Dear Breakup Girl,
I know that second guessing is futile, so I do hope that your advice might end my own obsessive practice.
Last fall one of the professors in my department began making overtures: inviting me to lunch, inviting me to dinner, writing me constant e-mails, giving me small gifts. Perhaps I am a more naive graduate student than most, but I remained uncertain of his professor’s intentions, questioning why someone so accomplished (and sixteen years older) would be interested in me, so not accomplished (and sixteen years younger). Well, of course, he was ‘Rebound Man,’ going through a divorce with his equally accomplished wife of fifteen years, who is, rather unfortunately, in the same field as I (at another university, thankfully).
Our ‘relationship’ continued until the end of the semester, when it was apparent that I was not going to end my relationship with my long-distance boyfriend of five years (it’s true, I behaved horribly, I know), nor was I going to have children. Two things that were obviously important to this professor.
Since the ‘breakup’ was amicable, I thought we might at least be ‘friends’ of sorts. But the professor’s contact with me during the next semester mostly involved him mentioning how busy he was (i.e., too busy to see me) when we inadvertently met in the department’s halls.
Typical enough, no? But over the summer the professor eloped to an exotic foreign destination as such a decision dictates, mere weeks after finalizing his divorce and mere months after ending our own ‘relationship.’ After reading Catherine Texier’s ‘Breakup,’ I know I am hardly in a position to feel sorry for myself, but could you please explain what I meant to this professor, if anything. Because before his great pursuit of me I had absolutely no interest in him whatsoever other than as a rather friendly faculty member, so the entire situation is more than a little painful for me, even though I know I deserve no sympathy. It is terribly confusing because barely weeks into our ‘relationship’ this man was professing his love to me (which, of course, was ridiculous and I told him so), telling me that he wanted to live with me, etc., etc. But once it was clear that things would not work out, it was very much like ‘ciao, catch you later.’ Indeed, he acted as if HE had ended the relationship, which is patently untrue.
True to form, the professor has not personally informed me that he re-married over the summer, although everyone else is talking of it. Wouldn’t it be polite for him to have contacted me, however discreetly, regarding his new marriage considering our past ‘relationship’?
Was I really, really, really the prototypical Just Good For Now Girl?
Thank you for any advice you might be able to provide.
— Another Not-So-Bright Graduate Student
Yes, it would have been polite. So would having apologized to your family in a national TV broadcast, if you get my drift. It was an affair, Grad. Courtesies not included. And yes — hate to say this — you were the Good For Now Girl. But you won’t be next time. Right?
This advice originally published September 14, 1998.