Sunday, January 13, 2008

Breaking Up

I got dumped today. So of course, in true maudlin style, I decide to write about it. And not just that: in the ultimate example of narcissistic angst, I’m going to blog about it. You may be excused.

All right. So I was pretty sure it was coming. At least I was pretty sure I was pretty sure. I don’t exactly have a lot of experience with the dating thing so I’m never quite sure when I’m being perceptive and when I’m confusing my life with a B-movie plotline. Apparently the abrupt four weeks of silence interspersed with awkward and one-sided phone calls over the break really were a sign. I am a relationship prodigy. Go me.

Heck, it only took me a few weeks to figure out that my first official relationship was heading towards a break up. That’s only a few weeks less one or two dates longer than it took for me to reach this conclusion in all my previous quasi-relationships. Either I’m too picky, or not picky enough. Since I can’t seem to manage the traditional meet a guy, fall madly in love, date a while, fall madly out of love relationship format, I try to accomplish one new thing in each relationship.

This time around the goal was to manage a good old fashioned, traditional-style break up, rather than my previous strategy of skipping that step and going directly into witness protection-style avoidance mode. In the past this strategy has led to such proud moments as me spending an entire school year dodging into doorways and down hallways, not to mention the time I made Lily help me send the equivalent of a break-up e-mail to warn off an oblivious stalker-type. I’m not good with conflict—at least of the making another person not like me variety.

So I told Lily going into this that my goal was to still be talking to the guy at the end of it, which she promptly told me was ridiculous. Nonetheless, I really wanted to at least have the option of talking to the guy, even if it was only to snub him by not talking to him. This is not an option under the Witness Protection Program of break up by avoidance. That in mind, Dave was ideal. He had just come out of friendly break up with a girl at his previous college. He didn’t have much previous dating experience either. He was interested. He was really, really cute.

Unfortunately, we had exactly one thing in common—and similar professional interests, even if somewhat obscure, can only get you so far. Herpetology—that’s the study of reptiles and amphibians, folks—is a somewhat close knit field of study. And pretty much everybody in it is just a little bit crazy. In a good way. I told my mom early on that part of the reason I knew I was in the right field was how much I liked all the other people doing it. And this is beginning to sound like some sort of peer-pressure drug and/or extremist cult, but what I am trying to say is that there are many types of people, and these were the type of people I could get along with and even make friends with naturally, which doesn’t come easily to me.

Regrettably, it does not automatically follow that I could maintain successful romantic relationships with all of theses people (and certainly not all at once), and this was the case with Dave. In grade school terminology: I liked him. I just didn’t like like him. So from pretty early on, I found myself wondering how the relationship was going to end.

As happens The Break Up didn’t fit any of my envisioned scenarios, and yet it was so eminently fitting I feel as if I could have picked it out of a line up a week into the relationship. It was Dave. It was me. It was our relationship. The tricky part is—I’m not actually sure what happened. The break down, to the best of my knowledge, is this:

He calls me up after Christmas break and feeds me the ominous but passé ‘we should talk’ line. I'd already gotten something similar via e-mail, so I'm not completely surprised. This is where things get tricky: I have no idea what he says next. I always did have a hard time making him out on the phone. I’m not sure if he mumbles, or my phone has some sort of anti-Dave filter installed. On rare occasions I have suspected that I have some sort of psychological block. Whatever the case, I guess my way through the content of three or four incoherent but ill-omened sentences before I finally have to interrupt the presumed break up speech to say: “I can’t actually hear a word your saying.” Lovely.

This turn of events evidently catches him off guard as well, as his explanatory speech is abandoned in favor of a condensed, to-the-point proclamation. He simply says that he doesn’t see our relationship as continuing. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what he said. The gist of it anyway. Actually, I once again have no idea, but rather than prolong the awkwardness of it all, I take a flying leap and say something non-committal but understanding: “I sort of thought this was coming. I kind of got that vibe from you.” I don’t know where exactly my brain is pulling these lines from, but I have to fight a manic impulse to start quoting lyrics from ‘Good Vibrations’ by the Beach Boys.

More semi-coherent explanation of the break up rationale follows, before I distinctly catch the phrase: “to be fair to you.” Now I haven’t exactly been forthright about my own feelings, and a part of me is feeling a bit of a jerk, but that line strikes me as somewhere between funny and insulting. “You’re breaking up with me to be fair to me?” I echo. I had a friend in high school who habitually ended phone conversations with the line ‘I should let you go.’ I’m getting the same feeling here. If you can’t be honest, at least be sincere. I really hate phony double-talk.

But, as I mentioned, I’m not exactly straight-talking the situation myself, so I let the comment go pretty quickly, opting instead to awkwardly circumlocute my way around to my goal. I really don’t want to say it, so we suffer through another few minutes of what I assume is mutual discomfiture. I’m trying to figure out a way to phrase it that doesn’t make me sound like I’m quoting from the universal break up script, but all I’m managing to do is make myself sound like an idiot for longer, so I finally get to the point. “…we can still be friends?” The usual overeager and quite possibly insincere agreements follow. Whatever. I have accomplished my relationship goal, and I can't wait to extricate myself from this whole awkward business. The phone call trails off into platitudes, clichéa, and awkward silences until one of us, I don't remember who, finally puts it out of its misery.

Victory. I have now successfully concluded a relationship via proper break up style. I am going to ignore the nagging voice that tells me that phone break ups are tacky. I am going to ignore the strange and inane melancholy that keeps getting a hold on me. I am going to announce at random intervals: 'I've been dumped' and: 'I don't have a boyfriend' because I have always been a big believer in expressing my feelings through whinining and complaints. If I annoy my brother enough he'll cheer me up by making fun of me. I am not going to be upset because being dumped hurts my vanity. I am definitely not going to be upset over something I knew was coming, or a guy I didn't like like. I am especially not going to be upset over the guy who let me know we were in a relationship via Facebook.

He changed his Facebook status back to single within an hour.


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