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May 25, 1998   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


And finally, a revenge fiasco so poignant I had to go ahead and make it...

Predicament of the Week
In which Breakup Girl addresses the situation that has, this week, brought her the most (a) amusement, (b) relief that it is happening to someone else, and/or (c) proof that she could not possibly be making this stuff up.

Dear Breakup Girl,

One month ago my girlfriend dumped me and her reason why was that she didn't want a relationship at this point in her life. Yeah, I could understand that, but when I was told that she'd started to date other guys I think I flipped. I was a very nice guy to her -- better than most guys were. To make this long story short, I told her that I'd cheated on her when we were going out -- just to hurt her -- and now all it's doing is hurting me more.

I don't want you to think I'm nuts -- only with love. I just can't tell her the truth because everyone that knows her thinks I cheated on her and she told me she can't trust anything I say to her anymore. Now that I screwed up I need to find some way to tell her that I was just lying to her about cheating on her. I know she will never want to speak to me again and I think I can handle it but I don't want her to hate me for the rest of my life. If you could in some way HELP me to find a way to solve my BIG problem. I've never wanted to hurt her this way; I just lost my head and I can't seem to find a way out of this mess. I'm not one to ask for anything in life but this one I really need help on.


P.S. If you want to post this letter on your board of guys who've done some really stupid things in their lives, I would understand. Maybe it wil help others like myself not to do things like this.

Dear K.,

Breakup Girl has no such board! But yes -- if it makes you feel any better -- your example will help others.

First, though, let's help you. Yes, coming clean will probably make a difference. No matter how gross and embarrassing it is, it's better than having this secret eat your brain. (Important note: the same would not be true if the beans you had to spill were that you had cheated. In that case, especially post-breakup, spilling would be selfish, catching her in the crossfire as you discharge your own guilt. In that case, the brain-eating guilt monster would be your punishment.) Anyway, there's no magic to be done, no secret words that Breakup Girl can pass along. In fact, what you don't realize is that you already know what to say. Let's see, it might go something like: " I could understand when you told me you didn't want a relationship at that time in your life. But when I was told that you'd started to date other guys I think I flipped. I lied and told you that I'd cheated on you -- just to hurt you -- but now all it's doing is hurting me more. I've never wanted to hurt you this way; I just lost my head. I'm really, really sorry."

Breakup Girl cannot predict how your ex will react. Be prepared: she may be even madder; she may not forgive you; or worse, she may not even seem to care. Once you've come clean, all you can do is let any chips on her shoulder fall where they may.

And after that annoyingly unsatisfying answer, let's move quickly along to why your story is so helpful.

First of all, you make a better case than Breakup Girl ever could for why anything more than April Foolish lies are forbidden as revenge tactics. Enough said.

But to make a less obvious point, listen up everyone: let's say that instead, K.'s ex had written the letter from her side of the story. As in "Dear Breakup Girl, after I broke up with my boyfriend he told me he'd cheated on me. How should I exact revenge?" Let's just hope that Breakup Girl would have told her not to. Because knowing K's story underscores my earlier point that people do a better job of beating themselves up than anyone else can, that you should think twice about giving them the sado-satisfaction of additional punishment.

Also very important: any revenge on the part of K.'s ex would have jeopardized her innocent victim status -- which, as you can see from K.'s letter, was invaluable to her maintenance of the higher ground, even though she was originally the dumper.

So: let's quit lying, wreaking impulse revenge, and -- hello, K. -- apologizing for asking for help. We're rooting for you, K-Man. And thanks: Because of you, we've looked at revenge from both sides now.

Breakup Girl



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