Readers respond to the question with dramatic personal stories and the lessons they learned. To submit your own breakup story, email email@example.com. (And if you’d like to include a song that most resonates with that relationship, please do.)
These two entries for our ongoing reader series are bookends of sorts—one at the end of a long marriage and the other just before one. This first reader has a grim anecdote, which she frames as “the final breakup”:
My husband was dying from Lewy Body disease—think Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s combined. (Robin Williams made the right decision when given the same diagnosis.) He was in a nursing home. As he lay stretched out on the hospital bed, I gently caressed his forehead and forearm. His last words to me before death: “Stop petting me like a fucking dog.”
This next reader goes into much greater detail over her “pre-emptive divorce” to a manipulative Mormon fiancé:
The breakup that sticks out the most would be when I broke off my first engagement at age 20. I met him September 2002, when I was 19, and he proposed the next April. We were both students at Brigham Young University, which has a very high marriage rate, in part due to the strict moral code of conduct associated with Mormon beliefs. I was inexperienced and had never dated another Mormon before, so I thought he was amazing: He shared my belief system and was a decent human being, and I thought that was enough.
Well, when school let out for the summer he went to live with his parents in Boise and I went to live with mine in Texas. I poured my soul out to him in emails that were pages long, but he would only respond with a paragraph every couple of days or so. He called once a week. My parents saw him for what he was (manipulative, not particularly affectionate, cynical, and unable to hold a job) and were very vocally opposed to the union. I spent nearly all of our engagement in a perpetual state of anxiety.
When I flew back to Utah for classes in the fall, he picked me up. I was totally unprepared for the raging anxiety attack that I experienced on the way from the plane to baggage claim. I ducked inside the bathroom for a few minutes to collect myself, wishing that I could stay in there forever. Why was I feeling this way? It hit me: because I didn’t want to see him. I didn’t want to marry him.
But I did go out to meet him so he could pick me up from the airport. And then I let him manipulate me into thinking, yes, we should get married. He also said that my mother, if she was opposed to our union, was in league with Satan.
When we discussed what to do about a study abroad program that was a requirement for graduation for my major, he suggested that I not go, because “all I’d be doing was delaying my graduation.” We were both devoutly Mormon, so we never slept together, but the topic of birth control was brought up. “I dunno,” he said. “I guess that’s just something that you’d take care of.”
By November, I couldn’t take it any more. We sat at the table in my apartment, and I said, “Do you think we should break up?” (which of course meant, “I think we should break up.”) He leaned away from me and crossed his arms, with a closed, empty look on his face. He said, “How much of this is from you, and how much is from your mother?” My eyes flashed with anger, but I kept my voice quiet. “It’s me.”
Later, we found ourselves outside my apartment and he hugged me for the last time. He said, “I’m still your friend and your brother. Someday, when you find someone, if he hurts you I’ll kill him and make it look like an accident.”
You’d think that with a closing line like that, it would be a fairly amicable breakup. Ha. Then the nasty emails began. He said that I was ridiculous, that my reasons for breaking up with him were illegitimate, that he “overestimated my maturity.”
The breakup was totally worth it. My roommates said that I looked happier, that I had become a stronger person. I went on my study abroad to Egypt and it was everything I dreamed it would be. When I got back to the states, he contacted me again and asked if we could spend some time together, presumably in hopes of getting back together. After all those nasty things he said to me a year previously, there was no way in hell. But I said politely, “I don’t think that’s a very good idea.”
If I had married him, I know I would have divorced him by now. Indeed, I referred to this breakup to my friends as my “pre-emptive divorce.”
I did eventually marry someone else several years after this incident. October will be our 11th anniversary, and we have four kids.
This woman’s experience is similar to the reader who discovered her boyfriend’s sex addiction and string of affairs while checking his email:
Hi, here’s my submission to the breakup story thread. I’ve also attached a song [that most resonates with the relationship].
Tyler and I had decided to move in together after two weeks of dating. At this point, he had already told me he loved me, retrieved his belongings that were being withheld by his crack-addicted roommate in East Oakland, and showed up at my doorstep the next day with a queen-sized mattress and a Maine Coon cat named Mona. As a 20-year-old living in San Francisco, somehow this all made sense.
It was only after he had developed a drug addiction and couldn’t hold down a job that things started to get complicated.
I was hopelessly in love with this person, and yet I got the nagging suspicion that he was somehow leading a double life in order to make ends meet. I cast the feeling aside. It felt cowardly. The evidence was all there, but I was in denial. I felt weak for ignoring the smell of burning hair in our bathroom, which I later learned was crack, and accepting Tyler’s lies even though his lips still were tinged with that offensive, bitter taste.
Eventually, between loving gazes and long wretches onto the sidewalk one night, he told me he wanted to get married and spend the rest of his life with me.
Then, we got into a serious fight after he had gotten me fired from my job, and I cheated on him out of spite and helplessness. The morning after, as I stumbled to West Oakland Bart to make my way back home, I knew that the right thing would be to end the relationship that day. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and so we stayed together for another four tumultuous months. He never found out.
During the final stages of our relationship, there was a lot that I questioned about Tyler and what he did while I was away at work. Because he had given his drug dealer his laptop in exchange for coke, as well as other drugs that he would flip for cash, he used my computer to supposedly apply for jobs. It was then when I was logging into my email that I found out about his Craigslist account.
The avatar in the top right corner was a benign, shirtless selfie—one that he had sent me earlier while he was at Ocean Beach. The email handle was “Pizzasssssslut916,” and there was an exchange between him and a stranger about giving handjobs for money. He listed our home address in the e-mail. There were already about 40 of these types of exchanges in his inbox.
A wave of nausea came over me. I turned on some thrashing, angry music, began to hyperventilate, and called him immediately. I screamed at him and called him a monster as he cried and told me that he was robbing people to make rent and that he was so sorry.
I called off the relationship and told him to never come back. Twenty minutes later, I hear him pounding at the door and calling my name. I turned up my music louder, and patiently waited for him to give up. That night, I packed a bag, drove to LA with one of my best friends at three in the morning, and met with my family in Venice Beach to talk about what happened before embarking on a trip alone to Berlin for eight days.
Since that night, I never saw Tyler again. He has tried numerous times to reach out over text, Instagram Direct, and by mail. He sent me comic books while he was in rehab, photos of the farm that he started working on in New Zealand, and told me how sorry he was and how badly he messed up. I never responded.
Months afterwards, I was paranoid about what strangers online potentially knew my address, whether or not there was drug debt to be atoned for, and who was actually living with me in that ground-level apartment for so many months. To this day, I am still unsure, but now I am happily living alone with Mona, who was my true soulmate all along. Finally, the girls are alright.
Well, how about this angle: The best break-up ever.
During my senior year of college, I started dating a freshman. It was probably doomed at the outset, but we had fun. We dated steadily for most of the year, and visited each other (her home was about 300 miles from mine) over the summer after I graduated. I went off to graduate school in the fall, but she made a couple of visits during September, and I made the six-hour drive back to see her for my first homecoming weekend.
She seemed distracted. We bickered about what I was doing in graduate schools. (She was a management major whose dream in life was to be a midlevel HR manager at Hallmark. I was pursuing a Ph.D. in literature. You probably see the issue.)
Anyway, we ended up at a bar on Saturday night hanging out with a group of her friends. She was ignoring me, and I just got sick of it—said I was leaving. She asked if she could have $5. This was the early ‘80s, when $5 bought ten beers in a small-town Iowa bar, and when five bucks was a big deal to a starving grad student. I hesitated, but then said “Yes, if you promise you’ll never talk to me again,” and walked out.
Up the street I went to a different bar, where the first person I ran into was a casual friend (we had grown up in neighboring towns but didn’t know each other until college) who greeted me with her brilliant smile and a huge hug. We talked in the bar, found a bench down the street where we talked some more, went for a long walk, and talked some more.
I mustered the courage to ask her if she would like to see a movie or something when we were both home on our breaks in December. She agreed. We went out for the first time two days before Christmas, had our first kiss just after New Year's, got engaged in August, and married the following September. We now have three children, each of whom bears her grace, intelligence, and kindness. She is my best friend—the best friend I’ve ever had—and has brought joy to every single day of my life since that night of 33 years ago.
Let’s just say I doubt anyone has ever spent $5 more wisely.
That’s the bind that reader Laura finds herself in. After reading her story below, about her tumultuous relationship with Paul, I asked Laura if there’s a song that she most associates with the relationship, especially since she’s a musician herself. “There’s too much music, too many songs, too many pieces ... but one which particularly resonates just now is ‘Touch’ by Shura.”
Here’s how Laura responds to the question at hand: “What was your most memorable breakup?”
Yep, I have one for sure. Six years ago my husband left me, completely out of the blue, for my best friend. (She’s since run off with someone else’s husband; ours was the fourth marriage she’d wrecked in five years.) At the time I thought I would never get through the pain, but I did learn to deal with it.
After a couple of years, dating on and off but with pretty serious trust issues, I met a man, Paul, and we started dating. It was intense from Day 1, and despite the 150 miles between us, we spent at least two or three days and nights together each week. He spent a lot of time reassuring me of his love; that I could always trust him; that he would never do what my ex did.
Eventually we decided we wanted to live together, and the plan was for me to move to his town, as he had children (I don’t) in high school who were coming to live with us. I was pretty nervous about this move with no serious commitment, so, as it mattered so much to me, we decided to get married.
We chose a house, had an offer accepted, and I gave notice to my work. Then the bombshell:
Although he loved me, and wanted still to live with me, he didn’t want to marry me. This was 15 months ago. Devastated at first, I withdrew, but quickly realized I’d rather live with him unmarried than not have him in my life at all.
So it was all back on, and I continued with the house purchase. Two days after contracts were exchanged, he broke up with me. At that stage I had no choice but to move, as I would have lost thousands (tens of!!!) if I’d withdrawn.
So, I moved. To a town where I knew no one but him and his friends and family. Where I had no job. To a house I didn’t know if I’d be able to afford.
After a few weeks, he came to see me, and we started seeing each other again. His children knew, and were delighted, but he was telling other family and friends that I wasn’t in his life.
The next crunch came when two of his friends, who knew we were together again, came to my house and told me he was seeing someone else and introducing her as his partner. When I spoke to him about it, he said it was “nothing serious” (really????), and that he still loved me.
She dumped him a few weeks later, and we started seeing each other properly, with everything out in the open with his friends and family. At the end of October last year, we decided we did want to stay together. He told the children, we started making plans ... then four days later he texted me and said basically he didn’t love me and didn’t want to be with me.
There were a lot of outside influences. They don’t exonerate his behaviour, but it has gone some way to helping me understand it. People say that, although you can love many people in your life, there is a special someone for everyone ... and Paul is mine.
It’s been six months now since he ended it for good, and a year since I moved here. It’s been the worst year of my life. I get through the days, but not much more.
The breakup of my marriage has taught me one thing: I will get through this. I don’t know how, or when; I just have to hang on and hope.
I have dated a couple of times ... but I still love Paul, so I rarely progress to second dates. I wonder at this stage if I will ever stop loving him, if I can ever sustain another relationship. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life alone, but the only person I want has made other choices.
Meantime, I am here, doing my best to get on with things. I am a musician, and have begun performing and conducting again. I’m in a musically vibrant town on the south coast of England, and for now I will immerse myself in that. Until the pain eases.
This reader tried to put his foot down like Wayne did with Stacy:
I had been in a relationship for about four years, unhappy for at least the previous two years. I knew that being with her forever was the “smart” call (beautiful, medical student, wonderful family) but we weren’t a good fit, and arguments flared up constantly. I believed that I “should” be happy but I wasn’t, and I beat myself up for being so horrible as to not appreciate what I had.
Nevertheless, I was miserable and finally got up the nerve to end things ... or I almost did. She made a death grip around my arm, told me I wasn’t leaving until we made up, and I caved after about an hour. This was our sixth or tenth breakup, and I couldn’t bear to go to my friends and say that I hadn’t followed through (I thought that telling some ahead of time would force me to stick with it).
So I lied, at least until things were “settled.” To my family and some of my friends, we were still together. To most of my friends, I was a single guy newly freed from my situation.
In the two years that followed I kept this facade going, carefully negotiating mixed social gatherings with utter terror that I’d be discovered. With everyone I met I had to decide what version of the truth I would go with and how that would play into the overall social network. Where did I tell them I was spending the weekend? Who did I say I was going on vacation with?
It was exhausting. Meanwhile, my actual relationship wasn’t going any better. What had started as a desire to hide my lack of conviction from my friends had turned into a full-blown double life, complete with dating and infidelity (though never another relationship per se).
After two years of this anxiety we broke up for “normal” reasons, wanting different things out of our future (as you do when you meet at 20 and now you’re 26) among other things. There was some initial anguish, as I did still love her, but I think the relief from cognitive dissonance did as much to relax me as did ending an unhappy relationship.
That was three years ago. No one ever found out.
When some people cheat, it’s the “other man/woman” who they keep secret from the rest of their lives. For me, I kept the relationship secret from the rest of my life. Every time someone tells me I am honest or a great guy, I cringe.
That’s the crux of the second story below, but first a quick one from this Southern reader:
I’ve had a couple of memorable breakups, but the worst was when my ex-wife left me for her best friend’s husband—a guy she met while singing in the choir at church. And, yes, we’re from the Bible Belt, where people think that just because you go to church on Sundays, all sins are forgiven and they can smile in your face while one hand is in your pocket and the other up your wife’s skirt.
Now about that headline:
I was just two years out of college and still figuring out what I wanted to do career wise when the Great Recession hit. I had just wrapped up a year of AmeriCorps when the economy tanked in September 2008, so in a way I had prepped for poverty. I was also living at home with my parents and generally depressed.
Then I met someone. He was not a guy I would have considered my type. As a gay man, I thought I wanted someone who was masculine, strong, and unafraid (i.e., my opposite). He wore scarves, did yoga, and always wanted to talk about his feelings. Our respective situations (he was also living at home) are what brought us together and then inevitably drove us apart.
We dated for two months before he left for Thailand. It was a trip he was planning for months and our seeing each other happened amidst his planning. We talked daily and the distance made us closer in many ways. Ongoing family issues also made us bond over our shared realization that we came from pretty messed-up homes.
When he returned, a mutual acquaintance offered his cabin as a place to stay. We seized the opportunity to live together and not at our respective homes.
Then disaster, in the form of opportunity, interceded. I was offered an incredible job in Boston at a nonprofit legal advocacy group. Shortly thereafter, he was accepted to Georgetown University with a full scholarship. This happened after he was first accepted to a school in Boston and we had spent weeks looking at apartments together.
We had lived in the cabin for no more than one month when I took the job and he put down a deposit for Georgetown. During that time, I had also bonded with our mutual acquaintance/landlord. We became very close and he listened as I expressed my frustration, confusion, and doubts. So it was no surprise when I found myself attracted to him and drifting away from my boyfriend.
And drift I did. In Boston, I answered phone calls but didn’t offer much in the way of enthusiasm at the prospect of continuing our long-distance relationship. Meanwhile, our friend, the former landlord, visited me regularly and we started an intimate relationship.
About one month into my new job, my boyfriend showed up unannounced at my door. I spoke to him outside my apartment. I could tell he was nervous, after driving nearly four hours and arriving unannounced at my place. We didn’t fight, but he became frustrated when I wasn’t forthcoming about my feelings about him and us.
And then he pulled out the ring.
I remember saying something to the effect of “no, no, no” as he opened the case there on the sidewalk. I felt like the worst human being on earth. Here was a person proposing to me while our mutual friend was upstairs in my apartment, undoubtedly still sweaty from our marathon sex that afternoon.
I declined the proposal and sent him off to drive another four hours home. I went upstairs and had what was described to me as a ghostly appearance. I knew I made the right decision at the time, as marriage was inconceivable given his schooling and my job. But I was racked with guilt.
This all happened almost seven years ago now, but I still cringe at how I avoided the tough conversation and how that led to an even tougher breakup. If I could go back, I would have ended things much sooner and not let them drag out to the point of a last-ditch marriage proposal. We all deserve a clean break.
That’s the metaphor used by the second reader below. This first one points to a different kind of persistent pain when describing his most memorable breakup:
It wasn’t the phone call to my English-language teaching girlfriend “temporarily” living in Lyon, France, that started (and essentially ended) with “I’m staying.” And it wasn’t the disembodied rupture of my first relationship of true love that made the breakup so hard. It was the never-ending grief-bombs I found in my next three apartment moves over the next two years—tiny little notes from her falling out of my belongings … “an ocean is nothing!” I’d rather have found a dead roach.
Our second reader’s story:
I met him when I was 23. I was young, relatively successful in my career and had six months of living in NYC under my belt. He and I were brought together in a cozy bar in Chelsea thanks to a few OkCupid messages.
If I allow myself, I remember every detail of that night.
I learned that night I had a gift of memory in our relationship which would make almost impossible to ever forget. Our first night together I know what drink he ordered, what shirt I wore, the color of his watch strap, and even the address of the brownstone I pushed him in to walking back to my apartment to steal one of those deep, electric kisses we did not know we could ever have.
The next day, we met up again. He could do no wrong and I could not want him any more. We fell asleep, two men, in each other’s arms in the middle of Central Park, the grass enveloping our bodies as if to stitch us even closer.
Fast forward a few blissful months and I had him pinned down in bed in the playful way we were and he told me he loved me. My first love.
Fast forward another handful of months and, in the same bed, I found out he had cheated on me.
What I did not realize was that the moment I was exposed to that confession I was living with a poison inside me from the infidelity. Like a snakebite, infidelity infected me with doubt, anger, and confusion that I let seep into my head and heart. He begged me to stay. I did.
The relationship ended a year after that. It actually ended on our two-year anniversary. Our last day together wasn’t anything like the first. He told me I was a different version of myself and through my tears I begged him to be the one to stay. He did not.
We have not seen or spoken to each other in over a year. I am not sure I could handle it and I am not sure he even cares. It feels unfair to me that I continue to live with this poison. It feels unfair that now, in love, my trust comes with an anticipation of being bit again.
I was 21, fresh out of my job training in the Army, and newly arrived at my first duty station—Ft Bliss, Texas. He was 28 or 29, and newly arrived at an Air Force Base in Korea. We had dated for a year prior, my longest relationship to date, but we would be physically separated for the foreseeable future, if not for the entirety of our military careers. I was in love with him but unable to admit, either to him or to myself, that what we had would not survive the distance.
I slept with someone at Ft Bliss within a month of my arrival. I writhed with guilt until I told him about it on Valentine’s Day via chat. At the time, I told myself I was just looking to unburden my guilt, and I gave him the choice to stay with me or break up. Looking back, I realize that sleeping with L was an act of sabotage, a way to hasten the ending of the inevitable, and leaving the decision to end it to him was cowardice on my part. I’d like to blame it on my youth, but I knew better.
That’s what this poor reader went through—but eventually the feeling came full circle:
My girlfriend and I had gone through college in Wisconsin together for four years as a couple and lived together for two of those years. Nearing graduation I asked her to marry me, to which she said yes, and then I moved to DC to start working, while she took a trip to Europe with her younger sister that was a graduation present from her parents. I had a bad Spidey sense about that situation, but work beckoned, and she was to meet up with me in DC after her trip.
She got back and called me from Wisconsin at 11:00 one night saying that she had “met a few guys” on her trip and decided that she needed to be free and would not marry me. I replied “Hold on … I’ll be right there!”
I dropped the phone and jumped into my car with nothing but my wallet and drove all night from DC to Northern Wisconsin, where her family lived. I arrived late the next day exhausted and mentally undone. I slept for a few fitful hours, and upon awaking, we walked together in the orange/yellow sunset through waste-high corn … where she dumped me. In the corn.
I was totally devastated. I had never been un-loved before.
She then moved down to DC to start her job. A year later she called me out of the blue and asked to get together for dinner and to talk. When we met she said she had dated some other guys and decided that I was the one for her. She asked me to marry her and suggested we fly off to Vegas and get hitched ASAP.
I happened to be dating someone seriously at the time, so I turned down her proposal. That bridge had been burnt to the ground.
Here’s a reader with a less dramatic story but one you can probably relate to more:
I found myself in a summer romance with an older woman; she was 32, I was 27. Like many a great modern relationship, we met via Tinder, went on a date shortly after we’d started chatting, and it was dynamite; she was a force of nature in a tiny package and we had amazing chemistry. The next couple of months were a giddy blur of sunny days, listening to records in her beautiful apartment and screwing each other silly.
Then she invited me to come on a road trip with her to a friend’s wedding. For a while before the trip I’d had the feeling that something was awry—that deep, low inkling of discontent you sense in your gut, even when everything else appears rosy and serene.
The night of the wedding, both of us loaded to the gills with booze from the reception and staying in a tent on her friend’s acreage, five hours from home, we had the conversation. The next morning we were both desperately hungover and decided it’d be best if we didn’t continue the road trip together.
I’ll never forget that horrible, whisky-soaked, impossibly long wait for the Greyhound to depart as I sat onboard, watching her cry behind her sunglasses as she sat in her car in the parking lot. The relief as the bus pulled away was huge, if not painful—like resetting a dislocated joint. I don’t think either of us appreciated how strongly we’d come to feel about each other in such a short space of time until that day.
We saw each other one time after that and talked about staying in touch, but then we never saw or spoke to each other again. That was definitely one for the books, but I can’t help but smile when I think back to my time with that amazing little lady, even if the breakup was a rough one.
I asked the reader if he’d be comfortable elaborating on why they broke up, and his responded:
From the start we were both very upfront with each other that neither of us were looking to get into anything serious, which was fine with me. She’d been hurt pretty badly by her last relationship and I was expecting to move away later in the year, so something casual suited us both.
As time went on, I think we were both starting to realise that we were really into each other, probably too much. I guess she decided she needed to put some distance between us, emotionally and physically, and had been thinking about it for a while before the wedding.
I’d had a feeling for maybe a week before we left for the trip that something was off, but we’d only been communicating by text that week and I’m terrible at interpreting texts (the curse of modern dating, if you ask me). Things ended so suddenly because we’d always been so open and upfront with each other up until that point, so I was upset that she didn’t tell me how she felt before we went on the trip when we finally talked about it that night. The fact that we were both hammered certainly didn’t help things.
That’s perhaps not as concise as you’d like, but it’s hard to distill the whole scenario into a neat paragraph while still providing a clear picture of why things ended.
In my experience it’s often the most ambiguous and friendly breakups that are the hardest, since closure is so much more difficult. The more dramatic breakups are more painful in the short term but at least you can move on more quickly. If you have a memorable breakup you’d like to share, drop us an email.
Over the weekend, prompted by examples of memorable breakups from readers in the TAD discussion group, we asked readers to submit their own stories. The first comes from a woman who prefers to stay anonymous, and her brief story is enough to give anyone nausea:
I was with a guy for almost five years, four of which we lived together. We had the conversation about settling down, having kids, etc., and started taking steps towards that, but he soon began acting strangely and our relationship started to dissolve. It felt like sand slipping through my fingers; no matter what I did, we couldn’t seem to get to a good place.
We decided to separate but stay friends in the hopes we would reconcile. Unfortunately, we were stuck in a lease together, so we had to cohabitate for four months.
I signed the lease on an apartment once he was able to find someone to take over. The day I signed it, I did something I never thought I would do: I snooped on his computer. He was a very sexual person, to the point of addiction, but he hadn’t tried to touch me for months. When I opened his Gmail, I saw that every message—every single one—was arranging sex from Craigslist or porn messaging sites. And these messages went back a year.
I was devastated. I’d supported him emotionally and financially for two years after he’d been kicked out of grad school. I’d put my career, my family, and myself second to him. I told him that he was dead to me and we never spoke again.
While I’ll never be proud that I snooped, I’m glad I did, because despite the heartache and pain it caused me, it was the breaking point. It took a long time for me to emotionally recover from that relationship, but I wouldn’t change a thing because it made me the badass woman that I am today.
That’s the question a reader recently posed in TAD, the nickname for a discussion group launched and moderated by a handful of Atlantic readers and former members of the Horde. Here’s Lizzou:
I’ll start. I had just finished uni, dating a boyfriend of three months. I’m living in NoVA and he’s back home in WI. He calls me late one night, drunk and crying: “My mom says I’m too young to be in a relationship and she doesn’t like Italians...” (He was almost 22 years old.)
1. Tell that b*tch of a mother you have that I’m f*cking Sicilian, not Italian. And, are we living in the 19th century or something?
2. Can you call me back when you’re not drunk so we can have an adult good-bye conversation?
He never called me back. I was fine; he didn’t break my heart or anything, but I was just soooo pissed off at how he broke with me. Now I think it’s hilarious.
Anywho, it spurred me to get a teaching job, sell my car to finance airfare and student loan payments for a year, and move to Slovakia three weeks later. Best decision ever.
She got reassurance from another reader: “You dodged a bullet—and avoided an Annie Hall family dinner!” Like so:
Speaking of New Yorkers:
My most memorable breakup was when I was living in NY and dating a lawyer. I moved in with him and two months later discover he had a wife and two kids. That was fun.
Still mourn that apartment.
This story is pretty bleak:
I was very young, 20 or 21. I had been living with a guy for about six months. We were relatively happy but I was changing. Growing up. He could feel it. He asked me to marry him. I waited for him to go to work. Packed my stuff. Wrote a note on scrap paper and hung it up with a refrigerator magnet:
“Sorry. I love you but this isn’t a forever thing.”
I drove to my girlfriend’s and crashed on her couch until I could find a place. He tried to find me but I avoided him. I didn’t want to let him suck me back in. I was cold about it, but I felt like I had to be in order to escape. I never talked to him again.
This next reader can’t really relate to memorable breakups:
I never had much heartbreak. My relationships tended to end naturally and I had relatively few before meeting my wife. Growing up I wasn’t much of a relationship guy—mostly sex and hooking up.
I broke up with someone we’ll name Stacy. She wanted something more and I wasn’t providing, it hurt because she was one woman I could roll with. We would get high, relax, chill, and just enjoy each other’s existence. Idk what happened to her; she deleted her FB after college.
I had a one night stand with a French woman. We f*cked each other’s brains out. Then she never texted me back. This actually inspired me to work out more and find a new job. I kept thinking I had to prove myself to her, but idk why I let one woman I f*cked once have this effect on me. We’re friends on FB and she seems to be happy with her Italian bf, so ah well.
Or as Bob Dylan would say, “Don’t think twice, it’s all right”:
The former president’s message at his Arizona rally was as clear as it was dishonest: He didn’t lose to Joe Biden in 2020, and he’ll spend the next year working to elect Republicans who agree.
FLORENCE, Ariz.—Tonight, deep in the Arizona desert, thousands of people chanted for Donald Trump. They had braved the wind for hours—some waited the entire day—just to get a glimpse of the defeated former president. And when he finally appeared on stage, as Lee Greenwood played from the loudspeakers, the crowd roared as though Trump were still the commander in chief. To many of them, he is.
“I ran twice and we won twice,” Trump told his fans. “This crowd is a massive symbol of what took place, because people are hungry for the truth. They want their country back.”
Tonight’s rally was Trump’s first public event since July. On paper, the gathering was meant as his response to the anniversary of January 6, as well as an unofficial kickoff for his efforts to support Republicans in the midterm elections. But the event also served as the soft launch of Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign. Although he didn’t say the words, the former president seems poised to run in two years—“Make America great again again … again,” he joked to the crowd—and tonight, his message was as clear as it was dishonest: He didn’t lose to Joe Biden in 2020, and he’ll spend the next year working to elect Republicans who agree.
I thought I was done dating. But after moving across the country, I had to start again—this time, in search of platonic love.
Thirty-seven minutes after sitting down to lunch, Francesca and I hugged goodbye in a strip-mall parking lot. We were both fairly certain, I think, that we would not be seeing each other again. The high-school classmate of a friend’s friend’s husband, she’d been such a promising friendship prospect: She was a professional violinist and fellow New Yorker who was writing her dissertation on pollen. But I was awkward, smiling too much and saying things like “That’s so funny” in lieu of actual laughter, while Francesca (not her real name) was overworked and seemed full of derision for Bozeman, Montana, the town to which I had just moved, and from which she and her husband were determined to flee.
SNL’s inaugural episode of 2022 turned to dark, and often awkward, absurdity to explain our exasperating moment.
Saturday Night Live’s first episode of 2022 attempted to make up for the strange, empty show that ended 2021 amid the rise of the coronavirus’s Omicron variant. The cast was back, the masked audience was back, and the show, as they say, went on. But it couldn’t escape the world outside of 30 Rock’s doors.
This season has thus far blended thin political fare with dour-noted escapism, as though the pleasure of putting on a live show is more about continually agitating a bruise than finding true comedic relief. Like so many of its viewers, SNL has been waiting to turn a corner, to move past a scenario with little to laugh about. Last night’s episode felt like one long exasperated sigh. As James Austin Johnson’s Joe Biden wretchedly joked in the opening presidential address, “People got vaccinated and the pandemic got worse.”
Right now, there is a hole in my living room. It was not there last week. We’ve tried to cover it up, but nothing seems to work. Rearranging the furniture somehow only makes the hole grow. The space, which once radiated a hopeful glow, now feels hollow. When I stare at this hole, I begin to feel as if a light has gone out in the world. Actually, not just one, many. And that’s because they have.
I am, of course, talking about my Christmas tree (RIP).
If you live in one of the 94 million homes or apartments that purchased or displayed a tree this holiday season, then maybe you feel the same melancholy that I do now. It’s grim out there. Two weeks ago, my street was a Griswoldian wonderland with twinkling lights silhouetting the eaves of my neighbors’ houses and robust-looking conifers standing proudly in their windows. Now my street is an evergreen graveyard with damp, sickly looking pines discarded by the side of the road, half buried in the driven slush.
The top player in men’s tennis is yet another anti-vaccine athlete who’d rather create chaos than get a shot.
After a dramatic weeklong fight with the world’s top men’s tennis player, Australia’s immigration authorities wisely decided to revoke Novak Djokovic’s visa a second time because he flouted the country’s COVID-19 policies. Although the Australian authorities and tennis officials aren’t blameless, this is a huge, self-inflicted public-relations crisis for Djokovic that has smeared his legacy.
Climate change is a tough subject for any film, let alone a satire.
Adam McKay’s disaster satire Don’t Look Up is many things at once: a parable of our distracted society, a primal scream of a warning, and a broad comedy from the writer/director of Anchorman. Such a delicate balance has made the star-studded Netflix film a polarizing movie.
Critics, audiences, and activists have both savaged and praised the movie, and the backlash has highlighted the difficulty of conveying an urgent message with comedy. Has political satire lost its power? Or has reality become so absurd that it’s now beyond parody?
That challenge was evident in the making of Don’t Look Up. As McKay told David Sims, he wrote the story about a planet-killing comet (and our society’s inability to act collectively to stop it) as a climate-change metaphor. But after the script was done, production shut down for the pandemic and he watched the follies of a real-life disaster surpass his fictional one.
Early cringe culture was about empathy and secondhand embarrassment. Today, being “cringe” is a serious infraction.
Take a tweet from the week after the Capitol riot in January 2021: “A Liberal insurrection would have looked very different. We would have escorted the original Broadway cast of Hamilton into the galleries. They would softly sing … as members of the GOP spewed their lies.” This was apparently intended as satire of a certain type of extremely online and cringe-inducing liberal smugness, but it came off as the thing itself and then produced more of the same. “I’ve literally been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack at work for days now,” wrote one woman. “This is EXACTLY what would’ve happened. ALL the theater kids everywhere,” wrote another.
Then the joke became real. Last week, as part of a series of public events marking one year since the January 6 riot, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi introduced a prerecorded performance by the cast of Hamilton, singing “Dear Theodosia.” Pelosi read aloud from the song’s lyrics: “We’ll make it right for you. If we lay a strong enough foundation, we’ll pass it on to you; we’ll give the world to you.” There was no need to debate whether this was cringe (which is now an adjective, as well as a noun and verb), because cringe is a you-know-it-when-you-see-it type of thing. And these days, you can seeiteverywhere.
In Disney’s latest blockbuster, Encanto, a magical family called the Madrigals have escaped the violence and chaos of their homeland by crossing a river into an enchanted paradise that endows each with wondrous gifts that they use to protect and enhance their community. As the generations go by, however, the magic of the new world starts to fade and the family buckles under the pressure of their responsibilities while struggling to maintain the illusion that everything is fine. One grandchild, we learn, has no gift at all; another worries that she cannot keep up the appearance of perfection that is crushing her from the inside out; while another, still, panics that she is losing her superhuman strength. Luisa, the strong one, sings out her fears:
Today’s norms of responsiveness are ridiculous. We shouldn’t apologize for failing to meet them.
At first, being reachable all the time felt good. To professionals who started using BlackBerries 20 years ago to conduct business on the go, it registered as a superpower. “They felt like masters of the universe,” Melissa Mazmanian, an informatics professor at UC Irvine who studied the devices’ uptake in the early 2000s, told me. But as more people got mobile devices, responding to messages anytime became the norm among co-workers as well as friends and loved ones. The superpower morphed into an obligation.
This is an evolution that Mazmanian refers to as the “spiral of expectations.” When communication technology makes a new thing (like responding on the go) possible, doing that thing can be a way for people to signal how dedicated they are as workers or family members—and, crucially, not doing that thing can suggest that they aren’t dedicated enough. Now when people feel they haven’t responded sufficiently quickly, they think they owe their correspondent an apology.
Recently I met the astronomer Pascal Oesch, an assistant professor at the University of Geneva. Professor Oesch and his colleagues share the distinction of having discovered the most distant known object, a small galaxy called GNz-11. That galaxy is so far away that its light had to travel for 13 billion years to get from there to here. I asked Professor Oesch if he felt personally connected to this tiny smudge on his computer screen. Does this faint blob feel like part of nature, part of the same world of Keats and Goethe and Emerson, where “vines that round the thatch-eves run; to bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees”?
Oesch answered that he looks at such distant smudges every day. Sure, they’re part of the universe, he said. But consider the abstraction (thought I). A few exhausted photons of light from GNz-11 dropped on a photoelectric detector aboard a satellite orbiting Earth, produced a tiny electrical current that was translated into 0s and 1s, which were beamed to Earth in a radio wave. That information was then processed in data centers in New Mexico and Maryland and eventually landed on Professor Oesch’s computer screen in Geneva. These days, professional astronomers rarely look at the sky through the lens of a telescope. They sit at computer screens.