A few weeks ago, my friend invited me to dinner with her roommate and her thing. (“Thing” because this is 2014, and “boyfriend” / “girlfriend” / insert-term-that-doesn’t-reinforce-the-gender-binary is way too close to “fiancé” / “fiancée” / insert-another-gender-spectrum-term. It’s also 2014 because of that third option.)
I knew she and the thing had been going through a rough patch – similar to gravel beneath a blowup swimming pool – but assumed they were over it. We even went to the thing’s house post-dinner. And stayed there for three hours. I took selfies with his cat. When we left, he invited us all to go pumpkin picking the next day.
Outside, she exhaled: “Ugh, I was just trying to get out of there. I can’t stand him.”
Welcome to the Age of the We-Don’t-Break-Up-We-Just-Drift-Apart. People struggle to quit relations (I’m evading that heavy word “relationship”), partially because people don’t get together (at least in the official sense), but mostly because we’re avoidant millennials. And when I say break up, I don’t mean the “We are not dating anymore” conversation (which assumes you have been dating in some sort of official, Facebook-notarized way). I mean the “I’m no longer interested in you, but I won’t say that, so I’ll just stop initiating, but I will answer your texts and occasionally like your Facebook status – maybe even comment on your Instagram posts – but no, I won’t make out with you – unless we’re at a bar, and I’ve had a rough week. And yeah, I might leave my leftovers in your fridge. P.S. I hope you pick you up on these signals.”
This leads to brooding Sunday brunches where you question life, love, and how many episodes of “Orange Is the New Black” you can watch before work tomorrow while scrolling through his/her tagged photos – and also scrolling through Tinder matches.
Examples abound: You two go to dinner, think “Well, I should never do that again,” but then they invite you to the movies the next weekend – or worse, you’re bored and have no plans, so why not see what they’re up to tonight? And then you’re in the dark of the theater overwhelmed with “How do I get rid of them now?”
Or you’re texting about hanging out, and you keep saying you can’t do this Thursday, but maybe next winter on a Wednesday if it’s a lunar eclipse, then maybe you two can get together. And really, who’s to blame in this situation – the person who keeps throwing out never-ending dates or you, constantly sidestepping and never addressing?
Are we cowards, or are we apathetics? Or worse, are we apathetic cowards? Too timid to say “I DON’T WANT TO SEE YOU ROMANTICALLY” (though it’s all caps in your head) and too complacent to otherwise run away.
As my friend said about her boo thang: “I just hope he gives up one day.”
So how do you quit someone? I advocate this: For the pursuer, court thrice, then surrender if contact is not made (it is okay to ask once more if they counter-suggest a date). For the pursued: You’re only allowed to be vague on the first asking. Afterward, decline without the embellishments of emojis or “Aw, I’m sorry, that sounds fun!” *rolls eyes* Or better yet, when they next suggest a date, ask if you can invite your parents, best friends, maybe even your boss.
Wait, that may be ambiguous. They might be thinking you’re suggesting a wedding. Well, I guess everything’s ambiguous these days. So let’s just go back to answering their texts only after 11 PM and only being available when we’re bored.
If you’re wondering, my friend went to that pumpkin patch along with her roommates. Godspeed to that breakup.