Break-ups are atrocious, there is no way around it. My very last break-up was behind the Harvard Law Library. I am not making this up. It was literally behind the Harvard Law Library. It was a glorious spring day, and you can read all about it in My Book.
I was really, really, mad, but it was the most romantic place I've ever been broken up with. It beats the Tim Horton's doughnut shop, which is the classic location for Canadians to break up. However, there is no Tim Horton's in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and it would not have occurred to German Volker to break up with me in Dunkin' Donuts. America runs on Dunkin', okay, but does it break up there?
Let me know, American readers.
My very first break-up was outside Toronto City Hall because even at 18 I was smart enough to know I should break up with anyone I was scared of in public. It is sad to think that I became afraid of some of the people I dated, but life can be very sad.
Anyway, that's the first rule of break-ups: break up in public, and in a neutral place. It's not nice to break up in a place your soon-to-be ex thinks of as special. His favourite restaurant is right out.
It is generally considered cowardly to break up by phone, email or text, but if you are breaking up with the person because you are honestly afraid for your safety--and are not just a drama queen--then phone or email it is. In one incredibly bad situation, I broke up by email because breaking up by phone didn't work and only got me called some very nasty and alliterative names. I sent the emailed response to the campus police. Poor me: I was shaking like a leaf.
So really, the first rule of break-ups is "Be safe."
The second rule of break-ups is that is not okay to hit the person breaking up with you. Really, it is not, even if you are a girl and he is a guy. Hitting someone is never okay, unless in physical self-defence, as a last resort. Emotional self-defence does not count as an excuse to hit anybody.
If you can manage it, accept instantly that you are being broken up with, say "okay" and leave.
Him: "It's over. There's no point in continuing like this. I want to see other people."
You: "Fine. Bye."
Then you leave. Turn on your little heels and go. Get out of sight and out of ear shot and then get out your little mobile phone to call your best friend, your mother, or your shrink. Arrange to meet ASAP.
Then you go home and ignore the apologetic email and/or humiliating "Are you okay?" call.
Your ex, having been given such an easy and short good-bye, may feel absolutely wretched, which is exactly how angry you will want him to feel, and may send a very long and imprudent email. Don't read the email until your best friend gets there. Don't forward it. And don't send any emails yourself. Txts 2 grlfrds r ok. knk yrslf out on txts 2 grlfrnds. smple txt: he brok up w/ me! bstrd!
I don't recommend twitter, hwvr. And don't go near facebook until your pal is there. And for the love of Mike, don't blog. Except for the phone and very short texts calculated only to bring your friends to your immediate emotional aid, leave public communication forums ah-lone or you will regret it. Wait for your friends. Eat something if necessary. Don't drink booze alone.
Thus, the second rule of break-ups is really "Keep it classy."
Safe and classy. Are you with me? If the guy breaking up with you is normally a nice guy, what you want is to keep the break-up so classy that there is still a possibility that you two can be friends later.* Probably not great friends, but pretty good friends. Volker and I still send Christmas greetings, and when I visited him in Germany, he bought front row tickets to a Bundesliga game. How cool was that? I should mention, however, that Volker is the only ex-boyfriend I've kept in touch with. And since any normal human person would be dying to know, I hereby inform you he is okay that I wrote about him in My Book. I can hardly wait to send him a copy of the Polish edition. Ah ha ha ha ha!
The best break-up book I have read is called The Girl's Guide to Surviving a Break-up by Delphine Hirsh. I have skimmed It's Called a Breakup Because It's Broken by Greg of He's Just Not That Into You fame, and I thought it looked good, too.
However, I think I will always love Delphine Hirsh's book best of all break-up books because my housemate Jonathan read me snippets of it at the kitchen table after my last break-up. As my one Boston gal pal, Boston Girl, had to mark a stack of essays before she could get to me, it fell to Jonathan to do his best to fill her shoes. In retrospect, it was one of the funnier hours of my life, and you can read all about it in My Book.
Yes, although break-ups are at best dreary and at worst indescribably horrid, if you are lucky, one or two of them will one day seem funny. Of course, I am talking about dating break-ups here. I am not touching the subject of marriage break-ups with a ten foot pole. Let's leave that one to the professionals. Auntie Seraphic has an M.Div., but she is not by any stretch of the imagination a professional.
*Of course, whether or not you stay friends is up to you both, and if the dumper wants to continue to be friend with the dumpee, this is going to largely depend on the dumpee's point of view.