The world is full of lies, and it’s hard to get through life without taking a few on board. Luckily, we’re here to sort the fact from the fiction, and find the plankton of truth in the ocean of bullshit. This week: Heartbreak! Does it make you stronger going forward? Can you make someone’s heart explode within their body with a few well-placed touches? Let’s find out!
Lie #1: “Tis Better To Have Loved And Lost Than Never Loved At All”
It’s a nice thought — that whatever agony you might be in was ultimately worth it because of the joy you experienced and the memories that can never be taken away. But bad news: You’re irreparably damaged and less attractive!
A 2015 paper from Binghamton University and University College London concluded that, while women experience more initial trauma from the end of a relationship, they also ultimately get over it, while men never entirely do. Also, yes, getting dumped makes you less hot: A 2010 study in the journal Evolutionary Psychology found that the way a man’s last relationship ended affects how attractively he’s perceived — i.e., the same men were rated as more attractive if they’d done the dumping, versus if they were dumped.
And before you think, “Damn, sucks to be a man,” there is, of course, a whopping great, “Wow, the world hates women, huh?” moment here: Women were somehow rated as less attractive if they (a) were dumped; (b) did the dumping; or (c) opted not to answer. Wow, that fuckin’ blows.
If, rather than a breakup, the person you love has died, here’s some more bad news: You’re going to die too. The “widowhood effect” is the increased likelihood that you will die soon after your partner does, and it affects men more than women. As an extra kick in the aging, sagging, long-sacked nuts, men in heterosexual marriages are also more likely to find themselves friendless after a bereavement.
In conclusion: Even that which brings us happiness ultimately takes us nearer to the grave. Well, fuck.
Lie #2: You Can Rip Someone’s Heart Out Of Their Body
The Simpsons, Dumb and Dumber and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom have all featured hearts being ripped out of chests, sometimes even managing to go on beating (and sometimes nattily presented in a doggy bag). But could you really do it?
Probably not: Every time anyone goes on a murderous, heart-ripping rampage in real life, they use a knife as well. Cage fighter Jarrod Wyatt, for example, murdered his friend because he was convinced he was possessed by the devil, and he used a knife to slice open his chest before pulling the heart out. Same with angry noodle enthusiast Bo Tuan, who took a few bites out of his victim’s heart before being arrested. Andrew Chimboza, who removed an acquaintance’s heart in a bid to — *checks notes* — show that he wasn’t gay, used a knife and fork.
However, if you’re Fred Williamson battling vampires, yeah, it’ll work.
Lie #3: “You Should Forget About Him/Her And Move On”
If mourning the end of a relationship, you’ll be urged by well-wishers to cast it from your mind in order to best proceed with your newly solitary existence. However, according to a 2015 study from Northwestern University published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, you’re actually better off reflecting on it. Psychologists doing a longitudinal study in which they repeatedly asked people to describe their broken-up relationships were concerned that getting people to go on and on about having their hearts broken might be causing them harm, but found that the opposite was true, and that they came out of it happier. The study’s author suggested that it was all about rebuilding a picture of who you are separate from the relationship, re-defining yourself and all sorts of delightful, positive, self-affirming shit like that.
Lie #4: “Ben & Jerry Are The Two New Men In Her Life, Ha Ha Ha!”
The image of a dumped woman eating her feelings via the medium of ice cream is a big ol’ cliche, one TV Tropes calls “Heartbreak and Ice-Cream,” that turns up all the time — How I Met Your Mother alone used it about a dozen times. There’s even an awesome German word for it — Kummerspeck, which translates as “sorrow fat” or “grief bacon.”
However, while there’s sound science behind reaching for a pint or two of Chunky Monkey in the immediate aftermath (a process known as “hedonic consumption,” i.e., eating or buying something specifically to try and feel pleasure rather than out of any actual desire to have it), a Penn State study from last year found no evidence for people gaining weight after their relationships dissolved.
Among other things, ice cream delivers even its biggest fans less and less happiness the more frequently they eat it. Plus, in this futuristic age, there are plenty of other sources of instant gratification that make you feel briefly good about yourself, then overcome with self-loathing, that don’t involve going to the supermarket.
Lie #5: There’s A Super-Secret Martial Art Move That Asplodes Your Heart
Anyone who has seen enough wuxia films — the martial-arts movie subgenre involving swords, flowing robes and occasionally that cool move where two people run up a bunch of bamboo mid-fight — has encountered the idea of a move or series of moves that don’t seem like they’d do much, but somehow kill a person. Sometimes it’s a tiny little hit to a pressure point that instantly kills, and sometimes it’s one that seems to be easily brushed off, but a set time later, causes a grisly death.
It’s known as dim mak, or the touch of death, and crops up in old Shaw Brothers films; was the subject of a bunch of rumors surrounding Bruce Lee’s death; and used to be regularly pushed by eccentric figures like Count Dante, the Deadliest Man Alive. Jean-Claude Van Damme uses it on a brick in Bloodsport. This century, it’s shown up in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Kill Bill. Plus, sometimes Steven Seagal pretends to do it.
It doesn’t seem to exist, at least not in the elegant, minimally violent form of legend. Like, yeah, there’s a move you can do to stop someone’s heart, but it just involves punching them really fucking hard in the chest. This might lead to commotio cordis, a disruption to the heartbeat that can be fatal. Killing someone that way is less likely, however, than doing so by causing internal bleeding via a broken rib piercing other organs.
So it’s less about dedicated training to art forms honed over centuries than it is pounding the goddamn shit out of a dude until he’s all smashed up and dead. Sometimes the direct route is the quickest, you know?