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April 3, 2012

Why can’t I get my stuff back?

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 8:55 am

Growing impatient on October 5, 1998

Dear Breakup Girl,

I dated a guy for six months and he kept telling me that “He thought I was settling” which I know is code for “I want to sleep with other people.” Which was fine with me. So the calls started to dwindle, which I expected, but when it came time to get my personal belongings back he kept stalling. Now he is involved with someone else, and will not return my calls, won’t answer the phone, and won’t even put my stuff in a box and leave it outside for me or mail it. So I have kind of decided to forget about it, but since a couple of the things mean something to me I’m a little pissed at his reluctance.

Why is he basically refusing to give my things back? And when should I go by and bang on his door at 4 AM to get my stuff?? Thanks in advance.

— Fishgirl

Dear Fishgirl,

Are all his boxes and stamps at your house? That could be one thing. Other than that, hmm. Possible motivations for his lack of motivation:

1. He accidentally sold your cardigan at a yard sale and, now that you’re on his trail, is stalling while his aunt knits a facsimile.

2. He is using your belongings as props. Earrings in couch crevasses and peppermint foot lotion on the nightstand visually represent the concept that whomever he’s with is “settling” for someone who’s not planning to settle down quite yet. I’m halfway serious about this one.

3. He just isn’t dealing. You know what, it may not be any more complicated that this. I’m sure your ex is very complex and interesting in other ways, Fishgirl. But this one may not be a conspiracy. People, in general, don’t return calls. People, in general, don’t send their travel buddies copies of the Mazatlan ’98 pictures like they said they would. You know what I mean? He probably just keeps saying to himself, “Oh yeah, I gotta do that.” Just like Breakup Girl has gotta change that spent lightbulb and repot that squished ficus (Hey, Paul?). And/’or, if you want me to get a little psychology on you, well, he probably already thinks he’s a bit on the irresponsible, Bad Person side (witness his line to you about “settling.” A line though it is, it’s telling.), and that heap of his ex’s (your) Q-Tips and Narnia Chronicles — not to mention messages — simply serves as “proof.”

Now, none of this grudging slack-cutting is helping you get your stuff back, is it? If you really want those items, well, I hesitate to tell you to show up unannounced. I guarantee you The New Girlfriend will be there, and she’ll get the idea that he has more of an issue with exes-in-residence than he really does. Not fair to her; unnecessary headaches. So, I don’t know, get him on the phone in person, and ask him nicely once and for all. Tell him you’ll come to him, whatever, whenever. Make it easy for him, I don’t care. If he can’t deal with agreeing to be home, alone, for five minutes, then yeah: the only thing that should be settling is dust. On your stuff. Sorry.

Final note to stuff-leavers: trust me, purge your things immediately after the breakup You’re already in hell — what, one more painful little logistical/symbolic project in breakupia res is gonna make things worse? See, in Fishgirl’s case, the breakup doesn’t seem to have been that big a deal; it’s the reallocation of property that’s making things drag, adding a whole new dimension to the otherwise uncomplicated transaction. Next time: get in, get it, get out. This way, you won’t have to resuffer the blow, reopen the wound, make a date, have a summit. And don’t freak if s/he gives your gifts back, or reclaims his/hers. I’m telling you, it’s all part of the hurting and smarting and purging and healing and cleaning and dealing and protecting and sweeping. Also, the Bettying of potential evidence. Which, if you think about it, is pretty much the same thing.

Breakup Girl

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