Pretty Little Liars isn’t the most intelligent of shows and it’s certainly not the most well written, but I won’t deny the fact that I’ve learned a lot from it (not just fashion and accessory tips). A scene in Season 3 actually contributed to a major breakthrough in my love life (or lack thereof).
Hannah and the randomly-appearing British doctor, Wren, taught me about “ambiguous loss.” He diagnoses Hannah with the term as she’s struggling with Mona’s silent stare in a mental institution. Ambiguous loss occurs when there’s no closure to a relationship, like when a relative is suffering from Alzheimer’s or with the disappearance of a family member. The person is either there but uncommunicative or gone but not buried. The grieving process is disrupted. The girls deal with numerous cases of ambiguous loss on PLL, not least of which is the disappearance of their friend and former ringleader, Allison, the crux of the show.
The moment the term was defined in that episode, I realized I had been dealing with numerous small cases of ambiguous loss on a continual basis as a result of my attempts at online and app dating. It’s the grindr cycle: you chat, have a decent conversation, maybe send naughty pics, maybe meet for coffee or a drink, maybe hook up once or twice, and then inevitably, communication will stop without further explanation, not even a polite rejection. You can still see their little picture every time they’re near you, you know the exact distance they are from you, you can still look at your conversations and extra pics, and maybe you will even see them randomly on the street, but never ever will you talk to them again.
It makes me feel at once angry, sad, humiliated, cynical, and hopeless. I am definitely suffering from ambiguous loss and the more I date online, the more it piles up. Just as I’ve recovered from the loss of one boy, the next loss is soon to come. Technology speeds our relationships up so quickly that they are over before they begin.
So instead of just crying myself to sleep while watching Pretty Little Liars, I’ve channeled each of the four girls on the show to teach me ways of coping with my ambiguous loss.
Look confused. Furrow your eyebrows. Look sad. Look really confused. Spread ointment on your sore shoulder that has become sore because you’ve been rejected without actually being rejected. Be confused. Talk to your platonic male friend. Talk to your other platonic male friend who actually has a creepy thing for you. Talk to your girlfriend. Talk to your friends. Get an ulcer. Don’t talk to your friends. Be the weakest link. Look confused. Look sad. And then swim it off.
Pout. Pout in the mirror. Pout into a pillow. Pout while putting on three inch black leather heels. Put on huge dangling earrings. Put on some chunky bracelets and maybe a fringe necklace. Don’t forget copious amounts of lip gloss. Stalk hurriedly out the door. Stare off moodily during class. Look distracted while your friends chatter around you at lunch. Tell them “nothing” when they ask what’s wrong with you. Find your mom and have a heart-to-heart with her and then go pout some more. Because with you it will never really be over and they will never really go away.
Refuse to style your hair. Wear sweats. Hunch over the kitchen table, gazing listlessly into a box of takeout that your mom insists you eat, but just throw it in the trash as soon as she’s gone. Bake cupcakes. Be tempted to eat all of them in one sitting but refrain and eat none. Finally stop feeling sorry for yourself and get angry instead. Get fire in your eyes. Decide that you can’t take it any more and stomp over to the culprit, either in person or digitally and tell them that you can’t take it anymore. Tell them what you really think. Try to use some big words and do so only slightly off mark. And then just call them a really bad name (or as bad as can be said on ABC Family) like “jerk.” Storm off.
Drink coffee. Drink another coffee. Google search them. Find them on Facebook and creep on their feeds, but don’t actually friend them. Find them on Twitter. Read every tweet. Find them on Instagram. Be meticulously careful not to accidentally like any of their photos. Talk to friends of their friends. Ambush a co-worker in the parking lot and act surprised and flustered even though you are obviously not. Drink coffee. Randomly see them get in their car one night and follow them as they pick up groceries and drive home. Sit outside their house until the lights turn off. Go home and realize you’ve been acting like a crazy person and find someone new to crush on. Delete or block their profile, message history, phone number, and email address. Realize this is what you should have done all along. Read an interminable Russian novel. Stay up all night. Drink coffee.
Even though the show is primarily about lies, the truth always seems to come out, whether it comes from the mouths of the four girls, the infinitely mysterious “A,” or some other shady character. This maybe isn’t the best advice and could leave you feeling as awkward as the liars in the gifs above, but suppose we tell the truth to each other, even those people we barely know on those tiny screens that fit in our pockets. Whether we’re rejecting or think we’re getting rejected, let’s just say something direct and true. For a change.