When I was 10, Drake and Josh played on Nickelodeon daily. In one episode, Drake wanted to break up with some girl, so he pulled her aside at school and gently let her down. It was amicable and she had a reaction like, “Oh, okay! Cool.” My heart swelled with admiration for Drake. “Break ups are easy,” thought 10-year-old me with her heart-printed tank top. “When I’m a cool teenager and have to break up with someone, I’ll do it just like Drake. He does it respectably, in person.”
My first boyfriend was not a generic teen heartthrob like Drake, but rather a spacey guy with extremely long hair and a forest elf personality. I thought he was cool and weird, but we had nothing in common. I liked scouring the internet for strange ‘90s electronic albums and writing frustrated diary entries, and he liked MMORPGs and opera. If you don’t know what an MMORPG is, then that proves my point. Also, he didn’t laugh at any of my jokes. He legitimately didn’t register them. Do you have any idea how bad that is for self-esteem? So I decided to break it off. I thought, “Hey! I’ll take the high road like Drake Bell.”
He and I had The Talk by the neighborhood break-up tree. Instead of participating in an actual breakup talk, he spent about 10 minutes talking about Al Gore and the Hanging Chads. It made me think, what’s the point of even breaking up in person with this dude? Texting him would have been so much neater.
He was basically a stranger to me, now that our weak initial connections had fizzled out. I also really didn’t respect this guy enough to want to let him down well. I didn’t have extreme contempt for him, but he had no sense of humor, and then there was the Hanging Chads thing and the countless other similar lectures I’d already put up with.
My second boyfriend refused to listen to bands formed after 1989 and objected to going on any dates that weren’t record shopping or trying new ethnic cuisines. He also refused to read fiction, because “it didn’t happen.” Cool guy, huh? More details in upcoming novel. One afternoon, he told me that he broke up with his previous girlfriend by cutting her off intermittently, then eventually unfriending her on Facebook.
Then came our “big fight,” which suddenly happened all in one day, because it was his birthday and he just hated holidays. He screamed at me, because I accidentally ignored his dad for approximately 15-30 seconds, he tried to armchair diagnose me with narcissistic personality disorder, he claimed that he had saved my life many times (he was referring to his compulsive backseat driving), along with other heartwarming compliments. I ran out of his house crying and then broke up with him via email.
In fact, my mom insisted on writing the email and sending it from my account, and it was generic to the point of being passive-aggressive. It started something like, “Dear [Low quality boyfriend], I’m sure you would agree that our time together recently hasn’t been much fun.” Etc. His response: “Excellent news.”
So. Would any self-loving human break up with him in real life? Would you sit down and have a chat with a cockroach before you exterminate it? This guy did not require the respect of an in-person breakup. He wasn’t even capable of the civility that in-person breakups pride themselves on.
Plus, he probably would have insulted/traumatized me further if I had tried to get together for a “mutual chat over coffee” (he hated both coffee and tea, but that’s beside the point). This should probably be a golden rule: Just like abusive relationships should really not get couple’s counseling (go read about that somewhere else on the internet, it requires a lot of explanation), they also really should not end with in-person breakups. Except if you’re going for the “police are here so I can pick up my stuff” breakup, which in that case, go for it.
I’m dating boyfriend #3 right now, and as a surprise to all my friends and myself, I have not picked a joke human. He’s respectful, understanding, we have common interests. Maybe he’s the first candidate for an in-person breakup (or a Skype breakup, since we’re in an LDR). Not that I want to break up with him or anything, but I think he should be honored that this is the way I want to end things.
But I’ve been thinking: email could totally be a good way to break up with a guy you respect, since you get to formulate your thoughts and express them gently instead of accidentally spiraling into an argument. Case in point: how many of you would rather write an essay than improvise a speech?
In my train of thought I’ve also decided that text could be a good way to break up with someone you respect. What’s wrong with text breakups, anyway? Tell me–what is actually wrong with it, and can you tell me in a paragraph that doesn’t use the word “millennial?”
A lot of people avoid text arguments within relationships because the lack of body language ends up being hostile, but when breaking up with someone, are you really concerned with keeping things amicable? Breakups are always mean, no matter how you slice it. And most likely, you’ll wait a while to talk to the person again, if ever, so if you upset them by your textual method of breakup, they’ll probably just cool down while you’re away.
Texting also gives you the chance to plan your words if you’re looking to have a civil back-and-forth discussion. And if you’re dating someone like my first two boyfriends and planning on a quick, clean, mean breakup, you can get it done all at once with minimized emotional damage (to you).
Today, any human with internet access can discover that Drake Bell has been charged with DUIs aplenty and declared bankruptcy. And what better symbol is this for leaving the past behind? Drake is leaving behind his innocent days as a television star, and I’m possibly leaving behind my Drake and Josh-learned breakup wisdom (that actually only influenced my actions once).
This is a digital era, where people don’t have to use their mouth-voices if they don’t need to. I’m not saying that voiceless breakup is the new gold standard; it’s not even something I’ve tried. But I’m no longer thinking of it as trashy or a sign of how millennials are out of touch with reality.