Two or three days after we broke up, I heard that my new ex was flirting with other girls at this concert. I heard rumors of more than flirting, too. Specific girls were named. I was devastated. (Seriously, did they have to tell me?)

If he was getting with girls so soon after we split, how much can the relationship have meant to him? It took him zero time to move on. Was this what he wanted all along? Had I been holding him back from living the way he wanted to live—which I guess was a hooking-up-with-girls-left-and-right lifestyle?

Maybe I was overreacting, or maybe I wasn’t. In any case, it doesn’t matter. It’s over and that’s for the best, and who cares what he does now. It’s none of my business and I shouldn’t give a shit. I knew this even then, but I was still hurt, and I still felt guilty. I literally felt guilty for not giving him enough space to cheat on me. I actually said, a few days ago, “I wish he had cheated on me, then maybe he’d be happy enough to treat me better and we could stay together forever.” Now I realize what an idiot I was for feeling that way.

I didn’t come to this realization all by myself. First there was my friend Sam. He’s my next-door neighbor and the first person I met when I moved to this tiny town. It’s the kind of place where your new neighbors immediately bring you homemade cookies and beer, and that’s exactly what his family did. He’s tall and blond and quiet, and we had honors biology together (before I dropped the class because I didn’t like the teacher). Since we’re neighbors, he’s the most accessible of all my friends and the one I’ve spent the most time with. A couple weeks ago I was out with Sam and some of our friends, including my ex before he was my ex. Summary of the night: we were cornered by a couple drunk idiots who got in my face, asked for my name, and called me a bitch, slurring and stumbling. I ended up yelling at them and storming away. I could hear them yelling behind me, calling me names: whore, bitch, ugly slut. In my peripheral vision I saw someone running after me. I assumed it was my then-boyfriend, because that is what a boyfriend would do, right? But it wasn’t him. It was Sam. He and another friend walked me home and made sure I was OK. My then-boyfriend said nothing until later that night, when he told me he thought those guys were funny.

Through all my recent the boy troubles and breakup, I’ve been at Sam’s house eating all his food, or talking to him, or sobbing through the Facebook machine to him about my feelz. Pretty much every day. And he’s listened, and he’s made me feel better, and he’s checked in with me, and he’s given me some of the best advice ever (“Go buy some mints, watch Heathers, and relax. And if you still feel like it, I’ll be around for you to rant to.”) So yeah. Best human ever. He helped me realize that I have the right to be sad but also to not be sad.

The second Mademefeelwaybetter was the local community theater’s production of La Cage aux Folles. (For those of you unfamiliar to the musical, the musical focuses on a gay couple who own a nightclub featuring exotic dancers and drag queens, and their son is about to marry a woman with ultra-conservative parents who do not yet know of his family’s background.) One of my friends had a supporting role as a German transgender dominatrix, so naturally, all my friends attended the show (my friend was fantastic, by the way). The musical’s themes were similar to the ones in Rocky Horror: getting out of your comfort zone, embracing your sexuality, being shameless about who you are, breaking gender roles completely. Getting in touch with your feminine and masculine sides.

In the past I’ve wondered if maybe I’m trans*, because I’ve never really understood what makes someone female. I never really felt especially “female,” whatever that means. What made me different from a guy? I didn’t know. But then La Cage happened and I suddenly felt empowered. The musical showed me that there’s a side of femininity that isn’t “girly,” but just pure concentrated female. It has something to do with feeling more feline than canine, and leading your stride with your hips instead of your shoulders. It had something to do with La Cage, but I don’t know exactly what. I think some sort of confidence and girl power just rolled off of the stage and unto me. It was the drag queens in particular—they were feminine but in an unconventional way, which was inspiring, because it proved that there’s more than one way to be female. I woke up the next morning and wore black eyeshadow up to my eyebrows and bright red lipstick. I looked like a drag queen. I decided I liked this. I decided that being “pretty” and looking “natural” or whatever don’t define femininity for me anymore. I have the power to give my gender whatever meaning I want to, and to decide for myself what my identity is and means.

Looking back, with this newfound confidence, at what had happened with my ex, I realized that worrying about someone who doesn’t seem to care about me is not worthy of my time. Go kiss all the other girls in the whole world. I won’t take it personally. You’re the one missing out. Meanwhile, I’m busy embracing my independence. I am listening to so much Bikini Kill, I am hanging out with Sam, I am listening to La Cage on vinyl while I think about things that matter. ♦