SUNDAY LIFE COLUMN: Getting dumped can be brutal. I learned this when I was 11 years old and ‘going around’ with a much older man. He was 12. Being vastly more worldly than me and also male, he was keen for some action. Armed with vast quantities of theoretical knowledge (thanks Dolly) and zero practical experience, I preferred the vague, romantic idea of ‘going around’ to the nitty gritty of actually doing anything involving physical contact. AS BEFITS AN ELEVEN YEAR OLD. Ahem.
One morning in the playground, a few heady days into our relationship, Sam instructed me to meet him behind a classroom after school that day for a pash. Yes, a pash. He was nothing if not clear about his needs. Cue terror. I spent hours agonising over this request at length with my friends before sending word to him that I would be unable to attend. The repercussions were swift. First thing the next morning, one of his mates crossed the playground to inform me: “Sam says you’re frigid and you’re dropped.” And that’s how the sun set on our beautiful bond. After four days. And a quick scan of the dictionary to find out what frigid meant.
I like to think this formative experience informed my attitude to dumping and gave me some compassion in later years when it was my turn to end relationships that weren’t working. Because I’ve had * cough * one or two of those.
It’s never an easy conversation, is it? There’s no comfortable way to say, ‘Sorry, but I’d rather spend time with a house plant than you’. I always tended to err on the side of mild cowardice although I don’t ever recall out-sourcing my dumping to a friend. The modern equivalent of that schoolyard approach? Changing your relationship status on facebook to ‘single’ and waiting for your partner to see it and realise they are now your ex partner. Apparently, that happens.
After quizzing a lot of people about their attitudes to break ups, I feel emboldened to make the following generalisation: women prefer honesty and men prefer running away. And as with all stereotypes, there are exceptions.
For some unknown reason, a male friend decided to seek my advice recently when he wanted to end it with a girl he’d been seeing – not the naked kind of seeing, just a handful of dates and the odd kiss. “She’s a lovely person but I’m not interested,” he explained. I nodded and made an empathetic noise. He continued. “Instead of letting it drag on, I want a clean break so it’s resolved and not awkward if we bump into each other in a month. She’s away so I think I’ll send her a text, what should I say?”