Before and After


As those of us who actively date know, the days after something has ended is often more fraught and emotionally charged that when you were actually dating. But not a good way.

Before you were excited to see his number pop up on your phone screen and curious as to what he had to say, now you cringe and hit delete (while feeling somehow ‘invaded’) and pray that he doesn’t resort to text. Before you spent time thinking about the time you’d spend together and the things you’d do, now you pray that Denver is big enough that you’ll never run into each other again.

And the biggest ‘before’… before you didn’t give a thought to what type of an ex he’d make, because he was lovely enough for you to date. ‘After’ ..well all of those things you noticed and appreciated about him.. frankly, now creep and annoy the heck out of you.

In my mid twenties I dated one of my neighbors. It was easy, heck it felt like we’d created a kind of ‘Threes Company’ featuring me, him and his cat. He was just a flight of stairs away and we saw each other all the time. We drank wine on his patio, ate breakfast on mine. He played piano as I read the Sunday papers, and I sometimes felt like I was living in a movie – it was just so lovely.  He was easy going, funny and warm, he liked taking care of things for me and I felt adored. Traits I loved about him. Right up until the relationship ran its course. At which point he became all of those things x 100.

Well he didn’t, but the need to disentangle from him brought all of these personality traits to the fore. And loving and warm, kind of becomes claustrophobic and creepy when you’ve just dumped someone.  I’d have dealt better if he’d have cut off contact like any normal guy.. instead he was just the same, but more eager to prove himself on the off-chance that I might change my mind.

Did I need help carrying my groceries? How was my day? Did I want to check out his new jazz CD? How about I come over for a glass of wine? Was I sure I didn’t need help carrying that from my car?

I had to move.

Did I need help packing my boxes? Did I need him to arrange a moving truck? Was I ok?


To be honest, he was just being nice and trying to make it easy, but within a few weeks every single thing about him made my skin crawl and the air suck out of my lungs. Thankfully once I moved, he adopted the usual post-relationship model of ‘see you around’ and I never heard from him again.

(sorry people who stay friends with their ex’s… but I think you’re really weird)

My neighbor currently finds herself in a similar situation. Before she thrilled at the sight of her new boyfriend across the courtyard.. now he’s an ‘ex’, she skulks around unless she’s looking her best. Before she was warmed by the sight of him through his window.. now she has to watch him date other women though the very same window.  We don’t ever think of the ‘after’ when we’re in the ‘before’ stages, but I’m betting she’ll give it a thought before she dates again.. and I sure will after the latest foray.

What once was intensity and focus has become obsessive and weird. The traits which advertised him as a good catch – consistency, rigor and thoughtfulness – have resulted in text after text, email after email looking for explanation, throwing accusations and character assassinations every which way. This morning I am apparently ‘mentally ill’ and ‘a complete nutter’ and that was just the text I read.

Before I was smitten.. two weeks later, I’m frankly, quite scared.

Which leads to today’s advice. Always spare a thought for the ‘after’ before you start. All those characteristics and personality traits which you find so charming today.. spare a thought for what they’d look like turned against you. Because while you’re hopeful and sure that this one is going to work.. likelihood says that it might not. Whether you dated for 2 weeks or 2 years, one day you could be ducking and dodging, screening and blocking at some point in the future.  And while we might wish that they’d just ‘go away’ once we’ve pressed delete on their number.. not everyone does.

Booty Call Retirement

 Last weekend as my brains oozed out of my ears and I welded myself to the sofa, I chanced upon that pillar of movie making genius ‘Booty Call’ and got to thinking (not words usually associated with that movie).

In case you’ve been under a rock for a while, the Booty Call (BC) is a relationship purely based on sex. No relationship. Its the ‘3 glasses of wine, I feel horny’ sex, the ‘old boyfriend sex’ or more likely these days ‘sex without strings’. I always thought it was kind of a sad state of affairs until I found myself divorced and in a year long break from dating. The BC was the answer to my occasional desires – no fuss, no hassle, clearly defined rules and when I found mine, deliciousness who came, did and left. He even brought his own Gatorade. Perfect.
My BC had excellent skills, was prompt, efficient and a fine looking dude. He was also completely open minded, a little insane and usually left me dazed and saited. We maintained our distant ‘if we’re both not doing anything’ schedule of once or twice a year and all was good. It was clear he wasn’t interested in anything else, I wasn’t either and so we went to Disneyland, shook hands, got on the rides then ‘same time next year’.

Except when the lines started to blur.

As I got to know him slightly (you can’t do these things in silence), and a friendship of sorts started to form, I started to see him differently. I mean, he was single, good looking, ambitious and seemed actually to be a nice guy. He showed some sensitivity, had a tough time there for a bit and it felt good to be his friend. Plus we already knew the sex was good. Hang on.. was this a BC or more?

Note to BC fans – Don’t go there.

I found myself thinking of him those months when we didn’t email or text or see each other. And even when dating other guys, I couldn’t help wonder why it had never been more than a BC. I know I liked him but we’d never even shared a drink, a meal or a single phone conversation. Why was that?  I know.. That’s a relationship – not a BC – but still.. couldn’t we be ‘more than’ ?

As we neared the 3rd year of this arrangement, things seemed to shift with him and I wondered if it was just me with these thoughts… (yes, roll your eyes.. I am that stupid), and decided to have it out the next time we met. No demands, no anything.. just the simple question of ‘why are we doing this?’ And ‘why are we doing just this?’

Needless to say if you’ve seen the movie ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’.. you can figure out how it went.

I was tired, I really wanted to connect and I finally was able to escape to meet up with him. I wanted nothing more than to just be next to someone and feel some connection. (In hindsight a BC probably wasn’t the best option, I should have stuck to a warm bath). But in my exhaustion I forgot the rules of the BC.. its actually just about sex.

Which became immediately apparent when he welcomed me with a crotch grab.
Reserved for professional footballers and dogs, the crotch grab isn’t really an international symbol of affection in any cultures I’m aware of. But I was tired and figured maybe it was something new he was trying. Maybe I’d start to get in the mood when we moved to the good stuff.
A BC is like a very fast date. A little flirtation, some seduction and then the rolling around starts. Unfortunately this was the day that we were supercharging the BC and jumping straight to the action – sans affection, compliments, pillow talk or flirtation. 

In an instant my ‘maybe this is more than a BC’ thoughts evaporated and I realized that all of our time together had truly been based solely on desire. Anything else was in my head. He didn’t care that I was tired, not in the mood or needed some time – that’s what relationships are for. This, the BC, really was just about sex.  Not flirting, seduction, affection, or connection…

Which is when I suddenly realized -never more clearly- that that’s the stuff I want.  I want all of it. The ‘I’m so tired that I can’t be bothered’ sex, the ‘maybe you can convince me’ sex, the ‘I don’t like you very much right now’ sex and of course, the ‘I’m ripping your clothes off the moment I see you’ sex…I want all of it. And a BC, even with a great guy,.. it doesn’t even come close.

It was clearly time to retire the BC.

My experience has been good for me. My BC taught me that you can have a lot of fun with relative strangers, and that great sex can be had outside the bounds of a relationship. I got to explore things I’ve never had the nerve to mention to a partner and officially had my mind blown on a few occasions. We’ve never been on a date, left the bedroom or talked on the phone, but he has helped me realize that just sex, even great sex, isn’t enough. I’ll miss our trysts but hopefully not for too long. Spring is finally here and it feels like a good time to re-enter the dating pool.

And he might want to rethink that crotch grab move for the next chick… just sayin’.

Awkward breakups

Awkward Break-ups

I’d been dating and living with Tom for just over a year when things took a big turn southward. Our relationship was resembling the steamed fish we ate every night… bland, joyless and frankly, quite quite dead. When I wasn’t busy lining up the tin cans and rushing home every night to have my cellphone checked for rogue messages, I slept with one eye open and one foot on the floor. Tom had quite the temper and as someone who gets nauseous at a raised voice, I was steadily working on my second ulcer. Tense doesn’t begin to describe it.

As my weight hovered 15lbs below normal, my sister gently mentioned that I was ‘looking a bit peaky’ and perhaps I might not be terribly happy. After a nanosecond of reflection (hey, at least there was some) I decided to break up with Tom. Just saying the words allowed my stomach to unknot for the first time in weeks and the decision was so obvious I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made the move already.

Now breaking up with someone isn’t easy at the best of times. When you’re living with someone a whole other layer of complexity arises. Add a hot and violent temper into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for a very very nervous girlfriend and planning to rival any SAS exercise.

I quietly made arrangements to move out, putting down a deposit on a flat and scheduling a moving truck. I told no-one except my sister and kept the smile plastered on my face until ‘telling Tom day’.
I figured, like the army, a quick and deadly strike would leave the least casualties. I bought big new locks for my new bedsit.

What I hadn’t foreseen was Tom’s own quiet planning. In the face of a strained and silent girlfriend Tom had decided what I needed was to ‘get away from it all’ and booked a vacation for us both.

Leaving London that weekend.
For two weeks.
In Miami.

While my stomach busied itself re knitting my ulcer, I tried to look for ways out,

Work? He’d okay’d it with the  boss.
Visa? Didn’t need one.
Finances? No problem, everything was already paid for.

I claimed migraines right up to the moment the plane lifted off, at which point I actually did develop a headache. Which lasted for the entire two weeks.

There is nothing quite like being sequestered on a romantic ‘rekindling’ vacation when you’ve already mentally moved out but are too scared to say so. That it rained the entire 2 weeks didn’t help.
I’d assumed that we’d be spending the days in a lounger, uncomfortable but not intolerable. The endless rain made for lots of time for lazing in bed for Tim.. while I took the longest showers known to man. Dodging his advances with claims of migraines from hell, I was able to fake the weeping and groaning enough to keep him at bay for a week. By the second week his patience was running out and I think I might have overdone the acting when I found myself sitting in ER at Miami General. As I slid into the CAT scan machine the technician asked me if I was under any kind of stress… as Tom looked directly at me,

‘Um… no?’

I wanted to die with embarrassment and humiliation.

I used the excuse of ‘girlie bit pain’ as a means to tell the doc that not only was I not dying, but I was just trying to soldier through a 2 week vacation with a guy I was dumping next Tuesday. He was not impressed but gave me a prescription for Valium and told Tom ‘no excitement’, essentially eliminating any more advances for the remainder of the trip.

I could see the light, finally… the home stretch.. until Tom told me the last surprise of the vacation…

Not only were we not going straight home from Miami, he’d booked tickets for us to go and see U2 in Paris on the way back to London. For the whole weekend we’d be able to wander the most romantic streets in the world and I’d be able to see one of my favorite bands.


I wondered what special hell I was in and what I’d done to deserve it.

Lets just say it wasn’t the best weekend and no, breaking up in Paris isn’t any better or worse than you’d think. Just take it from me, you break up after the flight home, not before. 

So if the guy you’re planning on dumping mentions any special surprises, run….

The Break up note

My 100th post… and well.. I think we need to talk.

We’ve all done it. And we’ve all been on the receiving end of it. The break up note.

Now I’m sure that, yes, there are some of you out there who are shaking your heads since you always have done the right thing and broken up in person.. I can only assume that a) you haven’t dated in 10 years or b) you are the illusive ‘good person’ we all aspire to be. If you’re a ‘b’, sit back and learn how the rest of us do it (and if you’re single, please give me a call).

Break up notes come in a variety of flavors and textures. From the post it note (yes, it happens), to the email (the preferred method these days), to the text message (progress sucks sometimes), the options are fast, immediate and render the days of a letter or a card, a call or even a face to face discussion obsolete. Which you might think horrific, I call ‘efficient’ and to honest, has anyone ever enjoyed being told in person, that you make him shudder. The last person I told in person was my husband, and after that conversation, I never need to see the impact of my words. Its a lot easier to hit send and not think about the heartbreak you’ve just inflicted. Something I have to remind myself of when I’m on the receiving end of a break up note. At least one of us is having an easy time with it.

A girlfriend called me this weekend and asked ‘hey writer chick, do you have good break up note I can use?’ which got me thinking. So here, for your future usage.. some break up notes I’ve received and/or used.

The Grandiose
Full of import and seriousness, the Grandiose break up note mirrors the deep and profound nature of your love (that not longer is). It reflects the earth shattering, never once seen before, impact of your relationship and the heart rending difficulty with which the sender has arrived at his/ or her decision.
Yes, its still a break up note but it reflects effort, not a small degree of egotism and hey, you’re trying to let this person know that despite the fact that his nose hair makes you want to vomit, you did have something going on once.  Think ball gowns, Jane Austen, Wordsworth, flowery prose and way too much length. I received one of these which began;

‘The time has come for this stage of our relationship to end’

I mean, come on. Gentle, suggestive of  ‘a next stage’ (where he sleeps with your sister perhaps), and available for endless hours of interpretation. A gentleman’s break up note (or an egotistic, self absorbed prig.. you choose). Must be handwritten with looping curves on thick stock personalized stationary, potentially stained by tears and smelling faintly of deep despair.

The Facts
On the other end of the spectrum we have the facts break up note. We’ve all received this one.

‘I can’t do this any more’
‘We’re done’
‘Its over’
‘You smell’
‘I don’t like your dog’

(guess which one was mine?)

The Facts note is preferable if the relationship was short, perfunctory or if he has trouble with words of more than one syllable. Its virtue is the readers inability to avoid the message. No doubt on the outcome of this one. No interpretation needed unless he or she really is retarded. In which case you probably shouldn’t have been dating in the first place. I received and delivered this one via text, email and (cringe), verbally on a 12 hour drive. Note to self – don’t deliver this when you have 11 hrs and 55 minutes of a drive left. It makes for the awkward silence from hell.

The Explanation
Preferred by women the world over, the explanation break up note aims to end the relationship while providing some coaching to the recipient. Women.. we’re givers.Typically starting with a positive note;

‘You’re such a lovely guy..’
‘I’ve had so much fun with you…
‘The last 2 months have been really great..’

You can almost hear the heavy ‘..but‘ before you even get to the next sentence. Hey, we know that bad news is always more bearable with a little positive stroking beforehand. The explanation note typically points to our own failings as much as his;

‘ I’m just too wrapped up in work’
‘ I don’t know whats wrong with me’
‘ I’m not in a good place right now’

but then is quickly followed by our coaching points;

‘You’re too nice’
‘I need to be with someone less needy’
‘You seem to be going through a lot right now’
‘I think you need to focus on you’

The Explanation break up note stems from a desire to help this person out – ‘you’re not for me, but you’re good for someone’ and tries to adhere to the campsite rule ‘ leave it better than you found it’. If he just didn’t text you every 5 minutes, if he paid for dinner once in a while, if he didn’t spend his entire income on bike parts… if if if… We’re hoping that with a few well chosen hints, he might get it and take action. If changing someone was that easy, well we’d all be in harmonious and fulfilling relationships wouldn’t we?

The Punch Up
The note usually reserved for the cheating spouse, the vile boyfriend or as a result of too many cocktails after being stood up, the Punch up note aims to maim. This is about hurting someone as you walk out the door and there’s no room for interpretation.
‘I hate you’
‘You’re a loathsome prick’
‘Die M-fer’

Verbal abuse is typically interspersed with a comprehensive listing of every slight, hurt, insult and flaw associated with the individual and the relationship.  This is the Explanation break up with boxing gloves;

‘If you could get it up….’
‘And I hate your stupid friends ‘
‘Oral is not an okay birthday present’

Interestingly the Punch up note rarely includes the words ‘we’re not dating anymore’ so should the recipient be of the optimistic (or sadistic) variety you might find yourself with a hot and horny man on your doorstep. You might want to include the words ‘done’ ‘over’ or ‘small penis’ in the note. That should get the message across.

So there you have it. The flavors of break up note. Choose wisely and avoid the post it note.
Its really hard to get a good insult across on a 3 inch square.

Bizarre Breakups

As I was recounting break up scenarios with a close friend (who was planning her own) I started digging through the ‘break ups’ file. What gems I had to share. Starting with what is possibly the #1 bizarre break-up of my 20s.

I was in a relationship with – let’s call him Tom- for close to 2.5 years. Moved in together, talked about getting married, took multiple vacations, regular visits with the families. On the surface, exactly where you’d want to be at 25 (and indoctrinated by parents of the 1950s). Unfortunately Tom wasn’t exactly the golden boy. Our relationship was more ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’ than ‘Father of the Bride’. In-between lining up the cans and losing every excess pound to please him with miles and miles of running, hiding bruises and sleeping with one eye open, I finally got wise and decided to move out and move on.

How to tell him? How would he take it? Would he freak out? Would I freak out? The decision around when, where and how was harder than the decision to leave and I finally settled on that most traditional theater for English life – the pub. Plenty of people, liquor for drowning of sorrows, and limited ability for him to start throwing things at me (most English pubs specifically nail stuff down to prevent such occurrences). Plus I still had 20lbs on him, so I figured I could just sit on him if it came down to that (firearms not being part of an English upbringing). I’d even arranged a trip overseas so I’d be able to disappear shortly afterwards.

During the break up decision, I had been applying for a visa to come to the US, and coincidentally, had spent the afternoon at the embassy getting everything finalized for my extended business trip. High on my impending trip, I positively bounced into the pub to see him sitting there, glowering at me. The break up went, as they all do, painfully and yet with some relief (for me). I even filled him in on my planned 3 month trip to the US – to help ease our transition. His reaction seemed calm, considered and he seemed eerily pleased. As I headed off to the restrooms, I smugly considered how adult we both were. How rational. Apparently this is how adults end relationships. I was proud of myself, and heck, even Tom. Maybe he wasn’t as bad as I thought him to be.

I returned from the restroom to find an empty table. Completely empty. Of Tom, my purse and any sign of us having even sat there. I turned around – maybe I’d looked at the wrong table? – then caught the eye of the bar tender. He shrugged him shoulders, “Your boyfriend took off with your purse”.

Fuuuuuuuuck. What was this? “Take the Money and Run”? Literally?

My purse – my car keys, my new minted passport and visa, my cell-phone, the keys to my sisters flat, my wallet, heck even the Valium I so desperately needed right that second. All in my purse. All disappearing up the street with my now dumped boyfriend.
Luckily all that running he’d been forcing on me finally paid off and I took off down the high street, heading towards our formerly shared ‘home’. Nutter. Total nutter. What man steals his girlfriends purse? And for gods sake, why?

I arrived at the house to a locked door and silence. I tried the key but no dice – apparently he’d double locked the door. I started banging on the door, shouting and generally making a very un-English fuss. Neighbors started poking their heads out of their doors and tutting. I decided to call the police to assist the matter – either that or I’d have to wait until Home Depot opened in the morning and pull a ‘Here’s Jonny’ scene. And frankly, spending the evening on the floor outside my former home wasn’t the best scenario.

After begging entry to a neighbors house, and an embarrassed ‘awful weather we’ve been having’ conversation with neighbor Joe, the police arrived.
From the bizarre conversation between 2 policemen and a door that followed, I learned that Tom’s intent was to steal me back my stealing my purse. So I guess that’s actually how adults break up. Illogically, emotionally, bizarrely.

I recommended some ideas to my friend for her breakup. And told her to wear sneakers.