The insecurity you experience when an ex-boyfriend or long-term fling is with someone new feels kind of like taking acid. Everything you once felt about yourself has shifted. Your arms suddenly look different, your eyes, your hair, your nose, your jokes, your body, your voice, your day-to-day life, your family, your skin. Every detail you find out about this new girl changes everything you once knew about yourself. The things you liked about yourself you now question, and the things you thought you hated in other people you’re no longer sure you do. You acquire a newfound, non-chemical imbalance where you no longer know who you are or what is what.

When a guy I had been seeing on and off for years—one of those situations where you think the timing hasn’t been right because it’s a “long game” that will maybe end in marriage—got a new girlfriend, I began to tell myself the same tale I always do when I become obsessively insecure: “This person prefers every quality this girl has over the ones you have, or he would be with you and not her.” And why wouldn’t I think that? He is with her and not me!

People will say, “Cazzie, you can’t compare yourself to other people!” To which I say: “Watch me.” And then watch how fucking insane I am when I do it.

Exes Survey

I will compare every follicle on our heads until we both become unrecognizable beings defined only by our extreme polarities. She is put on a pedestal, exactly where I imagine she is in his mind, except the pedestal in my mind is much higher than it is in his. And where am I now, the girl he used to be with? Well, I’m nowhere in his mind, which is still a better place to be than where I am now in my own mind: morphed into a scary, decaying Disney witch, a caricature with bulging eyes, a giant nose, and huge ears, like a Nazi-propaganda image.

The girl my pseudo-ex is now with is blonde; obviously, I reasoned, this was something he must have always preferred. He was just trying out dark hair, seeing if he could grow to appreciate it. I generally liked my hair, at least when it was done—until I saw hers. This girl’s hair is like a Pantene commercial. When she throws her hair up in an effortless bun, it looks like wedding-hair inspiration on Pinterest. I asked myself, Would you rather be in a pitch-black room or on a sunny island? As that is the stark difference between our hair and, most likely, our personalities.

This girl emanates brightness and joy. On her birthday, her friends write things like, “You are a ray of sunshine. Every time you enter a room it gets brighter.” When I enter a room, people feel like a negative spirit is lingering, but then they see it’s me and they’re like, “Oh, thank God, it’s just Cazzie.” I’m pretty sure people sage their homes after I leave.

Another aspect of her sunshiny energy is her perfect smile. Her smile makes others smile—except for me. It definitely does not make me smile. You can tell from her smile that she’s silly and cute and that he once said to her, “You know what my favorite thing about you is?” “What?” she said, smiling. “Your smile.” When I’m smiling, you can tell it’s unnatural and that I’ve done it only a few times. I’m an inexperienced smiler for two reasons: one, I don’t have a good smile, and two, there are rarely ever things to smile about. I do have good teeth, I can admit that, but having good teeth and having a good smile are completely different. Good teeth you can buy. They’re always scary-looking, but you can.

This girl emanates brightness and joy. I’m pretty sure people sage their homes after I leave.

The new girl’s Instagram is kind of shitty, and it makes me feel like mine is trying too hard. It’s cooler to be bad at Instagram; it means she’s better in person because she doesn’t take time out of her life to think about her aesthetic. That’s probably why he likes her so much—because she isn’t a shallow moron. It’s clear she doesn’t edit her photos, which means every photo she posts is exactly how she looks in real life. I need high-level editing skills. I noticed she opts for short and succinct captions, like a row of sun emojis, which makes it hard to gauge her intelligence. Although, after some light stalking, I found one remotely clever tweet and it convinced me she’s funnier than I am, but a funny you want to be around, not a funny like me, where you realize you’re only laughing at my misery.

I discovered that she has an eclectic mix of skills, all of which will surely be very appreciated in her new relationship. I know he will appreciate her various talents because I know him and I know me, and now I know her. While, sure, I can surf (I can’t) and do yoga (no), I obviously don’t do either well or I’d also be showing it off on the Internet. You can tell what people are good at based on their feed, which I guess is why mine is filled with photos of me in bed smoking weed. Her skills may have to do with her being gentile, which means she probably has little to no anxiety. She’s able to be present and notice everything around her, to say things like, “Look at those trees, they’re so beautiful.” Whereas I’d say, “What if one of these trees falls on top of me and kills me?”

You can tell what people are good at based on their feed, which I guess is why mine is filled with photos of me in bed smoking weed.

You know those videos hot people post of themselves where they move their body and face around in different angles with no point or explanation? Where they’re just admiring their own selves in some creepy 360-degree hotness confirmation? The videos that seem to lack any self-awareness and are cringe-worthy, but then all of a sudden, right at the end of it, the hot person breaks out into a laugh and you think, Never mind, I guess that wasn’t completely obscene like I thought it was? His new girlfriend gets away with that.

I know she looks a lot better coming out of the water than me because I just looked at photos of her coming out of water. She’s one of those people who, when her hair is sopping wet and slicked back, it doesn’t change her face. Honestly, five days ago I thought I was a pretty solid ocean girl. But after seeing her post-ocean, I now know that was a lie I told myself. She is so ocean, you could push her in the water, and instead of freaking out she’d laugh and pull you in with her, and then right as you popped your head back up, she’d dunk you back in again. Dolphins would swim by in an otherwise dolphin-less body of water, a rare sighting that still wouldn’t take away from the vision that is the ocean girl herself.

On Repeat

A few months later, I found out that they’d broken up, and so the perfect blonde was taken off the pedestal. I never thought about her again and regretted every moment I’d spent obsessing over someone who clearly wasn’t the girl of his dreams. But the next girl definitely was.

A brunette with beautiful curls—Spanish curls, not Jewish curls. Thick, straight, blonde locks would be forever meaningless to me now, since they were obviously meaningless to him. She was the epitome of the you’re-not-like-most-girls girl. (Even though there are so many of those girls that they are like most girls.) But she also didn’t end up lasting for long, which was unfortunate, again taking into account the amount of time I spent obsessing over her. You know what they say about the definition of insanity.

Then there was the next girl, and then the one after that, and so my ex dysmorphia continued to morph. I’d thought his being with someone who was artsy would make me feel worse than his being with a sorority girl, until he was with both and they consumed me equally for different reasons. The city slicker who used her oven as shoe storage was just as much wifey material as the farm girl who made sourdough. Even the girl I found mindless was just as threatening as the one I considered smart. I eventually came to two conclusions. The first was that it always hurts when someone you felt deeply for likes someone new or chooses someone else over you. It hurts worse than it should because you know he doesn’t deserve your hurt and yet he still has it. It never mattered what these other girls looked like or seemed to be like. It’s just that they weren’t me. The second: My eyebrows were better than all of theirs. No question.

Cazzie David is a columnist for AIR MAIL