I was hungry and I was sad.
That’s all there is to it. People always want me to have a deeply poetic reason for why I turned to Yelp.com to tell the story of the man that broke my heart. They always assume that it was a deeply meditated move, and that it was an act of rebellion and literary terrorism on an unassuming platform meant for degrading waitresses and bitching about appetizers. They assume that I knew what I was doing. Mostly, they’re all wrong. Mostly.
The truth is, I just wanted to be heard. I wanted validation. I hid my deepest carnal longings in plain sight, and waited for someone—anyone—to see me. In the end my little experiment turned into something much larger than I’d ever expected: my first memoir— The Yelp: A Heartbreak in Reviews (Skyhorse Publishing, September 2016).
I told the story of Him through every bar and restaurant’s Yelp profile that we’d gone to in our time together. I imbued these mostly soulless rant-filled “pages” with the story of a romance that was stranger than fiction.
Time went on and I gathered my emotional internet baggage into a pretty little pile of physical pages. I nailed them into my wall with pushpins and felt like a crazy person as I stared at the wall full of actual Yelp reviews. Meanwhile, I was so, so hungry.
“Maybe someday he’ll see this,” I thought to myself as I imagined all the pages contained in a cute little bound book. I thought that maybe if I could tell our story in 3D, on a map of our bittersweet history, I could turn it into something that would have romantic permanence. Our story, unlike us, would last forever. And you could see it, and read it, and taste it at the click of a button. This was the one way I could think of to keep Him forever.
I turned my Yelp reviews into a memoir, and almost immediately fell out of love with it. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that I ran away from it all at the drop of a hat as soon as the “reviews” started to garner any kind of attention. New York became an inescapable graveyard of these larger-than-life romantic totems—every bar, restaurant, or park I’d written about becoming stained with haunted memories. So I left.
Los Angeles made all the sense in the world. I needed to shake the staunch demeanor that I had cultivated from living in New York for the past fifteen years. I began to fantasize about becoming the stereotype that I used to mock when I spoke of my Californian roots. I wanted to get numb, and get dumb, and tan my skin until I thawed all those sad, lonely winters out of my system. I wanted to drink green juice, hike, eat avocados, and bang simple yet well-intentioned surfers.
All I ever wanted was for my story to have a happy ending. That’s the secret nobody ever tells you about all of the picturesque Hollywood endings you see in the media: nearly anything that wraps up that nicely and conveniently is utter crap. If there’s anything I learned from the whole experience of documenting my heartbreak into memoir, it’s that love and life are messy. There’s not a clear cut beginning, middle, and happy ending. The timeline gets confusing, and days turn into chapters, and nights get edited out when you drink too much gin.
People kept telling me that time would heal all wounds. However, I believed I would always be “the guy who wrote this book about what it’s like to be broken hearted.” The truth is this was a big part of why I left New York—and my past—in the dust. I wanted to write a new story.
Eventually the Southern California sun warmed all of the parts of me that needed thawing, and I did what I set out to do. I moved on. And although the past came to me one day, wrapped in a beautiful blue hardcover, it didn’t hurt me. I wasn’t sad any longer, and I wasn’t embarrassed about my formerly broken heart. I flipped through the very real pages and felt a lump of happiness rise in my throat as I read the last page.
My own words spoke to me of all I needed to hear. They said:
“Remember where you came from, but more importantly, where you are about to go.”