Exhibit A: I break up with a girl at the theater in the first 5 minutes of “A Walk to Remember.”
Now wait, let me explain… well, okay, it kind of isn’t any less bad than it sounds.
I’d dated this girl for about a year, which is a very long time for a high school relationship. When I realized this, I reevaluated everything and decided I didn’t want to resign myself to dating only one person for what should be my young-and-loose teenage years. (I would save that resignation for my college years, when commitment made even less sense.) This analysis took me from enjoying the relationship to wanting nothing more to do with it in an amount of time that can only be described as “asshole-ish.” There was no way she could’ve seen it coming.
So then, the question was how to do it. Keep in mind this was pre-Facebook, so I couldn’t just uncheck the box that said “In a Relationship” and hope she picked up on it. And being a nice guy (which I swear to God that I am), I felt she was entitled to something a little more personal than a handwritten note, or a phone call, or the most impersonal method: email. No, this had to be done in person.
But even in person, there were still rules of etiquette that had to be followed. Don’t do it in front of people in a way that would embarrass her, which I interpreted as in school or in front of her friends. What made the MOST sense to me at the time was to do it at the end of a date (we had one scheduled Friday night). Read that again: at the END of a date. Then, at least there’s a trade-off. “Hey, your dumped, but you did get a complementary dinner and a movie!”
The days that followed between Wednesday and Friday (see, I told you it was an asshole-ish amount of time) were anxiety-ridden. I was phoning it in, and I felt horrible for going through the motions just to get to Friday. In hindsight, I think it probably would’ve been better to have done it in an email read by all of her friends in front of the entire school than what actually ended up happening.
Friday, the date happens. My stomach is spasming; knowing you’re about to break someone’s heart will do that to you. I was so distracted, I took no notice of the movie she picked out: “A Walk to Remember.” Apparently, I was also dropping the ball on keeping conversations going, because she picked up on it at the most inopportune time: ten seconds after sitting down in the theater. She asked, “Is anything wrong?”
Those three words were like a secret code that a hypnotist gives you to make you stop acting like a chicken. At their utterance, my brain executed the “terminate” command on the relationship. “I don’t want to date you anymore.” It was sloppy, but it got the point across. I immediately felt a sense of relief wash over me. I didn’t feel the guilt of dishonesty or the constraints of a relationship. I was free. Almost elated, I tried to change the subject to less-dumpy things. “So, what’s this movie about?”
Now, I won’t spoil the movie for you. I will say, even if you have watched it before, you should re-watch it with the mindset that someone in the audience has just been dumped. It. Is. Terrible.
I quickly realized I’d made a tactical error. The movie went sappy pretty quickly out of the gate. I couldn’t tell if the sobs from my newly-established ex were from the movie or from her new reassignment. Or both. For me, the relief changed to awkwardness and guilt. As the movie went on, it didn’t get better. At one point I even said (aloud, I think). “Well, this movie couldn’t POSSIBLY get any worse.” Again, without providing spoilers, it did. Uber-worse. At that point, my feelings of awkwardness took an unexpected turn, manifesting themselves in fits of suppressed laughter. This was the WORST way to do what I’d just done, and (if you know me) it makes sense that something like this would happen to me.
Needless to say, the evening ended pretty quickly after that. No post-movie dinner and dissection. No mall-walking to kill time. No talking at all for a few years after that, actually. I didn’t recommend the film to friends, and I doubt she purchased it on VHS. And it had all started with the best of intentions, or as best that can come from wanting a break-up. In the end, I think I had that coming. It was as if God said, “Okay, you can hurt this person if you have to, but I’m going to make it unbearably awkward for you.”
But there is a pleasant epilogue: she no longer wants me dead. That’s always good.