Best Breakup Ever
I’m currently in the middle of teaching a 27 week sexuality education class to 20 middle-schoolers, as part of a small team of fine adults. There’s a bit of looking down at shoes and squirrelly-ness on the part of the youth, and there’s a lot of letting the silence and squirrelly-ness be okay on the part of the adults, but overall, I feel honored to be part of an excellent program with such a thoughtful group of young people.
The program offers the message that healthy relationships, which take many forms, are consensual, non-exploitive, safe, and based on trust and good communication. It’s interesting to work with youth as they develop vocabulary and confidence to head towards that. I hope it works.
As I think about relationships, though, a bit of me feels exhausted on their behalf for all that lays ahead. All of the broken hearts and disappointment they’ll undoubtedly experience in their lives. As The Other R. says, it’s good to jump into the rock tumbler and get the jagged edges ground off, but sheesh. Anyway, this whole train of thought made me think fondly of the best breakup I’ve ever been in. It was someone I hadn’t met, but we connected on the internet. He wrote to me, I replied, and then, I never heard back.
Aha, I thought. Here’s my chance! (Come on, you were thinking that too, right?)
So I wrote again, asking if we could just meet to break up. “Here’s how it could go,” I outlined.
We’d chat for a few minutes, and then one of us (and sure, it could be you, I’m okay with that) says, “We need to talk,” while looking down at your shoes. I’d look down at my shoes for a minute while I put on a brave face, and say “Uh, what’s on your mind?”
You’d do that speech, “Really, it’s not you at all, but, um, well, um, it turns out that I really need to focus on some other areas of my life. Like my cat and stuff. But don’t get me wrong, you’re terrific.” And so on. I’d be really cool about it all. For a brief moment, I’d try to win you back. “But think back to how great it was at the beginning,” I’d say. And you’d remind me that the beginning was only five minutes ago, and I’d put my game face on and be very mature about it all. There would be no sobbing, clinginess, or weird displays of anger.
There are the obvious things make it a great break-up (such as: you haven’t gotten attached to a pet or child that you’ll never see again. No one has left their favorite fleece jacket at the other one’s house, so there wouldn’t be that awkward, “I know I just dumped you, but I’d really like to get my coat back…” And of course, if there’s a formula saying that it takes half as long as the relationship actually lasted to get over it, we’d be completely ready to move on in 2-3 minutes.).
But there’s a whole ‘nother benefit resulting from the arduous 25 miles between our abodes. Here’s the deal: when you break up with the lovely gluten- and cruelty-free vegan woman in Wallingford with the ironically named fish, (who, I might add, would judge you for pouring milk on your mass-produced breakfast cereal), you run the chance of running into her at your favorite coffee shop when you’re on your next new date. Awkward.
Or worse yet, you’re sitting in your favorite bar with your MacBook, scanning OK Cupid, and she’s there on a date, and they look like they’re having tons of fun.
No, actually, here’s what happens: you drag yourself out of bed and toddle down to the store in your pajamas one evening to buy some Thera-flu. You look like crap, and feel worse. You haven’t bathed or shaved in days, and, in addition to the flu, you’ve got a bad case of adult acne. Your pajamas are unbecoming. Your slippers make you look elderly. And there she is, at the store with a handsome man in tow, buying red wine and condoms. You hope she doesn’t see you, but she does, and tosses you a breezy hello. Anyway, this will never happen with us.
I concluded by saying I hope it didn’t seem unusual to have a random stranger ask to meet to break up, but I hoped it would be as good for him as it would be for me.
He replied with a correction on some of the details, noting that it’s not unusual at all; in fact, andom women call and write him all the time asking if it might be possible to break up well before he's met them. And because it’s so common for him, he’d come to accept it as a service he can generously offer, in much the same way that way AOL handed out free CDs in the ‘90s.
He clarifyied that the ex and her new guy weren't buying red wine and condoms, but rather, a pint of Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey, a can of whipping cream, and copy of the Sunday New York Times, but acknowledged the accuracy of the Theraflu and pajamas.
So he obliged me. We met for a drink and a break-up, and I still think fondly of the whole relationship, which lasted, if you count the part I spent in traffic on the way there, about 2 hours. (I don’t think I get to count the return trip, right?)