this poem is called ‘Idiot Boy’.
I met the idiot boy who broke my heart and made me turn to poetry when he was on exchange at the university I attended when I regrettably lived in Australia - I believe it was a Tuesday when he caught my eye. We were both young when I first saw him, and we could see the end before it began - we both already knew he had a return flight booked. He was always going to leave and there was an expiry date already stamped on our time together. We still spent all of our time together, I watched all of his football matches from the bleachers, and we went on outings that resembled dates but we never called them dates because we both knew he was leaving. I didn't question what the nature of our relationship was, and thought that we skipped the conversation because we already knew. He told me that he couldn’t do long distance and I agreed, but I still enjoyed his company and I thought he enjoyed mine.
He frequently told me that he enjoyed it a lot, confessing how he felt about me and pretty strong feelings were discussed (gross). Patrick repeatedly told me that I could've been the one, and that it would’ve been fun, but it was long distance he couldn’t do. We both repeatedly agreed that long distance would never work, and I understood that things were going to end but I always thought that what happened between us was on terms I was aware of and had agreed to.
When he left I was devastated, but I also had plans to go visit him. When I did, in August, I arrived at the train station but it didn’t have space in the parking lot so I walked across the road to meet him where he had pulled up in his car - behind a mall. We spent the summer together, with trips to the beach in the salt air, and when that summer ended, I went back home and cancelled my plans just in case he called.
A week after arriving back home, I made the decision that the next flight I would be on to the UK would be a one way ticket - anyone who knows me knows I always hated Australia, and it was just a matter of time before I moved back home to the UK. Once I graduated and stopped playing golf, there was nothing keeping me there and I thought there was no better time to move to London, so I decided to finally do it. It was a choice I made for me and only me, but I thought Patrick might be happy about my news. I called him to let him know.
I excitedly told him that our one great obstacle - long distance - would be no more. That’s when he told me about Betty - the girl he had been with before me, and went back to the very moment I was out of the picture. A whole 7 days after I had left him in twisted bedsheets in the UK, the thrill had expired and he was back on Betty’s porch. She was now his girlfriend and it appeared he had been miraculously cured of his aversion to labels.
That was when he told me that everything he had previously told me was a lie - it wasn’t that he was opposed to being someones boyfriend - he just didn't want to be mine. He confessed that ‘long distance’ was nothing more than an incredibly convenient excuse. He told me that he knew I would never have slept with him if he didn’t tell me the things he told me, but now, he was doing the “right thing” by admitting that everything he had said was untrue. I would’ve preferred a lie because what I found out at the end changed my perspective of everything that had happened before - and it no longer felt like any of it had happened on the terms I had agreed to.
It was September and he was with Betty now, and it was clear August had meant nothing to him. He called me ‘psycho’ for responding to this revelation with any sort of emotion - he said I had no right to be upset - because, after all, we were never together. But what did he think I'd say to that? Every time he said I seemed angry, I got more angry. I was mad, but he'd made me like that. And I felt like I had seen this film before and I didn't like the ending.
The ending of the film ‘American Psycho’ has been discussed endlessly, mainly because viewers are often left unsure about what was and wasn’t real. Although I don’t agree with such a reading, many believe that it is implied that all preceding events were entirely in the narrator's mind.
I’ve analysed my ending with Patrick many times and it too left me questioning what was real and what wasn’t. I was left doubting my own interpretations of events and thinking that things might have been - as Patrick kindly informed me they were - all in my head.
As this blog post is also ending, I am now suddenly aware that in this post I have actually been remarkably vague when it comes to the specifics of what actually took place between Patrick and I - some might say, that, instead of saying something real, all I have done is bombard you with pop culture references.
I'm ok with that - I know I will probably always be lost in Patrick's memory as the girl whose words worth he doubted - simply because she quoted pop culture a little bit too much. To me, he will always be the idiot boy who believed that in finally telling the truth, however casually and cruelly, he was an honest man.
But, really, the only thing that critics unanimously agreed when it came to the ending of the film was that the perfect Patrick Bateman’s confession meant nothing.