50. Move to Europe – You may have met while backpacking. Perhaps you had a chance encounter on the Eurail, decided to go from villa to villa eating cheese, sleeping in crowded hostels, screwing like Euro rabbits, so memories could remain which you want to avoid. But more than likely, you didn’t meet in the old country and in that case, moving to Europe is not a bad idea. Immerse yourself in the culture. However, if you’re older and this is your third or fourth attempt at finding love, you should have a skill or a craft before you leave. Wandering, like you did when you were young, this is no way to get over a heartbreak.
49. Go on a trip to anywhere – Say you need to see the world. Do this but know it is not for the weak. On your own you’re going to be — possibly for the first time in years – forced to see things with your own eyes. No longer will you have someone to confer with, ask questions, wonder along. You will be alone trying to appreciate all this life. And if that sounds like something you can stomach, head on a trip. Don’t come back.
48. Gain weight – If you’re the one who knows this is over, yet you don’t have the heart to say it. If you fear he won’t be able to take the news, then maybe a large amount of weight gain is in your future. It won’t be pleasant, but this is what you must do. Or, if you, the man puts on the weight, she won’t put up with the way you’re treating your body. Get unhealthy. Set yourself free.
47. Lose weight – Only if your relationship is in a truly dire condition would you go to the extremes of putting your body in physical danger to unburden yourself of a person you no longer love. Going all the way to starving yourself just so you can have the excuse to tell him you “just can’t be with anyone right now,” you must be in an awful state. But here you are in your hospital bed. And there he is, walking away.
46. Grow a beard – You were once in love and she, like you, had certain goals for life. Marry, have kids, settle somewhere near your parents. All these plans made before you went overseas to fight. But now you’re older and don’t see the need for that. What’s worse, you despise trying to keep up on a mortgage for a house you don’t want and would much prefer if she wore less makeup, grew out her bangs, and did not believe, as you once did, that just because a politician says he wants what’s best for the country doesn’t mean he really believes it. So you grow a beard, long and gnarly, and tell her there is no such a thing as a “just war.” She will see your beard as the representation of how much you’ve changed and tell you to shave it. She will tell you to shave until she’s not there to tell you anymore.
45. Grow your armpit hair – He was once willing to try new things. That’s what you liked about him. Though you didn’t know he was just doing all those things to get you to like him. But, even if you had, you wouldn’t have cared. He was so charming, so interesting, with all kinds of unique ideas. He said he was into European women and that made you kind of jealous, he’d been there and done them. It didn’t really matter, though. Those feelings dampened with the warmth of his body. By now, he’s shown he doesn’t really care for things out of the ordinary and you know he’d much rather impress his friends, than impress his love upon you. So grow your armpit hair long. Let your body hair be unabated. Wear only tank tops and be free.
44. Sail around the world – You’ll be able to do this once. Because after seeing the sun rise out of the ocean, feeling the spray from a blue whale, experiencing the drama of a real life storm at sea, it will only be a matter of time before you’re in love with another, from some exotic port. And after this love, taking off on another trip around the world won’t be the answer. There’ll be far too many memories of long mornings lying out on the deck nude, of drinking in the morning and napping in the afternoon, forever ruining anyone else.
43. Go back to school – Going back to school is the indication of so many other problems. You don’t know if you’re going to be a screenwriter or a comedian or a novelist or an essayist or a reporter or a political activist or a teacher. You’ve dipped your feet in so many fields. It used to be cute you would try all these different things and what’s amazing is she still supports you, in whatever you do. Though you’re almost positive she’s holding you back. Maybe there’s someone younger, fitter, with brighter eyes, who laughs longer at the things you say. But not having a job, having no particular path, going back to school again, this will be enough, enough to finally break her. Now you can find that person who must exist.
42. Move in with your parents – Move back in with your parents. Have no privacy. No freedom. This will be a cramped house only the most devoted and delusional lover would want to put with. You tell her she can keep the apartment, if she wants, but you’ve made your decision, you’re moving back home to your childhood bedroom because you’re tried of trying to get ahead. Whatever you make, it seems, goes right back to the leasing agency owner who already has more money than he could ever know what to do with, “and he’s the one that’s getting the tax breaks.” “You can come with,” you say, “but it’s only a single bed.”
41. Start drinking – When the two of you first started dating, you’d have a glass of wine or two with dinner and on some special weekends a couple more so the warmth could take over your body and the numbing would make the sex last longer. He doesn’t drink much now and wishes you wouldn’t, either. But you keep on. Sometimes three or four glasses of wine with dinner, sometimes to the point of passing out on the couch instead of coming to bed, and sometimes on the weekends you begin the day with one and you don’t stop until you’re sick in the backyard before the sun goes down. You have bigger problems now, but you no longer have him, a lover you can’t stand. And maybe that’s the biggest problem of all.
40. Go bald – It is difficult to be the arbiter of your own baldness. Seemingly only God or Nature would be in charge of this. But in times of great need, anything is possible. Perhaps you’ve started to recede. Stress. Obsess. Worry openly. It may not be that you’re losing any hair, but it will seem you are. Talk about it all the time. She will start to be as concerned. She never thought she would be married to a man who worried about things so trivial. And the more you keep at it, she won’t have to be.
39. Talk about your old boyfriends – Tell him how big it was. Detail all the places you used to go with them and how beautiful they were. Tell of the things with Jim and Adam and Paul. Leave no detail out. Tell of the things you only tell your best friend, in private, after a couple glasses of wine. He will say that he’d rather not know, but push past that. “I’m sorry,” is all you need say. “I didn’t know that kind of thing bothered you.” Then you tell of more, and more, until there’s nothing left to say.
38. Drive across the country together – Is your love just dangling there, hanging on for dear life? Do you wish it could be severed but don’t have the willpower to cut the tie? Go. Get your car. Tell her this will be fun. Fill up on gas and try not to have your argument about how expensive it is in the car you bought. Get a motel room instead of going camping like she’s requested. Try not to sleep with your backs to each other. Play music she hates and wear perfume he never liked and try not to grind your teeth until you can taste the chalky enamel. Did this not work? If it didn’t, perhaps your love is stronger than you thought.
37. Convert to Christianity – What better way to rid yourself of your man than to find an even better man? From now on, every Sunday morning, instead of sleeping in with him, you’ll be bowing down before Him. No longer will you drink or gossip or swear. He can certainly still love you without doing those things, but what will be the death knell now that He’s around will be the conversations you must have, the ones where you instruct your lover on how, “there is no other way to live.” “And if you ever want to have kids,” you say, “they’ll have to go to church.” Separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. Leave your lover behind, the flames of hell are his only warmth.
36. Deconvert from Christianity – You were so young when you met. He was skinny and cheerful and always wore a hemp necklace with the cross. You fell for him the first time you heard him strum that guitar for his, and your, Risen Lord. Every girl in the young adult group fell for him, but you were the lucky one. Though, it’s strange, he tells you he still loves you, that you’re still the same girl he married, but he’s telling you other things you don’t understand, that somehow you’re trapped in a cult and you have to get out. That’s ridiculous. Your love was founded in Christ. If he doesn’t love Him, than he can’t love you. A divorce is the only sensible way. Though now he seems, somehow, happier than he’s been in years.
35. Join the army – “We were hit, can’t you see? Everyone needs to step up.” So that’s what you do. You join to get back at the “fuckers.” And so when you leave, it will be last time you are ever going to see her. Yes, you have those last letters she sends telling you to go AWOL, that “going to another country to fight in a war you nothing about is not what this country needs.” But look, you’re free, you’re free as the bullets wheezing past, you’re free.
34. Write a novel – You need to write down every bit, every emotion over your years together. A glossing over just won’t do. Start by telling her that writing this novel, it will only be in your free time. Then, as time goes by, you say it’s getting better. But she can’t read it, no matter how many times she asks. It’s getting better, though, you say, it really is. So much better you need to quit your job and devote all your time to it, cloistered away in the spare room. And when you finally do reveal it, with its distant protagonist and its shrill alcoholic wife, you won’t even need to be told that it’s time to pack your bags.
33. Become polyamorous – When you first tell her you’re thinking about becoming polyamorous she’s reluctant and so you think this might not work. But he’s always looked up to you. She’s always believed you are the smartest guy in the world. So it’s not too hard to tell him being with more than one person at a time is the most “elevated ” way to live. It is best to switch freely between partners but have only one person you love. You talk about the Bonobos, how they’re the most peaceful apes on the planet. Then you talk about other societies throughout history who’ve experimented with free love and he begins to bend. You say it’s okay for either of you to have “experiences.” Now all you have to do to gain your freedom is easy. You won’t even have to tell him, either, he will know. And when he sees it in your eyes, that’s it been done, you won’t have to have another talk, not even another word.
32. Feign sleep – It used to be all you wanted to do was root around her neck, nibble at her ears as you tickled her stomach. You couldn’t wait for her to touch you, too, let her hand wander until it found what it was looking for. But now the thought of it makes you ill. You don’t love her and you’re beginning to suspect she doesn’t love you either, that’s she only in bed with you because it’s better than being in bed by herself. You say every night you’ve had too much to drink again, that it just won’t work, that you’re “so tired.” And whether she believes you or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s over and you feel good about yourself. You sleep well, once again.
31. Get fit – Drive yourself. Force yourself. Push yourself to be in the best shape of your life. Form yourself into the kind of body you see on TV, the one every other woman pukes into a toilet for. He’ll start to wonder why you’re working out so much. “You look fine, ” he says. But you just respond by saying you want to lose a couple pounds before the holidays. Now you’re looking like a fitness model, like a woman who doesn’t belong at a normal job and he doesn’t know what to think. You don’t take any of his back handed compliments anymore and you certainly don’t catch him commenting on other women. The control is yours and soon enough you tell him it’s time to start seeing other people. He doesn’t hardly know what hit him.
30. Let your back hair come in – She’s never really noticed that you have to do it, that every day you trim your back hair with a nose trimmer and every month you have it waxed professionally. She believes yours is a back like every movie star. Now you let it grow. You let it start to yarn and snaggle and when she runs her hands down your back, no longer is it free to lightly trace up and down the sinewy muscles bracing your spine. She will be confused but you just tell her this is how you’ve always been. It’s how your father was. It’s how your father’s father was. It’s how you are, now alone, happy once more, hairy as a beast.
29. Play fantasy sports – Jump head first into their endless pit. Baseball, football, basketball, but there’s so much more. Hockey, golf, soccer, auto-racing, you play them all and you don’t just play them, you live them. You bet money. You stay up at night learning of each player. You talk with all your friends on the phone in the car while he sits in his passenger seat having to listen. Before long, it’ll be you playing fantasy sports by yourself, and that was the fantasy all along.
28. Do something that makes you feel guilty – Whatever it is, it’s eating you up inside and you can’t tell anyone. Most of all, you can’t tell her. It’s all you do, all day long, think about it. And now something is different about you. People can tell. You aren’t as witty. You aren’t as bright. You aren’t as fun to be around. She will want to talk about it, she says you can tell her anything. But you don’t tell her and as it eats away at you, you withdraw more, and as you withdraw, she withdraws, and soon enough the gap between the two of you becomes so wide, it cannot be crossed.
27. Buy a gaudy engagement ring – She always thought you knew her better but the more she looks at it on her finger, the way it hangs there, the way it makes her left side heavy, the more she realizes you never knew her. The ring is the talisman representing your ignorance. She wanted a simple one, probably not even a diamond, maybe a pearl or a colored gemstone, something vintage, small. Not what you gave her, this large thing, shining and reflecting everywhere. It’s like you never listened, or, worse yet, you never knew. And now she’s taking if off. Now she’s giving it back and you’re strolling back to the store, whistling.
26. Force him to buy a simple engagement ring – He never did have much money. And at first it was kind of cute he had to scrap together everything to show you a good time. He made himself poor so you could have the things you wanted. You put up with it because you saw that he was smart and talented. One day he’d get his life together and find a real job that paid real money, the kind which could afford a big house in a neighborhood with foreign cars parked in the driveways. But it still hasn’t happened and you don’t want to be heartless so you say you’re giving him one last chance. Come back with a ring, you say, and you know what’s going to happen, he’ll do exactly that. He’s going to come back with the simplest, plainest, thing in the world. It probably won’t even be a diamond. Now you’ll finally have the last piece in the growing stack of evidence. And you won’t feel an ounce of guilt.
25. Stop waxing it – It always got him so excited when you said you’d just been to the salon. He would come rushing home and try right away to sneak a peek. That was long ago and now you wonder why you’re still doing it. There’s no way to impress him anymore. Those days are gone. And so are the days where you want to do uncomfortable things just to make him happy. You’d rather just let it be. So as it starts to grow back you remember how it was when you did have hair there. Some guys in college loved that kind of thing. It grows more now and when it’s almost as long as it is going to get, at the same length it was when he first told he liked it better shaved, he starts to ask, in that way you know he’s telling you, that you should go back to salon. But you don’t. Instead you leave the house with the glorious feeling, one of new growth.
24. Read a lot of Ayn Rand – You read everything by her and espouse her objectivist philosophies as your own. You read Alan Greenspan, the biographies of George W Bush and Ronald Reagan and Donald Rumsfield. You listen to the radio shows of Laura Schlessinger, Michael Medved and Glenn Back. You were conservative before, but there was still a heart inside, warming your exterior. He will start to resent how much you can’t stop talking about how the country is “heading in the wrong direction” and how we need to “take it back.” What does that even mean, he asks, and you just look at him and say, “If you don’t know, babe, I can never explain it.”
23. Read a lot of Howard Zinn – You read everything by him and espouse his pacifistic theories as your own. You read a lot of Noam Chomsky and Karl Marx and Daniel Quinn. You listen to Marc Maron, Bill Hicks and Lenny Bruce. You look up to Alan Grayson and Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich. You donate large amounts of money to the National Endowment of the Arts, Public Radio. It is starting wear on her. She always liked how you were a little tender-hearted, but this is going overboard. She tells you can’t save the world by yourself and that if this continues, she’s going to have to leave. So you don’t stop. You give to the neediest among us. And this is your most selfish charity.
22. Talk about moving closer to your mother – Oh you won’t ever actually do it, but you talk about it plenty. You start by saying how much you miss your family and your home state, which you do, but not enough that you would actually move there. You say how it’d be nice if it wasn’t such a hassle to get back there around the Holidays. And just the thought of this will send waves of fear through her. She’s never gotten along with your mother, not from the first day they met. Your mother wanted you to marry a reserved, sophisticated girl and now you think that maybe she was right along. So keep hinting at a move close to home. Keep doing it and one day you’ll find she’s gone. Then you’ll be free to do exactly that.
21. Renounce capitalist society – It starts with a statement, though it doesn’t end there. At first you start a garden, one taking up your entire backyard. Eventually the only things you eat are the foods from it. You quit your job and begin to sell the things you make: knitted sweaters, beaded jewelry, carved wood pieces. He may come to the Farmer’s Market to help lug your suitcases full of crafts, help in your dream to get off the grid. But it concerns him that you’ve deleted your online identity, that you’ve gotten rid of every ID card. You don’t have a credit card anymore, or a back account. It won’t take long now. You tell him you want to move to the country and if he doesn’t want to come along then, maybe, the two of you should rethink things. So maybe you’ll then have to move to the woods to prove to him you mean it. But at least you’ll be doing it alone.
20. Join an online dating website – Your heart is dying and so you go online looking for love and you do it like this. On one of the nights the two of you are browsing on separate laptops not speaking, wearing pajamas, feeling the distinct sense that you may never touch one another again, let him borrow your computer. Go downstairs to watch TV and leave him to it. Let him search through emails, check on messed instant messages, page through the recent history. He will see where you’ve been the most.
19. Give up – Not on her. Not on him. But on everything. On everyone. Things have been so hard. The economy has been tough. Your job isn’t getting better. You’re not getting any younger. You can’t stand how much more attractive you used to be. You say all these things, all the time. You tell her, there’s no hope for anything anymore. We just have to get older then die. Eventually she won’t be able to stand it. Then, maybe then, you’ll finally be able to perk up.
18. Revert to your old ways – What was it that you used to do? You used to eat everything there was, didn’t you? Nothing was sacred. Now go ahead. Start eating those delectable meats again. And what about you, what was it you used to say? That the true way to peace was through preemptive force? That’s what you believe again. And wasn’t it you that once said that the only way to truly experience an orgasm was while being whipped? You’re finding your new path through old ones.
17. Do drugs – This is not so subtle. This is out in the open. Smoking a pipe with water at its basin, ingesting the smoky remnants of an illegal flower. It makes him curious why you would be doing something like this. How did you find someone who sold it, he asks, though you don’t tell him. He doesn’t need to be worried about it and if anyone is going to get into trouble, it won’t be him. As you smoke more, you begin to like the way it makes you feel, the way your cares are melting away. He’s even starting to look better to you. You can’t tell him this of course and so you smoke alone in the living room each night before bed and think of all the new experiences and how great they will soon be, with someone else.
16. Watch hardcore porn – You used to watch a fair amount and you still have to admit, it was kind of fun. He showed you arty videos of women in Europe, women with full mounds of pubic hair lounging in a garden or a bathtub. Sometimes he liked watching videos of them touching themselves, but only if tastefully done. But you always liked things with a bit more flavor. Now you go all out. Watch it when he gets home and watch it before you go to bed. Sometimes you turn it on first thing in the morning. And this is not arty European women looking dreamy in a greenhouse. But this is the stuff you must start to love, if you ever want to find someone to love again.
15. Stop laughing – He was always the funny guy. And that’s kind of why you fell in the beginning, that he could make everyone in the group crack up. It seemed effortless for him. Just a little smile there, a little dance step here, a perfectly timed wink or one-liner. But those jokes are long tired now. They’ve been beat into the ground so much that it makes you cringe to hear them. So stop faking the laughter. It’ll be most important to not laugh when you have your friends over and everyone else is. But you don’t. They may even ask what’s wrong. Nothing’s wrong, though. In fact, deep down, you’re laughing harder than ever before.
14. Make lots of suggestions – He always told you, joking of course, that you were a little like your mother in this way, how you would make suggestions on how he should do things, on things that didn’t really matter: how to debone a chicken, how to iron his shirt, how to park the car in the driveway. Don’t let up. Tell him every thought in your head, the ones you used swallow. He’s putting too much toothpaste on his toothbrush. He’s putting the remote in the wrong spot on the table. You hear your mother’s voice in your head, as if she’s a marionette. But you don’t care anymore, becoming her is a small price to pay if it means ridding yourself of him.
13. Play video games – She always knew you used to play and as you start to bring out your old systems and brush the dust off the controllers, you see the worry. And maybe at first she is forgiving. After all, you’ve been so good, for so long, hiding those cartridges and CDs up in the attic, even on the long weekends or on the Holidays when your old college friends were around. But now you bring them out. And with each hour logged in front of the TV, instead of another watching a reality show about cakes, you are another hour closer.
12. Have a threesome – Before it happens you almost worry this could jump start your relationship, if only for a short time. This could be the thing to put the lifeblood back into the veins of the dying, dried corpse of your love. Though you know that corpse doesn’t deserve to live again. It had its chance. All you need to is find a girl, one who he readily agrees with, and before it happens he might ask, “Are you sure? We don’t have to do this.” But assure him you want to. Then you do it and it is just as you hoped. He makes the oddest sounds and does the most acrobatic moves and lasts longer than ever before and you know, before it even ends, that you can tell him, “I can’t take it anymore. I just can’t.”
11. Find a hipster – She’s always secretly harbored the notion that you would prefer a younger, quirkier type from some coffee place in Uptown or some pizza place near where college kids live, or, even, one of those girls from the photography class you took last year. You can tell she has always thought this, though neither of you have ever spoken a word about it. You’ve told her that she never has to worry. You like her just the way she is. But, you don’t, and so now, instead of keeping those things inside you, you make remarks, very gentle and subtle, about the tattoo on that one or the bangs on that one or the high-waisted skirt on another. You are killing her. It won’t be long now.
10. Start a website – You haven’t done much with your life. You know this. And even if the two of you don’t talk about it, she knows it too. But at least you’ve always been pragmatic. You may not have much to show for yourself but it isn’t like you go around flashing your dumb hopes and ideas on the internet for everyone to see. But now you do. You know that website you’ve been dreaming about? The one you are sure is going to launch you to the top of your profession? It’s time. Get that web address. Buy that theme. This is it. You’re going full bore. Now she can see in the pure light your life’s work is nothing, that you are nothing. And when she is gone, you can go ahead and delete it as fast as you possibly can so that one day someone else might love you again.
9. Fall in love with someone else – Go ahead, talk a walk down the path you walked when you met him, you are bound to find someone. Remember when he rode his bike right into you? You were looking down reading a book, your dreaminess nearly causing a head on collision. Luckily he swerved and went straight into some bushes, though he was funny about it and so there was the coffee, then another date, then meeting his family, then moving in. But fate must have made a mistake that day because he is not the one. So go ahead, get another book. In fact, make it the same one, a Russian novel worked well the first time, why can’t it again? Put your head down like you did before and walk that aimless walk and don’t look now but ahead, it’s a man wearing a tasteful flannel shirt and rolled up jeans, he is biking your way.
8. Develop a mental disorder – Which one you choose depends on what kinds of defects you may already have. Maybe you worry about going outside, why not make it all the time? Perhaps sometimes you like checking to make sure the front door is locked or if the oven is off, why not check three or four or twenty times? And maybe you’re kind of sad. Now be sad to the point where all you want to do is sleep. You can barely function, but, at least, you’re barely functioning alone.
7. Finally start that band – Just now learning the basic chords of a guitar? At your age? Those painful, earnest sounds coming from the basement every night. Ridiculous. You bought a four track recorder, a small amplifier, a microphone. You never could sing before, though you always thought you might have a unique voice, “like Beefheart or something.” Now you go to open mic nights. You drag her along and she has to hide her head as you play songs a teenager would be embarrassed to perform. And, yes, you may die a bit as you realize you never had it you in the first place, that you only ever had the ability to make pithy remarks. But that’s okay, this is working. God in Heaven, is this ever working.
6. Become a slam poet – You may have been doing something good for the world. You may have worked at a factory. You may have picked up garbage. You may have been a telemarketer. Leave that behind. You’re a slam poet now and the moment you perform your first unabashedly sincere, uncomfortable poem about the time you were picked on in elementary school, she will lose all respect. It will all be lost, whisked away with the first word you shout. Yes, you are shouting, even though you have a microphone and there are nine people in the room. This is quickest way you could have possibly chosen.
5. Make a move on a cousin – It can be subtle or it can be brutish. Obvious or not, though, it will be ruinous. You can do it over a holiday or at a family outing or when your lover is out picking up a movie, whatever. And when it’s done, the other will have to tell the rest of the family, how could he not? News will travel fast of what you’ve done. And though you won’t see your family anymore, you won’t see your lover anymore either.
4. Write a letter – Go now, you’ve left your note. You can do no more. You don’t know where you’re going or what you’ll do when you get there, but you’ve written it, sealed it, laid it on the bed. This is the way it’s going to have to be. You feel like a bastard knowing she’s back there just now reading it, pouring over the parts about how you don’t love her in a way you feel a person should love the person they’re meant for. And yes, this is the coward’s way out. But it’s a way out, all the same.
3. Vanish – Without a single bit of evidence, you’re gone. You don’t explain a thing. He’ll be worried sick, maybe for the rest of his life. He won’t have a clue where you are or what might have happened to you. Though that’s just the thing, he’s always been clueless.
2. Die – What can you do. You see no other way. Maybe the next world will have something for you.
1. Have the talk – If nothing else can be done, have the talk. Plan a time in your head, then cancel that time. Plan another time, then have sex the night before and reschedule for the next week. Plan a bunch more times after that and break them all. Finally, make a time and for sure this time, go through with it. Sit him down. Tell her you have something to say. And yes, it will be terrible. There is no doubt. She may cry. He might too. Every moment sitting across from each other – but not so close you can touch – will be bad. But this is what you’ve come to do. So you talk and what’s worst of all is you don’t say half the stuff you planned to say and the other half are things you never wanted to say in the first place. All your words are wrong and you constantly say, over and over, “I don’t know, I just don’t know.” She won’t know what that means and you won’t either, but, if you can get through it, if you can somehow mumble your way to the end and say, “Yes, I’ll call you” knowing full well you won’t, it will be over. Now you can leave and give him that last hug goodbye. You had the talk. You are gone.