My co-worker, Tobie,* has lived in Las Vegas for a number of years, but originally heralds from Planet Drama, where she is considered royalty. (*Names have been changed. Kind of. She spells it without the “e.”) Each morning when I walk into the office, I am curious as to what the Crisis De Jour will be. The dramatic episodes range from “Last night I talked to my mom for the first time in three years!” to “I lost 1.5 pounds!” And more recently, she broke up with her boyfriend of eight months. Or more accurately, he broke up with her. And what, prêt ell, could be more dramatic than that?! (Well, if you’re Tobie, then just about anything.)
So I’m listening to her heartbreaking story, line upon line and precept by precept, when I suddenly begin having flashbacks to my own breakups. I start getting knots in my stomach, I get a little moist under the arms, and I find myself looking for the opportunity to assure Tobie that her and I can still be friends, even though we aren’t the ones breaking up. It’s just instinct.
For me, breakups were the absolute worst. I avoided them like they were cancer. Oh, how they pained me to the core of my dating soul. It’s still hard to talk about some of them…
Tess Dresher. Fourth Grade. I can still recall the day she walked up to me during recess and asked me to “go with her.” “Sure,” I answered. And those were the last words every exchanged between Tess and myself. We occasionally sat by each other, and I gave her a very special Peanuts Valentine’s Day card, but we never did speak, or even make eye contact. So I guess technically we are still “going together.” Boy is she going to be mad when she finds out I got married and had five children. She’ll want to break up for sure. I’m not looking forward to that conversation.
Julia Zimmerman. High School. It was the summer of 1987, and I was sixteen years old – with a license to drive and to date! I knew Julia really liked me when her mom had grounded her and she promptly ignored said house arrest to go to the movies with me. Yes, we were young and crazy in love! I was pretty sure that after the summer of 1987 I could die happy. By fall of 1987 I was so miserable I was praying for death. We went to different high schools and Julia was first to acknowledge that our long distance relationship wasn’t really going to make it. I nodded my head in agreement, but inside I felt like somebody was cramming my heart through a paper shredder.
Danielle Perrett. College. Danielle and I dated for an entire year, from October 1992 to October 1993. But by June of ’93 I knew we were not meant to be and that a breakup was inevitable. Since you know my aversion to breakups I can tell you that rather than actually breakup, I considered leaving the country. I was about to call my travel agent when Danielle informed me that she was leaving the country for three months for a study abroad program. I may have sounded a tad too supportive, but away she went, and there I stayed, to date and engage in much frivolity throughout the entire summer. By the time Danielle returned at the beginning of September, I had crafted, in my mind, how the breakup would go. And seven weeks later, at the end of October, I finally found the intestinal fortitude to go through with it. And it was the kind of train wreck that, if you were watching it in a movie, you would fast forward through it, so painful would it be to watch.
It was Halloween night. We had gone to a party and we were sitting in my car in the parking lot of her apartment complex. I was dressed as Aladdin, she was Jasmine. Things had been in the pooper for quite some time, and it felt like a stranger walking by could glance in our direction and know exactly what was happening.
It was silent for a few minutes, and then I spoke up.
“I think we should see other people.”
“I told you to see other people last week.”
“I mean you should see other people.”
“I told you I don’t want to see other people. You should.”
“You ALREADY have?!”
“Hey, I don’t want there to be bad feelings between us.”
“Are you giving me the Friend Speech? Don’t you DARE give me the Friend Speech!”
“Uh…NO…never, never. I think it’s just me. See, I have a problem with –”
“OH, NO – the ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ bit?”
“Noooo! That’s not what I mean at all...”
An eternal silence. Like…three days have passed while we’ve sat in the car. And finally she speaks.
“Well, what do you want me to do?”
“I…don’t understand the question.”
“I can’t do this!” she yells, and starts bawling as she bails out of the car. “I can’t talk about this right now!” and she leaves the car door open, running into the night. I get out and follow her to make sure she makes it to her apartment, then drive to my own. I walk into my place to find a ringing telephone. I answer.
“I just want to make sure I heard you LOUD AND CLEAR!”
“Define our relationship.”
“Define our relationship!”
Some muffled sobbing, and then click went the phone.
Excruciatingly painful, right? But not as painful as Tobie’s overly dramatic reaction to the hair she found in her salad at lunch today. “I almost ate this and diiiiiiieeeeedddddd!”