Gabrielle Korn is the Director of Fashion and Culture at Refinery 29 and former Editor-in-Chief at NYLON. As a self-proclaimed Nasty Woman, Gabrielle is also a strong supporter of queer and feminist culture. She’s also the author of the forthcoming book, EVERYBODY (ELSE) IS PERFECT (January 2021). We asked Gabrielle some questions about heartbreak and she shared how the pain of a breakup helped her find herself.
If you think back to the first time you were heartbroken, what advice would you give to that younger version of yourself?
“The first time I was really heartbroken, at 20, I got so stuck on someone. We had been friends who started sleeping together in secret, and while I was falling for her, she made it clear that it was never going to be more than what it was. She simply didn’t want to be with me, but I couldn’t hear it. In hindsight, that sort of honesty was a gift: It was a chance to see the situation for what it was, and move on. Of course, I didn’t see it like that. I just thought she was wrong, and that she would eventually realize it. I wish I could have known that when someone can’t give you what you want, and they are up front with you about it, it’s a weird sort of kindness—it sets you free.”
What has heartbreak taught you about yourself?
“It’s so easy for me to get lost in relationships, and breakups, and to forget what it is I need. I put myself on hold, I tell myself that my needs can wait or don’t matter at all. Having done that so many times and ending up heartbroken anyway, I’ve learned that losing sight of myself can be a bigger loss than losing a relationship. I’m trying to make my own needs more of a priority. It leads to better alone time and stronger relationships, as well.”
What are your rituals during a breakup? What things/practices/people helped you mend?
“I go into say-yes-to-everything overdrive during a breakup. Trying new things, spending time with my friends, and being out in the world—that’s the only way I’ve ever mended a broken heart. Of course, it takes all my will power not to spend a week in pajamas, hiding. But when I can remember all the things I love about my independent adult life, about living in New York, about my friends, that’s when I can feel okay again.”
Thinking back to breakups you’ve had, did you have any breakup vices (checking your ex’s Insta, etc) and how do you conquer them?
“I’ve definitely been known to stalk social media…. Not just of my exes but of anyone new they might be dating. One time I was looking at the Instagram of an ex’s new girlfriend and I accidentally liked a really old photo. It was about 2am. The horror of doing that pretty much cured me of wanting to lurk around anything, ever again. I’m pretty proud of my lack of social media stalking, at this point in my life. I just don’t want to do it anymore. It’s a recipe for disaster!”
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about love so far in your life?
“I think you can’t really understand love until you’ve been with someone long enough that the honeymoon phase is over. Once your brain isn’t drowning in the throes of romantic obsession and you can begin to see one another clearly—separating the projections from reality—that’s when you really learn about loving someone else. And it’s work, but it shouldn’t be Hard Work: I think it’s so easy to fall into the “relationships are work” trap instead of really thinking hard about whether or not you actually want to be with someone. Love should create a base-level trust and joy that’s the foundation for the work you do together, and it really takes time to know if it’s there.”
Do you think exes can be friends? Do you stay friends with your exes on social media?
“I don’t stay friends with my exes, unless we were friends before we dated. I hope they’re all doing well and that they find happiness, but I don’t feel the need to be around to see it. I think it just gets too complicated, and it’s weird for the new people you’re dating. I’m totally down to make friendly small talk when I run into an ex, but that’s the extent of it.”
What keeps your heart open, despite the heartbreaks you’ve had in your life?
“I’m pretty guarded with my heart, actually. I was with someone for five years, and going through that breakup made me really hesitant to be vulnerable to someone new. I made my current girlfriend date me casually for months before I’d commit to something more serious; I need to be really sure someone is a keeper before I keep them.”
What is your favorite song about heartbreak?
“It’s so cheesy but I always return to “November,” by Azure Ray. There’s that line that goes, “I was afraid to be alone, now I’m scared that’s how I like to be,” which resonates with me so strongly. It’s so sad and beautiful and hopeful. Being alone—fear of it, fear of wanting it—has ruled so much of my life, has informed how I act in relationships and in breakups. I’ve learned that not wanting to be alone is not a reason to stay with someone, and conversely, wanting to be alone is a perfectly acceptable reason to end a relationship. But, ideally, I’d like to be able to feel alone at times while also in a stable relationship, and have that be ok.”