This Valentine’s Day, support the Bronx Zoo in honor of cockroach-worthy exes.
The best revenge is a life well lived, but what if that life has six legs and communicates through a hiss? This Valentine’s Day, support the Bronx Zoo in honor of the exes that wronged you. I’m referring, of course, to the Name a Roach at the Bronx Zoo campaign. The program has been active for a few years, slowly gaining in popularity. Much like the lifespan of a cockroach who benefits from the campaign’s largesse, perhaps it has taken two to five years for Name a Roach to fully mature.
As a tribute, we like to assign personalized labels on behalf of others—often for the sake of sentiment—but the gesture is rarely cheap. For the romantics, there are stars to name, but the celestial purchase is mostly symbolic—you’ll only receive a chart for your trouble and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) warns that “no countries, authorities, or scientists in the world will recognize ‘your’ name for the star.” For $1,222, you can name a rose. But that’s probably not within the price range of the average consumer. In comparison, the $10 donation to the Bronx Zoo seems like a bargain.
In choosing the recipient who will carry the distinguished honor of a Name a Roach Certificate, it’s important not to confuse your common garden-variety ladybug or spider of an ex with the former partner whose behavior is truly cockroach-worthy. If you only went on one or two dates with someone before things fizzled out, it’s probably a bit of an overreaction to start naming unsavory creepy-crawlies after them.
If you ended the relationship on mutual terms and maintain an amicable friendship with your former flame, that ex shouldn’t be a candidate in this year’s campaign. And if you plan on actually sending the certificate to the ex in question, ask yourself two questions—why do you still have their email address and once your ex receives the decree, are you prepared for it to end up being posted on PassiveAggressiveNotes.com?
But if you’re looking to blow off some steam among friends, think of this newly-named roach as a soothing balm for all the hours you forced them to listen in sympathy to the latest tale of terrible behavior from your then-partner. Name a Roach allows you to choose three recipients for the document, including yourself. I chose two of my longest-standing and closest friends. These are women who supported me through years of “But he gets me” and “I’m reading too much into this” and “There’s someone else.” If such a thing is possible, they laughed harder than I did at the final product from the zoo.
There was no question in their minds: this dude was a roach.
[Redacted] was the worst of the worst. The relationship lasted on-and-off for three years, from the time I was 16 until the summer before my sophomore year of college. During that time, he played the Father Wound card over and over again as a means of connecting our experiences.
He also used his past trauma as an excuse to date other people without telling me, lie to my face, make plans with me and not show up, ask me to drive 45 minutes to his house and passing out in a drunken stupor before I got to the door so that he couldn’t answer it, make misogynist comments, blame everyone else for his problems and remain the victim of every negative circumstance. Like the cockroach, his mating call (a hiss in both cases, really) was distinct and finely attuned to anyone picking up on his signals. If I listened carefully, I could hear the real message: “I am ruthless. If you get too close to me, you will regret it.”
But I wasn’t listening. I wanted to believe in the good parts: the compliments, jokes, tenderness, physical intimacy, unexpected text messages throughout the day—all of which I took as proof that his worst moments were only a manifestation of his father’s neglect and the struggles of growing up working-class and never knowing who or how to fully trust another person.
He kept lying. He kept cheating. I told him that what he did hurt me and he said, “I’m the one who’s suffering.” I dissected all of this with my friends and they could only listen and occasionally plead with me as voices of reason in an unreasonable situation.
Even after we broke up, he still came around. He drove to my campus in the middle of the night and made sporadic appearances throughout the years. When he got pulled over for drunk driving and called me to pick him up from the police station, the truth of his alcoholism came at me in full force. Of course, he insisted that everything was fine and spent the evening describing graphic violent fantasies against his former friends and ex-girlfriend. I asked him to leave and I haven’t seen him since.
He won’t ever know it, but there’s a silver lining to this horror story. I picture a two-inch hissing cockroach that scuttles around the zoo bearing the name of [redacted] and I can’t help but smile. As for my ex, he’s still scurrying around in the world, but it doesn’t bother me. Full-bodied laughter among friends turned out to be the best revenge.