I almost never drink because I don’t like it, so when I woke up with a hangover this morning, I knew that something terrible had to have happened. My goal last night was to “drink until I couldn’t remember who I was anymore,” and for a second, I almost succeeded, lying in bed and trying to piece together where I was and what happened to me. I pictured his face as we sat down at the restaurant and he explained that things weren’t working out and we should see other people, rationally explaining that we just aren’t that compatible. Nodding that I understood, and I agreed, I grabbed his hand and smiled. We were going to be okay.
Except that didn’t happen, because he broke up with me via text message.
I was out with friends who were all having drinks. I usually just order food but I’d already eaten, sneaking in a pesto and chicken sub sandwich to a matinee of 20 Feet From Stardom (because I am that person). So I got a mojito. I wanted to go to the gym after drinks, even though I kind of knew that wouldn’t be happening. But what hurt would one drink do?
I then get a text from him explaining that he’s just looking for something casual. And then another. He doesn’t want a boyfriend right now. And then another. He feels like things have been moving too quickly. And then another. He’s sorry if he’s been leading me on. It felt like the texts would never end, none of them more emotionally satisfying than the one before it.
I got another drink. And then another. My friends ordered shots. It was going to be that kind of night.
The problem was that I knew this was going to happen. My relationship superpower is that I always know when people are about to break up with me. I can see it everywhere, like in the shifting of the wind or the reflection of a child’s eye. Fuck you, children. You torment me. If anything, I was actually a little surprised that he hadn’t done it sooner, and I knew that it wouldn’t work out. When I really like someone I’m with, I can always picture our life together, and sometimes I secretly name our hypothetical children — because I’m a mixture of hopelessly romantic and really creepy.
With him, it’s not that I couldn’t hyphenate our last names. I couldn’t imagine introducing him to my mother — or even him putting his arm around me at a St. Vincent concert. It just didn’t make sense.
That’s not to say that he isn’t wonderful, which he is. A couple weeks ago, when I figured out that he was going to break up with me, I told my roommate that I was genuinely fine with that. Even though we weren’t going to work out, I was glad to have spent this small period of my life with him, hanging out in his apartment and eating tacos while watching Orange Is The New Black. Every date we went on was pretty great, and I liked that we talked the same way, from shared cultural references down to our vocal intonation. I liked those little moments where he would touch my shoulder while we were bowling or be profoundly touched by my romantic gestures. When I bought him flowers, he said no one had ever done that for him before.
As we were breaking up — over text message — I told him that I couldn’t do casual. I’m fine with keeping things open, but I want to be dating someone and we both know that I deserve a guy who wants to be in my life. I deserve more than a glorified fuckbuddy, and if that’s what he wants, we shouldn’t be together. But through all of it, I didn’t hate him for breaking up with me, and I explained how much I enjoyed spending time with him — but I was unwilling to do it on terms that he solely gets to set. However, should he need a reference for a future partner, I would be happy to give one. I would positively review him on Yelp, but I will never date him ever again. I know my own worth, and I refused to accept less than what I knew I needed. I need someone who wants me, not my anus.
When I woke up, I expected to hate him. I thought my Madea-like fury would drive me to conning a complete stranger into trading murders with me or I would need to join a biker gang, just to fuck shit up. The great consolation of being broken up with via text message is that you know that if you killed someone in the next week, you could easily get off for temporary insanity. That jury wouldn’t just side with you. Those motherfuckers would buy you flowers.
However, I was just left vaguely sad — because I knew that our time together was ruined. Whenever I looked back on our “relationship” (for lack of a better word), I wouldn’t think about the first time we kissed or how dark Belmont Harbor was that night. I would instantly remember him as the guy who used technology’s post-it equivalent to break up with me. This wouldn’t be the episode where Berger and Carrie went out and it was sometimes great. This was the episode where Berger didn’t have the balls to leave in a way that was respectful. That would be what people take away, not everything that happened beforehand.
The way you break up with someone is the famous last words of your relationship and how you will be remembered decades from now. Thus, you have to decide what kind of guy you want to be, if you want to leave this world with a whimper or a bang. A text message isn’t even a whimper. It’s the guy who is too scared to make a sound, afraid to hurt someone’s feelings by being honest about what he wants in person, the way that God and Dr. Phil intended. It’s a sign that you’re not just ready for this relationship. You’re not ready for any relationship.
I’m far from the first person who has been broken up with over text message, and I won’t be the last. As technology makes all forms of behavior readily available to us, texts are becoming increasingly common as a break-up tool, even though we all know that’s unacceptable behavior. The only worse way to breakup with someone is by tweeting at them or tagging them in a breakup Facebook status, but at least that would indicate having the ovaries to do it in public. Sure, you would hate them for the rest of existence, but at least that would be memorable. A text is just sad, like dying from autoerotic asphyxiation. If there is an afterlife and you’re floating around in white sheets and shit, you don’t want to have to explain that one later.
I might not remember him as fondly as I would have liked, which my splitting headache can attest to, but when I woke up this morning, I was comforted by the fact that I stood up for myself. I might not even remember him twenty years from now, with my hyphenated last name and hypothetical children, but I’ll remember that strangely warm feeling as I woke up alone, but with my integrity intact. Self-respect: that’s what you take with you.