The old joke goes something like this: a woman bursts through the front door of her home, excited and out of breath.
“Pack your bags!” she exclaims to her husband. “I won the lottery!”
The husband leaps out of his chair. “Hot damn! Where are we going?”
“I’m going to Tahiti. Your ass is moving out!”
If only breaking up were always this easy. In reality, breakups will be some of the most awkward moments in your life. Particularly hard is finding the right words to say to the person you’re dumping without adding insult to injury.
That’s where I come in: here, free of charge and from the goodness of my heart, are eleven things you should avoid saying to your ex if you are trying to spare his/her feelings. If you don’t give a damn about his/her feelings and want to stick it to ’em one last time, then here instead are eleven ways to do that, too. I only give you the words; whether you use them for good or evil is up to you.
- “It’s not you, it’s my horrible taste in (wo)men.”
- “I’ll always be grateful to you for showing me exactly what I don’t want in a mate.”
- “I don’t care what all my friends and family say; you aren’t the worst person I ever dated.”
- “Thanks for the reassurance that I will never find anyone else like you.”
- “I’m sorry I called you a lazy drunken buffoon. I was wrong; you aren’t lazy.”
- “Breaking up with you on Facebook was the easiest way to let your friends know I was available.”
- “Don’t worry, you’ll find love again. Some people don’t mind never having orgasms.”
- “I’ll always remember the good times we had. Both of them.”
- “It’s my fault we didn’t make it. I expected too much from you: basic hygiene, multisyllabic words, opposable thumbs…”
- “I’ll always be happy to call you my ex.”
- “When you walk out that door, please don’t turn around. I want to remember you by the back of your head.”
- “I miss you”: Even if you’re hell-bent on getting her back, she just doesn’t need to hear these three words. Who dumped who doesn’t matter here. If she dumped you, she’s just going to feel horrible—or think you’re a loser—and if you dumped her, she’ll be texting “why would he say that?” and “do you think he wants to get back together?” and “then what’d he cheat on me for?” to every friend she’s got for the rest of the day.
- “You look so skinny”: Are you an insane person? Do you ever want to date again? And I don’t mean her—I mean anyone. Potential (mis)interpretations run the gamut from “Why, I didn’t before?” to “Oh, because I’m so heartbroken over you that I can’t eat?” Even if she does look like she’s lost weight or if this is just your knuckleheaded attempt at complimenting her, steer clear.
- “I’ve never been happier”: I mean, if you’re goal is to give her a zinger, then go for it, although it reeks of senior year. And by that I mean high school. But if it’s just an honest statement in an attempt to update her on your life and where you’re at, try to be a little more sensitive. She was your girlfriend at one point in your life and this can be perceived as “Whew! Glad that’s over!” Unless it’s 20 years on, and she’s, like, meeting your kids, this isn’t an idle observation to relay while standing next to a jukebox.
- “I can finally be me”: Listen, pal, the only person who can ever prevent you from being you isyou. And maybe your mother and father, but that’s beside the point. Even if she was the most dominant, uptight but-the-sex-was-worth-it lady ever in your life, youultimately made the choice to not be you. Own it.
- “I did cheat that one time”: No air need be cleared, Mr. Come Clean. Maybe you feel like it’s a weight you’d like off your chest, or even something she deserves to finally know the truth about; trust me, you’re wrong on both fronts. The former is all about you, as thoughtless and selfish a purging one can imagine, and the latter might feel magnanimous but misguided is more like it.
- “We were never right for each other”: Right. That’s why you broke up, Captain Obvious. One of you—if not both—figured that out. But to perfunctorily plunk that down in the middle of a run-in can imply that the journey to that realization was time wasted. Was it? If the answer is no, then your epiphany is simply better kept to yourself, and if it’s yes, then just be glad it’s over.
- “Can I get (insert attractive friend’s name here)’s phone number?”:It’s the age of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Grindr… you get the point. There are at least half a dozen ways you can hit on the sidekick of your ex she always suspected you dug without having to ask her for the digits. Don’t be lazy and hurtful.
- “My new girl…”: What does your ex care? She what… is better in bed? Likes the same music as you? Doesn’t find your cologne repugnant? Even if the ex you run into actually comes right out and asks if there issomeone new and what she is like, there’s absolutely no reason to respond with much more than “yes” and “she’s nice.”
Got any others? Let’s hear them.