There’s a certain stigma that surrounds breaking up with someone. You have to get over them. Fast. People make up rules and timelines about how long you’re allowed to grieve a relationship or whatever that complicated “talking” period was. Whoever moves on first “wins” the breakup, and the other person is left in the wreckage of their own unresolved feelings and what-ifs. Sometimes, you don’t get over them in that certain time frame you’ve given yourself. You wallow in that post-breakup mess for a little too long, turning into someone you never thought you could be. And your former partner, they become another something you thought to be impossible—your Token Dude.
What’s a Token Dude, you might ask? Well, in these past few years, social media has gone through a period of oversharing mayhem, including the niche meme: a highly specific situation numerous people might have gone through, humorously packaged in a convenient meme format. One of the most followed niche-meme accounts, @blacksheepmemes, gained popularity through her severely on-the-nose posts about hookups, vices, and the destructive behaviors that we usually don’t put out there into the world. “Token Dude,” or in long form, #TokenDudeYouWillNeverGetOver, is a phrase she coined, and is a recurring character on her account.
Usually, it features a hyper-specific caption (or a #mood) like “Me breaking my own heart over and over again every time I decided to pathetically crawl back to Token Dude for sex [because] I wanted more than just sex but preferred sex to nothing at all.” Along with a picture of Lana Del Rey lyrics, because let’s be real, who else are you listening to after being scorned by a man?
As time went on, the phrase became something bigger than @blacksheepmemes’ account. Search #TokenDude on Instagram, and you’ll find the tags full of niche memes made by other accounts. Her followers comment things like, “This post made me convinced the FBI is watchin[g] me bc relatable.” It’s definitely something that so many people go through, but it’s never discussed out of fear of looking like the “crazy ex-girlfriend” which is a tired and problematic stereotype in and of itself.
It’s definitely okay to take the time you need to get over that person. However, it is ultimately unhealthy to hold on to a person for such long periods of time. There’s no shame in feeling this way. I know I have a Token Dude, for sure. But when I think about all the time that has passed, I wonder, what exactly did I get out of that? I ended up hurting myself so much more because of it. I became obsessive. I tried everything to “get over it,” from hooking up with more people to drinking excessively. I ended up doing a few things I regret and all the while, I was definitely not over him. In fact, I was looking for him in every person I was involved with, without even realizing it.
Writing, Literature, and Publishing major, Kayla Carcone ‘18 has had similar experiences with her own Token Dude. She says, “It feels like I’m subconsciously comparing every guy I interact with romantically to him. Like everyone’s in the shadow of this one person… At some point, you stop seeking him and start seeking your former self, I think. Like some part of me sickly wishes I could be sixteen and have no cares other than being obsessed with one person and that being my whole world.”
I spoke about moving on from Token Dude with Megha, 21, who runs the @blacksheepmemes account. She explains, “It’s definitely possible to move on because I reference my original Token Dude in my memes sometimes. When he was Token Dude I thought I’d never move on but I did. I feel like the term just captures how you feel in the moment when you’re deep in your feelings. It feels like you’ll never get over him, but it’s just a hyperbolic term—I’m a dramatic person—that fits considering how long it takes to move on sometimes like OG Token Dude took me between two to three years to get over.”
At some point, you have to find ways to let go. There’s no “right” way to do this, but there are little ways to help you move on. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, keep journals, talk it out to your friends, make art, try new things. Take this time to find yourself and what you want rather than how you could have fixed things with that one person because it’s over. It is much easier said than done, and of course turning it into a meme can make it hurt less and help you feel less alone. But humor can become a mask to play off your feelings and prevent you from moving on with your life. After a while, the feeling does eventually fade. Remember, Token Dude isn’t actually forever, it just feels that way.
Illustrations by: Olivia Kelliher