Classic Breakup Girl essay from January 19, 1998!
Learning from our mistakes is an essential survival skill. Yet we are much better students in some situations (“Ow! Orange stove burner hot! … Do not touch again!”) than we are in others (“Ow! Man on motorcycle unreliable! … Date again!”). That said, the circumstances in the excerpts from the letters below –specifically, what Breakup Girl has put in blue should all be considered Bad Signs…
Christy: I have been seeing this guy for about 3 months now. Everything seemed to be really good between us…then he went away for a week to his hometown. He got back on Sunday and I still haven’t heard from him. I remember him telling me on the phone that he was bad at relationships, and when he starts going out with somebody he’ll avoid them and not call them, etc. Which is why we aren’t labeled as boyfriend/girlfriend…because all the label does is add pressure. I really want to be with him. Tell me what you think.
BG: Yo. When someone tells you they are “bad at relationships,” believe them. By saying so, they are writing themselves a permission slip to do exactly that. And yeah, the boyfriend/girlfriend label does add “pressure.” As well it should. As in “responsibility.” If two people willingly agree not to “label” their relationship, fine. But if you do want that label, then quit digging through the Irregular bin. Girlfriend’s gotta hold out for Armani.
Sara: This guy I am crazy about and I don’t even talk anymore. We went on one date which didn’t go very well, and after that, it kind of fizzled, all because I couldn’t dance. How can reopen the communication between us?
BG: Don’t bother. Find some other Fred who’ll treat you like the Ginger you are.
Just J: I met a girl about three months ago at a singles function. She is really nice and we get along well. We’ve gone to a few functions together, but she always seems to bring a friend along or suggests bringing a friend along…What do you suggest?
BG: I hate to tell you, but your instincts are correct: “Would you mind if my friend came along?” is Dating Esperanto for “I like you, but I don’t LIKE like you.” But you do say elsewhere in your letter that some of her other signals have been somewhat mixed … so stick with the friend thing. If she changes her mind, she’ll give you some other universal sign.
Sonia: No one really likes this guy except for my mother and me.
BG: Enough said.
Someone: I love my girlfriend more than anyone I have ever loved, but she wants a bit of space because, well, I am too loving…I want to see her at least every other day, and she wants to see me every Saturday because she values her own quality time…Some of the little things I do, as she has told me, get on her nerves (like wearing plaid all the time — something that is no big deal that I can give up — just a matter of getting other shirts)…
BG: I took the liberty of forwarding your query to the Plaid Rights Coalition (just happened to see their public service announcement on The Flannel Channel). Their response: “No way should this guy give up his personal style for someone — and no way should that person even hint that he should in the first place.” Listen, kid, it’s not the plaid: it’s the Plaid Principle. Find someone who’s truly worth your stripes.
Vickie: What should I do, as my boyfriend bought me a towel and a book for Christmas?
BG: Take a hint; read in the tub. Alone.
Diana: This guy I’m interested in keeps comparing me to a girlfriend he once went out with for three years and claimed he really loved. Is this a good sign?
BG: Hmmm. Maybe, maybe not. First of all, I assume he’s comparing you favorably (i.e. not saying things like, “You’re sweet, but you’re no Jackie!”). Okay. So if it is a good sign, it means: he has a type, and you, like his ex, are it. He is flirting with you — clumsily enough for you to write to Breakup Girl to ask what the hell he means, but flirting nonetheless. Flirt back, and he’s yours. If it’s a bad sign, here’s what it means. He has a type, and you, like his ex, are it. But who he really wants is her. The danger: if you date him, your life will turn into the movie “Vertigo” (or “Single White Female”). If it’s the worst sign of all, it means: Not interested in you; so not over her that he still can’t even find anything else to talk about. Suggestion: try doing things that are expressly not like Jackie (“Always wore her hair down, did she? Pass me that scrunchie!”) and see what happens.