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COLUMN: Reacting to a Rebound

Three boys all found themselves in the same spot. All were seniors, all were in what used to be called Core Four fraternities (studs), all were in Pratt (dorks) and most importantly, all were on the rebound.  


But like the differences between EE and BME and between Delta Sig and SAE (more than just hair gel), they were also in different post-multi-year-relationship stages: One more ready to take a real strategic shot; one reacting only to the last missed shot; and one returning to a place where he knows he can score. 


Such is the rebound. 


Everyone rebounds differently, but all rebounders do not take shots like they would if they were playing a completely new one-on-one game. Bachelor 1 had moved on, cut off contact with his ex to create full closure and was ready perhaps to explore the world of dating. Bachelor 2 still fought with his ex-girlfriend and listened to her commands as though they were still in a relationship. And Bachelor 3 was now reunited with the girl whom he had sworn it was over with.  


What exactly does it mean to be on the rebound? If, like in basketball, you missed your last shot, why do we rush in for the next? To prove we still have it? Simply reacting to the loss? Or are we just trying to score?  


A bad relationship can be like war, and the agents who participated in the fighting tend to try to prevent such a relationship again at all costs. Think the United States post-World Wars. After World War I, Americans backlashed against our foreign entanglements, seeing the Great Depression as their reward for getting involved with Europe (such a complex woman). So Americans hesitated to enter World War II, which seemed to have many similarities (that German predator). We reacted to our next possible relationship as though it was our last. After World War II, Americans learned the lesson that we cannot be an island. Then Vietnam, and backlash. The cycle continues....

Evan explained this to Sidney one night. Both were on the rebound at the time and were finding some level of comfort in one another, though they were about as compatible as fish and chips and a 1982 Merlot. But who really makes the most strategic choices on the rebound? 


At any rate, though Sidney may not have produced the war analogy on her own, she could tell Evan was both in the midst of the Great Depression and heavily reactive to his last relationship. "I don't think this is a good idea," he told her.  


"Hmmmm?" Sid asked, trying to muster up the energy for an intellectual conversation. Not entirely what she had in mind when she called him at 2 a.m.

"Dating beautiful girls is a very bad idea." Was this a line? Not a bad one, but perhaps not approaching the situation from the most productive direction, she decided. "Sue was beautiful, and look how that worked. Beautiful girls think they can get away with anything and they treat you like s--t. I don't think I should get into this." 


How does one respond to that? "I am not Sue" or "Thanks...?" Sid was not sure. But it turned out it did not matter, as Evan spent the rest of what was suppose to be a booty call bemoaning the horrors of his ex-girlfriend. Sidney realized no comment would be appropriate because it was not that Evan should not be dating a beautiful girl right now, it was that Evan should not be dating anyone right now. 


Because rebounds are so notoriously reactive, should you just blow the whistle and call a time-out? And when are you past the rebound and back into fair game territory? 


A simple test can determine where on the rebound scale your are: the ex-significant other name drop counter. On a date with new person, said name should not be brought up more than once. It should not be casually slipped into conversation, and for God's sake, it should not be the subject of a conversation. Not for a while at least. If your ex is so on your mind that she is on your date, you are not ready to be on a date yourself. 


Dating someone on the rebound requires football player-sized (and think University of Texas, not Duke) biceps to carry all the baggage your potential partner brings to the relationship. Honestly, though, if the baggage is that significant, the best advice might be just to call a cab and send them on a vacation from dating. 


Liz recently sent Eric packing for such a reason, although she did have a higher tolerance for post-relationship relationships. "I can handle a guy still thinking about his ex," Liz explained. "What I can't handle is a guy still thinking about this idealized version of what his ex never was. Who can live up to that?" 


Poor Kevin did not understand this when he started calling Ashley, who had just broken up with the guy she had sworn was her true love (no matter the fact he was two inches shorter than her). In general, Ashley was the best girlfriend ever, but Ashley was not ready to be a girlfriend again. Ashley had not fully recovered from Jim, but she was ready to move on to using someone to help her. And in came Kevin, who naturally adored Ashley and was at her beck and call--to play with her hair, to come cuddle, but never ever to hookup with or publicly acknowledge. But, in all fairness, Kevin was precisely what Ashley needed to move on from Jim to start a new healthy relationship. He curses her; she thanks him. The rebound is like that.  


The good news about the rebound is that it does not last forever. Everyone eventually moves on (just like the LSAT, this too will pass).  


The lesson to be learned: Steer clear of those who are playing messy b-ball (à la UNC) and look for players worthy of the Blue Devil jersey. 


Whitney Beckett is a Trinity senior. Sex and the Chapel appears every other Friday. 



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