Breaking up is… hard to doooooooo…

What was your worst breakup ever? Didja get caught in an affair? Fight over money? Accidentally pull up all the baby carrots in someone’s beloved garden, mistakenly thinking they were little weeds? (Yes, I did that, but it was to an earthy garden-girl I had a crush on, not an actual girlfriend.) How bad did it get? How bad can it get?

I’ve been thinking about breakups lately, which has led me to contemplate a few from my past. Herewith, a short compendium of my most spectacular flameouts. The names have been changed, to protect myself from irate formers.

1. Alice. My first-ever girlfriend. We were in absolute bliss for three months, before she realized that continuing our relationship meant she’d have to identify herself as gay, or at least as being a gay relationship. That’s when the trouble started.

The denouement of our relationship lasted approximately seven times as long as the actual good times, and it encompassed the entire catalogue of desperate, B-movie-cliché scenes: screaming fights in the campus quad, storming out of bedrooms in the middle of the night, spiteful episodes of having nookie with random guys (her, not me), sobbing confessions and teary reconciliations. Most dramatic moment: Me leaping in front of her car as she started to tear out of the parking lot at my apartment complex. She slammed on the brakes just before flattening me, but I managed to stop her from leaving! Only temporarily, as it turned out.

2. Lorna. Another straight girl visiting the island. Will my tribe never learn? I was crazy in love with Lorna, which was wonderfully convenient in helping me get over Alice. Epic moments: (a) Kissing Lorna for the first time in the living room of my apartment – just as her boyfriend came to pick her up and peered through the sheer curtains to catch us in the act; (b) Arranging to meet Lorna in France the summer after graduation, where we could finally allow our love to blossom – then watching her step off the train onto the platform, seeing her avert her eyes, and realizing in that one crushing moment she’d changed her mind; and (c) years later, agreeing to finally live together but then seeing it all come apart at, of all things, the 1993 March on Washington for gay rights, where we had a meltdown screaming fit at each other in the midst of the joyously liberated crowd.

3. Mary. We loved everything about each other, except the things we didn’t. I can’t even bear to relate the story, even with my name and hers in pseudonym.

4. Carla. She pursued me, relentlessly. I enjoyed her company (ahem), but left the country before she could get the idea that anything was serious. While I was abroad, she got another girlfriend. Then, of course, I wanted her desperately.

Eventually, her girlfriend dumped her, so I wasn’t so interested anymore. Everyone lived separate lives until I came back from abroad and Carla and I began seeing each other casually. Then, of course, the ex-girlfriend wanted her back. Which meant, of course, I then wanted her even more.

The ex won. Carla moved away to be with her, after which she decided, heck – she didn’t really want to be with the ex after all. They split up. After which, of course, Carla wanted me back. But then, of course, I wasn’t interested. Come here, go away! Come here, go away! I get seasick just thinking about it.

5. Arlene. I met her at a dumpy gay bar by wobbling up to her on the dance floor and saying, “If you weren’t here with your girlfriend, I’d ask you to dance.” It wasn’t her girlfriend. We danced. A crush was born.

She drove a school bus for extra cash, and once she drove it to my office to pay a visit. As soon as I saw that cheese-colored vehicle in the parking lot, my knees went weak. She eventually dumped me for a pipsqueak-voiced, giant-permed peroxide blonde. I still don’t get it.

6. Tommy. Might as well have a token boy in the mix. Tommy was my first real boyfriend, a cute little blondie fellow in ninth grade. He always ate chicken sandwiches for lunch, and he liked to hold hands in the hallway. I didn’t. In fact, there wasn’t much I especially liked about him, except the fact that by having him as a boyfriend, I officially had a boyfriend. When his father got transferred mid-year, Tommy suddenly moved to Dallas or somewhere equally impossible to fathom. I was secretly thrilled. I moped around the school halls, enjoying all the warm, caring embraces from my girl friends. It made for a great spring semester.

33 responses to “Breaking up is… hard to doooooooo…”

  1. In high school I was perpetually crushed out on my (female) best friend, who thought we’d marry some day but weren’t ready for each other yet. So I went out with her little sister. When that went sour, I went out with her little sister’s best friend — but secretly. When *that* went sour I was devastated. My friend and I drove around town and I ranted for upwards of two hours about how abused I’d been by the both of them, only to pull into my driveway at the end of the night and find that her sister, my ex, was hiding in the back seat. She didn’t talk to me for months.

  2. Lane says:

    ARLENE! the BUS driver!


  3. Scott says:

    Awesome post, so much delectable drama. I especially love the story of little Tommy the sad, chicken-sandwich boy.

    Which ex is the one? You know, the one that if you saw her on the street today you’d be paralyzed.

  4. Stephanie Wells says:

    Obviously, it’s Mary, the one so paralyzing we can’t know anything about her, right?

  5. WW says:

    wait, Bryan, your ex was in the back seat for upwards of two hours?

  6. bryan says:

    yup. when we finally figured it out, she was pretending to be asleep. the silent treatment that followed let us know she hadn’t been.

    why has no one else answered lisa’s call for breakup stories?

    and ww — where are you? and where is your next post?

  7. Lisa Parrish says:

    Bryan: The only way your story could be better is if the last lines were, “And now we’re happily married.”

    Scott/Steph: An excellent question — you know it has to be one of them, right? It’s not Mary… It’s… Lorna. We had a terrible breakup, then managed to become friends again, after which we had another falling-out a couple years later. We haven’t really been in touch for the last 9 years, though funnily enough, that’s about to change. I may see her at the end of this month, yikes!

    Oh, and Mary and I are friends. It took a while.

  8. MarleyFan says:

    When I was 21, my girlfriend and I had been apart for quite some time; we were living in different states. We had broken off the relationship, due to the time and distance, but decided that if we were both single when we were in the same state, we’d meet to see if there was something still there. When she came back to Washington,and called me from her mothers house, we planned to meet the following night at an outdoor restaurant. I remember being so excited, yet nervous since it had been so long since we’d been together. I arrived just a few minutes early, and waited for her, but the longer I sat there, the more crushed I became. She never showed up. It probably would have been easier if she’d have just come and said she changed her mind, or that she was scared.

    It wasn’t until almost two months later when I bumped into her at the mall parking lot, when she told me the story of “that” night. She said she was petrified that night to see me, and had stopped by a bar for a little shot of liquid courage. One turned into two, and so on, before long she was so liquored that she went home with another guy she met that night. She didn’t then have the nerve to call and apologize, and was more embarrassed because she ended up moving in with him.

    Whether you call it a breakup, or whether I was just stood-up, it didn’t matter because it hurt, alot. She married him. Two years later, he was arrested and went to prison for manufacturing methamphetamine. You know I felt sad for her, but curiously a little pleased. Anyway, twenty years later it still kinda hurts. I find myself wondering the elusive “what if”.

  9. Lisa Tremain says:

    I’d really like to comment about how Jeremy and I once “broke up,” but he’ll argue that we were never going out.

    Alas, it’s a post of it’s own.

  10. Stephanie Wells says:

    Ouch. Somehow I knew THAT was coming.

  11. Lisa Tremain says:

    It’s okay, Steph, since it all resulted in gaining you as a friend.

  12. Lisa Parrish says:

    Holy cow, I REALLY want to see this West Coasters tree.

    Um…. Jeremy?

  13. Tim Wager says:

    Suffice it to say we’ve *all* dated Jeremy at some point. We’re over it now and have each other to fall back on.

    Another great post, Lisa! Have you read “High Fidelity” (or seen the movie)? It starts with a list of his top five all-time breakups. Too good.

  14. Stephanie Wells says:

    Aww, Lisa, I’ll never break up with you.

  15. Lisa Parrish says:

    Thanks, Tim – I saw High Fidelity years ago, but had forgotten about that opening scene… When I started doing this post, I actually had a hard time narrowing it to just these six. (I didn’t even have room to write about my breakup with Jeremy!) Amazing how many wacky stories we all accumulate in the course of everyday life.

  16. Stella says:

    I was once dating someone who was no longer at the same college, but all our close friends knew we were together. I then started sneakily seeing someone else and the first night we had sex I had a huge hickey

  17. Stella says:

    …on my neck, sorry for the break. I then had to spend a week walking round with turtle neck sweaters and toothpaste. My best friend convinced me that toothpaste had some chemical that helps reduce hickeys…or love bites as we like to call them in the UK.

    Anyway, eventually I wrote her a letter, but she called before I received it. Dang.

  18. Jeremy Zitter says:

    Oh, geez… I can’t believe I missed all these comments, too (though I did read this great post and thought of a number of responses on the spot… but decided to go back to my cough drops and OJ). And, yes, Lisa T, I do tell people that we went out, so you can feel free to comment on how we “broke up.” Otherwise, since I’ve dated Lisa T, Wendy, and Nikki (who I consider an honorary GWer), I’m not sure I feel comfortable discussing my break-ups here… But perhaps I should say that, as a commitment phobe, I’m with Brad (and Angelina and Lisa P)!

  19. Lisa Tremain says:

    Finally. Validation. Did you hear that everyone? Jeremy and I WENT OUT.

  20. Jeremy Zitter says:

    What am I going to do with you, LisaT? You certainly seemed to be seeking validation in your earlier comment–don’t act all bitter just ’cause you got what you asked for…

    Great, look at this can of worms you’ve opened up, Parrish!

  21. Jeremy Zitter says:

    Sorry, LisaP, you’re over there on Tim’s post dealing with your other can of worms. (I’m behind you all the way. As long as G-Lock and I can’t get married, then… Oh, wait…)

  22. Lisa Tremain says:

    You’re right, I did want validation. It’s not always easy to get from a commitment phobe, you know.

    But I’m not bitter. I mean, now I’ve got Scott, Tim, Steph, Bryan and the GW nation. Oh, and you.

    Love you. Really. Let’s not fight.

  23. Lisa Parrish says:

    I’m feeling kind of left out here… I want to date Jeremy, too. And break up. But for god’s sake, NOT to marry him, in honor of my gay friends.

  24. PB says:

    So I was going out with this trouble guy and he says he wants to go overseas and study ALONE. I get mad and get engaged to an anti-trouble guy within two weeks of the last date with trouble guy. No real break up because I never told trouble guy. He finds out his now ex-girlfriend is engaged to another person from his dental higenist (sp?) while he is getting his teeth cleaned. He sends me roses, one red, 11 white. After three months, a near nervous breakdown and a giant pink care bear from anti-trouble guy I give the anti-trouble ring back and call trouble guy back the same day as the broken engagement. Anti-trouble guy goes to California and gets married. Trouble guys goes overseas. I am left alone. For a while, then I marry trouble guy. Anti-trouble guy is now a millionaire who sends his extended family to Hawaii every year. Trouble husband is poor but endlessly facinating and sexy. Neither guy was Jeremy. But I am relatively young.

  25. i’d bet trouble is a better cook, too. he spends his money in the right places.

  26. Sue DeNimm says:

    Sorry to revive such an old thread, but I need GW advice, and fast.

    What do you do when an ex emails you out of the blue and wants to resume communication?

    In my limited romantic experience I have usually been the dumpee, because I am loyal to a fault. But this ex is someone I unceremoniously and and rather cruelly dumped over a decade ago. Said ex is now a very successful and happy nonprofit attorney, and sounds like a pretty cool person. We’re both in steady relationships now.

    How do I respond? Do I respond at all? I get sick to my stomach just thinking about it.

  27. Hmm. My experience is that those kinds of contacts usually come when someone’s in a shakier place than they let on. Sick stomach suggests to me: nope.

  28. stephanie wells says:

    I disagree–I think it depends on why you have the sick stomach. Is it your guilt? Well, see the ex again and apologize and maybe you can resolve it, especially if the ex seems so cool (and you liked the ex for some reason in the first place, right?). Perhaps an enjoyable friendship could ensue where a relationship could not. Or is the sick stomach because you’re not quite sure you’re over the ex and you don’t want to jeopardize your current relationship? Different story; respect the current and don’t contact the ex.

  29. Sue DeNimm says:

    Stephanie, it’s definitely the former. I acted badly and never looked back, and I’d like to apologize. Hell, if I were the ex I’d never want to speak to me again.

    Maybe that’s why I wonder what’s behind this attempt at communication. Could we be friends? Or does she just want to boil my bunny?

  30. i retract #27. if there’s even a slight possibility of bunny boiling, maybe you’d better give in. of course i have no idea what bunny boiling would actually entail.

  31. Sue DeNimm says:

    Don’t you remember crazy Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction?

  32. Tim Wager says:

    Could be that the ex is in a good place now and wants to show you that she is, despite your having dumped her. This can be good for you, allowing you the opportunity to salve your wounds of hidden guilt. I’d respond, but cautiously. If she’s reaching out to boil your bunny, it will become clear pretty quickly, and you can re-cut off contact. If not, well, you might just re-make a friend. Good luck!

  33. Tim Wager says:

    I just re-read the post itself to which these recent comments are appended. Yay for Parrish! I can’t wait until she starts writing here again on a regular basis. But hey, no pressure!