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December 27, 1999   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

You were so there for me when my ex dumped me, I just can't say. Not only did you answer my letter in True Confessions III (Nov. 16, 1998), you also put it at the top of the column! My friends were extra impressed with that (even the one who noted that she gave me the same advice but I didn't listen). And my relationship with my mom has improved, although I still have to grit my teeth sometimes.

I'm sorry to say, though, that my love life isn't any better. In fact, I'm thinking of outsourcing the management of it because I'm obviously not doing such a great job of it myself.

Consider the following:

1. Not only am I still sleeping with my ex occasionally, he has also invited me to go to New Orleans with him in February. New Orleans? The city of romance? With someone with whom you used to be coupled but now are just, ahem, bed buddies? Not to mention I have extended family there and it would get back to my immediate family in nanoseconds if I were there with him, and then ... well, so much for all the work I put into improving my relationship with my mother. (Not to mention that on the off-chance one of us gets involved with someone else before February, how do you reasonably explain to a new flame that you're going away for a week with your ex? You can't. That's the short answer.)

2. I have to attend an office Christmas party this week with the guy I dated before Ex (a coworker) and his fiancee (another coworker). I'm not really craving this dude, but I am annoyed that it's been vastly easier for him to dig up prospects for companionship than it has been for me. (Dig? Ha! Who's digging? He had to assign numbers, a la the deli counter.)

3. Mr. Ambivalence, the guy I dated after Ex, who is the reason I started sleeping with Ex again: Mr. Ambivalence is in the Coast Guard and goes out of town about every four months. When he was in town, we'd always have one date with ultra-intense intellectual and physical bonding. He even helped me move (and I come complete with a library of about 400 books that are a real pain to schlep around). Then he'd act distant, weird, avoid my phone calls, and act like I was a telemarketer when I did manage to reach him. This last go-round was no different. He comes home; we get together; I call and invite him to a movie; he tells me he's been wanting to hear from me (and even gives me his cell-phone number), and then two days later he cancels. On my voice mail, the scum. I hear nothing from or about him for eight weeks until I run into a mutual friend who tells me he's been really been pursuing (quite a switch, huh?) someone else and that the two of them are making plans to keep in touch via e-mail when he's back out at sea soon. Huh. Funny. When I proposed doing something similar the last time he shipped out, he told me an e-mail hookup would be too expensive for him. Looks like he's gotten around that little obstacle.

I'm going to print this out, look at it really hard, and try to figure out where I'm going wrong. What do you think?

--Cynical Girl

Dear Cynical Girl,

First of all, brava on the mom thing. If you occasionally grit your teeth with her, which is fine/inevitable, just make sure you've flossed.

Now. Do you need to outsource? Dental care, yes, at least twice a year. But Tender Loving Care? In your case -- believe it or not -- I'm not so sure it's necessary.

Remember, Breakup Girl is only a superhero, not a management consultant. But I will tell you that even though not every project has been profitable, there is one major system here that's in perfect working order: the one that's telling you that something's off, the one that's telling you that not all of these ventures would be optimal. Honestly: plenty of others have written, in effect, "Dear BG, My ex and I are gonna go two-stepping at Tipitina's and pretend it's not over, even though this plan hinders my chances of meeting someone lasting -- and improving things with my family -- in the meantime. Won't that be fun, cher!?" or "An elusive sailor has shown no consistent interest in me. I'm following him to the Bikini Atoll. 'K?" But by contrast: your COO (you) knew to write and wonder, thought it high time for a year-end review. This is the beginning of effective leadership.

And now? No need for massive restructuring, truly. Of course you'd consider Old Flame Orleans; of course you're cranky about co-worker's escort; of course you'd give S.S. Bookmover a chance. But this is (here's one from Oxymoron, Inc.) normal drama, not romantic ruin. These are the personnel files of your past, Cynical Girl. Rifle through them for rueful fun, as you have here, and for guidance in your next hire: someone overqualified this time, yes?

(By the way, Breakup Mom and Dad went on two honeymoons in that Venice-meets-New-Haven bayou of cayenne and iniquity. Which is to suggest that there are circumstances under which certain moms would approve of certain trips to New Orleans.)

Breakup Girl



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