Ever been dumped? Sure you have. But the important thing is whether you learned anything. Ben Karlin did, and he writes about it in “Things I’ve Learned from Women Who’ve Dumped Me.” An excerpt.
Lesson #18: You Too Will Get Crushed
We didn’t meet cute. She was taking baths on the downlow with a friend of mine while her boyfriend pined away in Ignoramusland, aka Houston. It’s not polite to name names. Hers was Jill.
We took up, falling fast and hard in the waning light of life in a college town after you’re done with college. You know, the time when you’re supposed to have left already but just can’t surrender two-hundred-dollar-a-month rent and the idea that these were, are, will be the best days of your life. They weren’t, aren’t, and won’t be.
But it’s awesome to think so.
Let me tell you a little about her — for me though, not for you — in order to reclaim that which has been smothered beneath a calloused heart. She had flaxen hair, wispy and cut short around her opal face. She was fair and thin — not scrawny, taut. She had cheeks that shot into perfect circles every time she smiled slyly, which was quite a lot. She was a troublemaker. She made me feel like I was a troublemaker, too. I was not a troublemaker. I am a wimp who still doesn’t know exactly what spark plugs do.
We moved through the early stages of our relationship in paces that seem stunningly familiar now — but at the time felt like a fever dream. We lingered outside each other’s front doors not wanting nights to end. Walked hand in hand through the farmers’ market, envious of no one, living in the goddamn now.
We held out, carnally speaking, partially out of the now comically puritanical notion that it would be better if we waited. (The other part had to do with the fact that she had technically not broken it off with Clueless T. McCuckhold down in Texas.) The whole time, one question slowly built in my mind: What if this is the person I never run out of falling in love with?
Alas, like poorly fenced-in pit bulls raised by angry Mexican youths, the complications of life can only be kept at bay for so long. Eventually, they will attack and tear you apart, and unless there is some passerby to pull you out of their vicelike jaws, you will be grievously injured, if not killed. Come to think of it, most of that last sentence is just about pit bulls.
The point, however, is that upon leaving our college town — I’ll call it Eden to protect its identity from future pilgrims who may flock there to trace the origin of this very story —mistakes were made. Some were mistakes of vanity. Others of youth. Still others of the vanity of youth. Eventually, these mistakes would pile up and their weight would become too much for any one man, or relationship, to bear. Here are those mistakes.
I told her I was moving cross-country — to Los Angeles — and wanted to stay together but didn’t want a long-distance relationship. Instead of inventing a new form of relationship, I simply moved without discussing it further. One clue this might not be the most mature tack: at least once during this period, we had sex where weeping was involved. “What, are you sad? Did it hurt? I thought it was quite good!”
Expressing indignation, rage, and heretofore unseen emotions when I discovered she had started seeing someone else in my absence — even though I gamely, albeit futilely, attempted to penetrate Southern California’s hyper-Darwinian mating scene. Yes, by my own design I left things impossibly murky and vague — but that was for my benefit. Not hers! She was supposed to be pining for me. Hoping that I came around.
I came around.
On a last-minute, half-baked romantic whim, I flew from Los Angeles to her parents’ home in Iowa, where she was visiting. This was a surprise move, confusing everybody, especially the parents, since they knew she was doing some other dude. I didn’t know that. Yet.
Why did I fly to Iowa? What was it that kept me coming back when Reason and Practicality were screaming, “Let it go, dickwad!”
(You should know that Reason and Practicality are mean.) Well, though the heady days of falling and falling and falling in love were shrinking in a rearview mirror, there was still hope. That niggling itch that if you keep at it, persevere, it will come back. Maybe not permanently, but in waves big enough and frequent enough to make everything else worth it. I wasn’t ready to give up. And what came of it?
For a few days we enjoyed something resembling romantic bliss. But, as I soon learned, it would be the roller-coaster style.