10 Breakups That Will Make You Feel Better About Yours
Writers tell us their most frustrating, embarrassing, hilarious-in-retrospect breakup stories.
In high school, a boy I loved was going to have me go on vacation with his family, but instead he said I couldn't go, then asked me if I could take care of his fish while they were gone. I did, and when I went over to drop off the keys after they got back, his mom gave me a little greeting card and he was nowhere to be found. So she yelled all over the house for him and then he came downstairs, finally, and dumped me on the stairs in front of his mother.
Months later, the same boy asked me to help him with a quick haircut before a big dance — in exchange, he would drive me to the dance so I wouldn't have to get my parents to drop me off. I was thrilled, he came over, we were alone ... and then, because I accidentally shook the protective plastic piece off the top of the buzz-cut thingie while trying to shake off the excess hair, I shaved a COMPLETELY BALD SPOT diagonally across his head before I noticed what I had done. I had to shave it all bald, and when we got to the dance, everyone started calling him the bald eagle. He made out with a girl named Becky on the dance floor while I cried in the bathroom.
I once got dumped in the rain outside of a bar called Mustang Sally's. The guy told me, "It's not you, you're really funny, I mean, that's not all you have going for you, I mean ... I'm sorry." I felt hilarious and like I had quite a bit going for me. Oh no, wait, I felt damp and single and not drunk enough.
For the first four years of elementary school, I was in love with a strapping young fellow named Clayton. I was chubby, the only minority in virtually all of my classes, and had fluffy, curly hair that peers — including Clayton — would call a "burnt marshmallow," or "tumor" on the back of my head. He was popular and skinny, a star baseball player, and had blond hair that glimmered like fields of wheat. We were obviously meant to be. One day in fourth grade, Clayton saw me take a piece of gum from my locker and promptly asked if he could have one. Seizing my only opportunity for love, I replied: "I'll give you a piece of gum if you'll go out with me." He pondered the proposal and shrugged his shoulders: "OK." I was giddy as I handed Clayton the chewy pink morsel that had won me years-awaited bliss. Clayton slowly unwrapped the gum and raised it to his lips. He chewed a few times and smiled, before saying: "OK, now we're breaking up," and walked back to his seat.
In college I briefly and unofficially dated a guy who, it turns out, was apparently much more fervently religious than either of us realized at the time. We were in the same psychology lecture where we'd save each other seats then awkwardly angle our bodies to be as close to each other as possible without actually touching, and would occasionally go out for hot apple cider and talk about life after class. It was all exceedingly romantic and mature.
When it became clear that things weren't going to work out for a variety of reasons (reasons 3–10 being the number of his close friends who insisted on repeatedly using homophobic slurs the first and last time I met them), I made plans for us to get together and talk. Before that could happen, however, he decided it would be better to get embarrassingly drunk and belligerent and call me in the middle of the night. After delivering what remains to this day the most obviously practiced, inappropriately melodramatic thing anyone has ever said to me, "I think I might have loved you once," he closed it out by informing me that he could never date an atheist anyway and I was going to hell.
Max and I had a crazy romantic relationship: We fell in love and he moved across the country to be with me after only three weeks — which was probably a bad idea (it was definitely a bad idea), but at the time it seemed super romantic. My parents got engaged after just six weeks of dating and are still happily married, so it seemed plausible that it could work out.
After about four months of us living together, things started going downhill. I'm not exactly sure what it was, but Max started pulling away. I figured it was just adjusting to life in a new place, and I left him to do his own thing. Then he decided that he needed to get his own place, but SWORE he didn't want to break up. To me, that was the writing on the wall. I knew it was over, and I wanted him to be honest about it, but he just wouldn't. He continued to deny that there was anything wrong, even as he moved out. A couple of days after he had settled into his new apartment, he Gchatted me while we were both at work, and broke up with me. Yup — my live-in boyfriend dumped me over Gchat while we were both at work.
I went on maybe three dates with a social media editor at a fashion-y culture-y publication. I thought things were going fine until she told me she'd found my Twitter account and that I "seem really angry." I think I made it worse by trying to explain that I was "doing a voice." She stopped returning my texts shortly after that. I don't blame her, to be honest.
I dated this younger guy for one very fun summer. He was freshly 21 and I was around 26. He had skinny jeans, a beard, a terrible attitude, and a prog-rock band. I literally quit my job to spend more time driving around in his shitty car talking about singers' voices and buying comic books. We'd hang out in his apartment all night, smoking cigarettes inside, eating an entire carton of ice cream, making out, and watching Batman movies. It was great! One weekend we drove up to Houston and I met his mom, whom he was very rude to and who told me I'd look better if I wore more makeup.
After we'd been dating for around four months, he went MIA for a couple days and then finally answered the phone when I called one night. He broke up with me over the phone, explaining that he had thought he was having a one-night stand then he "woke up the next morning with a girlfriend." I wasn't really that upset — we weren't in love or anything — but I was PISSED. I brought up our trip to Houston and he said, "I don't remember that." I was like, "What?" and he was like, "I don't think we went to Houston, you must be thinking of someone else."
My longtime girlfriend had just joined me in Washington, D.C., after finishing graduate school. Our relationship had been gradually unwinding over the year she was finishing up her M.A.; when you date someone long-distance, discussing relationship problems over Skype or in a hurried weekend visit dominated by travel becomes a serious problem. We weren't communicating well, and within a month of her move we could both tell things weren't right.
In an effort to try to have an enjoyable evening, I bought tickets for Trombone Shorty, a ridiculously loud New Orleans brass man. We were standing in the swelling crowd at the 9:30 club, when she leaned in and started saying something in my ear.
"I think we should break up."
"I think we should break up."
"I THINK WE SHOULD BREAK UP."
I couldn't hear a thing, between the trumpets and trombones a few feet ahead of us and the shouting of the other revelers around us. She stood there for an hour before dumping a beer on my head and storming out onto the grass, where she dumped me on the spot. She called two weeks later to pick up an antique desk she'd left at my house. We haven't spoken since. She never reimbursed me for those concert tickets, and now I fucking hate Trombone Shorty with a passion.
In the fall semester of my sophomore year at college, I fell hard for the dreamy British exchange student in my memoirs class. He was charming and funny and tall with this husky bass voice, and I was OVER THE MOON when talking after class turned into talking at a party, which turned into dating. He was working a tortured, drug-addled, Bret Easton Ellis-idolizing (but sensitive, underneath it all!!!) writer persona that affected me in a big way at the time, and things were going swimmingly — until one day, which started with us in bed together and ended with him drunkenly telling our mutual friend that he was in love with her. She was horrified, he backtracked, I gave him the silent treatment, and he began a very dramatic campaign for my forgiveness.
He was the first person I'd encountered to insist over and over that he was "just fucked up" and I hadn't yet learned to be like, Oh, OK, never mind then! so it dragged out for much longer than it should've. At one point he grabbed my hand, put it on his torso (?), and yelled, "IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT?!" (I...have no idea.) But it wasn't what I wanted, so we parted ways. A week or so later he critiqued my paper in class by saying only, "There weren't any glaring misspellings." That girl is still one of my best friends, though.
I dated Juan the summer after my senior year of college. It was only ever going to be a summer fling — we knew from the beginning that in August we would go our separate ways (him to Boston for grad school, me to Austin, for Austin). So when the summer ended, we didn't really break up. We simply said good-bye, packed our cars, and drove off in opposite directions.
Since we hadn't really broken up, there weren't any real boundaries in place (except 10 or so state lines depending how you map it), so we kept talking and texting, and after about three weeks of being apart we made plans for him to come visit me.
The day of his visit arrives. I'm antsy. I double-check his itinerary: His flight departs from Boston in the morning. He has an absurdly long layover in Chicago (five hours?!), and then he lands in Austin in the evening. I consider where to take him for dinner. I change my sheets. I shave my legs extra carefully. Around the time his flight to Austin should be boarding, my phone rings. It's him. He tells me that his flight is boarding, but he's not sure if he should get on.
"Why not?!" I ask, filing through all the possible scenarios: He's nervous to see me, he has food poisoning, he's suddenly and unexpectedly scared of flying, he sees someone suspicious in the boarding area, and — "I got back together with Sarah," he tells me.
"If you see something, say something!" I blurt out before catching up with what the fuck I had just heard him say.
It turns out that his absurdly long layover in Chicago wasn't an accident. In fact, having a layover in Chicago at all wasn't an accident. He planned it so that he would have time to have lunch with his ex-girlfriend (Sarah) who was now living in that stupid fucking windy city. Lunch turned to tears. Tears turned to making out. Making out turned to...them getting back together. During his layover. On his way to see me.