Once, I wore gold flats to a job interview.
It was a Really Big Interview, for very cool a job, and it went very well. Of course, when my mom found out about what I'd worn she was horrified, because in her mind I rarely leave the house without trying to visit shame on my family via outfit. "The 'gold flats?'" she emailed. "Not the GOLD FLATS gold flats? Not those gold flats? Oh, God, not the gold flats."
I ignored her, because, crazy right? Until promising follow-up meetings and phone calls suddenly tapered into sporadic "We'll keep you posted!" emails, and I suddenly heard nothing about the job. I was thrown into a sudden, forensic panic. Had somebody slipped a racist joke into my edit test? Had they somehow called the Panera in Shaker Heights, Ohio where I was fired at 15? Had one of my ex-boyfriend's girlfriends made some kind of hate-blog highlighting my (admitted!!!!!) problem with punctuality? Was it the flats?
It had been almost a month since my initial interview and I needed to know. I drafted a low-key, "Just-checking in-please-let-me-know-if-you-need-anything-else-from-me" note, something a businessman uncle might have praised as "very professional."
But when I read the email I'd assembled, I realized it was just the sad cry for closure that comes with being dumped.
And it changed the way I break up forever.
In the past, "stealth flaking" was my dump weapon of choice. Beg off a movie, have a drink-precluding sinus infection, enjoy a succession of "crazy week"s at work, and behold! Through passive flakery, you can basically reschedule somebody out of your life. It's almost shockingly guilt-free, because you're gone before the other person knows it, but he can't really get mad about it because it's not dramatic or definitive. Nobody's like, "Did Batman totally leave without saying goodbye? I resent him now."
But really? It's less like making a sweet grappling hook exit and more like tipping gallons of industrial garbage into a small town river late at night. It only feels like a solution for the dumper, and leaves the creek staying up late freaking out about shoes.
The truth is that to really break up with somebody you've casually dated with kindness AND finality, it's best to make it about you.
It's easy for me, because I suck so hard. It usually IS my fault. So, first, try to figure out what it is about you that is not so great. For instance, "I have serious commitment issues," "My career makes dating really difficult" and "I am sort of still in something complicated with someone" are all true things. And they are all perfectly acceptable explanations as to why you don't want to blaze into boyfriend/girlfriend territory. I try to be specific ("committment issues") but not too specific ("If you say you 'love snuggling with' me, I think about how easy it would be to break your spirit in thirds like dry pasta"), because some people see being vague or damaged as challenges.
But sometimes, it is the other person. Like a recent guy friend-turned-hookup, one of those super-sexually confident types who basically trash talk about how they're going to ruin you for other penises. He turned out to have more of an small art installation titled "Homage to Having a Penis," but of course I couldn't say that to him. Another person I casually saw turned out to be legitimately Depressed, and would not have been made less so by someone saying, "Quit calling me, I hate your sadness. I'm almost too embarrassed to mention the guy I had a brief thing with before he underwent a series of harrowing medical tests that he talked about way too much (see??? I told you! I suck a very good deal).
None of these guys would have benefitted from somebody they ostensibly liked disappearing, or being real about the raison de flip-side.
So I lied a little and made it about me.
Small dong fellow: OK! I may have "exaggerated" my seriousness about a job in another city, much the way I will "exaggerate" to a pretty girlfriend if she asks about your sex game.
Super sad guy: I AM hung up on somebody else, but I would be less so if texting you wasn't like texting a Finnish film about a school bus crash.
Medical test guy: My last breakup was actually not that bad, and I only told you I was fragile and brittle because I really did not know you enough to have all that catheter talk. I am glad to hear you do not have that horrible degenerative disease.
I don't think I'm some kind of prize pig. I mention multiple times that I suck, not least of all because I use terms like "prize pig" and write articles on how to dump people by lying to them. But I would want to be treated in a similar manner by guys looking to divest themselves of me, because I don't want to hear what it is that they don't like, or have to guess.
A simple, "Sorry, I'm just really not over my last relationship and it isn't fair to date somebody new" works. It can be the difference between one "Your loss!" shot of Don Julio in a bar with friends, and six "What is wrong with the shape of my butt" shots of Don Julio in a filthy robe.
It's not honest, but it's humane, and it's the reason I have stayed friendly with 99 percent of these guys. Although not enough that they'd Google me and read about their tiny penises. I'm not a total monster.