Dear Ms. Behavior:
I’ve just had the worst breakup of my life. She didn’t bother to tell me we were breaking up — by the time I saw that her Facebook status was ‘single,’ several of our mutual friends had posted their condolences on my wall! It was horribly humiliating, not just that she didn’t bother telling me in person, but that I was the last person in the world to know. When I told her how upset I was, she blamed me and said that maybe I should check Facebook more often.
I also discovered that she left with all of our sheets and my bunny slippers. I have heard of other brutal breakups lately. Aren’t there any ethics or rules about breakup up? Can you offer suggestions?
–Battered by Breakup
Dear Battered by Breakup:
Yes, People: how about a little kindness toward someone you once loved, or at least liked. Or lusted after. Or something.
Love inspires the best in most of us, at least for a while. Breaking up can certainly inspire the opposite of that—but it doesn’t have to turn exquisitely ugly, does it? Can’t we all just get along, even after the romance dies?
The following list of Do’s and Don’ts regarding breakups is based on actual letters and complaint received by Ms. Behavior. Let’s call this list Guidelines to a Kinder Breakup:
1) If you have the urge to dump your bf or gf on his or her Facebook wall, don’t. That’s just plain nasty. (If you happen to be privileged to live in a gay marriage state , this guideline counts double.) Additionally, please remember that it is extremely insensitive to update your facebook status to “single” before informing your partner. While a Facebook posting may seem the most expedient way to live your life, it is kinder to go through the process in real time as if you are real people, even if it feels slow.
2) As tempting as break-up texts may be in their impersonal succinctness, they also suck. And while you might be tempted to see if you can create a haiku text, please remember that your amusement is at the expense of another human being who may be too crushed to admire your creativity. Email is only slightly better. If you are too much of a wuss to break up in person, at least pick up the phone.
3) Once the deed is done, don’t turn all of your mutual friends against your ex. There is no reason for this. If you are reading this, you are probably no longer in middle school, so you should have abandoned that sort of behavior along with your acne and orthodontist.
4) Don’t take things unless they are indisputably yours. Especially sentimental objects, photographs, bunny slippers, or Hello Kitty mugs.
5) This should not have to be said, but Do not take a dump on your ex’s floor. (Yes, this really happened to someone.)
6) This also shouldn’t have to be said, but do not start telling your ex’s secrets (and do not get all slippery about what constitutes a secret). You may as well assume that anything intimate or confidential, whether or not it was whispered in your ear in the dark should be kept to yourself. This includes career plans, wishes and desires, family secrets, naked or compromising photos, or any aspirations that have not been made public. It will not only harm your ex, you will ultimately feel badly about the fact that you are so untrustworthy.
7) Also, don’t gossip. Don’t tell friends or acquaintances private information, even if it’s juicy. For example, if your ex only gets off if you climb through the window wearing a mask and take her forcibly after calling her a dirty slut, whose business is this? If you have a video of your ex doing something unnatural with a fruit, vegetable, or neighbor, keep it in the drawer or return it to your ex.
8) Don’t cut the sex toys into tiny pieces and leave them in the bed. While there is not yet an adequate state-sponsored recycling plan for dildos, you do have less-violent alternatives. If your ex also doesn’t want them (and why would she?) you can throw them out, put them out for collection when your city collects toxic waste, or clean them thoroughly and donate them to The Salvation Army.
© 2012 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org.